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Beyond ‘Blood Feast’ and ‘2000 Maniacs’: The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis
06.30.2013
01:39 pm

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Movies

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Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis
 
This is a wondrous age we live in. Films that have languished in obscurity, rotting away in assorted attics and storage units are starting to resurface, all after being tossed off as lost. It’s a weird film lover’s dream and adding to the growing list are not one but three titles, all connected to the Godfather of Gore and cardinal in the holy church of exploitation cinema himself, Herschell Gordon Lewis. Thanks to the hardworking folks at Vinegar Syndrome, not only do we have access to the Ecstasies of Women, Linda & Abilene and Black Love, but we have access to them restored and looking more gorgeous then they have a right to on both DVD and glorious Blu Ray as The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis.

The high definition sleaze proceedings begin with The Ecstasies of Women, a 1969 light-as-a-feather but stiff-as-a-bourbon-on-the-rocks confection that just oozes late 60’s swank. A bachelor party for Harry (Walter Camp) is in full swing at a topless revue club, complete with a snarky but flirty waitress who greets the groom-to-be and his companions with, “How’s the doomsmen and his executioner?” Instant awesome.

Harry & his Doomsmen
 
Even better is some of the commentary towards the two pulchritudinous lovelies gyrating on stage. “They must have ball bearings for ball joints!” Turns out ole Harry makes his bread by selling lingerie, presumably door-to-door, to ladies across the land. In a gin stooped, horny daze, our hero starts daydreaming about all of the sweet memories that have unfolded in his bachelor pad/houseboat. The first dreamy flashback, complete with little charming and ethereal sound effects accompanying it, involves a semi-downtrodden but lovely brunette Annette (Jeanette Mills). Annette, a permanent tourist, ends up falling for Harry’s come-ons, which are on the Tillamook side of cheese.

After some heavy petting in Harry’s golden gas guzzler of the gods, they head back to the houseboat, where Annette models some of his bread and butter. Ignoring the uncleanliness of it all, the two hit it off biblically, complete with lots of leg and semi-chaste haunch shots, with a soundtrack of lounge music and dubbed over moaning.

It’s not long after that we get Harry’s next flashback, this time napping on the beach, only to be interrupted by a beach bunny, Sandy (Vincene Wallace), whose love of wheat germ & clean living is matched only by her abrasive nymphomania. Such a combo can be scary if we’re talking about the winsome physical charms of Taft but luckily for Harry, Sandy’s blonde, busty and willing. Cue in, you guessed it, more groovy music and dubbed in moaning.

Beach Bunny Assertion
 
Harry’s houseboat, which features such nice decorations as a big sign that proclaims “This is not the Mayflower but many broads have come across in it!” Nothing says class like referring to women as broads. Quick lesson, unless you’re the living reincarnation of James Cagney circa Public Enemy, just say no. His next dreamy flashback starts with him picking up a comely hitchhiker, Philomena (Sharon Matt). Jail bait on a stick, Phil all but tells him that she is fifteen but quickly backtracks when he starts to (understandably) freak out. Fellas, here’s another tip, if you pick up a young looking girl who is dressed in a schoolgirl uniform and you’re NOT in an Aerosmith video, just assume she’s jail bait and get out of dodge.

But Larry’s the kind of guy who likes to live it up Jimmy Page style and brings young Phil to his boat of wood-paneled lust. Before the film turns into a sheer 60’s negligee version of All the Girls I’ve Loved Before, Harry’s loins and heart are soon sorely tempted by one of the girls at the Revue and with a name like Summer Frenzy (Bonnie Clark), who could blame him?

Out of the three films, The Ecstasies of Women is the most fun with the best zingers, lots of great colors, gorgeous ladies and warped, horny logic that lies only in that special realm known as sexploitation. The trailer that accompanies is it equally fun, with Harry being described as a “professional lovemaker.” I hear the pay is bad, but the benefits are quite cherry.

After that, is 1969’s Linda & Abilene, one of the very few hybrids of the western genre with sexploitation. While the titular Linda (Roxanne Jones) romps with a macho cowboy during the opening credits, the film itself begins with a funeral. Young Abilene (Sharon Matt, again) and her brother Todd (Kip Marsh), are left orphaned as they bury their parents. Dealing with their grief, they both press on, as the young adults take care of their family’s land and humble home.

Linda & Todd meet
 
Their healing path soon takes a weird turn after Todd catches his sister skinny dipping, unraveling a whole slew of hormones and urges towards her. Fate would have it that Abilene is also having some similar feelings. Faster than you can say “Jesus, no,” the twain do meet and meet again, making one wonder if anyone sitting in the grindhouse audience was actually aroused or too busy being squicked out by the family love gone way the hell too far.

Todd starts to feel guilty, conveniently after canoodling with her around eleventy times, and runs off to town to get a breather at the local bar. (He should have ran to a local church to thank god that she wasn’t pregnant with their two headed love-spawn.) An hour later after her brief appearance in the opening credits, Linda shows up and is instantly smitten with handsome and confused Todd. When she inquires about Abilene, Todd lets it slip that she is all alone on the farm, all within ear shot of the superbly greasy Rawhide (Tom Thorn). Linda gets to know Todd better, giving Rawhide the chance to travel to the family farm. Pretending to be a hungry wanderer, he presses a very scared Abilene into cooking for him, which she does. Praising her cooking skills, he then proceeds to rape her.

Finally coming home, Todd finds out what happened and goes on a rampage. (Though never providing us the desired bon mot of “Nobody gets to have sex with my sister except me!”) While he is out searching for Rawhide, Linda makes her way to their home. Initially looking for Todd, she ends up comforting the traumatized Abilene. In a bizarro world move, Linda ends up seducing Abilene, which is a tactic I don’t think most would recommend when trying to help victims of rape. Todd finally finds Rawhide and the inevitable showdown begins.

Linda & Abilene is more of a fascinating curio than a film. As a movie, the pacing is way too slow with a whole lot of drag. For a film that should have been 70-75 minutes max, the running time is 92 minutes. History wise, it is more interesting. In addition to the genre hybrid, Linda & Abilene was filmed on location at the infamous Spahn Ranch. Even more so, Lewis recalled some of the seemingly harmless hippie kids hanging around, watching and giggling while some of the saucier scenes were filmed. It’s not often one can have a nice Manson family tie-in with their exploitation westerns.

Last but not least is Black Love. To give you an idea of the proceedings, here’s a sample of the opening voice over; “Black Love is not an erotic sex film. It’s rather a study of an important aspect of the black experience-the act of making love.” Never mind the fact that lovemaking is a pretty important experience for all races, there is one very important nugget of truth in that opening statement. Namely, that it is most definitely not an erotic sex film. It’s a sex film alright, sans any glue shots, but it is about as erotic as a mule kicking you in the head.

Couple in Black Love
 
Presented in the loose, faux-documentarian spirit of the old white coaters from the late 60’s/early 70’s, the first example of “black love” is how children first learn about it. The narrator mentions it is often through stories they hear, experimenting when they are older and watching adults…..what??? A bored teenager catches two adults in the backseat of a car in the middle of the day in some industrial looking parking lot. It just gets worse as a little girl walks in on her parents. (Thank god that it is obvious that the kids were not in the same room as the in flagrante delicto action.) Instead of vomiting, running and screaming, which is what 99% of kids of all races would do, she stays looking surprised and giggling. I instantly need therapy.

It goes on from there, examining the ideal black couple and people dancing at a predominantly African-American club. Black Love toes this strange line of trying to sound progressive, yet is interspersed with assorted commentary about the assorted physical differences that skirts up to the county of racist. It would actually be racist except a lot of the traits noted about “black love” (save for the aforementioned creepy watching bit) could be said about all races. At one point, the narrator notes the physical differences of each club goer. Turns out black people can be short, tall, thin, large, some darker skinned and others lighter skinned and some even wear varying fashions…just like every other race.

On one hand, Black Love is kind of horrible, but on the other hand, it’s horrible-ness is something so strong that it could unite all races closer together. It is amazing that this film was even found, since out of the three formerly-lost HG Lewis titles, this is the one that drummed up the most curiosity. Lewis’ own back and forth about even being associated with it has given it, inadvertently, added mystery. It is a relic of a time when both sexual and racial prejudices were being actively challenged. Kind of sad that thirty plus years later, we are still having these same prejudices. It makes anyone with a soul and an IQ over toast frustrated and angry.

The Vinegar Syndrome have done an absolutely luscious job releasing and restoring The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. The first two films especially look so gorgeous, with the use of color really popping. Then there’s the great cover art, well researched liner notes courtesy of Casey Scott and a trailer for each title. They might not be the best examples of Lewis’ work, but they are part of a fascinating director’s filmography. This release is another A+ mark in the often underlooked field of film preservation.

Posted by Heather Drain | Discussion
Revenge, Poetry & Gangsters: An interview with ‘2Graves’ star Jonathan Moore
06.28.2013
12:51 am

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Art
Movies
Music
Punk
Television

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aghvcurtyighvkbn.jpg
 
Jonathan Moore didn’t find starring in his latest film 2Graves an enjoyable experience.

“There’s a lot of it where I’m hung from a chain,” Moore tells Dangerous Minds. “A hook, like a meat hook. This went on for like twelve hours on the first day because we were so short of time. I stayed in my harness even during lunch break. I wore one these flying harness things. It’s like the worst kind of corset you can imagine—it digs into your ribs, it chafes—so, I was in a lot of physical pain. But I was using it—I was using the pain.

“The bloke who did the flying said to me, ‘We don’t normally have people in one of these harnesses for more than 20-minutes.’

“He said, ‘Are you all right? You don’t have to do this.’ I just felt so much pressure to do it that I did it for a whole day. I thought, well at least that’s done. Then I came in the next day and the director said, ‘You’ve got to do it again.”

Jonathan Moore is an actor, writer and director. He may describe himself as “not a marquee name,” but over a 30-year career, he has proven himself, time-and-again, to be one of the most powerful, original, and talented creative artists of his generation.

In 2Graves Moore plays Jack Topps, a man set on revenging the murder of his father.

“It’s got this kind of Greek revenge quality to it. It’s an odyssey really, about this guy who is an ordinary kid, whose dad is killed by gangsters over some gambling debts. His dad was a professional darts player and he didn’t throw the match to keep the local crime family happy. So, they killed him. His son finds out about this and he decides he’s going to embark on this spree of quite bloody revenge. It destroys his soul.

“The title comes from Confucius, ‘The man who achieves revenge, let him first dig two graves—one for himself.’”
 
sevarg2.jpg
 
More from Jonathan Moore, plus trailer for ‘2Graves,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
None Dare Call it FASCISM: How the NSA has (already) privatized tyranny


 
Though most people seem to be dimly aware of the fact that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was not technically an employee of NSA or the US Federal Government, I don’t see anyone raising the kind of stink that this pertinent little fact truly merits. And combine that with the “anything goes” environment that was clearly in operation while Snowden was peering into pretty much whatever he wanted, and the implications are pretty fucking serious indeed.

Let’s start with one of Snowden’s comments to Glenn Greenwald and the UK’s Guardian newspaper:

But I sitting at my desk certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a Federal judge to even the President if I had a personal e-mail.”

Say what? So I’m not allowed to even know this program exists, but a high school dropout working in a lowly cubical in Booz Allen Hamilton can listen in to everything I say on the telephone or write in an email or post on the Internet? What the fuck? Doesn’t anyone see how screwy that is?

Maybe we’ve just stopped giving a shit and are hoping to ride out the last years of Empire in blissful ignorance, chatting about cute cats on Facebook and watching our favorite shows on TV (The Mad Men season finale was just superb, wasn’t it?) OK, I get that. But let’s at least think about what it is we’re tuning out because, who knows? It could cause the US death-spiral to come around far sooner than anticipated, and that would be a serious buzz kill.

So let’s break it down, shall we? What’s the biggest secret exposed by Snowden so far? That the NSA engages in ubiquitous surveillance on pretty much all forms of communication in the US, of both domestic as well as internationally-bound traffic? Well, we kinda knew that already. Back in 2005 AT&T Telecom engineer Mark Klein blew the whistle on the NSA’s “secret room” in the Folsom Street CO (Central Office). Any kind of analysis of that setup (and Klein even included the connection diagrams) would give you a decent idea of what was going on. So no, ubiquitous surveillance wasn’t much of a surprise, not if you were paying careful attention.

What IS a surprise was just how fucked up and sloppy the whole NSA operation is. In fact, during his live chat via The Guardian’s website on June 17th, Snowden said this:

Additionally, audits are cursory, incomplete, and easily fooled by fake justifications.

In other words, the National Security Agency just let a bunch of freelance contractors more or less run wild with unlimited access to the most sensitive conceivable data of any and every US citizen along with a goodly portion of communications of non-US residents as well.

Monitoring? Controls? Audits? Are you shittin’ me? But how can we be absolutely sure, you might ask, that Snowden was telling the truth? Precisely because even a low-level contractor was able to access and download highly classified PowerPoint presentations and a whole smorgasbord of super secret spy stuff and then leak it to the world! (In modern computer networks this is trivial to control.)

At first blush it would appear that the main thing NSA has been doing with their impenetrable cloak of secrecy is to completely goof off and unaccountably run wild with their very special powers with the only “control” in place being the fear that any leakers would experience the Bradley Manning treatment. If it weren’t for the NSA cone of silence, this would be heralded universally as laughably and unbelievably incompetent. On the other hand, perhaps this isn’t simply complete negligence. Perhaps it’s the symptom of something far darker…

Consider what YOU would do with that level of access. After you got into work, grabbed coffee, and read TMZ, you might spend half an hour or so checking out red-tagged conversations of, say, members of Mosques in Brooklyn, or say, groups of Muslim girls gathering to watch Jon Stewart (yeah, that’s a real thing), or maybe even listen in on the methed-out ravings of some hillbilly militia scaring each other into buying yet more guns in preparation of the UN’s inevitable communist takeover of bumfuck Idaho. But all of that “real work” would get boring fast. So maybe you daydream a bit and then, all of a sudden, it hits you: What if you could, say, listen in on the CEOs, CFOs and whatever other Os there are of some mega-corporation. Hell, you could probably use a special software “agent” to automatically scan huge wads of traffic and send you anything with the phrases, “Bankruptcy announcement to the press tomorrow”, or “Earnings shortfall” or “Hostile takeover.” Knowing as you do that no one’s monitoring what you access on those super-secret NSA pipes, you realize it would be both trivially easy and unbelievably lucrative to act on an early tip before it was announced to Wall Street. In fact, you could possibly make millions.

But then another thought hits you. Maybe, just maybe, you aren’t the first person to think of this. In fact, Booz Allen Hamilton has been growing their government consulting business to National Security agencies by leaps and bounds, and their financial consulting arm has been doing pretty good too:

Booz Allen provides support to all federal finance and treasury organizations charged with the collection, management, and protection of the nation’s financial system. Such agencies include the US Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Reserve Board and Banks, Securities Exchange Commission, and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

So doesn’t this strike you as somewhat “funny”? Isn’t this some major league conflict of interest? On the one hand, BAH has been clearly given carte blanche to listen in on anything and everything, and they also happen to be in the financial “consulting” business. Would BAH ever take a significant financial position based on, oh let’s say, very privileged information? Though they may or may not do this under their own name, they clearly have the financial chops to create a vast maze of shell companies. Or maybe BAH as an organization doesn’t do this, but bigshots within it do.

Perhaps this sounds paranoid or like completely baseless speculation, but after the LIBOR and REIT scandals, it’s obvious that there are no government checks in place to detect such activities. Moreover, even if this hasn’t actually happened yet, given the sloppiness of the controls and unlimited access to surveillance data, it’s absolutely obvious that this is going to happen sooner or later. Indeed, perhaps that sloppiness in protecting confidential data is precisely because someone’s dipping into this data goldmine and is making out like a bandit.

From here it’s easy to imagine all sorts of ugly scenarios: A giant, über-secret private company that is ultimately answerable to no one but that has access to anything you might say or post on the Internet (ie, including what you might do to try to stop it), while also being able to capitalize on their access to literally priceless financial secrets via their consulting and access to the markets. Once such a monstrosity sunk its claws in deep enough it would be very difficult to pull that thing off…ever. Then again, isn’t this what the Koch Brothers and their stooges the Tea Party wanted all along? They want to kill the state and Federal agencies so that a small keiretsu of giant companies can step in and take over. This “state corporatism” had a name which was called, hold on a minute while I remember…oh yeah, that’s right, Fascism.

Am I saying there’s some gigantic fascist conspiracy out there ready to take over the world? Nah. Well, probably not. But the point is that there doesn’t need to be an actual conspiracy in order for our true liberties to be under attack by the large corporations: Remember, Nestlé‘s CEO wants to privatize your water supply and sell your water back to you; Bush, Cheney and the cartoonishly malevolent Dr Strangelove Donald Rumsfeld privatized war and Mike McConnell of Booz Allen Hamilton has long been a (successful) advocate of privatizing US national security (and he was previously director of National Security under Bush).

Where’s all this headed? I don’t know, but I DO know it ain’t headed for more security, more freedom and better access to water in the world! These fuckers have a vested interest in keeping things nice and turbulent while making you think that there are legions of Muslims, communists and homosexuals out there just waiting to steal your freedoms, give away all your hard-earned stuff and sodomize your children. Meanwhile, of course, they and the Congress they have bought and paid for keep defunding essential Federal programs to the point where they can no longer function properly, so the public concludes, “Well, these government agencies can’t do anything so we might as well just get rid of them. And let’s privatize prisons and schools while we’re at it.”

Who knows? Will we soon enter the time where private contractors raised on “Call of Duty” operate domestic drones and have kill quotas that earn them cash incentives? Fuck, I read the kill list wrong, one might say, Can you ask your buddy to change the name on my list to whoever it was I just nailed? Thanks, pal. Beers are on me tonight.

What’s the solution? I don’t know, but let’s apply a nice, hot blowtorch to Booz Allen Hamilton’s filthy snout and push them the hell out of that giant government feeding trough filled to the brim with our tax dollars: They’re clearly incompetent, negligent, and have allowed documents of National Security to be accessed, downloaded and then leaked. (And don’t misunderstand: Snowden is a hero for exposing all of what’s been going on, but that still doesn’t mean BAH wasn’t negligent.) We also need to take baseball bat to the giant, heavy-lidded porcine head of the NSA as it gobbles down the information you and I own.

Let’s just not miss what is arguably an even greater danger, the privatization and outsourcing of tyranny itself to the big mega-corporates.
 

 

Posted by Em | Discussion
Sharpies: The mulleted rocker kids of 70s Australia
06.24.2013
10:04 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

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sharpie kid
 
Just when I think I’ve carefully cataloged all the rock ‘n’ roll subcultures in my nerdy little brain, I hear about a group of kids that did something totally recognizable, yet completely regional, and realize I’m just a provincial American. The “sharpies” of Australia (not to be confused with anti-racist skinheads called “sharps”) were a bit like English skinheads. They were regional groups of generally working class kids, dressing up to signify their solidarity with the movement or even membership in a specific sharpie gang. The similarities mostly stop right there.
 
sharpies
 
First of all, the fashion, while reminiscent of traditional skins, has a few notes out of left field. For one, they usually had mullets. (As some one who comes from a mulleted people, you cannot imagine my delight when the hairstyle is embraced abroad.) It was sort of skinhead in the front, glam rocker in the back, often with big, traditional-style tattoos as accent. The girls (called “brush”) favored the sorts of pleated skirts or mini-skirts associated with skinhead girls, sometimes with cartoonishly high wedged heels, but the boys didn’t always go for tight jeans, often choosing to combine their bright cardigans with sailor pants and Cuban heels.

I actually stumbled on sharpies by way of the band, Coloured Balls, and their awesome album, Ball Power, (reissued on Sing Sing Records). Considered the ultimate sharpie band, at first glance I thought they were skins, and one or two tracks actually sound very Oi! Fascinatingly, they formed in 1972, before Cock Sparrer, Sham 69 or The Business were known entities. Although sharpies often co-existed with skinheads (and probably shared barbers), musically, they were further apart.
 

 
In lieu of ska, rocksteady, reggae, or soul, these kids created an esoteric pastiche of rock ‘n’ roll. Coloured Balls, for example, is really hard to pin down. Sometimes it’s a bit acid rock, sometimes very white-boy blues, sometimes it almost feels like Oi!, or glam, or power pop. The band certainly didn’t feel constrained by genre, something I’m sure was a testament to diverse sharpie tastes. Singer Lobby Loyde remembers very vividly playing to sharpie kids well before Coloured Balls existed, and well before he had adopted a sharpie aesthetic.

“When the Purple Hearts first came down to Melbourne in 1967, we were a long-haired blues band. We started playing at the circle ballroom in Preston and I started noticing these strange people. I’d never seen anything like them and their distinct style! They had short hair and wore baggy trousers and cardigans; the girls wore knee-length pleated skirts, twin sets and pearls.”

And then there’s the distinctive dancing, which I have to admit, has an elegance that skanking doesn’t quite achieve.
 

 
Like skinheads, sharpies were largely disaffected youth, and gang violence was heavily associated with the lifestyle, much to the chagrin of Lobby Loyde, who said in retrospect.

“Coloured Balls were the greatest bunch of hippies that ever crawled. They were really gentle guys, but on stage we let it go and spat out all the venom we had… that was our release.”

While it’s unclear exactly how much fighting actually went on (as opposed to just plain moral panic), there was tension between sharpies and Australian mods (Since many early sharpies were actually British transplants, and former skinheads themselves, it makes sense that the beef would travel). The violence and the emergence of disco are largely credited with the fade of the sharpies, but they remain a fascinating moment of youth culture history. Below you can see an amalgam of sharpies at an outdoor music festival in 1974. Coloured Balls is playing one of their more acid rock numbers.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Conspiracy Theory Corner: Top Five 9/11 Freudian Slips!
06.21.2013
12:11 pm

Topics:
Belief
Stupid or Evil?

Tags:


Can an expression THIS BEFUDDLED be faked?

One of things that interests me about 9/11 is how it violently divides people, creating a kind of epistemological schism. For many, entertaining the conspiratorial view of the event (“inside job” and all that) is tantamount to believing in the tooth fairy. For others, entertaining the official version of the event is also tooth-fairy credulous. There is little middle ground, and the adherents could easily be said to occupy parallel universes.

Needless to say, for those tending to the former perspective, my tongue is firmly, deeply buried in my cheek here: of course I didn’t and don’t think that such a vast and mind-bending conspiracy is possible, let alone credible, or that the following are really anything other than meaningless slips of the tongue (rather than what Freud liked to call “psychic facts”). That is to say, I’m being ironic. Gawd.

(As for everyone else, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more…I’m just trying to get this information out there!)

Number 1 “The TV was obviously on…”  Dubya describes seeing the first plane hit.
 

 
Is this the greatest Freudian slip of all time? A predictable number one, certainly, but deservedly so. Where were you when you first saw the planes hit the towers? Remember? Well, apparently being POTUS during such an event plays havoc with your memory. “Kite… Plane…Must… Hit… Steel…”
 
More 9/11-related Freudian slips after the jump…

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Discussion
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