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Charlie Chaplin: Color photographs on set as the Little Tramp, 1917-18
07:55 am


Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin made his first appearance as the “Little Tramp” one hundred years ago when he co-starred with Mabel Normand in the short Mack Sennett silent film Mabel’s Strange Predicament. But as it turned out the public’s first sight of Chaplin’s comic creation was in his second outing Kid Auto Races at Venice, which was made after Mabel’s Strange Predicament but released two days before it. Chaplin later explained how the Tramp came about—he had been asked by Sennett to put on some “funny make-up” for his appearance in Mabel’s Strange Predicament:

I went to the wardrobe and got a pair of baggy pants, a tight coat, a small derby hat and a large pair of shoes. I wanted the clothes to be a mass of contradictions, knowing pictorially the figure would be vividly outlined on the screen. To add a comic touch, I wore a small mustache which would not hide my expression.

My appearance got an enthusiastic response from everyone, including Mr. Sennett. The clothes seemed to imbue me with the spirit of the character. He actually became a man with a soul—a point of view. I defined to Mr. Sennett the type of person he was. He wears an air of romantic hunger, forever seeking romance, but his feet won’t let him.

These Autochrome color portraits of Chaplin as the Tramp were taken by photographer Charles C. Zoller (1854 – 1934) between takes on the set of one of Chaplin’s films circa 1917-18.
Chaplin out of character.
Via Shooting Film.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Pulp Fiction’ underwater
06:38 am


Pulp Fiction
Samuel L. Jackson
The Kloons

The Kloons have recreated an iconic scene from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction shot-for-shot but with one major difference—they did the whole thing underwater. It’s the scene in which Marsellus Wallace’s henchmen (Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta) visit some double-dealer Brett to collect a briefcase. Apart from the novel approach, what makes this brief clip supremely enjoyable is hearing Samuel L. Jackson’s spellbinding performance as Jules Winnfield recontextualized and blub-blubbed in this aquatic setting:

“Say ‘what’ again. Say ‘what’ again, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say what one more Goddamn time!”

Truly wonderful.

Via Nerdcore!

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Members of Curve and Primal Scream talk My Bloody Valentine’s ‘You Made Me Realise’

One upside of being “a certain age” is that some of the concerts you went to as a matter of course seem impossibly cool in hindsight, and for me, one of those was My Bloody Valentine on the Loveless tour. I doubt I have to tell anyone who bothered to click on this how amazing the show was, and I almost didn’t go! It was a fairly expensive ticket and I was a flat broke 20-year-old, but a friend with a little flow to spare—in a move that would mark her for sainthood in whatever religion I would be in if I was in one—bought me a ticket, just because she thought it was something I should see. (In kind, I would years later take her to see Kraftwerk in Chicago on her birthday, and I’m not sure that I don’t still owe her.) MBV was exactly everything I wanted in music at the time—a noisy guitar offensive totally outside the dead-to-me hardcore milieu, but otherworldly, pretty, dense, loud, perfect.

A much-discussed feature of their shows at the time—and I understand still, though I haven’t partaken in a reunion show—was the insane noise break (often referred to as “the holocaust”) in the middle of the song “You Made Me Realise.” On the EP of the same title, the song stops cold in the middle and turns into a vortex of white noise. In concert, that sonic hurricane was intensified to painful levels. At peak volume, and with blaring lights aimed at the crowd, MBV stretched that noise break out for 15 caustic, head-melting minutes or longer. Trendy kids who weren’t prepared for such meat-and-potatoes hatenoise (they’d all go on to buy Spooky by Lush and be ultra psyched about it) made for the parking lot with dad’s car keys, but the faithful stuck it out. You couldn’t see anything but those lights. You couldn’t talk to your friends. You just took it. If you were attentive you started to notice all the over- and under-tones and implied rhythms that emerged from the huge, sick, beautiful racket they were making. Nuances asserted themselves in the punitively loud assault of guitar grit and cymbal-wash, and you might have been hallucinating some of them, but that blank wall of sound was rich, complex, and anything but blank. And then, after who even knew how long, without any cue discernable to the audience, on a goddamn dime the band dropped back into the song’s propulsive main riff. It remains to this day one of the most glorious things I’ve ever seen.

The recently released documentary Beautiful Noise by Eric Green and Sarah Ogletree focuses closely on the origins and impact of the scene that MBV galvanized (and amusingly, the press release does a fine job of teasing the film without once ever using the words “shoe” or “gaze”). A recently-released clip from the film features Toni Halliday of Curve, Bobby Gillespie of The Jesus and Mary Chain/Primal Scream, and MBV drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig talking about the “holocaust.” There’s some wonderful rare footage and photography. Billy Corgan also appears. You take the bad with the good.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Cocaine comedy from 1916: The deeply weird druggy slapstick of ‘The Mystery of the Leaping Fish’

Douglas Fairbanks as “Coke Ennyday.” Note his sash of syringes.
The Mystery of the Leaping Fish is a deeply weird silent two-reeler comedy short whose hero—played by none other than the great Douglas Fairbanks—is the massively drug-addicted “scientific detective” Coke Ennyday, a parody of Sherlock Holmes. Not only did this odd little film employ the talents of Fairbanks, the story was written by Tod Browning (Freaks, Dracula) and an uncredited D.W. Griffith. The film’s intertitles were penned by novelist Anita Loos and her future husband, John Emerson directed it. It comes across more as a vanity project—Fairbanks wanting to prove he could be funny—than something they thought they could exhibit to the public. From the acting, to the onscreen giggling, to the frenzied editing—good luck reading some of those blink-and-you-miss-them title cards—the whole thing comes across itself as the product of a weekendlong coke jag.

What’s so incredibly odd about this film, seen from the vantage point of 100 years after the fact, is the cavalier attitude towards drug use. There is so much “dope” consumed offhand in The Mystery of the Leaping Fish that, well, it makes Scarface, Trainspotting or any Cheech and Chong film seem utterly tame in comparison. Has any character in cinema history ever consumed—comically or otherwise—more drugs onscreen than Coke Ennyday does in The Mystery of the Leaping Fish? If so, I can’t think of one. He’s got a tub of cocaine that he rubs all over his face. I mean, he’s even got syringes strapped to his chest!

That The Mystery of the Leaping Fish was made in 1916 by one of the most famous people in the entire world at that time is perplexing. The film is so druggy it’s hard to believe something like it—of that vintage especially—even exists. It just goes to show what the societal attitudes were like towards drugs like cocaine and opium at that time that narcotics could be played for laughs in a slapstick comedy!

With thanks to Laurent Marie!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Son of Dracula’: Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr’s cult comedy horror rock opera
12:17 pm


Ringo Starr
Harry Nilsson

I had the soundtrack album to Son of Dracula when I was a kid—you could buy it for 99 cents in virtually any cut out bin in America in the 70s. It featured impressive album cover art that opened out from under Harry Nilsson’s cape (see below). It stayed in my record collection, mostly unlistened to, but still pretty cool, for many years. It’s not like Son of Dracula ever achieved “legendary lost film” status in my eyes—I was never that curious about it and it had the reputation that it stank—but when I saw a VHS bootleg for sale one day at the Pasadena Flea Market (there was a huge section of the market devoted solely to rock memorabilia and bootlegs of every stripe back in 90s) I scooped it up.

Hmmmm… It’s not like I can stand here before you and tell you that it’s great—because it’s definitely not great—but do take Ringo Starr’s comments on Son of Dracula as the gospel truth: 

“It is not the best film ever made, but I’ve seen worse.”

He ought to know, he produced this turkey. Ringo’s also being a bit cagey with that statement because he’s mum on exactly how many worse films he’s seen? One other? Dozens? I’d venture that it’s probably a number Ringo can count on just one hand…. (All you really need to know about how bad Son of Dracula truly is, is that after the film was shot in 1972, Ringo hired Monty Python’s Graham Chapman, Douglas Adams and Bernard McKenna to rewrite the dialogue which they would then dub over what they’d already shot! Although this notion was abandoned—apparently it was recorded—in retrospect it doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea… Surely it couldn’t have been any worse or more shambolic than it already was!)

Son of Dracula stars Nilsson as “Count Downe” a vampire rock musician who is about to be crowned Overlord of the Netherworld when he falls in love with a mortal and has a change of heart. Ringo plays—who else—Merlin the Magician. Son of Dracula contains celebrity cameos from Nilsson’s hard-partying rocker mates Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham and Keith Moon and his backing band included Peter Frampton, Klaus Voorman and Leon Russell.

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Stanley Kubrick directing ‘Dr. Strangelove’
08:21 am


Stanley Kubrick
Dr. Strangelove

It wasn’t just the nuclear fallout in the milk that concerned most people during the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was a genuine fear that the world was on the verge of an all-out nuclear war between Russia and America that would end life on the planet or make it rather awful for the few survivors. These anxieties were heightened by the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and were reflected in a series of novels, films, and TV dramas that predicted humanity’s seemingly inevitable nuclear annihilation at the push of a button.

When Stanley Kubrick optioned Peter George’s book Red Alert (aka Two Hours to Doom), he intended to make a faithful film adaptation of the George’s chilling tale of near nuclear armageddon. But as he researched the subject and began work on a script with the author, Kubrick found the proposition of nuclear war utterly absurd and decided to make not a thriller but “a nightmare comedy” that satirized the insanity of two countries arming themselves with such horrific weapons of mass destruction.

Kubrick considered telling the story of Earth’s nuclear demise from the point of view of visiting extraterrestrials, but didn’t think this approach had the right amount of “inspired lunacy.” He then decided to bring in author Terry Southern to write a story using George’s novel as a loose framework to play up the comedy rather than the thrills. The result was Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb—“the most perfectly written comedic screenplay of post-war cinema,” as critic Alexander Walker described it. Dr. Strangelove was also the film that brought Kubrick’s unique visionary talents as a director to the fore.
Kubrick discusses a shot with camera operator Kelvin Pike and the director’s wife Christiane Kubrick.
Kubrick instructs cast members during filming of the siege of the airbase.
Operating the camera prior to filming a scene with George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson and Tracy Reed as Miss Scott.
Many more pics from the filming of the Cold War classic after the jump…..

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Demons Dance: Santa Claus battles Satan in weirdo Mexican kids flick
02:57 pm


Santa Claus

A curious and quaint staple of 60s and 70s small town rural/rust belt life was the “roadshow” matinee of themed film packages that would come through town, usually around a holiday. I grew up in Wheeling, WV and there were some pretty well freaked out roadshows that I can recall seeing as a kid.

The most “normal” ones were probably an annual five hour Beatles marathon that I sat through several times and double bills of Charleton Heston biblical epics The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur. Then there were the cinematic endurance tests that featured In Search of Dracula, Bigfoot, UFO “ancient astronauts” docs and lots of things narrated by Orson Welles. Being in the heart of the Bible belt—surprise, surprise—I was also subjected to a lot of Christian “End of the World” fare like The Late Great Planet Earth (narrated and starring Orson Welles, who must’ve really hurting for money when he made that turkey) and similar things, like The Man Who Saw Tomorrow about Nostradamus and starring—wait for it—Orson Welles. Hammer horror film bills that would start at 11am and finish at 6pm were a perennial favorite and so were Steve Reeves’ Hercules movies marathons and over-the-top gore shit like Night of the Bloody Apes and Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast and 2000 Maniacs.

These packages were put together and would travel with one person who probably owned the prints themselves and would rent out a local movie theater, church or school auditorium, screen them and then move on to the next town. The yearly Christmas package was ultra demented, consisting of the by now familiar Santa Claus Conquers the Martians made famous by Mystery Science Theater 3000 and a kooky Mexican curiosity from 1959 simply titled Santa Claus.

Here’s the IMDB synopsis for Santa Claus. To attempt my own would be… utterly pointless:

Santa Claus, high above the North Pole in his cloud-borne castle equipped with more surveillance devices than the Impossible Mission Force, prepares to deliver presents on Christmas night. Santa is especially interested in helping Lupita, the daughter of a poor family who wants nothing more than a doll; and a young boy whose parents are so wealthy they never spend any time with him (Santa fixes this by feeding them Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters). However, the Devil will have none of this and sends his minion, Pitch, to foil Santa’s plans. Pitch in turn recruits three Naughty Boys to help him set traps for Santa.

They left out any mention of the Merlin character (yes, Santa Claus, Satan, Merlin the Magician and Vulcan (who makes a special key for Santa) are all in the same hallucinogenic Mexican children’s film) but otherwise that manages to wrangle more sense out of the plot than is merited, trust me.

What a thing of wonder Santa Claus truly is, but it’s also pretty fucking bad and I’m not about to suggest that you watch the entire thing for some sort of ironic “enjoyment” because I doubt much of it will be found here, EXCEPT for the astonishingly insane dancing demons scene that happens at about ten minutes into the film. It’s like Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages meets this Marc Almond video, not exactly the sort of thing you expect to see at the beginning of a film aimed at little kids!

That Santa Claus was directed by the same guy who was behind the camera for Night of the Bloody Apes, René Cardona, well… makes sense! The film was bought for American distribution by K. Gordon Murray, the “King of the Kiddie Matinee” known for his redubbing and re-releasing of foreign fairy tale movies and Mexploitation luchador films.

Go straight to the ten-minute mark to see the demons dance and imagine yourself as a wide-eyed child being exposed to this Sid and Marty Krofft meets Ken Russell vision of the bowels of Hell…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Meet Afghanistan’s answer to Bruce Lee
11:37 am


Bruce Lee
kung fu
martial arts
Abbas Alizada

I love this guy. He realized he looks a lot like Bruce Lee, who died in 1973, and decided to make the most of it. Power to him. As he says himself, “The only news that comes from Afghanistan is about war. . . . I am happy that my story is a positive one.” Yes. I hear you on that.

On Facebook he is listed as “Bruce Hazara.” The NY Daily News says his name is Abulfazl Abbas Shakoory, but The Japan Times says his name is Abbas Alizada. Based on my extensive understanding of the Arabic world, I say it’s the latter, also because the words ‘abas.alizada’ are part of his Facebook URL.

“I want to be a champion in my country and a Hollywood star,” says Alizada at Kabul’s Darul Aman Palace, which has seen better days. There he trains two times a week, whipping his nunchakus around and sporting a bowl haircut based on Lee’s. Of course, nobody knows if he’s any good or can act, but I’m rooting for him anyway.

Interestingly, he does not like the name Bruce Hazara, which his friends have dubbed him in recognition of his ethnic heritage. In a country that has been torn apart by tribal disagreements, he prefers to be considered “the Afghan Bruce Lee.”

See him in action, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Seeing ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ was one of the greatest experiences of Philip K. Dick’s life
10:09 am


David Bowie
Philip K. Dick

I have to admit that the first time I saw The Man Who Fell to Earth, back in the bad old days of pan-and-scan VHS, I was bewildered and bored. I don’t think I even made it to the part where Bowie takes off his human drag to reveal his true alien form. Now, it’s one of the very few movies I watch at least once a year, because it just gets weirder and more mysterious with every viewing. If you were at my place on these special occasions, you’d hear me asking questions like “Who is that guy who shows up twice without any explanation?” and “Hey, what happened to those genitals?”

Philip K. Dick loved the movie, too. He and his friend Kevin Jeter went to see it in the theater, just as in chapter nine of Dick’s novel VALIS, Dick’s alter ego, Horselover Fat, goes with his friend Kevin to see a movie called VALIS. The plot of the movie-within-the-book comes from Radio Free Albemuth, an abandoned early version of the novel VALIS, but the style of the movie comes from The Man Who Fell to Earth. Interviewer John Boonstra picked up on the connection in a 1981 interview:

The film VALIS inside the novel reminded me in its style of the film The Man Who Fell to Earth.

You got it. You got it. That’s where the idea came. It’s like Madame Bovary going to see Lucia—I remember that scene so well, how it crystallized all the nebulous things that were floating around in Madame Bovary’s mind. Now, that impressed me enormously.

I saw The Man Who Fell to Earth and thought it was one of the finest films—not just science-fiction films, but one of the finest films I had ever seen. I thought it was incredibly original, incredibly provocative, rich in ideas, beautiful in texture, glorious in its overall conception. It was enigmatic. In no way is the film VALIS the plot and theme of The Man Who Fell to Earth, but the idea occurred to me that a science-fiction film, if well done, could be as rich a source of knowledge and information as anything we normally derive our knowledge and information from. The film tremendously impressed me; I just loved it. My use of the film VALIS is my homage to The Man Who Fell to Earth. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life to see that.

According to biographer Lawrence Sutin, Dick so loved the movie that after he saw it he began scrutinizing Bowie’s catalog for clues from VALIS, which, before it was the book or the movie-within-the-book, was one of Dick’s names for the extraterrestrial or supernatural entity he communicated with. VALIS (an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System) was the aspect of the Great Whatsit that took the form of a satellite and sent information in beams of pink light. (If you don’t know about Dick’s epiphanic episodes, check out R. Crumb’s comic “The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick,” or, if you’re really interested, try Dick’s Exegesis.) Sutin writes:

Phil loved [The Man Who Fell to Earth], and for a short time he and [Kevin] Jeter listened closely to Bowie albums, hoping to discern a sly pop sign from God/Valis/Zebra. No luck. But a failed experiment can be a useful plot device, and in Valis [Horselover] Fat and Kevin go to see a movie called Valis, which portrays the struggle between the Albemuth characters Nicholas Brady (who is zapped by the pink light force) and evil President Ferris Fremont. Fat gets in touch with rock star Eric Lampton and his wife, Linda, who both star in the film. Fat is convinced that they know about Valis—the Vast Active Living Intelligence System—and can rescue him from spiritual isolation.

In a 1982 interview with Boonstra—Dick’s last—the author says that he wanted Blade Runner (based on his Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) to live up to The Man Who Fell to Earth:

The thing I had in mind all of the time, from the beginning of it, was The Man Who Fell to Earth. This was the paradigm. That’s why I was so disappointed when I read the first Blade Runner screenplay, because it was the absolute antithesis of what was done in The Man Who Fell to Earth. In other words, it was a destruction of the novel. But now, it’s magic time. You read the screenplay and then you go to the novel, and it’s like they’re two halves to one meta-artwork, one meta-artifact. It’s just exciting.

Here’s an interesting interview with Dick from the 1977 science fiction festival in Metz, France, where he introduced his work-in-progress VALIS in the speech “If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others.”

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Burt Reynolds is auctioning off bizarre crap only Burt Reynolds would own
03:00 pm


Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds horse painting, opening bid $2,000-3,000
Burt Reynolds denies he’s having financial problems, he’s just clearing up some of the clutter. But he is definitely auctioning off some amazing items, and some of that clutter is pretty sweet, though, including the Emmy he won for his work in Evening Shade and the 1977 Pontiac Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit (actually used as a “promotional vehicle,” hmmm). Maybe he’s just found Buddha or something and has decided he doesn’t need his Emmy anymore. Tons of awesome stuff here, including lots of football helmets and belt buckles and cowboy boots and stuff like that. The man likes his rustic western motif, and he likes to put his name and initials on stuff and to look at his own face, judging from the items in the auction, which happens next Thursday at Julien’s Auctions. We decided to focus on some of the items that pretty much could only have come from Burt himself. No trace of the great literary masterpiece Burt Reynolds Hot Line—if only!!

Burt Reynolds portrait… I ... I have no words for this thing, opening bid $600-800

Burt Reynolds carved miniature, opening bid $400-600

Burt Reynolds “Beware” sign, opening bid $200-300

Burt Reynolds naked torso painting, opening bid $800-1200

Burt Reynolds Striptease working script, opening bid $200-400

Burt Reynolds voided American Express card, opening bid $100-200

Dom DeLuise painting, opening bid $1500-2000

Burt Reynolds Rolodex, opening bid $300-500

Sammy Davis Jr. painting, opening bid $800-1200

Burt Reynolds license plates and parking sign, opening bid $300-500

Sculpture of Reynolds reading a newspaper, opening bid $1000-2000

Burt Reynolds portrait bust, opening bid $300-500

Burt Reynolds Paternity poster art, opening bid $600-800

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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