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The Magnificent Seven: Watch Madness in their autobiographical film debut ‘Take It or Leave It’

In 1981, Madness the greatest septet since The Magnificent Seven—no, not that crappy remake, the original with Yul Bryner—starred in their very own feature film Take It or Leave It.

Now, Take It or Leave It is not the catchiest of titles I know, but one, I suppose, that reflects the band’s attitude to whether you like their music or not….or even if you like this movie. Or not.

Thankfully—nearly everyone in the whole wide world loves them some Madness so this film could have been called Pig Fuckers from Hell and millions would still have queued to catch a glimpse of their heroes. Mind you, I suppose that’s not really saying much as millions would probably queue to go and see a film called Pig Fuckers from Hell even if Madness had nothing to do with it, or at least watch it on their laptops—I know I would.

And don’t go by that Nouvelle Vague-looking poster above, the original poster was the Nutty Boys draped with reels of shiny celluloid and surrounded by cans of film all against a dazzling red background—which probably gives a better flavor of what this film is all about.
The original movie poster.

What is this thing all about?

Well. If you’ve ever wondered what’s it like to be in a band or ever considered the strange quirks of fate and character that bring together a group of disparate talents to form a band in the first place, then this film will answer your questions.

Take It or Leave It is a very likable comic docudrama that tells the story of seven individuals who manage to come together through trial, error, hard work and ambition to form a band called Madness. Rather than have some young look-alikes play the band members, Madness step up to the mark and play themselves from earliest beginnings in 1976 to all-out success in 1981.

It looks almost like a documentary and includes some exceptional footage of the boys playing gigs in local pubs and clubs with quite a few tracks that haven’t been or were not released until very recently. The story as such is a series of episodic scenes telling the story of Chris Foreman, Lee Thompson, Mike Barson, Suggs, Dan “Woody” Woodgate, Mark Bedford, and Chas Smash—the fine bunch of wayward characters who together make up Madness. There was a script of sorts but there was also a fair bit of ad-libbing. Some of these scenes were true and some were not—like Chris didn’t work at the post office but it kinda felt right and is a funny scene. The acting gets better as the movie goes on and by the end, I was thinking, their acting is so much better now than at the beginning that this is where maybe they should have reshot the first part of the film.

But wait.

The acting’s not the important thing here. What is important about Take It or Leave It is that it’s probably the best music film ever made about being in a band. It’s like a cinéma vérité counterpoint to that seventies rock classic Flame which starred Slade. Both of these movies presented a side to the music business too often excised at the script stage or removed by producers during the edit. Add into this fine mix an album’s worth a classic Madness tracks, then the whole thing is a bit of a joy to watch.
Watch Madness in ‘Take It or Leave It,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Holy shit, they really made bubblegum trading cards for the first ‘Alien’ movie!
10:24 am



Card #15: Introducing ‘Jones’

Two premises. Ridley Scott’s 1979 movie Alien is one of the most terrifying movies ever made. And the primary audience for trading cards during that era was preteens.

Ergo, there aren’t any trading cards for Alien.

Not so fast.

Surprising as it may seem, Topps did make trading cards for Alien. It seems safe to say that Topps may have gotten the contract for the job in the wake of the incredible success of Star Wars, and was attracted by a connection to an ambitious sci-fi space epic, without realizing that the actual movie in question would be rated R and indeed, give adults nightmares. (In the U.K. Alien received an X rating.)

Not many movies this cool ever got trading cards. If only they had made cards for Videodrome..... Or even The Shining, even if we did highlight this recently made retro set a year or two back.

Fun to see H.R. Giger himself featured in card #47. I’d hazard a guess that the Alien card series was the only one ever marketed with an image of, to quote the medical professional who chimed in about the subject on this page, “a gangrenous rectal sphincter,” as you can see here:

The back of the cards featured text descriptions placed within a gorgeous image of an egg:

The set also included stickers, which looked pretty cool:

Here are a few of the cards, followed by a picture of the packaging:

Card #8: Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt)

Card #9: Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver)
Much more after the jump…........

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown’: Future ‘Simpsons’ director turns ‘Peanuts’ into a bloodbath

In the mid-1980s, Jim Reardon was at the highly regarded Character Animation program at the California Institute of the Arts, and one of his student projects was a remarkable mashup of the Charlie Brown universe and the Sam Peckinpah universe—all of it undertaken with what must have been a deep affection for both worlds. The four-minute film’s title is “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown,” an obvious reference to Peckinpah’s 1974 movie Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

The short is presented as the commercial for a “heartwarming holiday special” featuring the Peanuts gang. So the Great Pumpkin places a bounty on Charlie Brown’s head, which causes an immediate death spiral into ultraviolence. All of the familiar characters (Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, etc.) attempt to assassinate Charlie Brown, until finally the hero is forced to take matters into his own hands, grabbing a machine gun and mowing them all down.

The second half of the short is truly a bloodbath, and definitely Reardon has Peckinpah’s masterpiece The Wild Bunch on the brain most of all. Peckinpah was known not just for violence but most of all for lush slow-motion sequences focusing on the carnage, and “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown” certainly has several of those. The moment when Lucy nips Charlie Brown in the shoulder is a direct callback to a sequence from The Wild Bunch involving William Holden’s character Pike Bishop.

Reardon’s short, which is in black-and-white, is a little crude by professional standards, but for a student project it’s incredibly effective and engaging. “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown” is dense, somewhat akin to MAD Magazine, with references covering everything from Popeye and Travis Bickle to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Godzilla. The closing zinger, spoken in Arnie’s trademark accent, is “Happiness is a warm uzi,” a remarkably canny mix of the strip’s treacly motto “Happiness is a warm puppy” and John Lennon’s memorable ditty “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” 

“Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown” also owes a debt to the old Warner Bros. cartoons, particularly in the bomb Lucy creates to dispose of her football-kicking buddy.

Based on the strength of this short—one imagines—Reardon was quickly hired by John Kricfalusi (later of Ren and Stimpy fame) as a writer on Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures. Later on he would be a supervising director for seasons 9 through 15 of The Simpsons  and co-wrote the script for WALL-E.

Watch it after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Jean Cocteau’s poem for Orson Welles
08:16 am


Orson Welles
Jean Cocteau

Orson Welles by Jean Cocteau (from the frontispiece of André Bazin’s book on Welles)
Orson Welles and Jean Cocteau first met at a performance of “Voodoo Macbeth,” the all-black Shakespeare production Welles staged in New York in 1936 with funding from a New Deal program. They remained friends and encouraged one another’s rascality, according to Simon Callow’s account of the 1948 Venice Film Festival in One-Man Band, the third volume of his Welles biography:

He and the perenially provocative Jean Cocteau formed a sort of anti-festival clique, clubbing together to commit what Cocteau rather wonderfully called lèse-festival. [...] Together in Venice, the two men behaved like two very naughty boys. Welles shocked his hosts by ostentatiously walking out of the showing of Visconti’s uncompromisingly severe masterpiece, La Terra Trema.


Cocteau and Welles in Venice, 1948
Welles was a member of the Comité d’Honneur at Cocteau’s 1949 Festival du Film Maudit, at which both The Magnificent Ambersons and The Lady from Shanghai were screened. (Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks made its European debut there, too, and Artaud’s “Sorcery and Cinema” was first published in the festival catalog.) Cocteau contributed this sketch of his friend to the program for Welles’ The Blessed and the Damned, an evening of two one-act plays that opened in Paris in 1950:

Orson Welles is a giant with the face of a child, a tree filled with birds and shadows, a dog who has broken loose and gone to sleep in the flower bed. An active loafer, a wise madman, a solitary surrounded by humanity, a student who sleeps during the lesson. A strategy: pretending to be drunk to be simply left alone. Seemingly better than anyone else, he can use a nonchalant attitude of real strength, apparently drifting but guided by a half-opened eye. This attitude of an abandoned hulk, and that of a sleepy bear, protects him from the cold fever of the motion picture world. An attitude which made him move on, made him leave Hollywood, and carried him to other lands and other horizons.

Quoting some of the increasingly hysterical praise for Welles printed elsewhere in the program and then in the show’s reviews, Callow wonders: “At least Cocteau had the excuse of being an opium addict; what were these chaps on?”

Keep reading, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Steven Spielberg predicts the psycho-delic future of today in 1971’s ‘Los Angeles: A.D. 2017’!

I had heard about this impossible-to-see episode of The Name of the Game—a cutting edge television show that ran for seventy-six 90-minute episodes from 1968 to 1971 on NBC—but until recently, I’d never seen it. The Name of the Game had the biggest budget of any show of its time and a very interesting concept. First of all each episode was, in effect, it’s own semi-standalone 90-minute movie. The series was one of the first of what was then known as a “wheel series.” A wheel series was mostly known as a time slot on TV that two or three different shows shared, alternating each week. With The Name of the Game‘s high concept though, this wheel was alternating between three different stars who were featured in their own episodes/movies. And what a high concept it was!

From Wikipedia:

The series was based on the 1966 television movie Fame Is the Name of the Game, which was directed by Stuart Rosenberg and stars Tony Franciosa. The Name of the Game rotated among three characters working at Howard Publications, a large magazine publishing company. Jeffrey “Jeff” Dillon (Franciosa), a crusading reporter with People magazine (before there was a real-life People magazine); Glenn Howard (Gene Barry, taking over for George Macready, who had originated the role in the earlier film), the sophisticated, well-connected publisher; and Daniel “Dan” Farrell (Robert Stack), the editor of Crime magazine. Serving as a common connection was then-newcomer Susan Saint James as Peggy Maxwell, the editorial assistant for each.

Which brings us to one of the last episodes of the series, LA 2017 aka Los Angeles: AD 2017. This episode was the first long form directing assignment for 24-year-old Steven Spielberg. Written by well-known offbeat author Phillip Wylie (who wrote Gene Barry’s wild episode Love-In At Ground Zero in the first season). Wylie’s work is known to have inspired the characters of Superman, Doc Savage and even Flash Gordon (from his story that was later made into the film When Worlds Collide). In this episode, Glenn Howard is hunted down in a lethally polluted, frightening and sometimes hilarious Los Angeles of the future, where the fascist government is ruled by psychiatrists and the populace has been driven to live in underground bunkers to survive the pollution. Sounds about right, right? This was the sixteenth episode of the third season, and the cast included Barry Sullivan, Edmond O’Brien, and (in a brief cameo) Spielberg’s friend Joan Crawford.
It starts out with a car crash while character Howard (Gene Barry) is seen driving through the mountains recording a memo to the President to do with an important pollution scandal story that will appear in his magazine, and ends up being a dream, which allowed the science-fiction plot to fit into the modern-day setting of the show, though in the final moments he is still contemplating what happened while driving back in his car (cue close-up shot of his tail pipes chugging out 1971 style car exhaust fumes). In the end, we see a stiff bird hanging in a tree… a close encounter of the (dead) bird kind indeed!
Watching this 1971 pop culture prophecy in the actual Los Angeles of 2017 is a total mindblower. Some of it is insanely far-fetched and yet there are a few humdingers that really freak you out and make you think, the most well known being my favorite scene where we are taken into a truly “underground” club with a demented octogenarian acid rock band totally freaking out (or at least trying to):

More after the jump…

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
Pop art dreamworld: The amazing, sexy comic strip art of the 1967 film ‘The Killing Game’’

Undoubtedly the coolest, sexiest, and most sophisticated film about a comic book artist ever made, Alain Jessua’s 1967 Jeu de massacre is a stylized French new wave comedy that’s incredibly ahead of its time. Burnt-out comic book writer Pierre Meyrand (Jean-Pierre Cassel), and his illustrator/wife Jacqueline (sixties babe Claudine Auger), are visited in their office one day by a wealthy playboy with an overactive imagination who invites the couple to stay at his luxurious mansion in Switzerland. He quickly inspires Pierre and Jacqueline to create a new comic strip character based on him nicknamed “The Neuchatel Killer,” a womanizing bank robber who turns into a psychotic serial murderer. The line between fantasy and reality quickly gets blurred when the playboy begins living out his alter-ego’s exploits, drawing his house guests into his zany, disturbing delusions with him.

Who better to call on to illustrate Jeu de massacre‘s comic strip sequences than Belgian artist Guy Peellaert? A decade before he became famous for his rock ‘n’ roll album covers and movie posters, Peellaert was known for his psychedelic pop art which included the now legendary comic strip, Les Aventures de Jodelle, published in the controversial French magazine Hara-Kiri in 1966. For Jeu de massacre, Guy Peellaert brought the same level of groovy sex appeal to the big screen. His suave, colorful illustrations are perfectly edited into the narrative, visually punctuating the characters as they lose their grip on reality and succumb to Peellaert’s romantic pop art dreamworld.




More after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
Bad girls behind bars: Vintage ‘women in prison’ exploitation movie posters

A movie poster for the 1986 film ‘Reform School Girls’ with Wendy O. Williams, Sybil Danning and Andy Warhol pal Pat Ast (pictured prominently above).
The “WIP” (“women in prison”) film genre has several sub-genres ranging from nuns in prison to an interpretation favored mostly by European filmmakers who loved to include Nazis in their chick-centric prison flicks. Italy, Germany, and France put out quite a few WIP films back in the 70s and 80s, as did the U.S. of A. and the Philippines. When the first women in prison films made their way to the big screen they were more dramatically inclined. One of the very first films to tell the tale of a girl behind bars is Hold Your Man starring the profitable on-screen power couple of Jean Harlow and Clark Gable. The film is full of some pretty salacious stuff. Thankfully, this was 1933 and Hollywood films were still getting away with more on screen prior to the enforcement of rules laid out in the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 being widely adopted within the industry as it wasn’t really wasn’t policed until late in 1934. Which made a film like Hold Your Man—whose plotline involved a gorgeous blonde getting stuck behind bars while she’s knocked up with her lover’s baby—possible.

You can find WIP films in every decade but because both the 1970s and 1980s are so near and dear to my heart—and because I’d quite frankly love the opportunity to do another one of these posts—we’re going to stay put in those two consecutive decades. The genre can be pretty strange and runs anywhere from girl-heavy drama which would generally fall into the “redemption” film category to straight-up pornography. In the 1950s WIP films were heavily influenced by pulp fiction novels but it wouldn’t take long for the films to evolve (or devolve perhaps) into exploitation flicks with lots of nudity, sex, violence, rape, and notably deviant plotlines.

The popularity of the genre and its many sub-genres soared during the 70s and 80s which would bring us , Chained Heat starring teen queen Linda Blair and Wendy O. Williams’s prison warden in Reform School Girls. So now that I think I’ve given you more than a few compelling reasons to take a deep dive into this strangely complex film genre, I’ve posted a large selection of WIP movie posters that are mostly NSFW as you would expect them to be.

‘The Big Bird Cage’ with Pam Grier and Sid Haig

A German movie poster for ‘99 Women.’
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
A jarringly realistic life-sized sculpture of actor Robert Shaw as ‘Quint’ from ‘Jaws’
08:51 am


Robert Shaw
Nick Marra

A close look at Nick Marra’s uncanny sculpture of ‘Quint’ played by actor Robert Shaw in ‘Jaws.’
While you may not know sculptor Nick Marra’s name, you have definitely seen his work in films like The Hateful Eight, Jurrasic Park and the television series American Horror Story. Marra has been involved in the business of making things appear to be real for over two decades. While I’d be foolish to say that the artist’s life-sized sculpture of actor Robert Shaw as “Quint” from Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film Jaws is the best thing he’s ever done, I would challenge you to disagree that the likeness is so uncanny it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between the real, (late) Mr. Shaw, and Marra’s sculpture of Shaw in character for his role.

Marra’s sculpture made its debut at this year’s Monsterpalooza and it almost puts his previous eerily lifelike sculpture of Yul Brynner’s animatronic character of the “Gunslinger” from the 1973 film Westworld (which was recently, and quite wonderfully reprised by actor Ed Harris in the television adaptation of the film) to shame. Sculpture is an art form I have a deep reverence for and I have many, many favorites in the field such a Mike Hill and Jordu Schell. Marra’s mirror image of Quint is so desperately spot-on that it’s rendered me at a near loss for words. I mean, Marra’s faux Quint is crushing a beer can in his right hand and it’s so authentic that you can hear the tin cracking from the force of Quint’s shark-hating hands just looking at it. In other words, the fake Quint looks so much like the real Quint that I’m not even sure if I’m the real me anymore. Though I only have two photos to show you, I have also posted a short video of the remarkably talented Marra talking about his latest work in which you can see the sculpture in all its glory after the jump…

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Dead millionaire meth-head’s movie is a minor masterpiece
10:01 am


The Evil Within
Andrew Getty
Michael Berryman

A couple of weeks ago I read the fascinating Guardian story about Andrew Getty — grandson of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty — a first-time filmmaker who obsessively spent nearly 15 years in production on his directorial debut, The Evil Within, only to die at age 47 from a hemorrhaging ulcer related to a history of recreational crystal meth use.

Getty’s film was a work of passion, a psychological art-house horror film that began principal photography in 2002 but continued shooting on and off again for five years as, according to Hollywood Reporter, “Getty labored over every frame, and every element of the filmmaking, insisting on making his own unique camera rigs, and building elaborate animatronic robots and expensive sets.”

Once photography was completed, Getty worked fanatically for years in post-production, having converted one of his mansion’s many rooms into a post-production suite, until succumbing to his fatal ulcer. 

Despite being a wealthy heir to an oil fortune, Getty had sunk every bit of his money into The Evil Within—to the tune of between $4 and $6 million, according to film producer, Michael Luceri.

Upon Getty’s untimely death, Luceri completed the film which only had some coloring and editing unfinished.

The film was released with very little fanfare direct to streaming on Amazon. A DVD release shortly followed, and I quickly snatched one up the very day it was made available. I had to see this thing for myself. Any work of art that a man would spend an entire third of his life obsessing over, only to die just short of completion just HAD to be good, or at the very least, INTERESTING.

I was not disappointed in The Evil Within AT ALL. While I wouldn’t call it a perfect film, it avoids the cardinal sin of filmmaking, as described by Frank Capra: dullness. It’s certainly NOT dull. I’d hesitate to use the word “masterpiece,” in describing Getty’s vision, but I’d not hesitate to call it a “minor masterpiece.”

Despite a few instances of some less-than-stellar digital visual effects, a few imperfect performances, and the fact that the film isn’t always quite sure of what it’s trying to be (somewhere between arthouse and exploitation), the film is entirely unlike anything else out there. Though I couldn’t exactly call this a low-budget film (I mean, sure, by HOLLYWOOD standards…), it’s certainly head and shoulders above most low-budget horror, and most of the places where the film has trouble finding its footing can be overlooked as the mistakes of a first-time director. It’s really a shame Getty died before being able to make a second film, having learned from his mistakes on the first. That’s not to say that there’s a lot of mistakes in the finished product. The Guardian piece on Getty and his film was rather unkind in their assessment, comparing it to Ed Wood’s notoriously “bad” Plan 9 From Outer Space. Though I’m a huge fan of Plan 9, I think it’s unfair to lump The Evil Within into that “so bad it’s good” category. The Evil Within has some genuinely effective and jaw-droppingly disturbing imagery, a decent-enough-for-horror premise, and a memorable performance by lead actor Fred Koehler, who plays the mentally challenged hero —a performance which The Guardian unfairly panned as “an unholy fusion of A Nightmare on Elm Street and the fictitious “Simple Jack” from the showbiz satire Tropic Thunder.” Get bent, Guardian.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Frank Frazetta wasn’t all Sword & Sorcery, he painted some classic movie posters too

“What’s New Pussycat?” 1965.
It was a painting of Ringo Starr that changed Frank Frazetta‘s life. Frazetta was a comic strip artist contributing to EC Comics, National Comics (later known as DC Comics) and Avon Comics. He was drawing Buck Rogers, Li’l Abner, Johnny Comet and helping out on Flash Gordon. Occasionally he would supply his talents to MAD magazine. That’s how he produced a painting of Ringo Starr for a spoof shampoo ad for the magazine. The picture caught the attention of PR guys at United Artists who commissioned Frazetta to produce the poster artwork for their Peter Sellers, Peter O’Toole, Woody Allen film What’s New Pussycat? For one day’s work, Frazetta earned his annual salary. It changed his life. The success of What’s New Pussycat? led to further poster commissions for a whole slate of movies: After the Fox, The Fearless Vampire Killers, The Night They Raided Minsky’s and The Gauntlet.

The movie work led to book cover work. He painted some of the most iconic covers for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and John Carter novels. And most famously redefined Conan the Barbarian as a bulging muscled, rugged behemoth. Frank Frazetta created a whole world of these Sword and Sorcery paintings which defined the genre and became synonymous with his name.

However, I do prefer Frazetta’s movie poster artwork which beautifully captures the whole joyful spirit of the swinging sixties, before progressing towards his more recognizable style in the seventies and eighties.
Frank Frazetta’s painting of Ringo Starr for MAD magazine 1964.
“What’s New Pussycat?” 1965.
More fabulous Frank Frazetta movie posters, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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