Actress Mary Pickford affixing a “Santa Claus Lane” sign on Hollywood Boulevard, 1928
The tradition of holding a Christmas parade on Hollywood Boulevard started 1928 as a way to encourage shoppers to spend money at the various businesses along the Boulevard of broken dreams. Known as the “Santa Claus Lane Parade,” the event also gave movie stars a vehicle to promote themselves and their latest pictures by featuring their glamorous head-shots in the middle of giant wreaths or riding in a car along the parade’s almost four-mile route.
The Marx Brothers in the Santa Claus Lane Parade,1938
Actress Claudette Colbert posing with her wreath along the Santa Claus Parade route, 1932
The parade took a break during WWII but then returned in 1945 and continued under its original name until 1978 when it was renamed the “Hollywood Christmas Parade” which is still happening every year. The massive metal trees lining the boulevard were over ten-feet tall, as were the equally huge Santas that dwarfed onlookers during the entire month of December. I’ve got a nice selection of captivating images from the early days of Santa Claus Lane that will hopefully give your spirits a much needed lift, as they did mine.
Two years into Frankie and Annette’s Beach Party series, emboldened by the five installments behind them, American International Pictures tried a variation on the movies’ profitable formula: Ski Party.
Frankie is now in college, where he and his roommate (Dwayne Hickman, TV’s Dobie Gillis) are studying a book called Fun Without Sex in a class taught by Annette (in a cameo appearance). Desperate for the love of babes, the pair head to the slopes for vacation; there, they dress as women so they can take easier ski lessons and get closer to the bikini-clad coeds. Yes, bikini-clad.
There is also a James Joyce joke:
CRAIG: What do you think of Finnegans Wake?
BARB: I didn’t even know he was sick!
Okay, it’s barely enough to keep the mind alive, but the whole reason this movie exists is so James Brown and the Famous Flames can chew it up and spit it out in their three-and-a-half minutes on screen. I suspect this is the only time Brown sang “I Feel Good” in a Christmas sweater, and it’s certainly the only place you can see him, the Flames and three St. Bernards glide into a ski lodge. Pain addicts who enjoy the taste of tears can watch the full movie (minus the audio of Brown’s performance) here, but for everyone else, James Brown and the Famous Flames’ showstopping performance is isolated below.
Freaks has earned its place in history as one of the all-time great cult films, though it wasn’t always beloved. The film was reviled by both critics and audiences upon release in 1932. It was a career-killer for Tod Browning, who had previously been a Hollywood golden child with a string of Lon Chaney hits under his belt and who had just come off the enormous success of Dracula.
The film shocked audiences with its use of actual sideshow “freaks” as actors:
Among the characters featured as “freaks” were Peter Robinson (“the human skeleton”); Olga Roderick (“the bearded lady”); Frances O’Connor and Martha Morris (“armless wonders”); and the conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. Among the microcephalics who appear in the film (and are referred to as “pinheads”) were Zip and Pip (Elvira and Jenny Lee Snow) and Schlitzie, a male named Simon Metz who wore a dress mainly due to incontinence, a disputed claim. Also featured were the intersexual Josephine Joseph, with her left/right divided gender; Johnny Eck, the legless man; the completely limbless Prince Randian (also known as The Human Torso, and mis-credited as “Rardion”); Elizabeth Green the Stork Woman; and Koo-Koo the Bird Girl, who suffered from Virchow-Seckel syndrome or bird-headed dwarfism, and is most remembered for the scene wherein she dances on the table.
The film had only a short cinema run in the United States before it was pulled by MGM due to audiences’ revulsion. It was not even allowed to be shown at all in the UK for thirty years.
Some argue that the film was a crass exploitation of the mentally and physically challenged, while others believe the film is sympathetic to the disabled stars and was therefore an empowering vehicle, showcasing their struggle. It has remained controversial to this day.
Thanks to the excellent blog Decaying Hollywood Mansions, we have this stunning gallery of promotional cast photos from the film, featuring the unusually beautiful stars of Tod Browning’s 1932 masterpiece.
Directed by Çetin Inanç and starring Turkish action superstar Cüneyt Arkin, The Man Who Saved The World is an amazingly over-the-top knock-off of George Lucas’s Star Wars. Popularly known as Turkish Star Wars for reasons that are clearly apparent, this Turkish slab of cinematic taffy stretches the boundaries of disbelief to the breaking point. And that’s what makes it a far more entertaining film than the one it rips off. I’ve forgotten most of the original Star Wars but I’ll never forget Cüneyt Arkin doing battle with a gigantic psychopathic shag carpet using only a cardboard sabre (completely lightless) and some well-placed karate chops.
Or the bizarre make-up effects on some of the indigenous space people.
Turkish Star Wars action figures included this close encounter of the turd kind.
Turkish film writer Evrim Ersoy sums up Turkish Star Wars nicely:
Director Çetin İnanç‘s attempt to create the ultimate Turkish science fiction epic has all the trademarks of the genre: a mash-up of American cinema tradition and Turkish mythology bound together by the insane desire to reach infinitely beyond its microscopic budget. Two pilots who find their ships mysteriously crashing on an alien planet end up fighting an evil dictatorial emperor plotting to destroy Earth. But no summary can do this wild mix justice. From its z-grade, beautiful inhabitants to the endless borrowed shots literally spliced in from the actual STAR WARS, this is lo-fi filmmaking at an unparalleled best.
The cast and crew of Turkish Star Wars. Making movies on the run with no money and no time. Attempting to reach warp speed in an Econoline van.
As I watch the hype around the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens and listen to my many friends losing their shit over this new installment I realize that there’s an age gap between me and the fanatics. In 1977 (the year Star Wars was released), I was 26 years old, had started a punk band, and was planning my move to New York City. I thought Star Wars was hopelessly square, a space western in disco drag. But my friends who are still creaming over Star Wars were children when they first saw it. So perhaps they saw it differently than I did. Maybe their minds were wider open than mine. Maybe it’s a generational thing. All I know is that I prefer the cheesy rip-off that is Turkish Star Wars over the Hollywood original. It has the primitive energy and purity of a great punk rock song. It’s The Ramones to Lucas’s epic Emerson, Lake and Palmer slog.
In honor of Turkish Star Wars D.I.Y. spirit, I’ve put together this mix of 31 Turkish rock, prog and punk songs as a soundtrack to the movie which you can watch now in all of its goofy glory. The song list is on my Vimeo page.
After attending a screening of Wild Side at a Donald Cammell retrospective at LACMA several years ago, I was startled to see the divine personage of Poison Ivy Rorschach herself waiting outside the theater. She had apparently come to see the next feature, Demon Seed, about which I knew nothing. But, reckoning that Ivy must be a world-class horror movie connoisseur, I rented it at the first opportunity, and it did not disappoint. It is one bizarre hellride of a motion picture.
Demon Seed is the second movie in Cammell’s slender oeuvre, following Performance, starring Mick Jagger, which Cammell wrote and co-directed with Nicolas Roeg. His father, Charles R. Cammell, was a biographer of Aleister Crowley, and if you’ve seen Lucifer Rising, you’ll recognize Donald Cammell as the actor who plays Osiris. His singular career included a script treatment for a “swashbuckling romp” called Fan-Tan, co-authored with Marlon Brando. (There’s an interesting documentary about the director’s life on YouTube, featuring interviews with Mick Jagger and Kenneth Anger, among others who knew him.)
Fans of The Simpsons will recognize Demon Seed as the basis for “House of Whacks” from the 2001 Halloween special, in which Pierce Brosnan plays the voice of a computer that becomes obsessed with Marge. A word about the content. See on the lobby card above where it says “Never was a woman violated as profanely,” etc.? All I will tell you about the plot of this movie is that, in one deeply disturbing scene, Julie Christie is sexually assaulted by her house. Not as in “she is sexually assaulted next to her house,” but as in “the actual building that is her house sexually assaults her.” Nor is that the strangest thing that happens in Demon Seed.
Snuff started life as Slaughter, a dire exploitation film shot in 1971 by husband and wife filmmakers Michael and Roberta Findlay. The Findlays were prodigious in the field of exploitation. Whether working apart or together, they churned out films to meet current trends in the market, so cheap it was nigh impossible they could lose any money. One early production that Michael worked on (without Roberta) was Satan’s Bed (1965), starring the unknown Yoko Ono. The rest is a succession of cheese and grindhouse sleaze, including roughies like Body of a Female (1964) and horror pictures like Shriek of the Mutilated (1974). Slaughter was exceptionally bad, however. It fell between the cracks. Indeed, the film’s producer, exploitation specialist Allan Shackleton, had almost given up on it when he got the idea to film a new ending and precipitate its release as Snuff with a scurrilous marketing campaign.
Scrubbing all references to the Findlays’ movie, Shackleton removed the original title and credits and adopted a new title — Snuff, as in ‘snuff film’. Shackleton was ready to scratch a legend into the annals of exploitation history with a stunt comparable to the War of the Worlds radio broadcast, Orson Welles’ play that convinced 1938 America that Martians were invading Earth. Now, Snuff was primed to electrify the imaginations of a new generation, same as the old generation.
The next move was to engineer additional footage (running a little under five-and-a-half minutes) and splice it onto what was left of Slaughter. For this task, Shackleton hired Simon Nuchtern, a jobbing director with a handful of not altogether remarkable movies to his name.
In the newly-edited Slaughter, the scene cuts away to reveal the new material: A studio set with actors caught in the moment. Surrounding the actors are the trappings of movie making, including one archetypal bulldozing director.
The director confides to a pretty production assistant that the last take “was dynamite. That was a gory scene and it really turned me on.” She confesses it turned her on, too.
What follows is a stupefying descent into madness, and for the tawdry movie of the last seventy-odd minutes a contrivance as daft as it is unexpected. The director, wearing a t-shirt that bears the slogan VIVA LA MUERTE (Long live death), begins to lean on the girl. “Why don’t you and I go to the bed and get turned on… turn each other on, mm?”
“What about all these people watching?” she asks.
“Give ’em just a minute, they’re gonna be gone.”
Still in long shot, still in whispers, the director and girl engage in a little light petting on the prop bed. Contrary to leaving, however, the other people in the room slowly focus their attention on the couple, including the cameraman and soundman.
Point of view of the cameraman as the couple grope and fondle; the girl’s startled face as she suddenly becomes aware that the camera is on them.
“What are you doing? Are you filming this? They’re filming it!”
The girl struggles to free herself from the director’s pawing. “Don’t worry about it,” he says.
“Just move a little back up here — ”
“You’re crazy!” Scared.
“ — right back up here.”
“Let me go!”
“Shaddap!” Then to the crew he says, “Do all of you wanna get a good scene?”
Cutaway to the crew and affirmation.
“Okay… watch yourself… watch …”
“Let me up!”
“Let me go! You’re crazy!”
The director calls for assistance. A member of the crew expressionlessly complies, holding the girl’s arms down on the bed, while the director reaches for a knife.
“You’re crazy. You’re not serious. You’re not really gonna do it,” the girl pleads.
“You don’t think so?”
“Think I’ll kill her…”
The director slices through the girl’s blouse and across her shoulder. Blood (the colour of raspberries) oozes from the wound. She writhes and hollers.
“Scream, go on, scream!” the director demands. “That’s it, scream!”
The screaming becomes a pathetic sob.
Exasperated, he bellows, “STOP!! You want to play!?”
Following a few minutes of spectacular, if hardly convincing violence, the frame runs to leader-tape, then blackness. A whisper punctuates the void: “Shit, shit… we ran out of film.”
Another voice whispers: “Did you get it — did you get it all?”
“Yeah, we got it all.”
“Let’s get outta here.”
The sound of breathing. Ends.
The movie did not premiere with any of its stars in attendance (after all, they were supposed to be dead), nor did it boast any local luminaries. Not many people attended the premiere at all. Sixteen people in total turned out for the first evening show at 6pm. A uniformed security guard was on hand to make sure no one below the age of eighteen was admitted.
Ticket price notwithstanding, Monarch stuck to their original campaign and public awareness of the movie increased. By the time Snuff left Indianapolis it was already picking up momentum. More than 300 people attended the film’s opening night at the Orpheum Theater in Wichita, Kansas, on January 30. Many of those in attendance were “laughing instead of moaning”, reported a theater spokesman. Shackleton was driving the print of the film in his car from one engagement to another on its route to New York, ballyhooing it at every turn. Having traveled from Cincinnati to St Paul, he witnessed people being turned away from the box office of the Strand Theater on the day of its St Paul premiere, February 20. Pickets and adverse press weren’t only conspiring to stop him in this instance: The theater itself had been closed down by police the day before the scheduled screening, pending a matter of theater licensing. The resourceful Shackleton simply packed Snuff back into his trunk and drove across the river to Minneapolis, where it played an impromptu engagement at the American Theater, fittingly an X-rated movie house, complete with ads proclaiming its ‘ban’ in St Paul.
The trailer—not really all that safe for work—for Shackleton’s ‘Snuff’
The Adult Film Association of America was not happy with Snuff. Not surprising really. Formed in 1969 to protect the interests of those involved in the production, distribution and exhibition of adult motion pictures, the AFAA fought against negative representation, which included among other things child exploitation and rumours of so-called snuff films. Shackleton, hitherto a member of the AFAA, was unceremoniously kicked out of the organization because of Snuff.
Aware that it was all a gimmick and that no one was actually killed in Snuff, the AFAA nevertheless took pains to distance itself from the film. It was the sort of attention they didn’t need. President Vince Miranda, owner of the Pussycat Theater chain, announced that AFAA member theaters would not be screening it. But by and large, Snuff circumvented adult theaters anyway and played the regular houses. The AFAA unwittingly played into Shackleton’s hands when its members joined picket lines on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. “We called a press conference to say the film was a phoney,” recalled AFAA chairman David Friedman, “and that we were proud to say we would not show it.” But the AFAA were not the only group protesting Snuff. Women’s groups were also up in arms.
The absurdity of a theatrical motion picture that dabbled in actual murder (of a crew member, no less) was lost on some; likewise, that such a movie, supposedly having been ‘smuggled’ into the country, should turn up in New York City and openly promote itself on Times Square and around the country. It didn’t matter because lobby groups still protested against it, media still arrived to document the protestations, and officials continued to look into the matter.
But the protests outside the National Theater, which included the presence of ‘high profile’ FBI agents, didn’t stop the movie grossing over $300,000 during its first eight weeks and it certainly didn’t halt the publicity, which shifted into gears possibly beyond the expectation of even Allan Shackleton. Snuff was a rampaging publicity monster.
Killing for Culture available now in special edition—out in paperback next year. And below you can check out the official new Killing For Culture documentary, The Death Illusion: Murder, Cinema & the Myth of Snuff, directed by David Hinds and written and narrated by occasional Dangerous Mind Thomas McGrath.
Nobody ever claimed that the Italians were prone to stinting on style, and you can see ample evidence of the country’s flair for both in Rome’s retail mecca for discount clothing and a recent documentary celebrating the store’s unique status and popularity in the country’s capital city.
Located at Via dello Statuto 11 in Rome, Magazzino allo Statuto is universally referred to as “MAS.” The store has had a colorful history of three broad chapters—punctuated by periods in which the store was literally closed for business—first as a luxury store in the pre-WWII era and then as a symbol of the country’s postwar economic boom in the 1950s.
In 1974 Gianni Pezone re-opened MAS in its third incarnation, as a fashion emporium catering to “everyone,” to people of all income levels—it is this most populist iteration of the store’s history with which Rä Di Martino’s 30-minute documentary “The Show MAS Go On” concerns itself. In 2013 it was announced that MAS would be closing its doors, a fate that it apparently averted, but the scare was enough to spur Di Martino to action, spearheading a loving documentary about the store that started out as a crowdfunding project but was eventually financed by Gucci, of all possible companies (once you watch the movie, the strangeness of the juxtaposition will become clearer) who decided to bankroll the movie. It premiered at the 2014 Venice Film Festival.
In New York City the functioning analog would be Century 21, but even that important store fails to capture the tacky centrality that MAS seems to enjoy in contemporary Roman life. The playfulness of “The Show MAS Go On” is already signaled in the title, and however you may feel about it after 5 minutes, I can say with confidence that you will not foresee where the movie intends to take you. (Among Di Martino’s creative appropriations are the episode of The Twilight Zone titled “The After Hours” and Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.”)
The viewer will hear a lot from Pezone’s voluble daughter, who makes flamboyant claims of MAS’ importance, as well as get acquainted with the fellow responsible for the store’s distinctive handmade signage. We also learn that MAS was (and probably remains) a favorite of Italy’s many hardworking costume designers working in movies and TV. But one of the documentary’s greatest pleasures is the ample footage of the diverse clientele of MAS wandering through endless aisles and piles of discounted jeans and polo shirts.
“My film is not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam.”—Francis Ford Coppola
Brutal, intense, fascinating, whimsical and yes, even beautiful photographs from behind-the-scenes of Apocalypse Now. As you can tell right off the bat with these images, filming was “Hell on earth.” Dennis Hopper once said of the film, “I felt like I had fought in the war.” The actors and crew battled tropical diseases, monsoons, alcoholism, drug-binges, insects and insanely humid weather. And that’s just the fun stuff.
One day early on, Sheen got completely shitfaced and ordered the crew to film him. He got aggressive, punching out mirrors and even tried to attack Coppola. The director kept rolling, and the footage is now in the scene with Martin Sheen sitting on the edge of his bed.
Martin Sheen has since described the making of Apocalypse Now as “chaos,” and even told friends back home that he genuinely believed he was going to die.
The majority of these photographs, shot in the Philippines, were captured by the celebrated photographer Mary Ellen Mark, who died earlier this year. If you dig these photographs, many of them can be found in Mark’s book Seen Behind the Scene .
Francis Ford Coppola working his movie magic in the Philippines
Uriel Valentin is the talented Argentinian-based doll maker and artist behind a massive line of plush, hand-painted dolls that are about to send you running for your credit card. I often blog about these kinds of collectibles here on Dangerous Minds but didn’t know until today how much I needed a plush Robert Smith doll clad in look-alike pajamas like the ones that he wore in the 1989 video for “Lullaby.” Did you?
Robert Smith of The Cure in his “Lullaby” PJs
Frank Zappa in his iconic “PIPCO” shirt.
Among the illustrious and eclectic inhabitants of Valentin’s cool world are plush versions of everyone from famous punks like Elvis Costello, director Jim Jarmusch, Charlotte Gainsbourg (covered in blood clutching the disemboweled fox from Antichrist), Andy Warhol and Jean Basquiat (wearing boxing gloves and attire no less, as in the poster for their 1985 collaboration), Iron Maiden’s “Eddie” (as well as Maiden bassist Steve Harris, squeee!), two delightful versions of Robert Smith of The Cure and every member of fucking KRAFTWERK.
Valentin’s figures stand about fourteen inches tall, are hand-painted and sealed with a transparent acrylic varnish, and have wire inside of them so they are able to be put into posed positions. I’ve included over 40 (!) images of Valentin’s dolls for you to digest after the jump that will run you around $100 (including international shipping). The talented Argentinian also does custom orders (which are $115) - contact him via his Flickr page for more information.
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford from the 1962 film, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Hedwig as played by actor James Cameron Mitchell from Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
Way more of these amazing handmade dolls after the jump…