Friday, January 31, 2014

The Vampyre of Time and Memory by Queens of the Stone Age

One of my favorite songs from last year from one of my favorite albums. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Caroline of STARCRASH

After stumbling on this image of an unused sequence filmed for the mad science fiction epic STARCRASH (1979) I had the sudden urge to see more images of its fair star Caroline Munro. You, dear blog reader, get the bounty of my search! 

And now back to our regularly scheduled day. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Stephen D. Sullivan's WHITE ZOMBIE

Long time readers of this blog will know that I have an affinity for movie novelizations -especially science fiction and horror stories. OK- almost exclusively science fiction and horror novelizations! I get a kick out these literary bastards for their fascinating quirks and the very real chance to learn about things left out of the movie. Often scenes are cut from a film that alter the tale in some way that can influence the viewer in a positive or negative way and discovering these bits of orphaned narrative is a source of pure joy for a geek of my type. And, of course, the few times that a novelization slips into publication based on an early version of the script with drastic differences from the finished film can be even more fun. Its like a peek inside the creative process of a work. 

Enter author Stephen D. Sullivan who, out of nowhere, has decided to do genre novelization fans a great service. He has taken it upon himself to write a novelization for a horror film originally released long before this often insulted sub-genre of literature was big business. That's right classic horror fans- he has crafted an adaptation of the 1932 Bela Lugosi tale of Haitian voodoo WHITE ZOMBIE! HERE he explains why he took on this challenge and why he chose this creaky public domain feature to novelize.

I read the book last week and I can attest to the fact that Sullivan has done a fantastic job. I have always enjoyed WHITE ZOMBIE but I've always felt that although it is creepy and occasionally disturbing, it has a strangely distancing narrative that keeps me from being too invested in the characters. The film has always played out like a well produced play that I can keep at arms length while enjoying the darker aspects as entertainment.

The smartest thing Sullivan has done is what any good writer should do - he brings the reader fully into the story by letting us inside the minds of the various characters. We watch the same awful deeds unfold that we have witnessed before onscreen, but this time we are privy to the warped thoughts of the villains and the vain hopes of the victims. Sullivan has done this very well, relating events with a sharp, modern style that never feels out of place in a tale taking place in the early 1930's but also isn't filled with elements someone under 60 years of age wouldn't understand. This book does the film an enormous service by enhancing it and making it seem more vital and alive than even a high definition print viewed in perfect conditions could. Sullivan has managed to deepen and strengthen this classic tale of terror in a way that should make any Monster Kid happy. To read this book is to experience WHITE ZOMBIE in a brand new way - call it emotional 3-D! I heartily recommend this wonderful book and hope more fans check it out.

Thank you Mr. Sullivan for making me appreciate WHITE ZOMBIE more than I ever have before!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lillian Roth

The other night I sat down and watched the Warner Archives DVD of MADAM SATAN (1930) and, while I had mixed feelings about the rather overlong film, I fell in love with actress Lillian Roth. She was so cute and energetic playing a flirty bad girl acting as girlfriend to married Reginald Denny that I could not keep my eyes off of her or her legs! I wasn't sure I had ever seen her before so one trip to IMDB later I learned that I probably had not. At least, I can't remember her from the Marx Brothers' ANIMAL CRACKERS which is the only title I recognize from her resume.

But then I read on and learned all this from her Bio page -

"The sudden death of her fiancé in the early 30s drove Lillian over the brink. She found liquor to be a calming sensation, which led to a full-scale addiction. Marriages, one to renown Municipal Court Justice Benjamin Shalleck, came and went at a steady pace. There would be eight in all. Her career self-destructed as she spiraled further and further into alcoholic oblivion and delirium. Decades would be spent in and out of mental institutions until she met and married T. Burt McGuire, Jr., a former alcoholic in the late 40s. With his support, Lillian slowly revived her career with club work. She became a singing sensation again and toured throughout the world, receiving ecstatic reviews wherever she went. Lillian's daring autobiography, "I'll Cry Tomorrow" was published in 1954 and topped The New York Times Best Sellers List. She left out few details of her sordid past and battle with substance abuse. She would become the first celebrity to associate her name with Alcoholics Anonymous, putting a well-known face on the disease while doing her part in helping to remove the social stigma. A bold, no-holds-barred film adaptation of Lillian's book followed. Susan Hayward's gutsy portrayal of Lillian won her a fourth Oscar nomination. Lillian herself would return to films in her twilight years but only in small roles and to minor fanfare."  -  Gary Brumburgh

Holy Crap! I'm going to have to try to see I'LL CRY TOMORROW(1955) soon. I wonder if it pops up on Turner Classic Movies with any regularity. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

NaschyCast #43 - EMPUSA (2010)

In this episode we venture once again into the twenty first century to witness Paul Naschy's final directorial effort - EMPUSA. Unlike his earlier work this is a film we know little about with next to nothing being stated by our hero before his untimely passing. We do know that this project started as a final collaboration with director Carlos Aured (HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB, CURSE OF THE DEVIL) but it appears Naschy completed the film when his friend's health wouldn't allow him to work.  From what we can learn, the bulk of the movie was shot in 2007 or 2008 but it went unreleased until 2010.  There might be a good reason for that! We suspect that additional footage was shot after the fact and damn- do the seams show. it is pretty great to see Naschy teamed with old buddy Antonio Mayans, though. 

Join Troy and I as we chop this horror/comedy (or is it a comedy?) down to size and attempt to understand just what the hell is going on. I think you'll be able to hear the pain! As usual, the conversation darts all over the place with zombie novels getting some love from me but things really go off track in the mailbag section. Questions are asked and answered with some great thoughts and ideas coming from our loyal listeners. If you have any questions or comments you can drop us a line at or join us over on the NaschyCast Facebook page on the book of faces. Oh- and feel free to donate to the podcast if you think the show is worth a few shekels by using the Donation Button on the left side of the NaschyCast Blog page. Thanks to Mike for reminding us that its there! 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Random Poster Art!

This lineup would be one hell of a movie marathon! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Recent NetFlix views

In the past couple of weeks I've caught a few genre films via NetFlix that are worth serious attention.

I first heard of ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE years ago and I was intrigued enough to want to see it, but the film soon slipped my mind when it never appeared in theaters or on video. It became a case of  'out of sight, out of mind' until Bill on the Outside the Cinema podcast mentioned it some time last year. He praised the movie and noted that it was available on British DVD.  I was curious now and looked into importing the Region 2 DVD but couldn't justify the price for a film I had never seen. I knew from reading reports that the reason the film had such a terrible time with distribution was that the production company went bankrupt so I wondered if it might not eventually show up over here in some legal form and just last year it finally did.

I won't give too much away about the film's plot because I think its best to see this one cold. What I will say is that its the story of a group of high school teens dealing with often complicated personal interactions as they try to assert themselves as sexual creatures with raging, confusing emotions. Oh - and its a slasher film! Actually, its a pretty clever horror film overall with an ending that I found to be nearly perfect. The performances were very strong with a very naturalistic feel in the conversations and relationships. Special praise should be given for the often artistic, stylish cinematography that put me in mind of the better images of movies with much higher budgets. This is a very good film that shouldn't have fallen through the cracks but now can be seen easily enough and genre fans should take the time to check it out.

The second movie I'll draw your attention to is the latest adaptation of one of Donald E. Westlake's crime novels (written under the pen name Richard Stark) about the clever criminal Parker. I was a bit resistant to this film at first because it stars the very British Jason Statham as Parker and, having read several of the novels, that does not match the character on the page. But after hearing quite a few people including Stephan King claim it to be very good I had to push play and see for myself. Glad I did!

PARKER (2013) is an adaptation of one of the novels in the series that I have not yet read (Flashfire) and that was a plus for my expectations I think. I wasn't aware of the plot complications and therefore was not waiting for certain highlights to appear but I think that even if I was constantly comparing this film to the book I would have been pleased. This movie easily joins the short list of excellent Parker films and in my opinion is one of the three best along with POINT BLANK (1967) and THE OUTFIT (1973).

The story follows Parker as he sets up and expertly executes a robbery at a State Fair only to be double crossed by his partners and left for dead. After pulling himself out of a hospital bed one step ahead of the police he begins a dogged pursuit of his betrayers. This trail leads to Florida where he uses real estate agent Jenifer Lopez to find the location of their hideout. This is a surefooted, smart and well paced crime tale that is never boring or less than engaging. It was a small leap to accept that this Parker is a Brit and Statham even has fun slapping on a thick Texan accent as part of a disguise later in the story. Lopez is quite good in a role that reminded me of her excellent performance in OUT OF SIGHT (1998) - what happened to her? She should have been making movies like this for fifteen years!

I won't ruin the film by going too far but I love the supporting cast and old Hollywood hand Taylor Hackford shows that he can still pull together an effective movie year after career high point. If you like taut, exciting crime movies this one is for you.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955) alternate poster art

Having recently rewatched the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 movie I have this movie on my mind. Might be time for an un-riffed viewing to reacquaint myself with this classic. And I've got the script around here someplace, too! 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sgt. Preston on YouTube!

This isn't actually the first episode and it doesn't take place in Winter but here's an example of the show for those curious but not curious enough to purchase something sight unseen. Where else in television history are you going to find a place called Wounded Moose?

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Sgt. Preston comic book covers

I can feel the urge to watch episodes of Sgt. Preston of the Yukon welling up within me now that Winter is in full frosty swing. I've already been listening to some of the classic radio shows and this past week's extreme cold snap made me feel much in tune with the blizzard conditions that are often depicted in those slices of audio joy. If you are unaware of the joys of Sgt. Preston and his faithful companion King the Wonder Dog I recommend checking out the Bloody Pit show I did last year. You can listen or download the episode HERE for the cold nights bundled up in your own snow covered mountain cabin!

I wouldn't mind reading some of these Preston comics but I doubt they would be as entertaining as the covers. I wonder if any of these have been collected and re-released in recent years. I wonder who even holds the right to release them. Anyone know?

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

What I Watched in December

Only one trip to the theater last month. 

I have never been secretive about my general dislike for most American made cinema comedies of the past 20 years or so. I feel that a great slackening of both taste and talent has crippled the Hollywood comedy machine so much so that the ratio of good to bad has tipped too far in the bad direction. Somehere around 1992 this overbalance destroyed my desire to wade through the dross pile for the rare fleck of gold. I have occasionally been surprised by a modern comedy - 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, THE HANGOVER - but I have given up on the movies that seem to drive most of the multiplex activity. I would find it excruciating to watch most of what passes for comedy these days as I am despaired by the lack of intelligent thought onscreen. This is why I have stayed away from the movies with big comedy stars - Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Chris Tucker , etc. If I don't find them funny then why bother.

There was one recent comedy that I was tempted to see by virtue of the fact that it has become part of the culture in a way I found impressive. Indeed, I had heard many of the funniest bits from ANCHORMAN (2004) long before I finally sat down last year to finally watch the film at my girlfriend's request. I found it to be pretty good but too scattershot to really add up to a great movie. It has a lot of funny moments but none of them are very connected to each other and a few are simply non sequiturs that connect through their brilliant absurdity. I could appreciate the harsh, cynical attack on broadcast journalistic ethics the film used as its main plot device but I felt there was a lot of low hanging fruit that was left on the tree as the story wound down. So, not a bad film but nothing great except for the highlights.

Cut to....

Over the holidays we went out to the theater and, through a sad confluence of errors and a sold out show, we ended up seeing ANCHORMAN 2 (2013). I had been warned by friends I trust that it was a dog but luck was against me and there I was - sitting with my girlfriend, her son and his girlfriend watching this sucker play out. Damn! This film is exactly what I had always feared I would see if forced to suffer through most modern comedies. Flat, dull, stupid, poorly conceived and eventually irritating this is an unmitigated disaster. The cast seems to be having a good time and there are a few scattered laughs, but the inspired off-the-wall humor that made the first film a success is in short supply. The best moments are from Paul Rudd and Steve Carell but the film is so half-baked that several times the movie steps on the comic timing flattening scenes you know should be funny. Kristen Wiig is wasted and what should be her payoff scene with Carell is a damned mess with one laugh followed by the realization that they had no idea where to go with her character. Worst of all is that they simply play out a new variation on the same basic plot as in the first film making fun of the depths to which broadcast news will sink to gain ratings. Their mockery isn't very amusing when what they are portraying is almost exactly what cable television news has descended to in 2014 - vacuous, inane crap. There is much comedy potential in watching bottom feeders being rewarded for doing awful things that make the world a more terrible place but this isn't even trying to mine that idea to the depth of a fingernail.

This is a real shame. When you can see funnier lines in the trailer than the ones that ended up in the finished film you know something went horribly wrong. Both Yvette and I were looking at each other in despair about half an hour into the interminable two full hour running time of this crapfest. I know I'm a hard audience for stupid comedies but neither of us liked this mess and I think that says something. If you found this film funny I firmly believe you would have laughed at ANYTHING they put onscreen. More power to ya.

Trust me folks- just because you want it to be funny doesn't make it funny.

Back to my crappy thrillers and science fiction epics, thank you!

MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012)- 8 (wonderful whimsy)
THE APPARITION (2012)- 6 (well done but nothing special)
CAGE OF EVIL (1960)- 6 (not bad b-noir)
EBBIE (1995)- 7 (well done TV version of A Christmas Carol!)
PORTLAND EXPOSE (1957) 6 (well done crime tale)
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013)- 4 (sadly misses the mark)
ITS A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)- 10 (rewatch)
HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949)- 8 (Mitchum in a Christmas film!)
THE UNINVITED (1946)- 8 (rewatch)
BECOMING CHAZ (2011)- 7 (doc about Chastity Bono's journey)
CHRISTMAS EVE (1947)- 6 (more a crime film than a Holiday tale)
THE HANGOVER (2009)- 9 (rewatch)
THE RETURN OF SABATA (1971)- 7 (Lee Van Cleef is back!)
THE HANGOVER PART II (2011)- 6 (a more slavish remake of the first film is unimaginable but it has some real laughs)
URBAN LEGEND (1998)- 5 (very silly but not terrible slasher)
ANCHORMAN 2 (2013)- 3 (barely a handful of laughs - sleep inducing)
COSMOPOLIS (2012)- 8 (fascinating cerebral Cronenberg)
TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD WOMAN (1946)- 7 (very good adventure)
HERCULES, SAMSON AND ULYSSES (1963)- 7 (very fun peplum) 

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Alternate DARK KNIGHT RISES poster art.

Some are crazier than others, but all of them put a smile on my face.