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‘The Nose’: Brother Theodore voices this brilliant animated adaptation of surreal Gogol short story
12:18 pm



Darkly comic performance artist Brother Theodore’s trademark manic, impassioned delivery made him an obvious choice for cartoon voice work. Although he was one of the more frequent guests on 80s David Letterman shows, I actually first heard him as a kid incessantly watching the 1982 animated feature, The Last Unicorn (he perfectly voiced an evil hunchback). He also made a great Gollum in the really underrated 1980 cartoon of The Hobbit—again, perfect casting. However, Theodore really shined at monologue, which is why this 1966 animated adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s satirical short story “The Nose” is so strong; he does every voice—the narrator, our tragic protagonist (Nathan Naspicker), the cruel and unfeeling police, and even the rogue nose itself.

“A Nose” is obviously slightly reworked for a light cartoon audience. Rather than Gogol’s 1830’s St. Petersburg, director Mordi Gerstein chose to set the story “in the Year of our Lord 1305, on the 25th of March in the city of Pittsburgh.” Poor Nathan Naspicker finds that his nose has abandoned him and started a life of its own. As Naspicker attempts to track down his roving schnozz, he begins to despair. There is no moral, it’s just pure madness, but it has a happy ending (kind of?)! The format of the film is actually quite experimental as well—partially animated, partially live action. It’s a cute cartoon for kids, but it’s definitely pure Brother Theodore in all his mad glory.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Punk Elegies’: Riveting late 70’s punk memoir set in the City of Angel Dust
03:52 pm



MacDonell's Punk Elegies Cover Art a Go-Go
Memoir is a smooth sounding word that can often deliver either salacious insight or NPR-friendly whisper-soft introspection. In the hands of a writer like Allan MacDonell, you will get something that flirts with both approaches and yet ultimately is something entirely its own creation. Hence, you get a gem like Punk Elegies in your hot little hands. MacDonell, whose resume boasts writing for the seminal early punk zine, Slash to being a renaissance man/editor at Hustler, an experience that he documented in his excellent 2006 book, Prisoner of X: 20 Years in the Hole at Hustler.

While a number of books and films have been made about various players and aspects of the late 1970’s west coast punk scene, Punk Elegies stands out from the herd. There’s the obvious draw of having the writer/narrator being someone who was there and survived to tell the tale. That’s a given, but MacDonell’s approach, always intelligent, solidly articulate and ballsy enough to paint himself in the most unflattering colors, is the true sturm und drang to snag you and keep it fresh in your mind long after you finished the last page. Klaus Kinski once said that “Virtues can be faked. Depravity is real.” Mercifully for the author, MacDonell’s journey never quite gets to red-level-Kinski’s, but the quote still fits. Nobody comes off worse than the man himself.
Darby Crash on Slash cover
Punk Elegies also features key peeks into the short-lived but still legendary punk scene in Los Angeles in the late 1970’s. Artists ranging from X to The Screamers to The Go-Go’s to Black Randy & the Metrosquad and more all pop up throughout the tome. All of this adds up to a beautifully written book that is one part punk culture and all parts gut-throat memoir. Allan MacDonell was nice enough to agree to some questions regarding Punk Elegies.

How was it revisiting this part of your life for Punk Elegies? Was it pure reflection or part-exorcism?

First off, there’s not a lot of purity in anything I’ve done, but reflection is one of my great gifts, like it is with any self-loving, self-lacerating narcissist. Long stretches of pond-staring went into mapping out Punk Elegies. I tried to clarify, for myself, what I’d been up to with all this baffling behavior. Unfortunately, none of my demons were exorcised. They’ve all made themselves more at home.

What does LA feel like for you now? Is it still a vibrant hub of artists and misfits or more like a city of ghosts?

For me, L.A. now feels like it’s being overrun by a massive influx of real-estate refugees from Manhattan and Brooklyn. The hilarious rise in cost of housing, the absence of available parking, the increasingly ill-mannered gamesmanship on the locked traffic grid, these are a few surface indications of a deep metaphysical congestion in this city that has choked off the ghosts. I still like it here. They haven’t squeezed me out yet.

Have you gotten any feedback from anyone who was in your inner circle during the time period of Punk Elegies?

Most of the feedback I’ve received has come in the form of silence. Germs drummer Don Bolles, who plays a role in Punk Elegies, gave the book a video endorsement. I only had to pressure Don slightly. The original keyboard player for the Screamers left a nine-paragraph elegy of his own in the comments of a Punk Elegies playlist I put together for Decibel.

Are you still in touch with your first wife, Tommie, who is hugely prominent figure throughout the book?

I’m still in touch with practically no one who is depicted in this book. Inspirational kitten memes tell me there’s no point in wishing things were different, but sometimes I do.
Black Randy
There are a lot of great stories about Black Randy in Punk Elegies. It’s a safe statement to say that there really was no one like him back then or even now. In a just world, he would have all the cult appeal and fandom of, say Sid Vicious or Darby Crash. What is your take now on the legacy of Randy?

I do presume to speak through Black Randy a lot in Punk Elegies, but I wish he were around to answer this one himself. Somehow, I suspect he would object to being grouped with Sid Vicious and Darby Crash. I’m pretty sure he and Darby liked one another—Darby sang in the Metro Squad chorus at one of Randy’s live shows. But Randy operated in a separate category that included him and almost no one else. He had an acute disdain for herd mentality and smug groupthink and Halloween rebels and for self-proclaimed mavericks living out on the copy-and-paste cutting edge. In the decades since he’s been gone, it seems that fewer and fewer of these teachings of Randy are being passed down and honored. In that sense, it’s like his entire legacy is a vanishing ideal.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Heather Drain | Leave a comment
Book designs for beautiful minds
10:53 am



My introduction to political theory and history came through Pelican Books—the non-fiction offshoot of Penguin Books. Pelicans were the high-end, academic books that brought bold, intellectual ideas to the mass public. The first Pelican imprint was George Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism, in which he the renowned author and playwright examined the theories of socialism and Marxism and the problems of capitalism. There then followed an impressive array of texts on art, architecture, psychology, economics and philosophy by writers as diverse as A. J. Ayer, E. P. Thomson and Jacob Bronowski. These paperbacks were mass-produced and sold at a price claimed to be lower than a packet of cigarettes. Allen Lane, who founded Penguin Books, believed there was “a vast reading public for intelligent books at a low price.” He staked his money and reputation on it. Thankfully he was right—the vast reading public did want to read intelligent books and Penguins and Pelicans sold in the thousands.

There was a color coding to Penguin books—orange for fiction, olive green for modern literature, black (originally white) for classics and blue for non-fiction. A reader’s taste in books was easily identified by the uniformly colored blocks filling their shelves. While Penguins had generally illustrative covers to a book’s story, Pelicans by the 1960s had a uniformity of design that made the brand instantly recognizable—ranging from abstracts inspired by Op Art to fashionably stylized photographs. The peak of popularity for Pelicans was in the 1960s and early 1970s, when there seemed to be a Pelican title for nearly every imaginable topic—many of which later became the source material for Richard Littler at Scarfolk Council.

Penguin stopped publishing Pelican Books around the mid-1980s, though last year, the imprint was revitalized with a selection of new books and some texts available online. This small collection of vintage covers has been culled from various sites chosen mainly on the basis of being Pelicans I have read in my youth (Anarchism, Drugs, The Young Offender, Self and Others) or covers well-remembered because of their style and originality.
More vintage designs for classic Pelican Books, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Demon Dog: Filming with James Ellroy in L.A., 1994
10:21 am



James Ellroy sits reading Jack Webb’s The Badge in the Clark Gable-Carole Lombard suite of the Alexandria Hotel, downtown LA, in the Fall of 1994. I’m there as interviewer—asking him questions for a documentary on the “Demon Dog of American Literature” called White Jazz. A preliminary Q&A was filmed the day before at a motel off Hollywood where Ellroy gave his pitch (“Woof, woof! Hear the Demon Dog bark…”) and want to find out who’s the man behind this well-rehearsed front.

We talk books: Ellroy’s telling me how his father Lee gave him a copy of The Badge for his eleventh birthday—a book of true tales of LA crime and the LAPD, in amongst which was the “brutally, graphically sexually explicit” story of the unsolved murder of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, which became known as the Black Dahlia killing.  Ellroy said this explicit ten-page tale had haunted him.

I thought it a strange book to give a kid who was used to reading the Hardy Boys and especially a child whose own mother, Geneva Hilliker, had been strangled with her own stockings and her body dumped in El Monte just a year before in 1958. So, I ask him: Didn’t he think this was a strange book to give a child? Ellroy stops. He says he doesn’t get the question. I think he’s stalling, but ask again. Still he doesn’t get the question—doesn’t seem to understand or want to understand or really want to answer the question.
The Badge is part of Ellroy’s myth—a key to understanding what he wants to be known about himself as it deflects as much as it reveals. It’s the book that pointed his imagination towards writing crime fiction and was the source of his teenage obsessions where he merged the murder of his mother with that of the Black Dahlia—feeding his fantasy of saving Dahlia/Hilliker from person or persons unknown and setting the world to right. Setting the world to right is perhaps why some writers do write—the world they create is containable.
Director Nicola Black, camera Jerry Kelly with James Ellroy, LA 1994.
The documentary White Jazz was produced and directed by Nicola Black. It came about after Black had filmed Ellroy (in cold damp Victorian prison cell off the banks of the River Clyde in Scotland) for a previous documentary on the world’s first private detective Allan Pinkerton—a drama-doc which starred Peter Capaldi. Made over one intense week with Ellroy in LA, October ‘94, White Jazz followed the Demon Dog around the sites of his childhood, his criminal youth, and sober years as a writer. The film then opens out to follow Ellroy’s personal investigation into the unsolved murder of his mother, with the help of ex-County Sheriff’s Department Detective Bill Stoner—a calm, lean, genial man, eyes twinkling, full mustache, whose quite demeanour belies the horrors he has seen—he helped solve the Cotton Club killing—picking-up a victim’s exploded, shattered teeth on a desolate hillside. Stoner takes Ellroy through Hilliker’s morgue file—the black and whites of crime scene, body, ligature marks, bruises, and autopsy report—before visiting her last known locations where seen and the suggesting possible suspects. Ellroy’s collaborative investigation with Stoner became his non-fiction book My Dark Places (1996).

This award-winning documentary is seldom seen online—though pirate copies can switch hands for mucho dinero—and it’s a moving, fascinating and revealing portrait of James Ellroy, in which he takes the viewer on a personal odyssey through his life, his work and his obsessions with the city of Los Angeles—his “smog-bound Fatherland.”

But time moves on, and Ellroy is currently selling his Hollywood Hills residence for $1.39m—if you want to take a peak at his monkish orderly abode check here. He also has a new book out LAPD ‘53, in which he illuminates 85 duotone photographs from the LAPD archive that are “representative of a day in the life of America’s most provocative police agency.”

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Harlan Ellison is revolting: Speculative Fiction and the revolution of the mind
11:41 am



In every generation there is a moment when some writer, artist, politician or whatever comes forward to announce that their generation is at the start of a revolution—some seismic shift in culture and society that will change everything for the better—forever. It’s rather like the way each generation appears to think it is the first to discover sex or sexuality and flaunts it through clothes, songs or horrendously written books.

A case in point is this roundtable discussion with a young Harlan Ellison from sometime in 1969-70, when the author declared “We’re in the midst of a revolution.”

It’s a revolution of thought, that is as important and as upending as the industrial revolution was—sociologically speaking. We’re coming into a time now when all the old “-isms” and philosophies are dying. They don’t seem to work any more.

All the things Mommy and Daddy told you and told me were true were only true in the house—the minute you get out in the street, they aren’t true any more. The kids in the ghetto have known that all their lives but now the great white middle class is learning it and it’s coming a little difficult to the older folks—which is always the way it is.

We are no longer Kansas or Los Angeles or New York—it’s the whole planet now. They got smog in the Aleutian Islands now; they got smog in Anchorage, Alaska; they got smog at the polar icecaps—can you believe it, smog at the polar icecaps. There is no place you go to hide anymore. So the day of thinking that the Thames or the English Channel or the Rocky Mountains is going to keep you safe from some ding-dong on the other side doesn’t go anymore. A nitwit in Hanoi can blow us all just as dead as a nitwit in Washington.

We’re beginning to think of ourselves not as just an ethnic animal, or a national animal, or a local or family kind of animal—we are now a planetary animal. It’s all the dreams of early science-fiction coming true.

That Ellison could have made this speech in nineties or the noughties, or indeed any decade, only shows how each generation discovers certain truths that are eternally consistent.

Humans, he continues, are now aware of a bigger picture and that by not taking responsibility for our actions—whether thoughtlessly throwing away a cigarette butt or garbage—is “screwing up the ecology.” Which is apposite considering the news of some scientists claiming Earth is on the brink of its sixth extinction.

But Ellison—in sunglasses looking like a Jordanian revolutionary—is only warming up to his theme—the importance of speculative fiction (or that dreaded word “science-fiction”) in imagining (shaping) the future. He has a very valid point—but again one that is made generation to generation-six years before this the writers of previous generations C. S. Lewis, Kingsley Amis and Brian Aldiss held an informal chat on the same subject where they agreed:

...that some science fiction really does deal with issues far more serious than those realistic fiction deals with; real problems about human destiny and so on.

Harlan Ellison is one of those very rare writers who is always inspirational or thought-provoking in everything he writes or says. Like most people, I came to his work through TV before having the greater pleasure of reading him. His seminal episodes of Outer Limits, “Demon with a Glass Hand” and “Soldier” (which James Cameron later used as a basis for Terminator), or his script for Star Trek or “The Sort of Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair” and “The Pieces of Fate Affair” on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. stayed with me long after viewing and were cause for my seeking out his fiction. This interview comes from just after Ellison had edited the classic volume of speculative fiction Dangerous Visions, which he hoped might lead to a revolution in the mind of its readers.

It probably did, but the revolution is always moving, changing, evolving.

The conclusion of Harlan Ellison’s talk, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Get Carter’: Michael Caine on location of the classic gangster film, 1971
11:08 am



Like most good movies, it started with a book: Outside the school gate, waiting for the #31 bus, my classmate and best friend RA, pressed upon me a well-thumbed copy of a novel by Ted Lewis called Carter. RA said it was the greatest crime novel he had ever read, if not the greatest crime novel ever written, which was some recommendation knowing his liking for detective novels, thrillers and the works of Sven Hassel. My eyes were attracted to the color photo on the cover of Michael Caine, with shotgun, in a black Mackintosh walking along a coal-stained beach. Michael Caine was cool. He had played Len Deighton’s Harry Palmer and Harry Palmer was cool—ergo Caine was cool. On the back there was an even more intriguing picture of Caine interrogating a naked woman in a bath. What the hell was this book about? The only clue RA gave was the cryptic “Schoolgirl Wanks.” I borrowed the book and have shamefully kept it ever since—thinking RA was correct—it is the greatest crime novel ever written, and certainly led to (arguably) the greatest British crime film ever made, Get Carter.

This dog-eared paperback Carter, originally titled Jack’s Return Home, had been written by Ted Lewis, a young author who had attended Hull Art School, worked in TV, written one other novel All the Way Home and All the Night Through in 1965, and had worked as an animator on The Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine. In Jack’s Return Home, Lewis told the story of a hardman gangster (Jack Carter) who goes home to find out who killed his brother—a trail that opens up a world of corruption, sex and violence—perhaps surprisingly, the book was loosely based on the true story of a gangland murder in the 1960s.

When Jack’s Return Home was first published in 1970, film producer Michael Klinger sent a copy to TV director Mike Hodges asking if he thought it would make a good movie? Klinger had started his career as film producer making soft-core nudist films with Tony Tenser, before the pair produced Roman Polanski’s early movies Repulsion and Cul-de-Sac. Hodges saw the book’s immediate potential and told Klinger it would make a great movie. The book was optioned, the film financed and cast.

Where the novel is set in Doncaster, Hodges decided to relocate the action to the gritty, monochrome streets of industrial Newcastle—then mired in political and civic corruption over the redevelopment of the city center—a scandal that almost brought down the British government in 1973. Casting a Cockney as a Geordie might seem strange, but Michael Caine made Carter very much his own—-cold, ruthless, dead-eyed and utterly plausible. He stalks the film in his black overcoat like a messenger of death, bringing havoc, violence and murder to those unlucky enough to cross his path.

I was about twelve or thirteen when I first read Carter, and can still vividly recall whole sections of the book from opening line, “The rain rained..” to the near end paragraph about a shotgun, twisted and smoking, a grey curl rising into the morning air and the grim significance of “Schoolgirl Wanks.” Some authors stick with you throughout life, their work is so powerful, visceral, infectiously memorable. I went on to read other books by Ted Lewis (most notably Plender, Billy Rags, and GBH) finding them as good as Jack’s Return Home, and rate him up there with Chandler, Hammett and Ellroy. Sadly, for such a talented writer, Lewis was never to equal the success of Jack’s Return Home—though he did write two further Carter novels: Jack Carter’s Law (1974) and Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon (1977). His early success and what he feared was apparent failure bit deep and Lewis tragically died from alcohol related illness in 1982.

Get Carter the movie had a mixed reception on its release—given shit publicity by the American distributors (who knows why?) and hated by the likes of critics such as the prissy and snobbish Pauline Kael who loathed the film. However, Get Carter held its own until it achieving its classic status with the Loaded generation in the 1990s. Klinger went onto produce another movie with Caine and Hodges, the superb and shamefully overlooked Pulp.

This selection of photographs captures Michael Caine filming Get Carter on location in Newcastle, alongside director Hodges and cast members John Osborne, Ian Hendry, Britt Ekland and George Sewell.
‘Jack’s Return Home’: Michael Caine as Jack Carter returning to his hometown to find his brother’s killer.
Man about town: Caine in Newcastle during filming.
More photos of Michael Caine on location with ‘Get Carter,’ after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Devil and his Servants: Demonic illustrations from 18th century occult book
10:21 am



I had a friend who liked to collect occult illustrations from the earliest woodcuts of witches sabbats to hand-painted plates of winged demons. My friend did not see these pictures as telling a history of the occult, but rather a luminous narrative of the imagination’s power to invent monsters.

Similarly fabulous creatures can be found in the illustrations to the Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros, a rare book on the occult dating from 1775 which is held by the Wellcome Library. The volume is written in a mixture of German and Latin and contains 31 water-color illustrations of the Devil and his demonic servants together with three pages of magic and occult ritualistic symbols.

With the warning “NOLI ME TANGERE” (“Do Not Touch”) on its cover, the compendium can be seen as a last attempt by those of faith to instil fear among the superstitious. After all, the Compendium Artis Magicae was produced during the decade of revolutions (American and French) and in the Age of Enlightenment—when reason, science and the power of the individual dominated, and the first stirrings of industry were about to change Europe and the world. The horrendous witch trials of the 16th and 17th centuries were long banished and the last execution in England for witchcraft took place in 1716 (1727 in Scotland, 1750 in Austria, 1782 in Switzerland), while the practise of witchcraft ceased to be a criminal offense across Europe during the century (England 1735)—all of which makes this Compendium Artis Magicae all the more bizarre.

The illustrations are a mix of Greco-Roman mythical monsters (chimeras such as Cerberus and Hydra), Phoenician gods (Astarte/Astaroth) biblical devils (Beelzebub, Satan), while some look as though they were inspired by witnessing the slaughter of men and beasts on European battlefields.

The claim that the book originated in 1075 has been dismissed, and the whole volume has been scanned on Hi-Res and can be viewed in detail at the Wellcome Library.
More nightmarish demons, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Banksy gets Banksied
04:18 pm



You might not know the name Butcher Billy, but if you love and appreciate (as I do) the “Post/Punk New Wave Superfriends” or the “Real life villains in the Legion of Doom,” then you already know the Brazilian artist’s subversively daffy, pop sensibility.

Billy’s latest intervention takes on the most inspired street artist of them all—BANKSY. What Butcher Billy did was to take a bunch of the most iconic Banksy graffiti designs out there and replace the principals with animated characters from the worlds of Disney, Warner Bros., and Hanna Barbera.  So the maid in “Maid in London” gets replaced with Rosie from The Jetsons, while the girl in “Girl With a Balloon” gets the Donald Duck treatment. You get the idea.

Butcher Billy has slapped together a bunch of the designs, which are available as a coloring book that you can order from Behance.



More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Art Nouveau, ‘Laugh-In,’ and Hallmark Psychedelia—Art Chantry speaks
11:25 am



When I got my review copy of Art Chantry Speaks: A Heretic’s History of 20th Century Graphic Design in the mail from Feral House, I was mighty thrilled, as I’ve long admired Chantry’s work as a graphic artist. His clear reverence for and deep knowledge of the history of his discipline, particularly in championing its seediest manifestations and its obsolete processes, informs not just his own body of work, which as much as anyone’s was THE look of garage punk and grunge, but the work of the countless artists whom he’s inspired. In my past life as an Art Director in alt-weeklies, Chantry’s posters, record covers, and his work for the Seattle music magazine The Rocket, reproduced in the must-have Some People Can’t Surf, were frequent go-tos for inspiration when Photoshop just couldn’t do the job. Art Chantry Speaks is a collection of opinionated musings on a variety of design topics, and I was struck by a significant overlap between Chantry’s essays and DM’s coverage, so we decided that rather than simply review the book, we’d draft Chantry into service as a sort of guest blogger, republishing a few of his essays as DM posts. This is the first, and we’re grateful to Chantry and Feral House for letting us use his work in this form.—Ron Kretsch

In the mid- to late 1960s, the psychedelic underground revolution had already started to wane. It was a literal flash in the pan. All of the original pioneers had morphed into varying sorts of hacks and quacks, pushing new agendas as far-fetched as Buddhism, meditation, world domination, the Internet and flying saucers. Basically, the acid world was as unstable as the drug itself. Old doses of blotter have short half-lives and lose their potency fast. Vintage blotter acid collectors (yes, there is a huge market) probably couldn’t get high if they ate their entire collections. So goes the culture as well.

Whenever an underground counterculture (a rebellion against some established norm) erupts, there is usually a pushback from the mainstream. The first is “attack” (“Them dirty stinkin’ hippies should all be shot”) and then there is “assimilation” (“Gee, that paisley looks so cool on you!”).

Back in the Romantic rebellion of the late 1800s there emerged a back-to-nature movement that resulted in the Arts and Crafts revival and a rejection of established artistic norms. This rejection of the status quo happens with such periodic intensity, you could probably set a clock by it. During this phase, the reaction was heavily against the industrial revolution.

The initial process of saying “no” in this case was simply to return to handmade objects. This included an embrace of nature forms that was intellectually and emotionally antithetical to the Victorian stye. The immediate result was a rebirth of organic design and the Arts and Crafts movement. Some people literally returned to the woods to live like wild men (at least “wild” from their stilted perspective). Think Emerson, Thoreau or Gibbons.

Of course, industry—powered by the fast buck—saw opportunity and attempted to copycat the new romantic look. The result was Art Nouveau—a homespun manufactured style applied as decoration (just like Victorian motifs). The big difference was the curve. The Art Nouveau manufactured style almost appeared to have been grown on a machine like some kind of vining plant made of iron.

Soon, new archeological discoveries in Egypt and Mesoamerica resulted in another semi-rejection of the current design culture. The ancient “primitive man” geometric stylings as seen in King Tut’s tomb and the newly “discovered” cultures of the Mayans and the Aztecs resulted in quick adaptations to the Art Nouveau style (and so much easier to make with a machine). The result was Art Deco.

Art Nouveau started to look old-fashioned and Art Deco became the new rage of the machine society. Thoreau’s Walden Pond gave way to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The resulting mechanized World Wars did more to end that dream than any artistic rejection ever could.

Flash forward to the early post-WWII period in America. Displaced vets couldn’t fit into the new peacetime America. Uniformity was valued and loose cannons were depicted in popular media as Communist threats to the social order. The beatniks, biker culture, surfers, hot-rodders, truckers, abstract expressionist painters, gay underground, poets and bop musicians were the new Bohemia and they were derided as decadent trash. But the seeds of rejection they sowed took fruit in the early/mid ‘60s, just as the international modern stylings of the new space age and the “big idea” advertising culture combined with industrial ingenuity to create a new golden era of conformity and high style. “007, meet Helvetica Bold…”

The outsider subcultures were still there, developing their own aesthetic systems, not too dissimilar to the Romantics of the previous century. A new “back to nature” dream and a rebirth of the “community of man” emerged, albeit in scattered pockets. When the psychedelic culture emerged a real alternative to the exiting dominant culture became a possibility. It’s been said that with the hippies, “many puddles became a pond,” and soon many ponds became a lake, then an ocean. Then a tidal wave…


The high art style of this new “psychedelic” look was so heavily borrowed from early Art Nouveau that it was almost an embarrassment. Wes Wilson discovered typography by a famous Arts & Crafts typographer, Alfred Roller, and placed it on a waving baseline—and invented “psychedelic lettering”! Stanley Mouse began to ape Beardsley. Other artists copycatted Alphonse Mucha posters to a T. Rick Griffin followed the hand-drawn like work of scores of Blake imitators and shoved it through surfing and acid to arrive at his incredibly “organic” style.

The psychedelic style was an LSD-washed version of Art Nouveau. Even the communal movement owed its origins to Walden dreams. It was history repeating itself all over again, but this time in mind-blowing colors.

Industry was still there too, cranking out their version of what they thought they could sell. Whenever a new “culture” emerges and finds popular appeal to the young, the marketing monsters are right there ready to go with their mass-produced version of the same thing. But they never get it quite right. The very industrial design process removes the “natural” content and replaces it with uniform mediocrity. In this case, the fake psych look literally replaces the larger mainstream culture’s very idea of what Psychedelia was.

Along came “industrial psychedelia” or, as I prefer, “Hallmark psychedelia” (because Hallmark greeting cards tried so hard for so long to co-opt the style). It was all bright colors, swirling everything, cartoon characters, goofy humor and totally innocent fun. Basically, the exact opposite of the earnestness of the Hippie movement and its goals.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
1936 Italian horror short turns Edgar Allan Poe story into one of the earliest gore films
08:24 am



No one does horror like the Italians, and it’s a tradition that goes back a long while. Check out this 1936 masterpiece of gore, Il caso Valdemar—it’s just riveting. Surprisingly, the two directors (Gianni Hoepli and Ubaldo Magnaghi) have virtually no additional credits at IMDB, leaving one to assume they were amateurs? The acting is superb and the cinematography is incredibly stylized and sophisticated, with tight, disorienting shots at odd angles, reminiscent of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The main attraction though, is the disgusting final scene, an incredible early special effect.

Il caso Valdemar is actually an adaptation of “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” an 1845 short story by Edgar Allan Poe. In an incredibly devious move, Poe presented the story as true, and let people believe it actually happened for a while before finally admitting his hoax. In the story, Ernest Valdemar is dying of tuberculosis. He requests that his friend (the narrator, a mesmerist), mesmerize him on his deathbed. Valdemar is put into a trance by the narrator and announces his own death. For seven months, Valdemar lie dead, but preserved. The narrator eventually wakes his tormented subject, and Valdemar decomposes at a rapid rate.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
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