Sunday, June 18, 2006

European Trash Cinema

I've been very busy lately with many real world things but I'm never too busy to sit down and catch a good film. At least not at the end of a long day. One of my favorite things to view is a heretofore unknown to me Eurpoean film of the (shall we say) less than art-house level. Thrillers, gangster films, murder mysteries, women in prison films, bloody horror tales or crime stories- I love'em all. We are currently living through a wonderful time to be a fan of strange cinema of this type as DVD companies continue to spring up each year catering to loonies like me. Between Synapse, Anchor Bay, Blue Underground, Media Blasters/Shriek Show and No Shame my 'To Get' list continues to grow longer no matter how much stuff lands in my mailbox each month. But no matter how many great DVDs come out month after month the sheer volume of whats out there is still NOT available through these channels. For a lot of the more obscure and more interesting stuff you have to go to the grey market. I've been buying from various dealers for years and I recently reacquainted myself with one of the best.

EUROPEAN TRASH CINEMA VIDEO is run by Craig Ledbetter out of his home. The business grew out of his legendary magazine EUROPEAN TRASH CINEMA years ago and even now that the 'zine is dead the video business lives on. I've been buying tapes and now DVD-R's from Craig for close to 10 years and I've never been unhappy with either his product or his great service. He's very up front about print quality and if he claims his copy looks good you can take it to the bank. Craig is also one of the most knowledgable people I've ever talked to about movies. Phone conversations with him tend to be long, entertaining and packed with information that sends me down new cinematic paths. When I recently started looking for a copy of the incredible obscure LUANA I should have contacted him first but I simply blanked. As soon as someone mention that he might have it I realized I hadn't been thinking. All it took was one phone call and I now have the long lost jungle epic in my hands.

And Craig is always on the hunt for more stuff. I've been looking to one day see a particular Peter Cushing rarity and what should show up in the latest ETC Video update?

"CORRUPTION aka LASER KILLER (1967)-As shocking today as when it was made in 1967! Peter Cushing plays a scientist who develops a skin grafting technique that he is forced to use on his wife when he accidentally disfigures her face. Unfortunately he has to kill his female victims to get the gland he needs so he goes on the hunt and relentlessly murders young women for his wife vain beauty. This is the only way to see this film uncut and in English (I have the RARE French prerecord that is in English with French subs) as it has never been released on dvd and there are no plans to! Comes with a color cover. $15"

Amazing! And here's one I just could not resist while ordering LUANA-

"FRAME-UP/THE FALLING MAN (1968)-Here's a special deal. These 2 films are different edits of the same material and so make for a fascinating viewing experience. So, I will put both versions on one dvd-r for the price of $15. Henry Silva stars as a man framed for murder (he's a hitman but this one he didn't do!) Keenan Wynn, and Beba Loncar and Evelyn Stewart co-star. A trippy film that you'll appreciate even more when you see the 2 different versions here! Comes with a color cover. $15"

I cannot wait to see this.

So, if you find you have a taste for the more eccentric side of cinema you might want to give ETC Video a try. I've included a link to the website above- just click on the title of this blog entry. I think you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mr. B.I.G.- or how I stopped worrying and learned to love Bert I. Gordon

I can pinpoint when it happened. Crow T. Robot said, "You know- this isn't a bad film for Bert I. Gordon." It was at that moment, in the middle of my first viewing of THE MAGIC SWORD, that I became a fan.

Unlike most fans of his movies I first encountered the films of Bert Ira Gordon on MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. At the time I was stumbling my way through college and a bit of humor was appreciated/needed. While THE BEGINNING OF THE END, THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN and its sequel were roasted by Joel & the Bots I laughed along and had much fun noticing the less than special effects. But, as with many of the older flicks on the show, I found myself laughing at the movies AND enjoying them too. So when I eventually got the chance to see them unaltered I was happy to discover that while they were not classics by any means they had a charm that I loved. Their charm is such that if I had caught them at a younger and more impressionable age I would have gloried in their pulp styled tales of animals and men grown larger than a fearful public could accept. Most point to COLOSSAL MAN as his best film and it might be. It was the first of his movies to make me think there was something else going on than just the surface story. Some how I realized on some level (even while laughing) that this tale of a man increasing in size was sharper than the average giant monster flick. As Glen Manning loses his hair and is forced to wear a diaper its hard to miss the symbolic reversion to childhood on display. What else is Manning (nice choice of name there) by the end of the film but an angry child seeking to break what it can no longer have. I love this kind of under the radar stuff and to spot it while watching a humor show was refreshing. As I delved further into Gordon's movies I found he was truely a kindred spirit. Here was a man in love with science fiction and horror weaving stories that must have looked perfect projected on a drive-in screen. I would love to be able to see EARTH VS. THE SPIDER on a giant outdoor screen some warm August night with a like minded group of people.

I guess another moment when I should have realized how much Gordon’s films meant to me was last summer. I was a little financially strapped and yet when I saw a foot tall statue of the Colossal Beast I knew I had to have it. A bit of cash and a little bartering is all it took and now that figure stands atop my chest of drawers threatening to hurl a bus onto my bed at any time. Sadly, this may have stunted my sex life but these are the risks one takes for the love of cheesy monster films.

When I look at Gordon's list of directorial credits I am stunned by how many films he produced in such a short space of time. After the release of KING DINOSAUR in 1955 he didn't get his next film in theaters until '57 but then they just rolled out. Three in '57 and three more in '58 which is all the more incredible when you know that he and his wife Flora were responsible for almost all of the behind the camera work. Their cheap but fun special effects were often poorly realized rear projection efforts but the movies are so much cheesy fun I always end up not caring. Not content to just make giant bug movies Gordon made Giant Mutant Beast movies (WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST), a large breasted Ghost movie (TORMENTED) , a kiddie adventure film (THE MAGIC SWORD) and a Giant Teenager movie (VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS). He even threw in a film about shrinking people down to miniature size for some extra variety with ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE. All of these are entertaining movies and great slices of late 50's monster/adventure fun even if I have a hard time forgiving him for the dancing ducks and cute brainy kid in VILLAGE. Of course, being the completist that I am, I long to see the few films Gordon directed that I still haven't found. THE CYCLOPS, NECROMANCY, THE MAD BOMBER and BURNED AT THE STAKE all rouse my curiousity. Luckily his pirate film from 1960 THE BOY AND THE PIRATE is being issued by MGM in a few weeks so I can tick that one off my list.

Now if some one would just issue his output from the 70's and 80's I'd be very happy. I'd finally get to see his adaptation H. G. Wells' FOOD OF THE GODS. I guess after years of mining Wells' book he deceided to tackle it head on for a change. I've heard mixed things from others but I have to see it for myself. After all- anyone that has managed to give me as much fun as Bert I. Gordon can do what he wants and I'll come back for more. Even if there are dancing ducks!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Luana- la figlia delle foresta vergine (1968)

Is there anyone out there that has ever seen this film? I've been trying to find it for years now and have only this piece of poster art to show for the effort. As far as I can tell it has had no video release at all and the IMDb page is less than helpful, although that's nothing new. The director helped write Aldo Lado's excellent NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS in 1975 but only directed one film other than LUANA.

If anyone can point me toward a copy of the film, however legit it may be, I'd be very grateful. I'm sure the film will turn out to be pretty terrible but my curiosity is in high gear. Besides-that which does not kill me, serves but to make me stronger.