Does watching scary B-movies from the 1950s heighten your design skills? Improve your acuity to color? Based on these brain-melting covers of Psychotronic Video alone, I’d have to say there’s a distinct possibility.
Of course, it may just be that Psychotronic editor Michael J. Weldon is a fucking badass, that’s probably what’s really going on here. If you aren’t familiar with the Psychotronic cinema ethos, get yourself a copy of one of their books and don’t look back.
After issue 18 a bar code is present on the cover, which is unfortunate, but with images these profoundly enjoyable, it scarcely matters. (If you click on some of the images, you’ll be able to see a larger version.)
Plenty more Psychotronic Video covers after the jump…
Caligula actually had a lot going for it, at least on paper, but it was a doomed film from the start. The original screenplay was by Gore Vidal, but then he disowned it after director Tinto Brass made substantial changes (Brass maintains Vidal’s script was terrible, but it’s entirely possible that it was just too gay for his likings). Brass still could have made a good film though—at this point in his career he was known for groundbreaking experimental cinema (like the notorious “high class” Nazi sexploitation film Salon Kitty)—but producer Bob Guccione (of Penthouse magazine fame) wanted to film actual hardcore (rather than simulated) sex. Brass refused, so Guccione had someone else film the scenes, adding to the disjointed insanity of the whole production. Even the fantastic casting—Malcolm McDowell, Peter O’Toole, Helen Mirren, John Gielgud—was tempered by Brass casting his own bohemian friends as Roman elites, and Guccione throwing numerous Penthouse Pets into the sex scenes.
The result was worse than cheesy pornography—it’s confusing, pretentious, cheesy pornography—a $17.5 million Penthouse magazine-funded boondoggle, and an absolute camp classic that everyone should see… once.
This is why Protest, a 1981 mini-documentary on Canadian decency activists is such a charming relic. On the one hand, it’s always unpleasant to see any impulse to curtail free speech. On the other hand, these dowdy conservative Canucks seem so darn sweet and reasonable compared to their American counterparts. If this protest was in middle America, it would have been a spectacle of hellfire sermons and open hostility! The only altercation you even see is a light slap coming from an irate secularist!The rest is just hilariously polite Canadians campaignin’ for decency.
Why can’t our bluenose Christian pearl-clutchers be this considerate? I know it’s a stereotype, but they really do seem nicer up north!
I wrote about Chantal Akerman’s News From Home a few years ago on Dangerous Minds. With a recent high definition upload of the film to YouTube, I thought I’d take the opportunity to re-share this urban dream of a movie.
The films of Chantal Akerman are meditations on space, interior and exterior, and the emptiness within the clutter of both. There is a sense of alienation and distance in her films that can be chilly and desolate. The camera moored to the urbanscapes and architecture she sets her eye upon. Her art records the simple drama that exists in the day to day rhythm of life as lived, rarely pumped up by any narrative or cinematic gimmickry. Under the steady gaze of the camera the ordinary can be quite magical.
In Akerman’s News From Home , the main character is New York in the rough and tumble ‘70s. Akerman, a young woman alone in the city during perilous times, uses the camera as a means of dealing with a new and alien reality. As Akerman reads from letters sent from Belgium written by her concerned mother, we watch Manhattan in constant movement, a living, breathing thing. Among the people, buildings, automobiles and streets of the city, there is the quiet, lonely, soul who observes and feels apart from it all - watching detached, without engagement but great curiosity. The letters create an intimacy that contrasts profoundly with the coolness of the imagery.
Shot in 1977, News From Home, captures New York at a time when many artists, like Akerman, were coming to the city to tap into the energy and to be challenged by the prospects of living in the belly of the beast. It was a wonderful time, but it was also a dark time. In these images, you see a city on the cusp of transformation…for the good and the bad. From a purely historical point of view, to see 90 uninterrupted minutes of Manhattan in the mid-70s is a treat for my eyes. Rich with memories. This is the New York that informed revolutions in popular arts and spawned the arrival of punk culture.
Click the option to watch it in high definition, the clarity is stunning.
What is an artwork that no one can see? That’s the question French conceptual artist Pierre Bismuth asked himself ten years ago after finding out about an obscure artwork by Ed Ruscha—a fake rock placed somewhere in the Mojave desert at the end of the seventies and apparently left there. Ruscha was filmed making and depositing the piece, named “Rocky II” (after the Sylvester Stallone movie) for a 1980 BBC documentary—the only definitive proof that it ever even existed. Bismuth was so captivated by this idea that he determined to find Rocky II, and make a documentary about his search—Bismuth describes it as a “fake fiction.”
The closer he got to Ruscha, the more he was “met with a weird silence.” Eventually, he realised he would have to confront the artist himself. So, posing as a journalist with a camera crew in tow, he attended the press conference for the Ruscha retrospective at London’s Hayward Gallery in 2009. There he “aggressively” posed the question: “Where is Rocky number two?” Footage of Ruscha’s reaction, clearly caught off guard but amused, opens Bismuth’s film. While acknowledging the artwork’s existence, he declined to reveal its location, wishing Bismuth “good luck” in his search.
Being the man who devised the original storyline for the Michel Gondry film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—for which he won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay—Bismuth didn’t go about making his film in the most straight-forward way, applying the same Möbius strip logic in his search. Bismuth hired an ex-LAPD homicide detective, turned P.I., named Michael Scott to hunt for the piece and two Hollywood screenwriters – D.V. DeVincentis (writer of cult movie Grosse Point Blank and Stephen Frears’ High Fidelity) and Anthony Peckham (Clint Eastwood’s Invictus and Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes) – to write a short film about the rock. The idea being, Bismuth says, that both are essentially engaged in the same process:
“The private investigator, in order to find the truth, will develop some crazy theories that turn out to be, in the end, totally fictional. And the screenwriter, in order to create fiction, has to start from real fact. I thought it was interesting the way they go in opposite directions and probably cross in the middle.”
Although 90% complete, the project has launched a crowdfunding site to fund the filming of the short scripted by DeVincentis and Peckham that takes the form of an interactive treasure hunt for Rocky II.
Less than a year after the premiere of Monty Python’s Flying Circus on BBC, Terry Gilliam’s credit sequence for Gordon Hessler’s Cry of the Banshee was also presented to the world. For those of us who are more likely to think of a fleshy foot or perhaps “Conrad Poohs and His Dancing Teeth” as typical of Gilliam’s well-known cutout technique might be surprised to see it used to such different effect.
I’ve never read the Fifty Shades of Grey book nor will I ever read it. I do, however, feel like I know enough about the damned book because social media, websites and references to the tome on TV shows are a constant. As you probably know by now, the book was turned into a movie and will be released the day before Valentine’s Day on February 13, 2015. The movie is already coming under fire due to the supposed lack of chemistry between actors Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele and Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey. If you actually give a rat’s ass you can read about the movie’s troubles here.
I don’t care about book or the movie, but if it starred Steve Buscemi as Christian Grey… I’d watch the shit out it and demand a sequel. AND then a prequel.
Once upon a time there was a little boy called Ingmar who lived with his father a clergyman and his mother a nurse in a snow-capped land in the north of Europe.
When he was five, Ingmar would hide under the dinner table and listen to his parents and their friends talk to each other as they ate their food. It was warm under the table and he dreamed about the conversations he overheard.
Having a pastor as a father taught Ingmar to look behind “the scenes of life and death.” He listened to his sermons and made the acquaintance of the devil. The devil was everywhere—“palpable and elusive”—in his father’s sermons and the fairy stories his mother read him a night, and “on the flowered wallpaper of the nursery.”
Ingmar was an imaginative little boy and he dreamt up adventure stories about his life to tell his friends. But his friends did not believe his stories and that hurt Ingmar. So, he withdrew from the world and kept his dreams to himself, only sometimes he would act out his stories with toys, and sometimes he would put them on in a little toy theater to amuse himself and his parents.
When Ingmar grew up he turned his memories of childhood into films, plays and stories.
More on Bergman and the rest of the interview, after the jump…
There is nothing more inspirational, beautiful and harrowing than an artist who takes true risks. Being an artist, especially an independent filmmaker, is hard enough. It’s not like things like job security, steady paychecks and any sort of proper retirement are going to be a constant. Couple that with being a filmmaker who works within a genre that is often critically maligned and life is suddenly a much more harsh trek to cut through. But none of that ever stopped Joseph Sarno, whose cinematic trail began in the 1960’s, with such arty and dramatic forays like Sin in the Suburbs and Inga, then segueing firmly into being one of the most notable cult directors of the 1970’s and 80’s. His legacy was first covered in print thanks to RE/Search’s seminal Incredibly Strange Films book. However, it was only a matter of time for an enterprising filmmaker to come along and do a documentary on the man and his work.
It took Swedish director Wiktor Ericsson and his film, A Life in Dirty Movies to make this needed venture a vital reality and bless him for it.
Ericsson and company had the chance to delve into Sarno’s rich cinematic past, talk with a few of his key artists and associates, as well as portray a slice of life into Joe’s golden years with his former actress, wife/partner, the lithe juggernaut of a woman, Peggy Steffans-Sarno. But A Life in Dirty Movies is about more than just a man who who forged his own path in the worlds of sexploitation and hardcore cinema and even, to some degree, more about one incredible love story of loyalty. It’s about the heart and soul of an artist in his later years who has given so much of himself to something he truly believed in. There are few things more compelling than a creative person with a “damn the torpedoes” approach, especially when it is coming from someone as emotionally forward thinking and sensitive as Joe Sarno.
A Life in Dirty Movies is an interesting title for this film, since early on, it becomes readily apparent that Sarno’s approach to film was anything but dirty. In fact, a couple of commentators joke about how any raincoat crowd going to see one of Sarno’s moodier character studies would have been crippled when it came to having a private hand-party in the theater. (This all invokes one of my favorite film descriptors ever, courtesy of Eddie Muller and Daniel Faris’ book Grindhouse. The term in question is “a no hatter.” This was a term to describe a sexploitation film that failed to arouse the male audience, since they would often attend wearing hats for them to take care of business in.) But that’s the thing. Simple prurience can become boring quick unless there are other layers going on, which was something Joe often incorporated.
With that, we get glimpses of his work, ranging from his exquisitely lit, black and white art-type 60’s films, like Sin in the Suburbs and Vibrations to his 1970’s color character-melodramas such as Laura’s Toys and Abigail Leslie is Back in Town. Former collaborators, ranging from editors to actors (including the fantastic Annie Sprinkle), noted film writers like Jim Morton, as well as admirers in the form of John Waters, are all interviewed and have similar observations of both Sarno the man, as well as the director. One of the biggest ones was Joe’s emphasis on female pleasure. In a world where male orgasm is king, while pleasure is relegated to borderline incidental for women, Sarno was indeed a rare bird in his time and, to a lesser degree, even now. He definitely paved the way for female-centric filmmakers in erotica, which would go on to include Eric Edwards (an actor who was in a number of Sarno’s films in the 70’s) and another ground breaker in the form of Candida Royalle, whose company, Femme, catered specifically to women. These were just two of many who were able to create what they created thanks to filmmakers like Joe. One impressive tidbit that is revealed within the film is that Joe wrote the scripts for every single film he ever directed and given that his filmography, including both his soft and hardcore work, is well over a hundred, that is no mean feat!
Sarno’s love and respect for women can also be summed up by his decades long marriage to Peggy. Well educated and born from a wealthy family in New York, Peggy’s an absolute lioness to her lion in twilight. Dark haired with piercing eyes and a throaty, yet feminine voice, Peggy’s most striking feature is her absolute fierce loyalty and belief in her mate. Especially given that it is not the blind, Hollywood-variety of faith. She talks candidly about the harsh realities of their financial situation and past deals that did zero to line their pockets. (Talk about the sad, blues-song reality of too many talented and notable artists in their later years.) Their relationship is, in many ways, even more notable than Joe’s impressive filmography because it is so intensely rare.
More sweetness that is captured is getting to see Joe enjoy the beginnings of the revival of his art while he was still here. (He passed away on April 26, 2010.) It is hard to not feel some tremors of heart ache when you hear him say, “I thought everyone had forgotten me,” which makes moments like seeing him enjoy his very own tribute at the British Film Institute all the more resonant.
Speaking of tributes, A Life in Dirty Movies is an honest and loving one to an American filmmaker whose craft was, to quote Peggy, “...in his blood.” It’s a great documentary for fringe film fans and the curious alike. You don’t have to be into adult-themed films to appreciate the real-life story of a director who truly worked hard and cared about his craft and people in general.
BAFTA is the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and every year there is a BAFTA award ceremony held in London, which is kind of the British equivalent of the Oscars. For the 1974 awards, hosted by the always suave David Niven at the Royal Albert Hall, a few of the important winners had to pre-record their acceptance speeches due to filming commitments. One of the deserving winners that night was Jack Nicholson, who won the BAFTA for Best Actor for Chinatown and The Last Detail. As Nicholson was on a set in Salem, Oregon filming Miloš Forman celebrated adaptation of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, he sent over what is probably the best ever in absentia acceptance speech in BAFTA history with a little help from Danny DeVito, Louise Fletcher and some of the other inmates.
In 1962, an insanely violent trading card series called “Mars Attacks” was painted by the noted pulp novel cover artist Norman Saunders. In sequence, the cards depicted the invasion of Earth (a pretty obvious Cold War allegory) by some just really atrociously violent Martians, who did a lot of shamelessly violent things to our fair planet’s inhabitants both human and animal, and the violent retribution visited upon Mars in violent retaliation.
They were pretty violent.
Even by today’s standards some of these are a little much, but in 1962 parents were freaking the hell out. And children were buying them in droves in response to the parental freakout because somehow parents never figure out how that works. From an informative article on the set’s history on pascard.com:
Cards depicting burning flesh, buxom women and dogs being zapped by aliens are bound to create an uproar, even today. The brainchild of Len Brown and Woody Gelman, this 55-card set conveyed the story of ruthless Martians attacking Earth.
At one point, Topps reportedly made efforts to tone down 13 of the most controversial cards, but after a complaint from a Connecticut district attorney, production was stopped completely. The commotion created by this set must have been somewhat surprising for Brown and Gelman, who previously collaborated on the equally gory 1962 Civil War News set.
Brown wrote the story on the backs of the Mars Attacks cards. Wally Wood and Bob Powell were enlisted to work on the sketches and renowned artist Norman Saunders painted the cards.