Thursday, December 27, 2012


Netflix has added BATMAN, the 1966 movie now redundantly called BATMAN: THE MOVIE. I couldn't resist playing the main titles sequence again, which, for me, is like a PULP FICTION adrenaline shot to the heart.

I can remember seeing it for the first time at Cincinnati's Twin Drive-In Theater, and looking forward to seeing the animated titles from the television show unfold in full color on the giant outdoor screen with Neal Hefti's theme kicking in... but something else happened. Instead, Richard Kuhn -- a titles designer on staff at 20th Century Fox (IN LIKE FLINT, FANTASTIC VOYAGE, etc) -- created the sort of sequence that could only have come from someone who had never seen the series, but was given a brief amount of time to utilize the film's various performers in costume. He created a more monochromatic, yet boldly tinted, high contrast universe for these characters, intercutting them with imagery out of a 1940s French potboiler, coated in washes of deep blue, cautionary yellow, garish green and sexy lavender. Since the Twin had two screens, I was worried for a moment that we'd been given the wrong directions to the right screen, but then Adam West sauntered onscreen in a blue spotlight worthy of Carol Doda and my young heart soared back up to the right place. And when the "Rogues Gallery of Supervillains" made their appearances, this more adult context actually made them look satanic and lethal.

Set to one of the most exciting pieces of music that Nelson Riddle ever performed, with the leitmotifs for the various crooks inserted with terrific timing and flair, the titles are so vibrant, so different, so extraordinarily promising that little 10 year old me was -- incredibly, one would imagine, for a Batfan of my age and intensity -- actually disappointed by the movie that followed, though I sure found Lee Meriwether's Catwoman interesting. And that may point to why: my tastes were maturing, and Richard Kuhn's credit sequence with its manic European flair, may have helped nudge my nascent aesthetics over the edge into puberty, with a little subsequent help from Ms. Meriwether's purring. It took me years to appreciate the comparatively style-less movie as the endlessly quotable, hilarious gem that it is.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Anniversary 38

Married 38 years today. How did this happen?

Like most of the things that have turned out to be good ideas in my life, including VIDEO WATCHDOG, it wasn't entirely my idea.

When we were 19 and 18 respectively, Donna and I had both left our respective homes and found an apartment near the University, only to discover that our landlord -- Lou Franklin was his name -- was not inclined to rent his mousey efficiencies to unmarried couples. Of course it was none of his business; either one of us could have taken the apartment as an individual and left him none the wiser, but we were both so young... I suppose we were accustomed to our elders telling us what to do, and doing just that.

My mother gave us the $25 for our marriage license. Donna was relaxed and confident and loving on our wedding day, while I was... "apprehensive" is a good word. There's a picture of me walking out of the office of the Justice of the Peace with my arms upheld, like a man under arrest -- I meant it as a joke, and it did get laughs, but you know... it occurred to me, and so there probably was some furtive truth in that expression. I still am apprehensive in some ways because, funnily enough, I don't really believe in marriage, unless people want to start a family. Instead, I believe in friendship, and if I have one of the best marriages it's been my privilege to observe, it's because I married my best friend -- someone I first got to know through letter-writing, which let us become deeply attached without the usual distractions of physical concerns like whether or not we were the other's "type." I always thought I would end up with someone with dark hair. Go figure.

We are both aware of aging into a kind of advertisement for marriage and true love, and giving some of our younger acquaintances hope that it's possible to meet and stay with someone for a lifetime. We find this sweet and funny, and perhaps a bit naive. Because no marriage is a cakewalk. Let me amend that: no conscious marriage is a cakewalk. Ours was probably as close to one as you can imagine until we began working together in 1990. Working together means we often have to put our professional life as co-workers before our interests as husband and wife; it sometimes means disappointing each other, contradicting each other, yelling at each other, being impatient with each others' (all too predictable, after 38 years) human failings and frailties. Sometimes we make the dread mistake of talking business in the bedroom.

People often remark that we were made for each other, yet there are vast areas of life in which we don't connect. It must admit it bothers me that we don't share many of those interests where I am most myself and most fulfilled... but how wonderful it is that she loves me anyway, and this is also the gift I give to her. And you know what I've noticed from other relationships? Shared passions don't last. They are potent, ardent and all-consuming, and either burn out or press on to something still more incendiary, like jealousy or hate. If you're asking me, if you want a relationship that will last, don't base your commitment to one another on mutual passions; base them instead on your character, your sense of humor, your shared frames of reference, the ways you look at everyday life -- because it's on those levels where you have the greatest chance of remaining the same person for the rest of your life. That's the constant you who is capable of making and keeping a promise of constancy.

What's it like to be together this long? At some point, you begin to recognize that you're held together as much by time as by love. We remember the same things (though she corrects the way I remember them); we've experienced the same triumphs and losses, the same pleasures and grievings; we've been the picture takers at each other's great moments, and we've fought side by side the yearly, monthly, daily, hourly war that is life all this time. And yet somehow, before any of this happened, there was something binding in our fine print, a promise even greater than the one we initially made to each other. To wit: Who could have guessed that, throughout my now-40 year career as a writer, Donna -- of all people -- would become my most valued and important professional associate? How could I have known that this funny little Munchkin from Western Hills, who drew fetchingly eye-lashed smiley faces at the end of her letters, would become the one person in the whole universe capable of designing MARIO BAVA ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK? Who would do everything to keep the business of VIDEO WATCHDOG running that I could not personally do? How could I have known that she would someday be able to market my work with greater success than either Dell or Simon and Schuster could? And how could she, The Monkees' #1 fan, have known that this shy, bookish boy from Norwood would someday work for Michael Nesmith and show her the path to her first hug from Davy Jones? It's a mystery, in which the only real certainty is the friendly face that looks back at me in the midst of it.

Of course, being with someone you love is no guarantee against loneliness; it's no guarantee that your heart will never break again. But it does (or should) mean that you don't have to go through life's tests and beatings all alone, because there is always a hand waiting to accept yours in the dark, and it's there for you whether it's awake or asleep. This is a way of life I can recommend.

Living with her these past 38 years has been an adventure in gratitude, and I just felt like saying that.

How did this happen? Just lucky, I guess.

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's The Little Things

Richard Harland Smith's heartfelt mention and discussion of the new issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG on his TCM Movie Morlocks blog is one of the nicest professional (and personal) tributes I've ever received. It also brought us a nice, last minute bumper crop of orders from new customers, Donna tells me, which makes us doubly appreciative of his kindness.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

You Bet Your Tingler

While watching YOU BET YOUR LIFE on Netflix during dinner tonight, I was surprised to see British-born actress Patricia Cutts as a guest contestant. What's even more surprising is that I recognized her first as a PERRY MASON guest star before I connected her as the philandering wife of Vincent Price in THE TINGLER, the one whom he assures a certain gun could make a hole in her "the size of a medium grapefruit." 
She's always such a sleek, scheming, cold-blooded, glamorous character in those of her portrayals I've seen, it was a treat to see how casual, romantic (she chose "Great Lovers of History" as her quiz area) and daffy she apparently was in real life. It was mentioned on the show that she and Groucho were friends ("I know you, Pat, but not as well as I'd like to," the host brashly admitted) and, if her body language was any indication, she appeared a bit smitten with him. While looking for a picture to illustrate this notice, I discovered that she died from a barbiturate overdose in 1974 at the tragically young age of 48 -- only two days into what would have been a long-running role in the venerable British series CORONATION STREET. Her replacement stayed with the show until her own death in the late 1990s.
Anyway, pay Pat Cutts a visit -- she's in Netflix's Episode 9 of YOU BET YOUR LIFE.

Friday, December 07, 2012

First Look: VIDEO WATCHDOG #172

With our Universal Classic Monsters issue (#171) just reaching the hands of our subscribers, we have another completed issue already in the pipeline for delivery just before Christmas -- and it's a doozy!

Cover story: Just in time to complement the Weinstein Company's theatrical release of DJANGO UNCHAINED in theaters on Christmas Day, here's my interview with Quentin Tarantino about his 50 favorite movie sequels! This interview was conceived and organized by the French magazine STUDIO CINÉ LIVE, where the piece is simultaneously appearing in French and in shorter form, but VIDEO WATCHDOG is presenting it exclusively in English and in its full length of 23 uninterrupted pages!

Check out this link for our free preview, and order your copy today! We have a feeling this one is going to disappear quickly!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

First Look: VIDEO WATCHDOG 171

It's a goodie. Those of you who are only happy when we cover MONSTERS will find plenty to enjoy in this issue! Here's our usual link to a free preview. This issue has already shipped to subscribers and retailers.

Friday, November 23, 2012

SKYFALL Reaction

SKYFALL is very entertaining indeed, with some instant classic scenes (such as the one pictured above), but I need to absorb it and see it again; I feel it's too soon to place it above this or that. Also, after 50 years of mystery and present tense heroism, I don't take a ready shine to suddenly being told more about Bond's past, especially by a franchise newcomer like Sam Mendes, and particularly when it makes him seem less like Bond and more like a Bruce Wayne raised in the WOMAN IN BLACK house. But the film is at least right about this: the man who drove that Aston Martin was a Scot.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Started reading David Thomson's THE BIG SCREEN today and I swear I must have experienced six or seven shocks of perception in just the first equal number of pages. The perception does not have to do with what he sees, but how he understands what he sees, how different yet complementary that understanding is to mine, and how he shades it in the sharing of it. It's a rare pleasure to read about film and not feel you are being counseled or advised or worked-up but that you are following, with amusement and deepening appreciation, of your own free will, someone who is at least one step ahead of you and has a spring in that step.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sylvia Kristel (1952-2012)

This has been an unkind year to the great stars of 1970s erotic films and the fans who loved them: Lina Romay, the muse of Jess Franco, died of cancer at age 57; Rebecca Brooke, aka Mary Mendum, the star of several films for Radley Metzger and Joe Sarno, died in a drowning accident at age 60; and now the news comes to us of the passing of Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel, internationally famous as the star of Just Jaeckin's EMMANUELLE, two of its direct sequels and several spin-off franchises, as well as various films by such distinguished directors as Claude Chabrol, Walerian Borowczyk, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Curtis Harrington, Roger Vadim and Fons Rademakers. She was also 60 and had been fighting cancer for some time.

EMMANUELLE was her fourth film and it had the advantage of reaching screens around the world just as Erica Jong's 1973 novel FEAR OF FLYING had defined a zeitgeist of sexual liberation and empowerment for women. What Jong's novel described, the film (based on an autobiographical novel attributed to Emmanuelle Arsan) depicted -- and male and female audiences alike flocked to see it. Playing off the aftermath of DEEP THROAT-generated "porn chic," it was picked up for US distribution by Columbia Pictures, who cleverly took the onus off its X rating by proclaiming, with a wink, that "X Was Never Like This." 

In order to pay my respects, I took the opportunity last night to screen Sylvia's film for Claude Chabrol: ALICE, OU LA DERNIERE FUGUE ("Alice, or the Last Escapade"). It's an important title in her filmography but there has not yet been an official release anywhere in an English-friendly presentation. However, for those of you who don't mind watching a film on your computer, Kindle or whatever, ALICE is available for viewing on YouTube in its entirety, with optional English subtitles. 

Though Sylvia Kristel starred in numerous films suitable for adults only, it would be wrong to describe her -- as so many obit headlines have done -- as an "adult film actress." The aforementioned Lina Romay and Rebecca Brooke performed in hardcore as well as softcore films, but Sylvia never did, and it's probably a tribute to her acting ability that so many people thought otherwise. In ALICE, she appears nude only once and covers herself quickly and demurely. If one ever needed proof of her abilities as a serious actress, this film is it; I've rarely seen a film so reliant on a single woman's ability to hold the viewer's eye and attention. It's one of those dream-like movies (like Mario Bava's LISA AND THE DEVIL or Louis Malle's BLACK MOON) where what little story is there is slippery indeed, making Sylvia's heroine Alice Carol (yes, the movie is a kind of "through the looking glass") the only fixed point on its compass. It's a bittersweet reminder of what a magnetic, vital screen presence she was and -- strangely enough -- how well she wore clothes. She doesn't have a lot of dialogue so we must watch her closely to follow her through this labyrinth, which offers us few other rewards and none so gratifying. She was so comfortable with her body that her clothes seemed like natural extensions of her, comfortable to the eye and comfortable on her, the fabric not quite touching her skin yet clinging to it. She walked across the screen like a whisper of sophistication, inviting olfactory fantasies of top shelf perfume, with a gentle zest about her most casual movements as if she kept a favorite disco song always playing somewhere in her head. Speaking of Sylvia Kristel in clothes, it should not be overlooked that she had the talent to ascend from her early roles to featured parts in major studio productions. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she became a Hollywood player, appearing in such pictures as THE FIFTH MUSKETEER, THE CONCORDE... AIRPORT '79, THE NUDE BOMB and PRIVATE LESSONS. But Sylvia had the intelligence to know that bigger films weren't necessarily better for her, and she focused on work closer to home and her real passion, painting. She wrote about this, and much more, in a 2006 autobiography called UNDRESSING EMMANUELLE.

One of her great attributes, in the EMMANUELLE films particularly, is that she wasn't an alienating or objectionable presence to women. She had poise and projected both intelligence and adeptness. A number of her roles, including ALICE, find her questing for and eventually attaining some kind of sensual life education or empowerment, or passing these attributes on. It's said that women cheered when she climbed on top of her male lover in EMMANUELLE, something no actress before her had done quite so triumphantly in a film that played in respectable theaters. But even before her clothes were shed, there was something empathic and vulnerable about her that women could respond to. Most sex stars are designed for men and have something about them that's overdone, that appeals to fetish and objectifies them, but Sylvia's lithe femininity was perfectly pitched to be attractive and appealing rather than intrusive. I haven't seen all of her movies, but I never saw her in a situation that she didn't ultimately allow or control.
VIDEO WATCHDOG will have more to say about this in our 172nd issue, out in early January 2013, when we'll be featuring Lianne Spiderbaby's article "Emmanuelle et Emanuelle," about the EMMANUELLE craze of the 1970s and the films of Sylvia Kristel and Laura "Black Emanuelle" Gemser in particular.

Friday, October 12, 2012

See IL DEMONIO on YouTube

The timing could not be better.

Today is Daliah Laví's 70th birthday and the 170th issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG, featuring my lengthy career interview with her, is arriving in the mailboxes of our subscribers all around the world right about now. One of the most important sections of the interview concerns Daliah's memories of making the film she considers her favorite, with her best performance: a little-known neorealist tragedy called IL DEMONIO ("The Demon"), directed by Fellini's assistant Brunello Rondi and based on the true story of a wild, romantically obsessed young peasant girl whose persistence transforms her into a kind of hellion, subsequently persecuted by her fellow villagers who assume her to be possessed by demons. This film, prophetic of THE EXORCIST in so many ways, was never released in America and, to my knowledge, never issued anywhere in English, so it concerned me to spend so many pages on a film that could not be widely seen by our readers.

But today my friend Jerry Lentz discovered that IL DEMONIO was available for viewing in its entirety on YouTube... with English subtitles! You can see it by clicking on this link.

We sent a copy of the link to Daliah as a birthday present, knowing that she'll be excited to share her best work with many friends who have never seen it. It certainly deserves a wider audience.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Today is one of those days that makes me feel more fortunate to do what I do, because in today's mail I received a review copy of Thorston Benzel's revised edition of his MUCHAS GRACIAS, SENOR LOBO, an overview of the world of Paul Naschy memorabilia.

The original, compact, black-and-white paperback edition was nice but this new, full-color hardcover edition from Creepy Images is lavish beyond belief. It begins with a touching Introduction by Naschy's son, Sergio Molina, who touchingly recalls coming home one day to see his father paging emotionally through the original edition, seeing in many cases for the first time some of the rare materials which had spread his stardom around the world, farther than he had realized. Then Benzel himself follows with a foreword to lend his efforts some background, and some honorable apology for the inevitable incompleteness of what appears to every sense an exhaustive execution of duty. True, there may be some Mexican or Pakistani posters that slipped through his fingers, but still... The text, incidentally, is bilingual, in German and English throughout the handsomely designed project.

The main body of the book collects international poster art, lobby cards, pressbooks and stills for 30 different Naschy films, ranging from 1968's LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO (US: FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR) to 1988's EL AULLIDO DEL DIABLO (US: HOWL OF THE DEVIL), each chapter initiated with Benzel's careful notes about the film, its production and promotional histories, and the specific difficulties each title addresses to the movie materials collector. Of course, Naschy made more than 30 films but not all of the titles would have sustained a chapter-like focus; for these titles, a special appendix chapter is offered at the back of the book, surveying these titles in brief. It should be noted that the book omits any representation of the two films he made in America in 2004, COUNTESS DRACULA'S ORGY OF BLOOD and TOMB OF THE WEREWOLF, but it's possible neither of those direct-to-video titles generated any paper memorabilia. The book focuses on theatrical memorabilia and does not include, for example, home video packaging art -- which might be one area into which subsequent editions might expand. Among the more sobering discoveries of Benzel's coverage is the great scarcity of authentic Spanish materials on Naschy's films, and also the extent to which those available misrepresent the dedicated writer-actor-director's name (Richard Naschy, Paul Mackey, etc).

As is, however, MUCHAS GRACIAS, SENOR LOBO feels anything but limited in scope. It is a tremendous, jaw-dropping, eye-boggling testimony, not only to Naschy himself, but to all the commercial artists whom his work has inspired all over the world. An obvious labor of love, 18 years in the collecting and two years in production, it's a must-have, not only for Naschy fans but for devotées of monster art in particular.

Here's a link to Creepy Images' page-through preview of the book, which concludes with information about how to obtain your copy.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Thou Mark, Take 2

After posting the preceding dream and giving a further polish to my "Beginning Year Eight" entry, I discovered five malingering postings on my list that were still unpublished and in draft mode, yet included in my number of posts. I checked each of them and found them all to be stillbirths of a sort -- sometimes just a title, sometimes notes for something fuller I never wrote, sometimes even less than that. So I junked them all.

THEREFORE. Some renumbering must be done, and this is my 1,000th posting!

To paraphrase the late, great Tex Avery... anticlimactic, huh?   

I Dream of Bruce

Dreamed that it was late, the wee hours, and raining heavily. Donna and I were working on the back of our television when the doorbell rang.

I checked the porch and, to my surprise, saw Bruce Springsteen standing there, smiling wryly and shrugging his shoulders as if to say "Why me? Why me all the time?" Of course I let him in and he explained that he'd had a flat a block or so away and mine was the first house he'd seen with its lights still on.

"I don't like to go around, waking people up, just to tell 'em my troubles," he mumbled in a chipper, upbeat way, as he stepped inside, shaking the rain off like a sheepdog.

I invited Bruce to take a seat and he chose to sit on the floor of my foyer ("No need to treat me special"), and encouraged me to go back to whatever I was doing; AAA would be there "soon enough."

I walked over to Donna and whispered "Hey look, it's Bruce Springsteen!"

She whispered back, "You're right! Say, do we have any of his albums? Get 'em signed."

I started going through our music inventory in my head and realized we did have one of his albums, my favorite. I walked over to Bruce and told him how I liked one of his albums especially.

"Oh yeah?" he said, looking genuinely surprised. "Which one?"

I told him it was the one about his conversion to Catholicism, but I couldn't remember the title. This was so embarrassing -- to not be able to remember the title of a "favorite" album, a record I was about to ask him to sign... but he couldn't remember it either! I went to look for the album on vinyl but didn't really know what I was looking for.

Finally, Bruce called out from the next room, "Hey, you know, I think it was called somethin' like... BRING OUT THE BODIES!"

That was it! I found the album and brought it back to Bruce with a Sharpie and we both started laughing when we saw it was an Elvis Costello record.

"It could be worse," he finally managed to say. "You could'a handed me my flat tire!" Then we laughed even harder, till we were both red in the face.

I woke up smiling.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Beginning Year Eight

It was seven years ago today that I decided, almost on the spur of the moment, to give this blog thing a try. With this entry, I'm now 998 blog entries further down that road, which hasn't seen any financial reward (because I haven't accepted ads here nor installed a donation link) but has been recognized with a couple of Rondo Awards along the way. That pleases me a great deal.

In recent years, I've let my postings here dwindle in number; I count 25 for the entirety of 2011 and this will be the 21st of 2012, so there's a good chance I'll at least tie last year's output this time around. In defense of my apparent laziness, I can point to the prodigious output of my other blog, Pause. Rewind. Obsess., which debuted at the start of this year and contains more than 170 full-length reviews at present, and also to my socializing on Facebook, which encompasses much of what I would normally do here, and which I find purely and simply nourishing to my soul. I know a lot of people don't care for Facebook, and others resist its siren song much as I once did, but it helps me to feel connected and there are many wonderful people there whose contact I value.

I've recently come out the other end of a long episode in life that might be chalked up to a mid-life crisis; one of its symptoms was an alienation from my life as I've built it from the time I was a teenager. I reached a point where I saw all the things I had collected over the decades as a form of medication to pile up around myself and dull myself to the truth of how empty my life really was. I'm sure that part of this feeling was due to completing the Bava book and suddenly no longer having that big mission in life to give it momentum and a specific goal; another part was the estrangement and death of my mother, but it was also rooted in my genuine dissatisfaction with living only to work.

During this period I pursued screenwriting, began to travel more, put myself out there more, and it's been very satisfying -- aside from the fact that I can't get anyone (not even my agent sometimes) to read my screenplays. My first, THE MAN WITH KALEIDOSCOPE EYES, about Roger Corman's adventures while filming THE TRIP, got the immediate support of Joe Dante and his partner Elizabeth Stanley; it's a script everyone loves, which once came agonizingly close to happening with a major star in the lead, but eight years later, it's no closer to getting made. The last one I wrote, an adaptation of Orson Bean's memoir ME AND THE ORGONE, has been greeted by the few who read it as my best work in this field, but getting it made is a much taller order than I can undertake alone. Orson loved it and has given me his written carte blanche to do with it whatever needs doing, ad infinitum. I am thinking the best thing to do might be to adapt it as a stage play, but it's a big rethink and, right now, there is no time. In addition to assembling a new issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG every other month, Donna and I have been devoting a lot of time and thought to developing a new branch of our business, which we hope to announce before the end of the year. She doesn't want me to discuss it yet, so suffice to say, it has claimed a lot of time, hers and mine, because the conceptual must always be thoroughly worked out before something becomes concrete and, hopefully, profitable.

You may also remember that I spent some time pursuing the possibility of becoming a filmmaker, writing one short film project and writing and directing another at The Factory Digital Filmmaking School at the Douglas Education Center in Monessen, PA. The first project, BAGGAGE CLAIM, was never completed; what was completed was fairly disastrous, though our actors were wonderful and our crew certainly gave it their best effort. I don't want to go into what went wrong; while I can't say it was entirely my own fault, I do accept sole responsibility. It was a learning experience for all involved and I am happy to say that I left the set with at least a couple dozen more friends than I had upon my arrival, some of the dearest people I've known in this life -- so it was ultimately a good and instructive experience. The second project, a trailer and dialogue scene for a proposed film of my novel THROAT SPROCKETS, which I both wrote and directed, went very well indeed; I managed to shoot a six-minute scene and two-minute trailer (including glimpses of many scenes not included in the main scene) in just slightly more than two days, finishing more than half a day ahead of schedule. The resulting footage was screened at last year's Fantasia Festival in Montreal, where it was well received; it has been kept under wraps since because my producer Robert Tinnell and I still have hopes of getting the feature made -- hopes that, I'm glad to say, were recently revived. It's true what they say about one door closing and another door opening.

I mentioned earlier that I had come to look at my belongings as a kind of medication, as a buffer to my underlying feelings of unhappiness. I've more recently come to an understanding that I was duping myself, perhaps hoping to propel myself toward some meaningful life change by alienating myself from the old one. As it happens, one of the ways I've always coped with depression was to spend a little money and I recently returned to that. Earlier this year, I decided that having MAD magazine on DVD-ROM was not enough; I wanted the actual issues. So, with the help of eBay, I began to reassemble (and exceed) my lost childhood collection of MAD. Wanting to take the best possible care of them, I also bought some magazine bags and boards -- and, as I sat on my office floor, perfecting my archive of freckle-faced, missing-toothed satire, I gradually found myself in possession of more than just magazines; I was coming back into the possession of myself. I got more bags and boards and did the same work to preserve my collections of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN, FANTASTIC MONSTERS OF THE FILMS, LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS and MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT.

Doing this turned out to be satisfying on so many unexpected levels. Bagging and boarding old magazines requires that you handle them, and I found myself pausing in my work to reacquaint myself with the full breadth and feel of publications I had compressed to carry around in my mind for most of my life. It only followed that I slowly began reacquainting myself with myself. These things were not a form of medication, after all; they were a form of gratification; they were all extensions of me and the things I loved at different times of life. And throughout this period I'm discussing, I must admit that I spent much of it feeling unloved. I could blame my mother and her emotional problems, I could blame my wife and her necessary absorption into running the magazine, but these wouldn't be the whole cause; the real fault resided within me. I wasn't caring enough for myself. The more I cared for my magazines, the more I doted on them and took pride in them, the better I began to feel about my life and about myself -- the more I came back into the fuller possession of myself. Because I am the unifying force behind my collection; it reflects my tastes, it externalizes and mirrors me, it represents me. It's my womb away from womb, and it nourishes me when I connect with it. I need to spend more time immersed in it.

I believe it's a healthy thing to hold onto a certain amount of dissatisfaction about one's life; it forces us to move forward, attempt change for the better, and it's the only way we can truly effect progressive transformation. I still intend to change my life for the better, to accomplish new things while I still have the youth and health to do so, but I am more embracing now of my past and my individuality. I can accept myself and my own goals as reason enough to try, reason enough to triumph.   

So this is where I am as I begin Year Eight of this blog. Video WatchBlog also externalizes, mirrors and represents me, and I thank you for your continued companionship as my reader, even if I have become something of an unreliable narrator, in terms of attendance, in recent years. I'll try to keep in better touch.   


Sunday, October 07, 2012

Sweet Offerings from Germany's Subkultur Entertainment

I recently recorded my first Jess Franco audio commentary for the German company Subkultur Entertainment, for their release of DAS GEHEIMNIS DES DOKTOR Z (THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z, 1965), which has just come out. Because the commentary was pre-scripted and required me to pronounce a number of French and Spanish names and titles whose pronunciations did not always come naturally to me, I found it difficult to handle all this while also keeping an eye on the scenes as they unreeled. Therefore, I opted to record my commentary, which is generally scene-specific, in bits and pieces (about 50 of them), which I then sent to Subkultur to synchronize with the image track. I was nervous about the outcome, since it was out of my hands, but I saw the result last night for the first time and couldn't be more pleased. I think it may be the finest audio commentary I've recorded to date, and I am not the sort of person to boast about such things. Suffice to say, I did my best and the folks at SE did a splendid job with it. (Tino at Subkultur told me the entire release required 1,176 hours of work to complete -- seven straight weeks -- but he agrees it is "the toughest but best product of Subkultur." The company acquired the exclusive rights to my commentary through 2017, so it won't be appearing on other releases issued closer to home in the meantime. 

The two-disc set (limited to only 1000 units) looks splendid, but for territorial licensing reasons, the English dub included with Mondo Macabro's earlier release could not be used. The film's soundtrack is offered only in French and German, with my "audiokommentar" provided (on Disc 2) in English with German subtitles. As an added incentive to purchase, the second disc also includes a 4m introduction by Franco and actor Antonio Mayans, spoken in English, and a Franco filmography containing Easter Eggs of more than 30 Franco trailers!

So where can you find this item before its short supply is exhausted? There is an page, but they will not ship to America. As of today, the best sources appear to be or DTM.  However, there is now the possibility that we at VIDEO WATCHDOG may be able to acquire a set number of copies for sale through our website. Stay tuned for more info.

Another exciting new Subkultur release is Tulio Demichelli's DRACULA JAGT FRANKENSTEIN (1969), the Paul Naschy monster rally known here as ASSIGNMENT: TERROR or DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN, released for the first time in its original aspect ratio. Also in the cast are Michael Rennie, Karin Dor, Patty Shepard, Fernando Bilbao (as the Farancksalan Monster -- yes, this movie really ought to be called "Dracula jagt Farancksalan") and Walter Barnes.

I also watched this last night and was very happy, after 40 years, to finally see its full scope image. The transfer is often on the dark side, but seeing that the rare glimpses of the sky are still blue and so bright as to threaten to bloom white if pushed further, I'm sure the SE disc producers did all that was possible to remain faithful to, and remain within the boundaries of, the source element, which is otherwise very colorful and very clean. The audio offers only the German track but there are English subtitles -- a direct translation of the German dialogue, not of the English dub track, though the English version followed the original dialogue fairly closely. The musical soundtrack is presented with more presence than it's ever had. The disc is in PAL and region free, and you may find it still in stock at Diabolik DVD here in the States.
Here are some frame grabs to tease and tantalize you (click to enlarge):

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

First Look: VIDEO WATCHDOG 170!

October 12 is coming and it's going to be Daliah Laví's 70th birthday! To commemorate this happy occasion, VIDEO WATCHDOG is set to unveil my in-depth interview with Daliah, the only in-depth Q&A she has ever granted about her film career, covering her collaborations with Vincente Minnelli (TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN), Richard Brooks (LORD JIM), of course Mario Bava (THE WHIP AND THE BODY) and also her little-seen, powerful performance as a demonically possessed young woman in Brunello Rondi's IL DEMONIO! And for you 007 fans, yes, there is some discussion of CASINO ROYALE (the original!) in there too...

Also in this issue, the VW debut of horror scribe Lianne Spiderbaby, who presents a woman's eye view of Pedro Almodóvar's chilling THE SKIN I LIVE IN. There's also Nathaniel Thompson's breakdown of all the different versions of Dario Argento's FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET on DVD and Blu-ray, Ramsey Campbell on THE KILL LIST, Douglas E. Winter on Jerry Goldsmith, and more!
You can read all the details about our latest issue here, with a full contents listing and four free sample pages. For added incentive, we are offering this issue -- beginning today, for three days only -- at a special Pre-Sale rate of $3 off (that's $9 USA/$12 outside USA)! Available only here, and only through Friday, October 5!  

Monday, August 27, 2012

VWb Entry #1,000: THRILLER Question Answered

You probably have the same question I did in reference to MPI's forthcoming two-disc set THRILLER - FAN FAVORITES, which collects 10 of the very best THRILLER episodes at a reduced price ($19.98): "The Grim Reaper", "Pigeons From Hell", "The Watcher", "The Hungry Glass", "The Cheaters", "The Incredible Dr. Markesan", "The Weird Tailor", "The Purple Room", "The Prisoner in the Mirror" and "Well of Doom." The answer to that question is: No, they do NOT include the audio commentaries nor the isolated music tracks found on the complete series set. Therefore, even though this set represents THE absolute best classic horror bang for your buck of any DVD released so far this year, the complete box set is still the way to go. So, unless you're looking for the perfect Halloween treat for that favorite young person in your life, I advise you to splurge, because you'll want these for Trick or Treat night, or run SUSPIRIA or HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL again and await the next Amazon sale.

This is the 1,000th entry here at Video WatchBlog, which began almost seven years ago, like most things I do, on the spur of the moment on October 8, 2005. Since then, it has won two Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards as Best Blog, in 2006 and 2008, a fact of which I am very proud. It has been shamefully neglected since I joined Facebook in 2009, but rest assured I have pretty much been doing over there what I used to do here more regularly, and I've collected (to date) 3,450 friends or followers, which is somewhat more of an audience than I had here. That said, Donna is encouraging me to jump-start the WatchBlog, perhaps with another template, perhaps with another server, and make it a place where I can post useful paragraphs such as the above, and the occasional useless ones, and make it available to subscriptions, RSS alerts and such. So this milestone does not necessarily mark the end of VWb, but rather an opportunity to invite a new beginning or chapter. I will let you know once the decisions are made. 

Postscript 10/9/2012: It was later discovered that this was actually the 995th entry, so never mind.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tony Scott: A Beginning and an End

Tony Scott's THE HUNGER (1983) has one of the most arresting opening sequences of any horror film; it's a masterpiece of cross-cuts, flashbacks and flash-forwards, intense music and ice-cold style, largely without dialogue and so forcing us to pay close attention to visual codes, plunging us immediately into the deep end of an amoral, self-interested world where vampires are the victims, the victors and the evening's entertainment. "Bela Lugosi's Dead," sings Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, but it was actually Tony Scott himself throwing down a gauntlet on the floor of vampire cinema in general. Pictured: Ann Magnuson and David Bowie turning up the heat in this very chilly sequence.
Tony Scott -- whose other films as a director include the Quentin Tarantino-scripted TRUE ROMANCE (whose scene between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper is commonly cited as one of the very finest of the last 25 years) and the era-defining TOP GUN -- took his life last night by jumping off the Vincent Thomas suspension bridge into Los Angeles harbor, having left a suicide note behind in his parked car. He was 68. My heart goes out to his wife and children, and to his friends and co-workers past and present (some of you perhaps among them) as we all reel from the suddenness and mystery of this terrible event.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Corbucci's THE SLAVE: Split Focus / Dual Identity

While watching Warner Archive's new release of Sergio Corbucci's THE SLAVE (Il figlio di Spartaco, 1962), I found myself quite impressed by the Cinemascope photography of Enzo Barboni, a longtime associate of Corbucci who later directed the "Trinity" films under the alias E. B. Clucher, and who also photographed Steve Reeves' final starring role in A LONG RIDE INTO HELL (1970). If you order this film -- and I think you should -- take my advice: once you've watched it through, watch it again at a moderate fast-forward speed, the better to appreciate how beautifully pre-planned Barboni's sweeping camera moves were. There is a grandeur in them that takes the production well beyond its budget, while also lending something of the film's themes of destiny to its overall mapping.
An aspect of Barboni's cinematography that I find particularly intriguing is its use of shots that contrast extreme close-ups and deep focus. So far as I can tell, the first of the shots I'm presenting here (above) was either achieved with a telephoto lens or by filming the foregrounded crucified figure against a blue-screen and matting in the location shot from the Egyptian desert later. But there are a handful of shots scattered throughout the picture, all at dramatically critical moments, when Barboni makes use of a split-diopter lens, a lens rarely used in films but which literally split the image, cleanly dividing it between extreme near and deep focus. I'll present these frames here for your study and pleasure, and I encourage you to click on them to make them full-sized:
The first of these shows Steve Reeves (such amazing blue eyes!) as Randus, an orphaned Roman centurion who discovers he is the son of the crucified rebel leader Spartacus, and who commences a dual life, fighting for Rome by day and against Rome by night as a helmeted, sword-wielding forerunner of vigilante heroes like Batman. The shot occurs when he is forced to stand impassive as Crassus (Claudio Gora) mortally wounds one of his most devoted followers and feeds him to his pet piranha. The second occurs moments before a rebel assault on the palace. The third shows Claudia (Gianna Maria Canale) eavesdropping on Caesar (BLACK SUNDAY's Ivo Garrani) as he announces his intention to have Randus crucified like his father. The final shot shows Randus conversing from his prison cell with one of his compatriots.
Toward the end of the film, Barboni startles the viewer by interrupting a sustained high angle shot with the woodwork of a crossbeams raised into view, again perfectly in focus against the crisply detailed background.
I'm not certain what inspired Barboni to play these eye-catching tricks with dimension, but the fact that Randus is leading a dual life, a divided existence, may have something to do with it. Watching THE SLAVE made me pine for the days when the art of cinematography was rooted in principals of storytelling rather than piling on lots of eye candy spectacle -- and the result of that enrichment, oddly enough, is spectacle.
A review will be forthcoming on my Pause. Rewind. Obsess. blog, followed by a more detailed on in VIDEO WATCHDOG #170.

Friday, August 10, 2012

RIP Carlo Rambaldi (1925 - 2012)

Carlo Rambaldi did so much that general audiences aren't aware of, even things that devotées of strange films do not know.

For example, he created the life-size dragon for Giacomo Gentilomo's SIGFRIDO, the 1958 version of SIEGFRIED; he also devised a fully submersible yet fire-breathing dragon for THE MEDUSA AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (PERSUS THE INVINCIBLE), as well as its unforgettable, tree-like cyclops of a gorgon, not to mention many other uncredited marvels of the sword-and-sandal pictures. Working with Mario Bava, he made John Phillip Law's scuba-like masks for DANGER: DIABOLIK, he revolutionized the art of special makeup effects by redirecting them to gory ends for BAY OF BLOOD, and he designed the hideous burned visage of BARON BLOOD. His job of creating the illusion of living eviscerated dogs for Lucio Fulci's A LIZARD IN A WOMAN's skin was so convincing, it nearly got its director thrown in prison. He built the screen's most convincing, articulated, severed head for (ANDY WARHOL'S) FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN; he gave life to the giggling puppet that arbitrarily trots onscreen prior to a grisly murder in DEEP RED; and, of course, he was responsible for White Buffalo that charged through the delirium of Charles Bronson in the film of that same name, and also the hydraulic, octopus-like spawn that got a hot date with Isabelle Adjani in POSSESSION.

He was unfairly maligned for the failure of his life-size robotic KING KONG; he could deliver beautifully within reasonable perimeters. He was in fact the Michelangelo of the popular Italian cinema, and of the international cinema for a time. But nowadays such men are no longer needed, and woe is us.

This Washington Post article acknowledges his better-known assignments, and one or two more. Everyone who loves cinema should salute Carlo Rambaldi, a true artist and artisan, for his lifetime of service.

Monday, July 30, 2012

First Look: VIDEO WATCHDOG 169!

That's right, it's our long-awaited DARK SHADOWS issue, featuring my editorial eulogy to Jonathan Frid and our incredible 33-page Round Table Discussion of the original classic series! Visit our Home Page for the complete list of contents and some free samples!

Friday, May 18, 2012


A Jean Arthur box set might be easily overlooked by the casual horror fan, but a closer look reveals that two of the films contained in Sony/TCM's JEAN ARTHUR DRAMA COLLECTION ($39.99) were directed by Lambert Hillyer (DRACULA'S DAUGHTER), while the other two are the work of Roy William Neill (FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN) and Erle C. Kenton (ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN). Tonight, I watched the first film in the set -- Neill's WHIRLPOOL (1934, review forthcoming on my Pause. Rewind. Obsess. blog) -- and it's fantastic. Now I'm excited about cozying up with the other three. It's a TCM website exclusive from Sony.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Inspiring Posters: De Seta's IL FANTASMA DI SOHO

This is the striking original Enrico De Seta artwork commissioned for the due-foglia poster for Il fantasma di Soho, the Italian release of THE PHANTOM OF SOHO, a.k.a. the German krimi Das Phantom von Soho (1964). Though I don't find the sketchy execution of the work quite as ideal as much of De Seta's other poster art, I still find it to be an uncommonly haunting image and wonder from where it came in the artist's fevered imagination. It doesn't capture the atmosphere of Franz-Josef Gottlieb's highly visual, black-and-white film, nor its masked menace, a skull-faced killer wearing what appear to be glittery oven mitts, but the model is clearly based on cast member Helga Sommerfeld, who plays an employee at the Club Zanzibar.

What this image does recall, curiously enough, is the exhilarating horror of a film made almost 15 years later: the first murder in Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA (1977), when the disembodied demonic arms emerge from darkness to repeatedly plunge a long knife into the chest of ballet student Pat Hingle (Eva Axén). It would not be unreasonable to suspect that Argento, as a young man devoted to the Edgar Wallace/Bryan Edgar Wallace krimis, would have made a point of seeing this picture and spend some time in the lobby admiring and absorbing this image, enabling him to subconsciously exceed its brilliance onscreen more than a decade later.

You can get a rough idea of how De Seta's artwork was adapted to poster form in this photo, originally posted by Daniel N on the AVI Maniacs boards. I bet it sold tickets and, it goes without saying, it would never get past the severe limitations that control film advertising today.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

DARK SHADOWS' Jonathan Frid (1924-2012)

It was such a full day. A group of our contributors and I spent the day e-mailing one another about DARK SHADOWS, preparing a Round Table Discussion of the classic Dan Curtis series (1966-71) which we intend to accompany VIDEO WATCHDOG 169's coverage of MPI's lavish new box set of the Original Complete Series. Today was the second day of our RTD and the day it caught fire, generating no less than 79 e-mails from a team of seven.

As our furious flurry wound down, I went downstairs to watch another six episodes of DARK SHADOWS, continuing a viewing schedule I've been keeping since late January/early February, during which time I've watched close to 300 episodes. I recently completed the original Barnabas story arc, the one that begins with Willie Loomis releasing him from his coffin in 1966 and ends with Ben Stokes placing the chains and locks on the coffin in 1795, because Barnabas' father couldn't bear to fire a silver bullet into his broken heart to end his deathless torment. There is no other tragedy in the history of horror entertainment that begins to approach it; it is less than 25% of the entire series, but to approach it requires the resolve and fortitude of a mountain climber. It is a journey worth the taking.

But I digress... after I could not bring myself to watch another episode, I came back upstairs, got online, processed a few more late-arriving emails about DARK SHADOWS, then got on Facebook, where I updated my cover photo with a picture of Jonathan Frid sitting next to a graffiti image of his best-loved character, taken from the pages of an old issue of 16 SPECTACULAR... and then the news came, posted by his co-star, his Josette, Kathryn Leigh Scott.

Jonathan Frid died last week, on Friday, April 13, at the age of 87. The news was just released this evening, most likely to protect the privacy of his loved ones.

It means staying up all night, but I need to eulogize him. He's been at the center of my consciousness this entire year -- I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas and discovered that it was ideal for viewing Netflix episodes of DARK SHADOWS at bedtime; that's how I saw a good number of my first 160 episodes before the MPI box set arrived. I've written a great deal already for the Round Table, as have others, and I feel sure that the correspondence we'll share tomorrow has every chance of exceeding what we produced today, if we can put our hearts into it. I say this because anyone who writes something sizeable about any subject does so because they want it to endure, and it's upsetting to have the centerpiece of our fête taken away from us before the icing is on, before the blue candles are lit. We had hopes that he would see it.

I need to eulogize him, as I say, but though I have seen hundreds of DARK SHADOWS episodes, I am all too aware that I have seen only a fraction of the Barnabas Collins he portrayed in totality. This fraction, those 250+ episodes, comprise the most three-dimensional vampire in the history of filmed entertainment. We know him both after and before he was cursed. No matter what evil he commits, we fully understand what motivates him; if we cannot sympathize, we cannot help but empathize. We walk beside him as we do with no other monster, because there is real depth and duration in the relationship.

Barnabas was also the first romantic vampire. A lot was written by Hollywood publicity mills in the 1930s about Bela Lugosi's sex appeal, about his brand of vampirism being "the strangest love ever known," but his Count Dracula was portrayed without emotion. To borrow one of Lugosi's great lines from THE RAVEN (1935), Frid's portrayal of Barnabas -- with his serrated bat-wing bangs, oval onyx ring and wolf's head cane -- was that of a monster "with the taint of human emotions." As the series' storyline veered from its REBECCA origins to one closer to VERTIGO, Barnabas recovered from the primal trauma of seeing his beloved Josette fall to her death from Widow's Hill by trying in vain to recast other women in her irretrievable image. When series creator Dan Curtis made DRACULA with Jack Palance, he imposed a similarly romantic storyline on Bram Stoker's novel, and this subsequently inspired Francis Ford Coppola's take on BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA and, more recently, the TWILIGHT series.

Frid created this character in a medium he could scarcely have expected to last: live on videotape, a medium networks were known to erase and reuse. Fortunately, nearly all 1225 episodes of DARK SHADOWS survive in some form or other. In them, given the nature of the medium (which was in essence live theater), you will see Jonathan Frid forget his lines, look for the teleprompter, and fumble his dialogue into amusing Yodaisms, but you will also see hundreds of episodes in which he thrills you, breaks your heart, or chills your blood.

A Canadian stage actor prior to his hiring, specializing in Shakespeare plays and English drawing room comedies, Jonathan Frid brought to DARK SHADOWS a gentlemanly, Old World sensibility that made his portrayal elementally convincing. When Barnabas first arrived in Collinsport, he carried the ancient past with him in a doting attention to language, an appreciation, shall we say, of the niceties. Introduced to governess "Vicky" Winters, who then gave her fuller name of Victoria, he expressed courteous shock that anyone should address such an attractive young woman with any lesser name.

Frid was 42 when he won the role -- about the same age as Boris Karloff when he came down the west coast from Canada, where he had been driving trucks, to win the role of the Monster in James Whale's FRANKENSTEIN (1931). As with Karloff, it was late enough in Frid's life and career for him to appreciate the good fortune it represented, not only to him but to his hard-working fellow cast members. But during his daytime tenure, he also tasted enough of fame to know that it wasn't what made him happiest. After the show's run, a period which also encompassed the feature film HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (1970), he returned to the stage for the most part, and made the occasional film, like Oliver Stone's Canada-made directorial debut SEIZURE (1974).

Frid and several other cast alumni travelled to London last year, where they filmed cameos for Tim Burton's forthcoming DARK SHADOWS feature. Kathryn Leigh Scott documents the experience in illustrated detail in her new book (co-authored with Jim Pierson) DARK SHADOWS: RETURN TO COLLINWOOD, which includes a Foreword by Jonathan Frid. Last year, he also participated in an audiobook project, DARK SHADOWS: THE NIGHT WHISPERS, which recently won the Rondo Award for Best Horror CD.

In what now amounts to his final public gesture, Frid personally signed 2500 cards that were included in MPI Home Video's coffin-shaped box set DARK SHADOWS THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL SERIES, a 133-disc limited edition set that sold out well in advance of its street date. It is the most handsome DVD box set I've ever seen, but -- the next time I reach for a new set of discs -- it's going to be bittersweet to have to open Jonathan's coffin to fetch it! (For those of you who missed obtaining one of your own, an unnumbered, unsigned second edition is being released later this summer.)

There will be much more to say in the pages of VIDEO WATCHDOG 169. For now, join me in extending our fondest farewell to a genuine horror icon.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Olympic Swimmer from Planet Ummo

Michael Rennie (right) goes to work on Paul Naschy in ASSIGNMENT TERROR.

Saw an episode of THE PATTY DUKE SHOW this evening called "The Girl From N.E.P.H.E.W." in which Patty's family play host to a debonair guest who works for INTERPOL, whom Patty assumes to be a secret agent. This fellow was played by an actor named Murray Rose, whose distinctive voice sounded weirdly familiar to me. About halfway through the show, I realized where I'd heard him before....

He dubbed Michael Rennie in the Paul Naschy monster rally ASSIGNMENT TERROR (Los monstruos del terror, 1969)!

Rose's IMDb page doesn't show too many screen credits, but his Wikipedia page offers some interesting revelations about the man whose voice issued commands to the Werewolf, the Mummy and, of course, the Faranksellen Monster. However, it won't tell you anything about his dubbing career.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Rose for Natalie Perrey (1929-2012)

We are now already nearly four months into 2012 and much of my past year has been spent in deep contemplation of -- one might say in communion with -- the late Jean Rollin. In the course of studying, enjoying and empathizing with his films, I have come to a better appreciation of the fact that his films, however personal they were, were not simply the work of one man, but of a special group of people who were somehow consecrated to his dreams, who encircled him like the participants in a great séànce and helped conjure his fantasies into being on celluloid.

Foremost among these remarkable people was the lovely lady pictured at the left, Natalie Perrey, who passed away sometime today of undisclosed causes, just one month after her 83rd birthday. The news reached me like a ripple in the pond of communication: I was informed by her friend Daniel Gouyette, who had known and adored Natalie since they worked together on DRACULA'S FIANCÉE (1999); he received the news from titles designer Jean-Noël Delamarre, a ripple nearer the center, who had worked on films with her even before Rollin entered their mutual picture, since the short film BARTLEBY (1970). He was "Nat"'s companion for many years.

Writing about Rollin has pulled me closer into the orbits of these people, close enough that I can feel a sense of personal loss. Thanks to Daniel, Natalie and I were able to exchange little salutations of mutual appreciation, like this sweet photo of the two of them, which Daniel sent after they read my Rollin essay for the booklet included with the first round of Redemption Blu-rays. (Look closely and you will see in Daniel's hand Natalie's keepsake of Rollin, the Iron Rose itself.) Or the photo further down, which shows Natalie and Daniel posing with the then-current issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG. These were dear to receive then, and they are all the more precious now.

Daniel and I spoke on the telephone last week and he finished our long talk by urging me to come to Paris "while it's still here -- not while you're still here," he clarified, "but while this Paris is still here." I knew what he meant and, already, much too suddenly, that Paris is no more. A diminished Paris now stands in its place because this lady is gone. I am not just speaking of someone who worked on some horror movies, but of a great facilitator of the art of her time, someone who was a member of the French Resistance at the age of 12, someone who spent the two weeks prior to her last birthday in a hospital because she was mugged and fought back. As Daniel told me while relaying the incomprehensible news of her passing, "She fought against injustices all her life. She was so different from the people who were just hanging around... She was special." He also stresses to me that she wasn't to be mourned; she wouldn't want that. So I am thinking of all the news she has to share with Jean.

Daniel's interviews with Natalie can be found on the Redemption Blu-rays of THE NUDE VAMPIRE, THE IRON ROSE and LIPS OF BLOOD, and she will be back with more stories to tell in the next batch.

Natalie began working in films in the late 1960s, after raising a family. (The French actress Cyrille Gaudin, who played the title role in DRACULA'S FIANCÉE under the name Cyrille Isté, is her daughter.) She started out as a costumer on Jean-Pierre Bastid's Hallucinations Sadiques (1969), moved up to script supervisor on Bastid's short BARTLEBY and then served as a production assistant on Rollin's THE NUDE VAMPIRE, in the course of which she was recruited to act. An attractive woman of 40, she was asked to play a little old woman in the film's penultimate scene, and was somehow able to then inhabit a role she would still be playing in Rollin's La Nuit des Horloges almost a half-century later. She worked with many different directors -- Bastid of course, Jean-Pierre Mocky, Jean-François Davy, Pierre Unia, Gérard Vernier, Claude Mulot and others -- but her devotion to Rollin was unique.

She was a production assistant on THE SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES, then she advanced to script supervisor and assistant director on many other films while also playing important, typically maternal roles. She is the woman who lays flowers on the grave of the two lovers in THE IRON ROSE, the protagonist's mother in LIPS OF BLOOD, the mother in NIGHT OF THE HUNTED, the schoolteacher in THE TWO VAMPIRE ORPHANS, the sorceress in DRACULA'S FIANCÉE, and she is one of the principal characters in La Nuit des Horloges, serving as a kind of pallbearer for Rollin himself. The IMDb lists 21 different acting roles under her name, and it is by no means a complete list. And in addition to playing these roles, she was assisting with costumes, securing locations, organizing the shoots, distracting graveyard attendants with bottles of wine. She was the perfect example of the kind of person who seldom receives acknowledgement from writers and historians, but without whom the movies could not exist -- because dreamers can't do much of anything by themselves. Those of us who love Rollin's films feel indebted to him, but he surely felt indebted to her. She was the backbone and sometimes the very sinew of his filmography.

Natalie's most visible accomplishments were not necessarily her most notable. She also had two original screenplays produced, both erotic in nature: Rollin's FLY ME THE FRENCH WAY with Joëlle Coeur, and Didier Philippe Gérard's s Les Hôstesses du sexe with Karine Gambier. In 1977, she became a film editor with Jean-Pierre Mocky's Le roi des bricoleurs and she continued to work in this capacity until her final editorial job in 2007.

What Natalie Perrey's passing brings to mind is that what was true of the places in Rollin's films at the time he made them -- that they belonged to the past, being torn down in some cases almost as soon as he filmed them -- is becoming true of the people and faces in them. To think of Natalie speaking to camera about the absent director in La Nuit des Horloges will doubtless become doubly poignant now that she shares his mysterious absence. With her death, Rollin's life's work takes its intended next step away from the status of fantasy toward becoming not so indistinguishable from the former realities that reside in our memory. Like a bubble within a bubble, or as Edgar Allan Poe described it, while writing about a beach we might now call "Rollinesque"...

All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

In order of their appearance, the above photographs are the copyrighted property of Grégory Pons, Véronique D. Travers, Véronique D. Travers and Daniel Gouyette, and appear here with their kind permission.