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Retro rockabilly gangs of Tokyo
02:37 pm



For the past 30 years (if not more), you can see a re-creation of leather jackets, greased-back pompadours, and lollipop dresses, just like something out of the movie Grease, if you go to Tokyo’s famous Yoyogi Park near the Meiji-Jingumae station, for that is where the Tokyo Rockabilly Club assembles every Sunday to pay tribute to musical heroes like Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley.

Rockabilly has been making inroads in Japan as far back as 1955, when Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” dominated the charts in the country, but the current groups probably trace their origins to the 1970s, the same decade that Americans were enjoying American Graffiti and Happy Days, not to mention Grease itself.

Rockabilly, especially the form that partakes so much of the 1970s revival phase, has a cutesy edge redolent of sock hops and guys named “Potsie,” but the genre has always had an authentically rebellious edge, and the same is true of the rockabilly gangs of Yoyogi Park. This particular tribe is probably influenced by an earlier Japanese youth culture called the Kaminari zoku (“Thunder tribe”), which was considered a dangerous gang in the 1950s due to its involvement with illegally customized motorcycles, reckless driving, street racing, and fighting. The group that gathers today in Tokyo, of course, is a tourist attraction and perfectly harmless.

“Kaminari zoku” from the 1950s
Dave Barry poked fun at the rockabilly nuts of Yoyogi Park in his 1992 book Dave Barry Does Japan (1992 was a big year for interest in Japan and Japanese pop culture):

... the first thing we saw was the Bad-Ass Greasers. These were young men, maybe a dozen of them, deeply into the 1950s-American-juvenile-delinquent look, all dressed identically in tight black T-shirts, tight black pants, black socks and pointy black shoes. Each one had a lovingly constructed, carefully maintained, major-league caliber 1950s-style duck’s-ass haircut, held in place by the annual petroleum output of Kuwait. One of them had a pompadour tall enough to conceal former president Carter. [Note that the pictures here feature just such a pompadour, as well.]


One of them turned on a boom-box cassette tape of “Heartbreak Hotel.” The circle started clapping to the music; one of them got up, went to the middle of the circle, and began dancing. The dance he chose to do was—get ready for the epitome of menacing Badness—the Twist. He did it stiffly, awkwardly, looking kind of like Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd doing the wild-and-crazy-guys routine, except that he was deadly serious. So were the guys clapping in the circle. They clearly believed that they were too hip for mortal comprehension. They did not seem to sense that they might look a little silly, like a gang of Hell’s Angels that tries to terrorize a small town while wearing tutus.

Well, 2015 isn’t 1992, and the existence of a small group of people dorkily enjoying whatever they choose to enjoy flies a lot better today than it did then. Dave Barry is amused that they don’t look sufficiently “cool” or “badass,” but this is Japan, land of simulacra and, more to the point, exuberant cosplay.



Much more after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
What a drag: Amazing behind the scenes photos from the set of ‘Some Like It Hot’
09:46 am



Chicago: It’s 1929 and you’re a down on your luck sax player called Joe, when you and your buddy—a bass player named Jerry—witness a mob slaying—the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, no less. This is waaaaay bad juju—made worse when one of the gangsters—bossman “Spats” Colombo—eyeballs you. Spats don’t want no witnesses. So you and Jack are now dead men walking. You hightail it with hot lead snapping at your heels. No money. No jobs. And some mobster wants you dead. What are you gonna do? Take a Greyhound west? Mail yourself east? Join a monastery? Nope. You only got one option, kid—get dragged-up and take a job with the all female jazz band Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators on a train ride to Florida. Seems kinda logical.

This is what happens to Tony Curtis (Joe) and Jack Lemmon (Jerry) in Billy Wilder’s hit 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot. When the pair manage to disguise themselves as women they hook-up with Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), whose life has always been the “fuzzy end of the lollipop.”

Loosely adapted from a script by Robert Thoeren called Fanfares of Love—first made in France in 1935 and then remade in Germany in 1951—Some Like It Hot has been voted the best ever comedy film more times than Marilyn flubbed her lines during filming—a mere 47 takes for her to get “It’s me, Sugar” right.

The film is a classic because of the quality of the performances from its three leads, the razor sharp script by I. A. L. Diamond, and the supreme quality of direction from Billy Wilder.

Interestingly, Marilyn Monroe had a clause in her contract that stipulated she would only appear in color movies. This was intention until the make-up used to disguise Joe and Jerry as women gave their skin a hideous green cast. Black and white then became the only option. Curtis and Lemmon tested out their new feminine look by wandering around the studio and then entering a ladies’ room to put on make-up. No one (apparently) guessed they were men.

Seeing full color photographs from behind the scenes of Some Like It Hot gives the movie an added depth—an intimate sense of what was happening during so many of the film’s most memorable scenes. This is why these kind of photographs appeal so much—they give a separate yet concurrent narrative to a favorite movie. These beauties capture Curtis, Lemmon and Monroe at posed yet unguarded moments in their working time together—when Monroe was drug-addled, emotionally vulnerable and having an on-off affair with Curtis—by which, he later claimed, she became pregnant.
More on location photos from ‘Some Like It Hot’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
A look at cheeky 70’s London fashion boutique ‘Mr. Freedom’ (NSFW)
08:26 am



Mr. Freedom satin jacket designed by Muriel Carter and Pam Keats with art by Mike Rogers (from Nova magazine, 1970)
Mr. Freedom satin jacket designed by Muriel Carter and Pam Keats with art by Mike Rogers (from Nova magazine, 1970)

For a few short years back in the late 60s and early 70s, a clothing boutique called Mr. Freedom ruled the streets of London with its cheeky styles and glammy duds that were worn by everyone from Twiggy and Mick Jagger to Elizabeth Taylor. 
Kleptomania storefront in London
Kleptomania storefront
Mr Freedom t-shirts designed by Roger Lunn
Mr. Freedom t-shirts designed by Roger Lunn
Before opening Mr. Freedom, Tommy Roberts ran a shop called “Kleptomania.” It was an eclectic space not unlike a consignment store that carried non-wearables and collectables like vintage photographs and eroitica. It was a hit and quickly, Roberts enlisted his designer friend Roger Lunn to create a line of logo t-shirts (pictured above) that would go on to be wildly popular with the young London fashionistas.

It wasn’t long after that Lunn convinced Roberts that lining the walls of Kleptomania with Victorian-style military themed clothing was a good idea - and he was right. Kleptomania’s clientele soon included rock and roll fashion icons like Jimi Hendrix, members of The Who and Jimmy Page. This bit of luck inspired Roberts to start making and selling Mr. Freedom-branded clothing created by the hottest young designers in London. Like the “Bumster” jeans (below) designed by one of Mr. Freedom’s first in-house designers, Diane Cranshaw.
The “Bumster” jeans for Mr. Freedom designed by Diana Cranshaw
Mr Freedom design by Diane Crawshaw
Mr. Freedom design by Diane Crawshaw
Mr Freedom designer, Diana Crawshaw
Mr. Freedom designer, Diana Crawshaw
Mr Freedom Tommy Roberts and his business partner, John Paul
“Mr. Freedom” Tommy Roberts (L) and his business partner, John Paul (R)
The grand opening of Mr. Freedom in Chelsea took place during the summer of 1969. Roberts had been inspired to curate a clothing line thanks to the visuals in the bizarre 1969 film, Mr. Freedom and with the help of another business partner and friend, Trevor Myles, soon the boutique was full of glammy satin jackets, statement beltbuckles and clothing with colorful pop culture details like rocket ships and stars. Roberts also obtained a licence to create a line of t-shirts adorned with Disney characters. Interestingly, it was t-shirts that helped finance the shop itself after Mick Jagger was photographed in one of Mr. Freedom’s “Zodiac” t-shirts that Roberts and Myles were selling at the Chelsea Antique Market.
Mick Jagger in a Mr. Freedom
Mick Jagger wearing a Mr. Freedom “Zodiac” t-shirt
Marc Bolan's jacket (designed by Tommy Roberts) worn in the 1972 concert film, Born to Boogie
Marc Bolan’s jacket (designed by Tommy Roberts) worn in the 1972 concert film, Born to Boogie
Roberts would go on to gain fans such as David Bowie and Bryan Ferry, and in 2011, a jacket designed by Roberts himself and worn by the mythical Marc Bolan in the 1972 concert film, Born to Boogie (pictured above) sold at an auction at Christie’s for a cool $15,375.  If all of this sounds fantastic to you as it does to me, I highly recommend that you check out the 2012 book that details Roberts incredible contributions to glam rock fashion and beyond, Tommy Roberts: Mr. Freedom: British Design Hero. Loads of photos (some that are delightfully NSFW) detailing the history and evolution of Mr. Freedom’s glamtastic fashion follow.
Mr. Freedom fashion spread in Nova Magazine, 1970s
Mr. Freedom fashion spread in Nova Magazine, 1970s
Design by Diana Crawshaw for Mr. Freedom
Design by Diana Crawshaw for Mr. Freedom
Images from the book, Tommy Roberts: Mr. Freedom: British Design Hero
A few pages from the book, Tommy Roberts: Mr. Freedom: British Design Hero
1972 magazine article featuring clothing from the Mr. Freedom boutique
1972 magazine article featuring clothing from the Mr. Freedom boutique
More Mr. Freedom, after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘Black Christmas’: The groundbreaking 1974 slasher film that paved the way for ‘Halloween’
09:03 am



Black Christmas
In 1974, Bob Clark’s Canadian horror film, Black Christmas, was released. At the time, it was the highest grossing made-in-Canada film ever. It didn’t do as well in the U.S., but made enough of an impact to get the attention of writer/director John Carpenter. Black Christmas is now regarded as a pioneering slasher film, having a major influence on Carpenter’s Halloween (1978).
Black Christmas title card
Black Christmas begins at a sorority house Christmas party. Outside, an unseen figure approaches, entering the house through an attic window. Soon the phone rings and the girls are greeted with a disturbing obscene call from “Billy,” who also babbles about a childhood tragedy involving his sister that he was responsible for. Later, one of the girls returns to her room and is suffocated by the intruder, who then brings the body to the attic.
Dead girl in the attic
Meanwhile, one of the sorority sisters, Jess, tells her boyfriend, Peter, that she is pregnant. When she tells him she plans to have an abortion, he becomes upset, telling her in somewhat of a threatening manner that she will be “sorry” if she goes through with terminating the pregnancy.

Eventually, the police are on the hunt for both the missing girl (no one realizes she’s been murdered) and to identify this “Billy,” who continues to call the house. The cops suspect Peter may be responsible for the calls, as does Jess, though she covers for her boyfriend. As the holiday season progresses, more undetected killings take place inside the house, until Jess discovers two of the bodies. She’s then chased through the house by the killer, though she doesn’t lay eyes on him. As she hides in the basement, a concerned Peter approaches—is he the murderer?
Black Christmas lobby card
Director Clark was surely influenced by Italian giallo films. A giallo usually features a shadowy, unseen killer, who murders his victims with a knife. Giallos also include camera angles meant to be from the killer’s point-of-view, which Clark incorporated into Black Christmas, The technique was also used by Carpenter in Halloween and became a standard component of slasher films. But unlike the giallo and many future slashers, the murder scenes in Black Christmas are neither gory nor are they explicit. It also lacks the sexualized violence that would become so associated with the slasher film. Instead, Clark used good ol’ fashioned mystery and suspense, as well as the alarming dialogue from “Billy,” to create the appropriate atmosphere.

Both Psycho (1960) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) are commonly cited as forerunners of the slasher film, though neither feature all the essential elements of the horror sub-genre—a single, mysterious killer terrorizes and murders, one-by-one, a group of mostly young people, ending with a “Final Girl”—but Black Christmas has all of those components. As does Halloween.
Jess on the phone
Jess, the “Final Girl.”

Both are also set around a holiday or day of culturally significance, an element that would become common in slasher films after the success of Halloween (see My Bloody Valentine, April Fool’s Day, the Friday the 13th series, etc.)

Around 1977, Bob Clark and John Carpenter talked about doing a film together. Carpenter asked if Clark would be willing to do a sequel to Black Christmas. Clark told Carpenter:

No, I don’t intend to, I’m not here to make horror films, I’m using horror films to get myself established. If I was going to do one, though, I would do a movie a year later where the killer escapes from an asylum on Halloween, and I would call it “Halloween.”

Bob Clark died tragically in 2007, when he and his son were involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. His son was also killed in the accident. Clark is best known today for having directed two wildly different films, the holiday classic, A Christmas Story (1983), and the maligned and misunderstood (it’s better than you think), Porky’s (1981), the success of which inadvertently helped spawn another kind of motion picture: the raunchy teen sex comedy.

After the jump, hear some of the disturbing ‘Black Christmas’ soundtrack…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Listen to Radiohead’s unused theme for song for James Bond movie ‘Spectre’
08:36 am

Pop Culture


Merry Christmas from Radiohead, who have just posted their unused theme song for the latest James Bond romp Spectre on social media today.

Commenting on Facebook the band explain:

Last year we were asked to write a theme tune for the Bond movie Spectre.

Yes we were. It didn’t work out, but became something of our own, which we love very much. As the year closes we thought you might like to hear it.

Merry Christmas. May the force be with you.

Though many are called—few are chosen, and Radiohead now join the long list of (sadly) rejected artists whose songs are often better than the ones chosen—certainly true with this little number. Radiohead had been favorites to record the Spectre theme with one punter betting a staggering $22,000+ (£15k) on the band snagging the deal. Alas, it didn’t happen—so now the band have shared the song as a rather awesome Christmas present.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
David Lynch’s life advice: ‘Keep your eye on the doughnut’
05:58 am




“The hole is so deep and so bad; the Doughnut is a beautiful thing.” ~ David Lynch

There’s not much to say here. Just 1 minute of life advice from David Lynch about keeping your eye on the doughnut. Don’t forget it folks, this might be the most important thing you’ll ever hear.

h/t Joe Reifer

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Santa Claus Conquers Your Brain
03:42 pm

Pop Culture


Here’s your alternative Yule log.

Santa Conquers The Martians is considered by many to be among the worst films ever made. Personally, I love this surrealistic mindbender that stars an eight-year-old Pia Zadora only slightly smaller than her adult self. Between the goofy D.I.Y. costumes and sets intercut with stock footage of jets and missiles, director Nicolas Webster’s 1964 holiday head trip is filled with as much bizarre wonderfulness as anything by David Lynch or Jack Smith.

Music by:

The Bubblemen
400 Blows
Cabaret Voltaire
Nitzer Ebb
23 Skiddoo
Hard Corp
Naked Lunch
Ledernacken And Band
Diseno Corbusier

This is what happens when I’m left alone in a room with video tapes, records, a bottle of Zinfandel and 50-year-old blotter acid. If you’ve never seen Santa Claus Conquers The Martians before, this is the lysergic version. The original may even be more trippy depending on your point of view.

Holiday greetings from Mars.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
‘Thomasine & Bushrod,’ the blaxploitation Western with music by Arthur Lee and Love
01:53 pm



Thomasine & Bushrod is one of four movies Super Fly director Gordon Parks, Jr. (son of the director of Shaft) made before his death in a plane crash at the age of 44. Written by its leading man, Max Julien of Psych-Out and The Mack fame, the movie—often called the “black Bonnie and Clyde”—costarred Julien’s longtime girlfriend, the formidable Vonetta McGee. Julien had previously written Cleopatra Jones for McGee, who appeared in the contemporary genre pictures Blacula and Shaft in Africa, but after Warner Brothers cast Tamara Dobson in the title role, the couple undertook this collaboration, a revisionist Western in which two sexy fugitives deal out justice to despicable white sadists.

(Incidentally, this was not McGee’s first Western. A decade after Thomasine & Bushrod, Alex Cox cast McGee in Repo Man on the strength of her performance in “the greatest of all Italian westerns, Sergio Corbucci’s Il Grande Silenzio.”)

Love circa 1973
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s score quotes the melody of the film’s lovely theme song by Arthur Lee of Love, first heard at the 29:20 mark. I assume Julien and Lee knew each other through Hollywood circles; all John Einarson’s Love biography Forever Changes has to say on the subject is that Lee sold Julien his house on Avenida del Sol in the Hollywood Hills before moving to Sherman Oaks in 1975. Lee’s “Thomasine & Bushrod” is now available as a bonus track on the CD edition of Black Beauty, the 1973 album recorded by an all-black lineup of Love that sat on the shelves until High Moon released it in 2012. This less-than-optimal-quality sound file is the only version on YouTube:
Arthur Lee, “Thomasine & Bushrod”:

As for the movie, you can now rent it for $2.99 (in SD) or $3.99 (HD) on Amazon or YouTube (embedded below). Lee’s song doesn’t play in full until the end credits. I hope the rattlesnake that bit McGee during filming got a taste of outlaw justice from Jomo’s pistols.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘I do like death-especially other people’s’: Quentin Crisp top 10 favorite gangster movies
12:47 pm



In September 1997, writer, wit, raconteur and gay icon Quentin Crisp named his ten favorite gangster movies for Neon film magazine. The list was featured under the magazine’s “It’s not what you think” page—a monthly selection of favorite things.

Crisp loved movies and described cinema as a “forgetting chamber”—a place to escape everyday woes. Movies were “better than real life” and “something you couldn’t have invented for yourself if you’d sat up all night.”

Crisp preferred American movies—they were were “exaggerations” pitched as “high as it can go”:

...because it’s either the most terrible time in somebody’s life or the most wonderful time in somebody’s life.

British movies were too much like real life and real life was boring. Crisp liked stars like Valentino, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Marlon Brando, Carmen Miranda, Kevin Spacey and Matthew McConaughey—who he thought “could play any number of Gary Cooper parts.”

Mr. Crisp loved gangster movies—the more violent the better—and he enjoyed a good bloody death—as “other people’s deaths affirm our existence.” His top ten list was based on an interview—the overuse of “and,” “that,” and “wonderful” suggest this, as does his running together of sentences—however, it is a fine list—a mix of old Hollywood classics with some contemporary independent films. But be warned this does contain spoilers. Mr. Crisp also discusses his own death—correctly predicting he would die “quietly” when he collapsed and died of a heart attack in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, on the eve of a sell-out British tour.

1. THE GODFATHER (Francis Ford Coppola, 1971)

My favourite because of Mr. Brando. He never makes like a gangster. From the beginning, when he stands in that darkened room and says [adopts Corleone accent], “you ask me favours but you do not call me Godfather,” he is a man trying to do his best for his family, many of whom he dislikes.

Brando should have played more gangsters because he has a built-in threat which is difficult to cultivate. It’s important that the main gangster dies, as Brando does, preferably violently. I do like death—especially other people’s.

2. LITTLE CAESAR (Mervyn LeRoy, 1930)

Mr [Edward G.] Robinson was the only actor who could play both the evil tyrant and the helpless victim. He was a great gangster in Little Caesar, although unfortunately I can’t remember the story. I love gangster movies because you can be afraid. The only emotion you can really feel is fear: you win an award and you roll your eyes and clap your hands, but really you’re only worried about what to wear at the reception. But when you’re afraid, you know you’re afraid. Films about ‘whether I love you more than you love me’ are a waste of time.


3. THE BIG HEAT (Fritz Lang, 1953)

After Metropolis, Mr Lang went to America and made The Big Heat. At one point, I remember Mr [Lee] Marvin looks around the room for something with which to draw Miss [Gloria] Graham’s attention. He sees a cauldron of boiling coffee and—when I saw it, as his hand stretched out, the woman behind me said, “nooo!” Anyway, he takes the coffee and flings it at her. Later on, she throws coffee at Mr Marvin and she says, “You’ll end up like this”—and she tears off her bandages and her face is a mass of blisters. Wonderful.

4. DONNIE BRASCO (Mike Newell, 1997)

I have never believed in Johnny Depp because he appeared in such frivolous escapades as Edward Scissorhands, but he’s very good in this. As a Fed disguised as a Mafiosa, he has to show how us how afraid he is but conceal his fear from the other cast members. The last scene is wonderfully written, because after all the horror—after blood has splashed onto the camera lens—Mr [Al] Pacino takes the valuables out of his pocket and puts them in a drawer and opens it so that his wife will see it, and then he goes out and you hear the shots. It ends very quietly.

5. GOODFELLAS (Martin Scorsese, 1990)

Goodfellas was nice because it gave you a glimpse of what gangsters’ wives did. Gangsters in other films only had molls, and they were very dreary. But the wives lived and enclosed life: they could never know anyone except the wives of other gangsters because no-one would want to know a gangster’s wife. It’s like being married to a policeman—no-one’s ever going to speak to you. So you saw the wives preparing endless fattening meals of spaghetti for these men, in an atmosphere of bonhomie and terror. And that was very good.

Mr. Crisp on ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ ‘Scarface’ and more, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Make your very own Jarvis Cocker Xmas ornament
10:22 am

Pop Culture


If you fancy having Jarvis Cocker hanging off your Christmas tree this Holiday season, then hop on over to BBC Radio 6 Music where you can download your very own Jarvis Cocker tree decoration.

Other poptastic baubles include Laurie Anderson, and…er…Paul Smith and Peaches. Each decoration comes in its own festive non-denominational colors and is as easy to fold together as a drug wrap. Download yours here.
Tune into Jarvis Cocker’s festive radio show from 2011, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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