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Happy Birthday Divine
10.19.2011
07:23 am

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Happy Birthday Harris Glenn Milstead, born today at the Women’s Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1945.

Glenn will be forever in our hearts as the one and only Divine - legendary star of John Waters’ movies, and singer of a slew of Hi-Nrg classics, “I’m So Beautiful”, “Walk Like A Man”, “T-Shirt and Tight Blue Jeans”, and “Shake It Up”.

I was fortunate to see Divine in concert in 1984, and it is a memory I will always treasure. To celebrate what would have been Glenn’s 66th birthday, here are a few of Divine’s hitsplus a seldom seen interview from Channel 4’s The Tube.
 

 

 
More from the beautiful Divine, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it’: Dracula’s ‘Gay Magic’
10.19.2011
05:19 am

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Brought to you by the always hilarious Everything is Terrible!

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Film Maker’s Life
10.18.2011
03:45 pm

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It’s nearly 36 years since Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered in horrific circumstances, on a beach near Rome, in November 2 1975. The story went Pasolini had been killed while trolling. The 17-year-old hustler, who originally admitted his killing, retracted his confession in May 2005, claiming 3 people, with “southern accents” had killed Pasolini, calling him a “dirty communist”.

Later, an investigation into new evidence, which suggested Pasolini had been murdered over a blackmail plot involving stolen reels of his film Salo - 120 days of Sodom, proved inconclusive, and his grim and brutal murder remains unsolved.

Pasolini was a “Marxist, mystic, Catholic and atheist”, a poet and novelist who wrote over 25 novels and half-a-dozen volumes of poetry.

Pasolini was also one of the most important, radical and influential film-makers of the twentieth century, whose life and works as author, poet and film-maker are ripe for rediscovery.

In this short documentary, we see Pasolini the film-maker, the man of singular vision behind the films Accatone, Mamma Roma, The Gospel According to Matthew, Oedipus Rex, The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales and Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom.

Pasolini was an auteur, as he explains:

My films are the work of an author with a very singular individual characteristics. I’ve never wanted to make a conclusive statement, I’ve always posed various problems and left them open to consideration…The cinema is an explosion of my love for reality. I have never conceived of making film that would be the work of a group, I have always thought of film as the work of an author, not only the script and the direction, but the choice of sets and locations, the characters, even the clothes - I choose everything.

Pier Paolo Pasolini - A Film Maker’s Life (1971) is a fine introductory film to Pasolini, the man and his work, though it ignores his sexuality and its importance to his life. With contributions from Alberto Moravia, Franco Citti, and Pasolini, himself, who discusses his background, his politics, film-making, and revolution.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The cast of John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ watches the 2011 version of ‘The Thing’
10.18.2011
07:54 am

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As you can imagine, they’re not exactly thrilled.

 
(via Nerdcore)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Christopher Walken will tear your throat out: ‘The Walken Dead’
10.14.2011
02:38 pm

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Brooklyn-based comedy outfit POYKPAC put together this witty homage to Christopher Walken and parody of zombie movies. Nicely done.

POYKPAC are Jenn Lyon, Maggie Ross, Ryan Hall, Ryan Hunter and Taige Jensen

More cowbell!
 

 
Via The High Definite

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday Lenny Bruce
10.13.2011
03:36 pm

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The man who spawned modern comedy, Lenny Bruce was born today in 1925. Instead of a selection of his well-known monologues from stage and TV appearances, here is Dance Hall Racket, a low budget exploitation movie, which Bruce wrote and starred in, alongside his wife Honey Harlow, and Timothy Farrell as Umberto Scialli.

Produced by George Weiss (best known as the producer of Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda?), Dance Hall Racket was the third of the Umberto Scialli films, following on from Devil’s Sleep and Racket Girls, in which Scialli was killed. Dance Hall Racket is a quirky, trashy, Z-movie, and leaves no clue to the Lenny Bruce who would, within the decade, start a revolution in comedy.
 

 
Bonus clips, Lenny sings and on-stage, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The true story behind ‘The Mackintosh Man’
10.11.2011
05:27 pm

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About halfway through The Freedom Trap, author Desmond Bagley reveals his hand towards his sources. It comes around page one hundred, when the central character Owen Stannard is briefed by his boss, Mackintosh:

‘What do you know about the British prison system?’
‘Nothing.’
‘I’ll let you have a copy of the Mountbatten Report,’ he said. ‘You’ll find it fascinating reading. But I’ll give you the gist of it now. Lord Mountbatten found that the British prisons are full of holes as a Swiss cheese. Do you know how many escapes there are each year?’
‘No. There was something about it in the papers a couple of years ago, but I didn’t read it too closely.’
‘More than five hundred. If it’s any less than that they think they’ve had a good year. Of course, most of the escapees are picked up quite soon, but a small percentage get clean away - and that small percentage is rising. It’s a troublesome situation.’

I’d picked up a copy because of its cover, who doesn’t? Maybe the French? As once, most of their covers were all the same - that’s equality for you. The cover had Paul Newman, as Stannard, with suit and tie, gun in hand, and it left a fluid memory of John Huston’s rather fine film version, The Mackintosh Man.

Bagley’s story mixes a little bit of fact with a lot of page-turning fiction. It’s a tale of double agents, the British Secret Service and the Scarperers, a fictional organization that helps long-term prisoners escape gaol - all for the right money. Back to our opening scene. Mackintosh now makes it clear he isn’t interested in the “‘murderers or rapists, homicidal maniacs or ordinary small time thieves’” that escape from gaol, his focus is State Security, and how to stop double agents, like the real-life George Blake, turning up in Moscow, “‘where he chirped his head off.’”

‘For the first time in years someone has come up with a brand new crime. Crime is just like any other business - it’s conducted only for profit - and someone has figured a way to make profit out of getting people out of prison…

...an organization was set up, dedicated to springing long-term prisoners who could pay enough, and you be surprised how many of those there are. And once such an organization gets going, like any other business it tends to expand, and whoever is running it has gone looking for custom - and he doesn’t care where the money comes from, either.’
‘The Russians?’
‘Who else?’ said Mackintosh sourly.

 
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It was the Cold War and the Russians were still off the Christmas card list. The way Bagley tells it, the Red Menace was everywhere. In the Freedom Trap, the Reds actively liberating double agents like Slade - as the character Stannard explains when he meets Slade in prison:

It was about this time that I first met Slade. He was a new boy inside for the first offence and he’d got forty-two years, but I don’t believe the First Offenders Act covers espionage. I had heard about him before, of course: the news broadcasts had been full of the Slade Trial. Since most of the juicy bits had been told in camera no one really knew what Slade had been up to, but from all accounts he was the biggest catch since Blake.

To anyone reading this in the early seventies it may have seemed like non-fiction - as it came almost a decade after notorious double-agent, George Blake had been sentenced to forty-two years in jail, and who, only 5 years later, had managed to escape from Wormwood Scrubs Prison, in 1966. Then, it was commonly believed Blake had been helped by an organization, just like Bagley’s fictional “Scarperers”, paid for by the K.G.B., and run by a petty criminal, Sean Bourke.

It wasn’t just fiction writers who believed this was what happened, respected journalist E. H. Cookridge stated in his 1970 biography, George Blake Double Agent that the K.G.B. had financed Blake’s escape, claiming the cost for such an operation was “mere chickenfeed”, and Blake was far too important a spy for the Russians to lose.

This was all fine on paper, but in reality both Bagley and Cookridge were wrong, as Blake’s escape from prison was the work of amateurs and more reminiscent of Carry On Spying than Funeral in Berlin.

 
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George Blake was born George Behar in the Netherlands in 1922. During the Second World War he worked as part of the Dutch Resistance against the invading German army. Blake was so successful he was soon on the Gestapo’s most wanted list. His keenness verged on the fanatical, something which would become more apparent as Blake grew older. His experience with the Resistance highlighted his seemingly natural talent for subterfuge. Arrested by the Germans, Blake just managed to escape, following his family out of Holland to England.

In Britain, Behar was at first frustrated by the long immigration process required to ensure no sneaky German agents were hidden amongst the influx of refugees. To fit in with his adopted country, Behar changed his name to the anglicized Blake, and applied for work in the Navy, his intention was to become a spy, and return to Holland. It didn’t quite happen that way, as his superiors were more than a little suspicious of Blake’s methods which were straight out of the fictional Richard Hannay, and anticipated the fantasy of James Bond and even Matt Helm. It’s worth considering whether Ian Fleming ever met Blake during the war years and if he had, did Blake fuel the writer’s imagination?

After the war, Blake became fully fledged spy, working undercover as part of the diplomatic service. This was when his B-movie imagination kicked-in - writing in invisible ink, arranging bizarre pick-ups for worthless information and running a team of spies.

In 1950, Blake found himself under a different invading army when he was posted to Seoul, Korea. He was captured by insurgents form the North and held prisoner. The North Koreans had no sympathy for prisoners of war, and Blake and his fellow POWs were treated barbarically and forced on a long death march from city to bombed city. Cookridge described part of it thus:

The death march went on for many days. Occasionally there were overnight stops in villages. Usually the civilian internees were packed into one room which had no windows and was covered with vermin and excrement….

...Those who fell by the side of the road, watching mutely as the column passed them by…“We heard many shots…the dying were pushed into the ditch.”

They were repeatedly moved village to village, until they reached their destination, Chung-Kang-Djin. On arrival, the POWs made a rough estimate of the casualties - a least one hundred had died or been shot during the march, just over a quarter of their number. But this was only the start, as they were handed over to the Chinese military, who began a process of brainwashing techniques on the beleaguered inmates.

Blake has since claimed he was never brain-washed, claiming he turned to Soviet Communism because of the horrors witnessed during the Korean War. Whatever the truth, the attempts at brainwashing were later confirmed by his fellow POWs.

After negotiations for a cease-fire, Blake returned home a hero to Britain. Ironically, it wasn’t long before he offered his services to the KGB, and so began his 9-year career as a dastardly double-agent.

Working for the British Secret Service, Blake was transferred to Berlin where he set-up and ran his own spy ring for the K.G.B. Blake’s love of cloak and dagger defined his time in Berlin. He was responsible for the exposure and deaths of an estimated 400 agents - something else he later denied, though his K.G.B. bosses have since confirmed this number as correct. Blake verged on the fanatical with his work, having no compunction in hiring spies to work for him, then exposing them as traitors, as Cookridge explains:

I have a long list of agents Blake had betrayed between 1955 and 1959, but in deference to the regulations of the Official Secrets Act, I shall mention only a few, whose names became known through “show trials” in East Germany.

In 1955 Hans Joachim Koch, a then 43-year-old radio operator, was arrested when emptying a “dead letter box” in Pankow Park, which Blake had arranged and of which he had given the information to the K.G.B….

At about the same time Johann Baumgart, an official of the East German railways, who had produced twenty-five remarkable reports about railway transports, was given away by Blake and sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment….

Ewald Jantke, a former Luftwaffe radio operator, and Arno Gugel, son of a Gestapo official, who with a young woman called Ursula Lehmann had formed a successful “cell” in East Germany, were betrayed when Jankte became too cocky and joined the East German People’s Police…

Blake was instrumental in “burning” an outpost established in Dresden, which kept in contact with the secret service in West Berlin by exchanging stamps for collectors…marked with microdots…

The list goes on, but you get the idea, it was all fun and games straight from a John Le Carre. It beggars belief how he wasn’t uncovered, or even suspected as a double-agent sooner, until you appreciate nearly the whole of the British Secret Service was a private members’ club for Soviet double agents, most famously the Cambridge Five (Guy Burgess, Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt, John Cairncross) and most controversially, the suggestion Director General of MI5, Roger Hollis was also working for the K.G.B.

 
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Blake had a good run, destroying most of MI6’s operations in eastern Europe, seeding double agents, and notoriously revealing the tunnel the Allies had built under the Berlin Wall. But all things must pass, and in 1961, the game was up, Blake was arrested sent to trial, parts of which were held in camera for security reasons. He pleaded guilty to the five counts against him, and expected to receive a sentence of 14 years imprisonment. However, Lord Parker of Waddington imposed a sentence of 14 years imprisonment on each of the 5 counts:

“Those in respect of counts one, two and three will be consecutive, and those in respect of counts four and five will be concurrent, making a total of forty-two tears; imprisonment.”

Forty-two years, it was “the longest prison sentence ever imposed in modern British history…” And herein lies the tale of his escape. 

Blake wasn’t set free by the machinations of the K.G.B., but by passionate amateurs, who disagreed with Blake’s harsh sentencing.

 
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When he was in Wormwood Scrubs, Blake came in to contact with Michael Randle and Pat Pottle, two men imprisoned for their non-violent protest against USAF Weatherfield, a British airbase used by the American Air Force during the Cold War.

Randle was a conscientious objector, and a member of the Aldermaston March Committee which organised the first Aldermaston March against British nuclear weapons, in Easter 1958. Pottle was a founder member of the Committee of 100, an anti-nuclear direct action group which broke away from Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Their outrage at the “vicious” sentence imposed on Blake saw Pottle and Randle team up, once they were released from prison, with another ex-con Séan Bourke, in a bold plan to set Blake free.

Prior to his escape, the police and prison authorities received numerous warnings that Blake would make a bid for freedom. Security was tightened but it was to no avail, as the BBC reported on October 22 1966:

One of Britain’s most notorious double-agents, George Blake, has escaped from prison in London after a daring break-out believed to have been masterminded by the Soviet Union.

Wardens at Wormwood Scrubs prison last saw him at the evening roll call, at 1730 GMT.

An hour-and-a-half later, his cell was discovered to be empty.

After a short search, the escape route was found. Bars in a window at the end of a landing had been sawn away and a rope ladder hung down inside the prison wall.

Sean Bourke had prepared a ladder made from nylon thread and knitting needles. As in Bagley’s book, the ladder was thrown over a perimeter wall, where Slade/Blake climbed over to an awaiting vehicle. Unlike the novel, Blake wasn’t liberated to Ireland and a well staffed safe house, but was moved apartment to apartment, bed-sit to bed-sit by Bourke, Pottle and Randle, never staying anywhere long enough to attract police attention.

Eventually, in a farcical denouement, Blake was driven by Randle, in a Commer Dormobile from London to Berlin, and then through to East Germany. Through the crucial parts of the journey, Blake remained hidden under the bench seat, with Randle’s children sitting comfortably on top. The incident made fools of the security and secret services, but revealed the ability of committed individuals to change history.

Blake became a hero in Soviet Russia, but his actions seemed pointless after Perestroika. In 1990, he published his autobiography No Other Choice, and claimed his time spent in Moscow had been the happiest of his life. Sean Bourke dined out on the escape story for years, becoming the focus for media attention, and, of course, Simon Gray famously turned the relationship between Blake and Bourke in prison into his play Cell Mates- the production Stephen Fry ran out on, in 1995.

In June 1991, Randle and Pottle were eventually put on trial for their involvement in Blake’s escape, but were found not guilty by a jury, after arguing that, while they in no way condoned Blake’s espionage activities for either side, they were right to help him because the forty-two year sentence he received was inhuman and hypocritical.
 

 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Charles and Ray Eames: Mystical toys
10.11.2011
01:11 pm

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The fun and beauty of toys is they exist purely for pleasure… but within the most wonderful of toys there is poetry and secret teachings.

“Toys are not really as innocent as they look. Toys and games are preludes to serious ideas.”  - Charles Eames.

Charles and Ray Eames made over 100 short films. Many of them had toys as their subject. In Tops (1969) and the solar powered Do-Nothing Machine (1957), the Eames celebrate design and movement for their own sake as well as their potential to open doors of perception. 

The Do-Nothing Machine was created by the Eames to do exactly what its name says - nothing. In the 1950s, when progress was our most important product, a machine that did nothing, other than dazzle the eye and compel one to meditate upon the beauty of form, sunlight and gravity, was a radical statement. Eames’ machine could be seen as a precursor to the psychedelic experience: a device to tickle the senses and bring us into the NOW. Add the fact that it is solar-powered and we have something that is positively visionary in all senses of the word.

In our goal-oriented society, a toy is a respite from getting things done. A toy is like the Buddha nature, it need not justify itself. It just is, of the moment, no results required, no function necessary other than in the delight of being. But within the playful nature of a toy, there are things to be learned if you so choose to discover them.

A top is perfect, profound in its simplicity, offering up a multitude of possible teachings. Truly alive when it is in balance, the top, spinning like a prayer wheel with a sense of humor, in accordance with natural law, is a symbol of the Dharma as it spins upon its invisible axis. The spine of the top is charged like some kind of tantric machine. With each new spin it is reborn.

Watch in wonder.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Celebrate Ed Wood’s birthday by watching this ‘Incredibly Strange’ documentary
10.09.2011
11:38 pm

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The fabulously demented auteur Ed Wood was born 87 years ago today and to celebrate this momentous occasion I am sharing a delightful documentary on Mr Wood that was broadcast on the BBC in 1989.

This is an episode of Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show hosted by Jonathan Ross.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Frozen ‘Jack Torrance’ from ‘The Shining’ Halloween costume
10.06.2011
04:59 pm

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This looks more like a frosty Noel Fielding (from The Mighty Boosh) Halloween costume than Jack Nicholson in The Shining, doesn’t it? It’s all about the face! And this is the face of Vince Noir!

Below, Nicholson as “Jack Torrance” in The Shining. No way, right?


 
(via Super Punch)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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