Green Room is to cinema what hardcore is to rock and roll: brutal, blunt and exhilarating. With its explosive mix of anarchic punks, neo-Nazi skinheads, pitbulls, machetes and shotguns, director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin) has made a gory thriller that has the impact of a jack boot kick to the face. Artfully constructed and highly entertaining, Green Room was one of the most exciting features screened at this year’s Fantastic Fest. It’s got A-list actors, including a sinister turn by Patrick Stewart, and enough Hollywood sheen that it may be that rare “cult” flick that forces its way into your local cineplex, where it will be about as welcome as a Skrewdriver cover band at a Bar Mitzvah.
Green Room‘s plot is crazily clever: Ain’t Rights, a young punk band from the Washington D.C. area who proudly channel their Dischord Records’ influences, land a last minute gig during a tour of the Pacific Northwest (somewhere near Portland). Booked into a rural music venue that turns out to be a gathering place for white supremacist headbangers, Ain’t Rights find themselves confronting the mosh pit from Hell. Far from the security of the suburbs where Hot Topics sell Doc Martens to fifth generation punks, Ain’t Rights are hurled into a dark reality where Ed Gein has traded in his plaid cap for a pair of red bootlaces and suspenders. Performing Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” before a mob of Hitler-worshiping fuckwads is a heroically dumb move for our band of young anarchists, but it’s just the beginning in an ever-escalating nightmare involving murder, thrash metal, heroin and a violent gang of skinheads led by the epically skin-headed Patrick Stewart.
While the movie avoids getting too deep into the sociopolitical aspects of its story, the similarities between the Aryan Youth Movement and Patrick Stewart look-a-like Tom Metzger can’t be an accident. I’m rather certain director Saulnier’s choice of location, Portland, wasn’t arbitrary. The hipster capitol was at one time a headquarters for the Ku Klux Klan and until recently the home of Volksfront , a particularly nasty group of numbskull Nazis. The Green Room doesn’t shove any of this down the viewer’s throat, it doesn’t preach. It makes its points by bringing us into its world without having to describe it.
Whether or not you give a shit about its cultural resonance, Green Room succeeds in its mission to pin your ass to the theater seat. It combines the tightly crafted action chops of John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 with some of the psychotic mayhem of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hill’s Have Eyes. But instead of mutant cave dwellers and Leatherface, we’ve got goose-stepping skins with boxcutters and shotguns: The Rocking Dead.
For those viewers who know more than a little bit about punk culture, Green Room works so well, despite its off-the-wallness, because it feels authentic. It gets the details right. Jeremy Saulnier knows the punk scene and the vibe of his subjects because he was one of them, as evidenced by a savvy soundtrack that perfectly weds music to action. Napalm Death, Bad Brains, Misfits, Minor Threat and Slayer create the background roar to a movie that is disturbing, funny and supremely badass. I only wish that Saulnier had thrown The Damned’s “Smash It Up” into the mix.
Weegee is most renowned for his brilliant photos of crime scenes as well as other urban subjects from the 1940s, but what you might not know is that Weegee was a “technical consultant” on the set of one of the greatest movies ever made, Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. Furthermore, it seems that Peter Sellers’ vocal pattern for the eponymous character owes more than a small debt to Weegee, whose Hungarian/NYC voice Sellers recorded and apparently inspired him in creating Strangelove’s distinctively foreign accent.
As though a satire about bombing all of humanity to death wasn’t gruesome enough, Kubrick brought in as technical consultant the photographer Weegee, who was known for having taken stark, emotionally charged photographs of an estimated five thousand murder scenes over the course of his grim career. Named Usher Fellig at birth, Weegee moved with his family to New York at the age of ten; officials at Ellis Island changed his name to Arthur. As a photographer, he seemed to be clairvoyant in terms of knowing where crimes had been committed; Weegee often arrived on the scene before the police. Hence his nickname (inspired by the Ouija board). Officially, Weegee’s technical consultations involved Dr. Strangelove’s periodically harsh, crime-scene-like black-and-white cinematography, but because he had an unusual accent—German overlaid with New York, all with a nasal, slightly strangled, back-of-the-throat quality—he inadvertently provided technical assistance for the film’s star as well.
“I vas psychic!,” Weegee told Peter on the set one day—a conversation Peter was taping for research purposes. “I vould go to a moidah before it vas committed!” Peter’s vocal model for Strangelove was Weegee, whom Sellers pushed further into parody.
Among other things you can see shots of the famous “pie fight” sequence that was filmed but did not make it into the final cut of the movie.
When I was a kid, along with CREEM and Crawdaddy, the National Lampoon was one of the indispensable counter culture magazines. It was simultaneously raunchy, nihilistic, intellectual, dumb and dirty. I loved it and it very often it had NAKED LADIES inside the covers. To my innocent mother’s eyes, the National Lampoon probably looked like MAD magazine. Little did she know…
Dangerous Minds readers have probably noticed our pal Michael Simmons’ occasional guest posts along with his frequent comments here. He was a consultant—and interviewee—in director Douglas Tirola’s new documentary about the Lampoon, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon opening wide today in theaters and VOD. Michael grew up Lampoon. His father was the publisher, Matty Simmons. I asked him a few questions over email.
Richard Metzger: As the son of the publisher, you obviously had a ringside seat for the rise of the National Lampoon, which was really one of the defining magazines of the 1970s. When he first told you about the new business he was starting how did you react? Did you perceive your dad as a really hip guy?
Michael Simmons: I was thrilled when he decided to publish the Lampoon — I was 15 when the Lampoon debuted in April 1970. Like many kids of bosses, I worked at “Dad’s store” after school and summers. I was already a self-defined member of “the underground” — what the media called “hippies.” I met the three Harvard guys — Doug Kenney, Henry Beard and Rob Hoffman — sometime in 1969 and immediately hit it off with Doug who was the freakiest of the three and therefore the closest to my sensibilities.
Prior to the Lampoon, Matty had published Cheetah magazine – a slick, smart, high-quality mag that was meant to cater to freaks. It was pubbed around the same time as Rolling Stone—Cheetah went under after less than a year. So while Matty was of a different generation and cultural perspective, Cheetah had loosened him up considerably. Screaming matches about my hair length eventually ceased.
Being the boss’ son has never been the easy ride some may think. Lampoon contributor Anne Beatts claims in the documentary that her boyfriend Michael O’Donoghue quit because Matty “gave” me Anne’s desk in early 1974 – an utterly absurd fallacy. She’s been repeating this canard for 40 years. I was living in upstate New York at the time and didn’t have an office at the Lampoon. Matty was The Chairman Of The Board – not The Chairman Of Desks.
So while “The Boss’ Son” tag could be a drag, I also had adventures I otherwise wouldn’t have been privy to. When I was 19, I was company manager of The National Lampoon Show with John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray, Harold Ramis, Joe Flaherty and Paul Jacobs. That was singular — to put it mildly.
What’s “the one thing” about him that you remember the most from around that time?
Michael Simmons: Matty is often portrayed as simply “the business guy,” but it was his idea to do Lemmings, The Radio Hour, The High School Yearbook (including the infamous cover), Animal House, bringing John Hughes to Hollywood, and more. He’s the epitome of the “Idea Man.”
I like how the doc focuses on the brilliant art direction of the magazine. If you look at it year to year, issue to issue, there is an unflagging brilliance there. Michael Gross and David Kaestle were design geniuses, up there with the likes of George Lois and Milton Glaser. I feel they are unfairly neglected in the history of graphic design. Without their input it really wouldn’t have been the same thing, would it?
Michael Simmons: Michael Gross was crucial to the Lampoon’s success. As Gross and others explain in the documentary, he understood that to parody something properly, the parody had to resemble the object being satirized.
Overall, working at the early Lampoon was an extraordinary experience – the smartest, funniest, edgiest writers and artists under one roof. I’ve never experienced anything like it before and I don’t believe I ever will. The generation of the 1960s and ‘70s has been called the most educated. In addition to tits and ass jokes, there were literary references that most young people of The Twenty-Worst Century simply wouldn’t get – text messages having replaced Yeats and Shakespeare.
Any good Michael O’Donoghue stories you’ve heard that have never made it into print or the documentary?
Michael Simmons: I could write a book filled with O’D anecdotes – “colorful” is an understatement. Underneath the rage that animated much of his work was a deep soulfulness. But his temper is correctly recalled as epic. I was his assistant for a couple of years – an interesting gig for a teenager. I had a desk outside his office from which I would do his bidding. One day I heard him telephoning the Columbia Record & Tape Club. Apparently they’d sent him the wrong records. He began screaming and threatened to send them 40 tons of bricks COD – cash on delivery – and listed a slew of other acts of vicious revenge. This escalated to the point that several staffers gathered around Michael’s office. After he slammed the phone down, he peeked out the door of his office with a devilish grin on his face, knowing that this impromptu performance art was partly for our benefit. We applauded.
I brought Michael and Anne to Max’s Kansas City to see this new comic I’d flipped over — Martin Mull. That precipitated several very liquid lunches on the Lampoon dime with O’D and Mull at full throttle. It’s rare that I have that kind of fun these days!
You were in some of the “Foto Funnies,” weren’t you?
When I became an editor in 1984, like previous editors I’d write Foto Funnies designed to include myself – one way of guaranteeing the company of naked models.
One of the other exaggerations told about the Lampoon is that it became a skin magazine in the 1980s. It was always a skin magazine to some degree. This increased our popularity among young men as actor Kevin Bacon points out in the documentary. Our circulation jumped when a scantily clad, attractive young woman was on the cover, so it was largely a business decision. We’ve been criticized for overdoing the under-dressed dames by a handful of bitter former employees, but they enjoyed getting a paycheck – so fuck ‘em.
How did Animal House change things in the National Lampoon orbit?
Michael Simmons: Hollywood—and Saturday Night Live – began waving money and many of our best scribes defected to the Hollywood Hills and Rockefeller Center. We became a victim of our own success.
Who owns the National Lampoon trademark today?
It’s a corporation owned by the stockholders. Two guys named Jerry Daigle and Alan Donnes currently run it.
A friend of mine (Jesse Merlin) was in the most recent Lampoon stage show a few years back and he said that he thought Matty was a really good, very dynamic and energetic producer. Is he still at it?
Michael Simmons: He is indeed still at it. My father amazes me. He’s still writing and just wrote the cover story for Reader’s Digest which my brother edits. I hope I have his energy when I’m his age.
Slade in Flame (a/k/a Flame) is a lot of fun—duh, it’s got Slade playing in it—but it’s also the only rock movie I know of that shows how desperately sad and awful show business can be. Set in the ‘60s, the movie starts out in the dingy, Broadway Danny Rose world of small-time entertainers: the cramped offices of talent agents who book jugglers and rock bands alike into bingo halls, wedding tents and bars. From there, Slade’s alter egos, Flame, climb to the top, but I wouldn’t say things get better for them.
Andrew Birkin (brother of Jane) based his screenplay on road stories he heard from Slade and their manager and producer Chas Chandler, who had a story or two to tell, having played bass in the Animals and managed Jimi Hendrix. Slade wanted Birkin and director Richard Loncraine to put the harsh reality of the rock biz onscreen, as Noddy Holder explained in a 2002 interview about the movie (embedded below):
When we read [the treatment], we liked the story, the basic idea of the story, but it wasn’t true to life of what a band’s all about. Unless you’ve been in a band, [screenwriters] tend to write about the myth of rock ‘n’ roll, not the reality of rock ‘n’ roll, and we wanted to show what rock ‘n’ roll was really like behind the scenes, not what the fantasy out front is, y’know, that everybody sees, the glitz and glamour and the parties and all that—we wanted to show the other side of the business.
Though the soundtrack and book were enormously successful in the UK, drummer Don Powell’s book, Look Wot I Dun, reports that Slade didn’t see any profits from the movie itself. However, Slade in Flame has consistently appeared in best-of lists since its release, and critic Mark Kermode has called it “the Citizen Kane of British pop movies.”
Watch it here before it gets yanked!
After the jump, a nearly hour-long interview with Noddy Holder that was an extra on the 2004 DVD of ‘Slade in Flame’...
You have to hand it to the folks at All Tomorrow’s Parties, they really know how to program and produce amazing events. Continuing their never-ending streak of fine concert festivals, ATP has announced a very unexpected special guest for their upcoming event—and when I say “upcoming” I mean July 2016—in Ásbrú, a former NATO base in Keflavík, Iceland. It’s none other than the great horror director—and musician—John Carpenter, who will be performing his soundtrack music live for the very first time
The director and composer behind Halloween, Escape From New York and Assault on Precinct 13 will perform his classic soundtracks and songs from last year’s originals album, Lost Themes, at the festival.
The musical retrospective will mark the first time Carpenter has performed his music live, which is something of a coup for the beleaguered festival. He’ll be joined onstage by his son Cody Carpenter and his godson Daniel Davies, both of whom co-recorded Lost Themes, in addition to a full live band and “spectacular stage production.”
There is a legion of legends that surround legendary underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger—how he cursed Jimmy Page, for one, and that he threw a gold-painted brick through Mick Jagger’s window in London for another—but the story of how he cursed ill-fated Manson Family associate Bobby Beausoleil and “turned him into a toad” is one of the best-known.
Most Anger fans have probably already heard this story, but have you ever heard it straight from the mouths of Kenneth Anger and Bobby Beausoleil? Here’s an exclusive clip for Dangerous Minds readers that was produced by Ken’s manager, Brian Butler, featuring a rare interview with Beausoleil that was shot inside of a Federal prison in California.
The event described in the piece was advertised with the vintage Haight-Ashbury poster/handbill seen at the top of this post. You can purchase a limited edition reprint of this poster—hand-signed by Kenneth Anger—via the Mage of American Cinema’s website. There’s also a striking Kenneth Anger “signature” tee-shirt for purchase. Both are in strictly limited editions. More at Kenneth Anger.org.
Originally known as a phonograph (or gramophone), turntables have been around since 1877. I think it’s fair to say that many of us have fond memories of our first Fisher-Price record player, and that most of you who are reading this right now still probably own a turntable and a fat stack of records to boot.
Billie Holiday, her pitbull Mister and her turntable, 1945
I’m sure you’ve probably seen many photos of your favorite rock stars or celebrities posing with their prized record collections, or spinning said vinyl on a sweet portable turntable in a hotel room. That said, I’m going to hedge a bet that the vast majority of the photos in this post will be new to your eyes.
From screen icons like Marlene Dietrich to musical chanteuse Billie Holiday, they all adored their turntables. And I’ve dug up photographic proof of this love affair that in some cases dates back all the way to 1925. I’ve done my best to attach dates to the images. The “good old days,” have never looked better. Enjoy!
Jean Harlow in a shot from The Girl from Missouri, 1934
Federico Fellini’s Roma isn’t one of his more popular films by a long shot, perhaps partially because it’s such an hardhearted departure from his previously dreamy and romantic depictions of Rome. As a partial autobiography, the film begins with the story of young Federico’s move to the idyllic city he had fallen in love with from the movies. Flash forward to modern day, and Fellini the successful director is attempting to film the new Rome, busy, noisy, dirty, dilapidated, and gaudy—the apex of which is captured in a truly tasteless Vatican fashion show.
Despite Fellini’s ambivalent beliefs and later interest in the supernatural, he always identified as Catholic, a loyalty the church never really seemed to appreciate. The Vatican actually censored some of his movies, Roma obviously was among them. You can’t blame them too much either—the garish spectacle of Catholic haute couture does seem to make a mockery of the church, with clergy on rollerskates and nuns in elaborate headgear. The garishness of it all got the scene edited down quite a bit, but you can see the uncensored version below, in all its sacrilegious glory.
Artist Ed Harrington has scores of horror and pop-culture-themed illustrations on his website, Instagram, and Tumblr pages, most displaying his keenly sick sense of humor.
I really love the guy’s work, but my favorite pieces come from a series of IKEA instruction manual-style renderings of infamous movie villains.
I’m not totally sure what IKEA instruction graphics have to do with horror icons, but if you’ve ever have to cobble together a piece of furniture using one of their assembly diagrams, you know there is definitely a sense of dread attached. A bag full of hex bolts is as real-world horror as it gets.
Each of the pictographs assigns a bullshit Ikea product-esque faux-Swedish name to its subject: Jason Voorhees becomes “Vörhees” and Freddy Krueger becomes “Krugr.” The “Krugr” piece is a gem: the step-by-step icons illustrate the famous jump-rope chant from the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies (“One, two, Freddy’s comin’ for you. Three, four, better lock your door…”) Brilliant.
Anyway, these illustrations are the bomb dot com. Check Harrington’s website for more fun stuff.
The incredible work of sculptor Trevor Grove has been featured here on DM previously, and it’s my pleasure to be able to share more creations from this talented artist with our readers.
Nick Cave “Grinderman” version
The So-Cal based Grove has been at the hand-sculpting game for about seven years. He primarily creates his pieces with hard wax and the results are nothing less than startling. I’m especially fond of Grove’s two sculptures of Nick Cave (above) which includes a Grinderman version of Cave sporting his handlebar mustache, as well as his two sculpts of everyone’s favorite avante growler,Tom Waits.
And since I know you may be wondering, you can purchase some of Grove’s sculptures over at his site, Tweeterhead such as his sculpt of the late Yvonne Craig as Batgirl that were personally signed by Craig before she passed away last month.