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‘Moe Gets Tied Up,’ Andy Warhol’s ultra-rare 1966 movie starring the Velvet Underground
06.25.2015
07:16 am

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Art
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Music

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A very, very seldom-seen Andy Warhol movie, called Moe Gets Tied Up or, alternatively, Moe in Bondage, is up on YouTube, and it has had a scant 89 views as I type. While this Velvet Underground footage is not quite as much fun as A Symphony of Sound, Warhol’s must-see film of a VU and Nico rehearsal jam—mainly since there’s no music in this one—boy, it sure is seldom encountered. Shot in 1966, it predates their once-despised, now-lionized debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico.

The “Moe” of the title is the Velvets’ drummer, Maureen Tucker, whose bandmates have tied her to a chair and are now hanging around nibbling on sandwiches and pieces of fruit. It is sure to disappoint the pain fetishists among you. Look at it this way: if you’d never heard “Venus in Furs,” this film might give you the impression that the Velvets’ sex kicks consisted not so much of S&M as benign neglect.

Very little information is available about this movie because so few people have seen it, but the 32-minute version below seems to be missing a large chunk. A Velvet Underground filmography claims that the original is “a two-reel set for double screen projection” and notes the existence of “35-minute unofficial video copies,” one of which is likely the source of this vid. When MoMA screened Moe Gets Tied Up in 2008, the Village Voice reported that it “begins with Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison tying Moe Tucker, quite inexpertly, to a chair.” Since Tucker is already tied up at the start of the video below, and since the Voice review gives the movie’s length as one hour and six minutes, I’m going to bet that this is roughly the movie’s second half. (Incidentally, the review says nothing about double screen projection.) The Voice writer, who is mysteriously identified in the byline as “Village Voice Contributor,” also complains that almost none of the movie’s dialogue is audible, so don’t blame the buzzing soundtrack of this bootleg if you can’t make out what Sterling Morrison is mumbling about sandwiches. If you really need to know what people were talking about at the Factory, you can always read a.

Now if someone could please upload Velvet Underground Tarot Cards...
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Feminist psychodrama ‘Felt’ examines sexism, gender and violence
06.25.2015
06:35 am

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Feminism
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When I was a university student there was a slogan chanted by the more militant feminists:

All men are rapists.

Their suggested solution to this problem was to “Cheese wire all sexist bastards.” (i.e. cut off all male genitals). It was a provocative response but revealed how many women perceived the world as a hostile place, experiencing sexism, chauvinism and oppression on a daily basis. Move on three decades and little appears to have changed. Today figures were released by the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK that show a record number of prosecutions in England and Wales for violence against women and girls. The figures include cases of rape, domestic violence and honor killing, while figures released by the University of Michigan show that more than 20% of female students experienced “some sort of nonconsensual sexual behavior in the past year,” with around 12% experiencing “nonconsensual sexual penetration.” It’s dispiriting reading to think for all the progressive politics, feminism and political correct agendas, little has really changed in the relationship between men and women.
 
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Amy Everson in opening sequence of ‘Felt.’
 
A new film Felt by documentary filmmaker Jason Banker and artist Amy Everson highlights the issue of endemic sexism and the extreme responses it can inspire. Felt is the story of a young woman Amy (Amy Everson) who is disconnected from the world and finds her everyday life is a “fucking nightmare.” She is (apparently) recovering from some kind of sexual trauma—what this may be is never made explicit—other than her character saying around halfway through the movie that women are brutalized by men and invalidated for not having a dick. To cope with the sexism and hostility she feels around her, Amy designs herself a “man suit”—think Buffalo Bill’s skinsuit, but this one’s made of nylon—in which she parades around her secret hideaway in a local wood—experiencing her new identity and having dreams of being a “superhero.” Her close female friends think something is wrong and try to help, but Amy believes she is just expressing herself—or exorcising her demons—as she thinks best.
 
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You kinda feel this ain’t gonna end well…
 
The men and women around Amy tend to be little more than caricatures: they’re either dumb or douchebags. An emo rambles on about roofies and rape; a Christian woman wants to pray for Amy; a friend’s abusive boyfriend, an engineer, demands respect for being, well, an engineer, a useful part of society and a man; the photographer objectifies women but is disgusted by their bodily functions (farting); and so on. We are dropped into this world without any back story—the man suit appears first appears around fifteen minutes in—or a real emotional connection with Amy and therefore Felt demands the audience bring a lot of understanding/sympathy for Amy and her experience of the world.
 
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If you go down to the woods today…
 
Felt has the feel of a hybrid, which in essence it is. Originally intended as a music video, the film developed into a documentary about Amy Everson and her art, which is inspired by her own sexual trauma, before becoming an improvised film. Being improvised means some of the actors appear to be merely reacting to Amy’s performance rather than presenting real characters.

Everson gives a very good performance, though at times it seemed as though I was watching Everson being Everson rather than Everson being “Amy,” and there is good support from the cast especially by the scene-stealing Roxanne Lauren Knouse. Jason Banker’s direction (and camerawork) is highly assured and very impressive—the opening montage of images is like a short art film. Overall, Felt is a feminist tale for today and has many good things to recommend it. You can judge for yourself as Felt goes on release from tomorrow details here.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Blood’: An eerily hypnotic tour through Europe’s largest ‘blood factory’
06.24.2015
05:44 am

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In my most dire of days, my friends and I could always make a little extra scratch at the local plasma center. Payment would vary, but it was usually $40 for the first “donation” of the week, and $60 for the second, meaning an underemployed dirtbag like myself could make an extra $400 a month for sitting back and just letting the blood flow. It was fairly painless and only took about 2 hours. The machine would draw the blood, separate the plasma, then send the blood right back to your veins—zero actual blood loss. It was nearly entirely automated too, and as we lay in orderly little rows, one got the distinct feeling we were being “harvested.”

If the plasma center was a farm, it was a tiny, sustainable, mom and pop set-up. Compared to Europe’s largest blood center, it was downright pastoral. Photographer Greg White put together this hypnotic little short film, Blood, which focuses almost entirely on the non-human aspect of blood collection, storage and processing. The setting so robotic and industrial, it’s easy to see why White calls the blood center a “blood factory.” That’s inaccurate of course, since the human body is the actual blood factory, but one can’t help but admire the mechanical ballet orchestrating such precious and human materials.
 

 
Via Fast Company

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Two kids in 1993 remade ‘Jurassic Park’ with toys and a VHS video camera—and it rules
06.24.2015
05:27 am

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Amusing
Movies

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Michael Raisch and David Chakrin, Summer 1993. Photo by Raisch Studios.
 
Jurassic World recently broke the record for biggest opening weekend in North America, and the highest-grossing opening worldwide, surpassing The Avengers and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2,  becoming the first film to gross $500 million worldwide in its opening weekend. Despite its enormous success, many people agree, it totally sucks.

Slightly more interesting, is a recently released video short—a “remake” of Jurassic Park done by two kids (David Chakris and Michael Raisch ) with a video camera back in 1993, using toy dinosaurs, cars, and Kenner action figures.

Their website explains:

In the summer of 1993 inspired by the release of Jurassic Park, Michael and David set out to recreate the excitement and visuals of the hit film. Over a period 6 months in New Jersey they filmed multiple versions of the film until they were pleased with their final version. Equipped with the best VHS era technology, [Michael and David] re-created the movie magic of Jurassic Park with hand drawn sets, action figures and fishing line.

 

Production sketch from “1990s Kid Version of Jurassic Park,” courtesy Raisch Studios.
 
The perhaps not a masterpiece, but nonetheless adorable 2008 Michel Gondry film, Be Kind Rewind, introduced the concept of “sweded” films. In Be Kind Rewind, a struggling VHS rental store loses its entire video collection after being inadvertently magnetized. The protagonists, played by Mos Def and Jack Black, attempt to replace the store’s video collection by recreating films using a camcorder, claiming they are “special editions from Sweden.” These “sweded” films are the centerpiece of Be Kind Rewind, and a (now defunct) tie-in website, SwededFilms.com, was created—serving as a database for sweded movies, both from the film and fan-made. That website contained the rules for creating sweded videos:

1. Must be based on an already produced film
2. Range 2-8 minutes in length
3. Must not contain computer generated graphics
4. Based on films less than 35 years old
5. Special effects must be limited to camera tricks and arts ’n crafts
6. Sound effects created by human means
7. Hilarious.

The 1990s Kid Remake of Jurassic Park was produced before Be Kind Rewind and the concept of sweded movies, but it certainly fits the criteria of and ranks among the best sweded films.  The dinosaur attack scenes, in particular, had us cackling.

Check out the “edited” version here and be sure to hit up the website for lots of behind-the-scenes photos and info.
 
“I think this park has to do with dinosaurs.”

 
H/T It’s Nice That

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Yoko Ono was in a sleazy sexploitation movie called ‘Satan’s Bed’ (and it looks totally bonkers)
06.23.2015
09:35 am

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Movies
Sex

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Devil’s Bed has got to be the most fascinating footnote in Yoko Ono’s career (or at least one of the most obscure). I’m not not knocking the things we do on our way up, but this is some serious grindhouse smut, and Ono was never hurting for cash! The Michael Findlay sexploitation flick features Ono as the innocent fiancee of a drug smuggler trying to turn his life around. The sweet and delicate Ono is subjected to all kinds of sleaze (at one point she is referred to as an “Eastern delicacy”), and of course, she is kidnapped by her fiancee’s supplier. Throughout the movie there is a series of totally unrelated scenes of heroin addicts gang-raping random women. Was it for context? Did they just need more footage? Who knows?!

Three years later, Yoko and John would co-write and co-direct Rape, an experimental film in which a cameraman chases a terrified woman through city streets for 77 minutes before knocking her down to the ground in a metaphor for the invasive brutality of the media. It was obviously more art house fare than Devil’s Bed, but you really have to give those old exploitation movies credit for pushing the boundaries of what you could see on film—even when they were just total trash!
 

 

 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Portrait of Jason’: 1967 doc about a gay African-American hustler is hilarious and heartbreaking
06.22.2015
06:44 am

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Movies
Queer
Race

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Portrait of Jason
”The most extraordinary film I’ve seen in my life is certainly ‘Portrait of Jason.’ It is absolutely fascinating.”—Ingmar Bergman

During a winter night in 1966, director Shirley Clarke brought her friend, Jason Holliday, to her apartment atop the Chelsea Hotel in New York City and filmed him for twelve consecutive hours. Over the course of the evening, Jason drinks and gets high as he tell stories of his life as a gay, African-American man. Clarke took the footage and edited it down to 95 minutes, resulting in Portrait of Jason (1967). In the film, Jason is charming, entertaining, funny, contradictory, and boorish. His stories concerning class, race, sexuality, and identity alternate between humorous and tragic, all told by a man who appears larger than life.

Portrait of Jason is a landmark film. In this setting, an individual was allowed to simply tell his story over the course of a film’s standard running time. Its cinéma vérité style brings to mind Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, as well as the films of John Cassavetes, but Clarke’s work is a truly unique movie experience. This mainly has to do with Jason Holliday (a/k/a Aaron Payne), the only person who appears on screen.
 
Jason Holliday
 
Jason talks about his life as a prostitute, houseboy, and drug user, as well as his dreams of becoming a nightclub performer, in a completely engaging, charming manner. His enthralling, yet heartbreaking tales of racism and homophobia—at a time when the ink on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had barely dried, and, due to anti-sodomy laws, sex between gay men was still illegal in most of the United States—are told with a laugh and a shrug. So be it, he says; through it all, he’s had a ball. It’s obvious he has a knack for storytelling, and though what he’s experienced may be true, it all feels like a performance.
 
Jason Holliday
 
Early on, Jason talks of being a hustler able to sweet talk anyone into anything, and you can clearly see why, because as a viewer you are taken in by this man from the get-go. Having said that, about half through the film I found myself exhausted by Jason’s stories and continuous, riotous laughter. When reading up on the film, I discovered that’s part of what Clarke was trying to get across; as the director later commented, her subject “is both a genius and a bore.”
 
Jason Holliday
 
At a certain point, after hours of storytelling and consumption of that truth serum known as alcohol, it appears his façade has cracked and the bona fide Jason/Aaron begins to emerge—or does it? Part of what makes Portrait of Jason so fascinating is the inability to know what is genuine and what is performance.
 
Jason Holliday
 
Nevertheless, I do believe it’s safe to say that Jason is struggling. Among other aspects of this life, he grapples with what kind of person he is; he admits to being both a deceiver and someone who “can be hurt in a second.” Though he has lived a unique life up to that point, a kind most will never know, it is through his contradictions, his inherent humanity, that we can see aspects of our own existence. Jason’s continually trying to make sense of who he is, all the while shifting between the walls of protection he has erected and allowing himself to be vulnerable, constantly moving forward as he smiles through a life filled with sadness and regret. Even if we rarely talk about those facets of being, it is through Shirley Clarke’s dazzling character study that we can relate, which is why Portrait of Jason endures.
 
Jason Holliday
 
In 2013, a restored version of Portrait of Jason arrived in theatres. It’s now available on DVD and Blu-ray via Milestone Films. If you have any interest in reading more about this incredible film, you’ll want to check out Milestone’s press kit.

Here’s a clip of Jason talking about his experience as a houseboy, in which he touches on issues of class and racism:
 

 
More ‘Jason’ after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Alice Cooper’s career-making, chicken-killing evil noise jam at the 1969 Toronto Rock & Roll Revival
06.19.2015
06:22 am

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Movies
Music

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The incident that made Alice Cooper a household name was captured on film by D. A. Pennebaker, the director of Don’t Look Back and Monterey Pop. It doesn’t appear in Sweet Toronto, Pennebaker’s documentary about the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see why it ended up on the cutting room floor. Let’s say it’s not long on “good-time rock and roll” vibes.

Like me, you’ve probably seen the split-second clip of Alice throwing the chicken into the Toronto festival audience dozens of times, but it’s a different story in the context of the actual feedback-soaked bacchanal. The climax of the set Pennebaker captures on these thirteen minutes of film is so violent, so unsettling and so totally deranged in 1969 terms that you can forgive witnesses for thinking the bird was ritually sacrificed, or deliberately shredded by the band as a Dadaist outrage.
 

 
Getting Alice Cooper on the bill at this festival was a coup for manager Shep Gordon, whose unlikely career in showbiz is the subject of the entertaining documentary Supermensch (now streaming on Netflix). As Alice and Shep tell the story, the manager turned down an offer for 30 percent of the festival’s profits, instead opting to book Alice for a nominal fee of $1. In exchange, Shep’s clients got the slot in between the festival’s two headliners: John Lennon, in his first performance without the Beatles, and the Doors. From Supermensch:

Alice Cooper: Sixty thousand people. We go on, and it’s great. We’re tearing the place up, and the feathers are going, and I look down and there’s a chicken onstage. The only person that could’ve bought the chicken was Shep, because nobody in the audience would bring a chicken to that concert. Nobody would say, “OK, I got my keys, I got my tickets, I got my chicken.”

Shep Gordon: I thought, “Let’s have a live chicken, it would be fantastic.” I threw it out at him.

AC: I took the chicken and tossed it, thinking it had feathers, it should fly. Well, it didn’t fly as much as it plummeted.

SG: Everybody went wild.

AC: The audience tore it to pieces.

SG: They threw it back at him. They threw back wings, and legs, and heads came flying back up on the stage. And then I saw blood, so I turned my head ‘cause I faint when I see blood.

AC: Next day in the paper, “ALICE COOPER RIPS HEAD OFF CHICKEN AND DRINKS THE BLOOD.” What should have been incredibly horrible press for anybody became the thing that put us on the map. Now we could do anything we wanna do!

Alice throws the bird at 11:38, but you’ll miss nearly all of the actual mayhem if you fast forward. The song they’re playing at the beginning, often called “Freak Out Song,” is a version of “Don’t Blow Your Mind” by proto-AC band the Spiders. It’s nice to learn that Alice was a fan of The Prisoner.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘The Phynx’: A rock group of spies is sent undercover to Albania to rescue Hollywood has-beens, 1970
06.18.2015
08:03 am

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The Phynx (pronounced like “The Finks,” as in stool pigeons) is a mind-bending 1970 comedy about a Monkees-like prefab rock group, who are also trained as spies. The Phynx are sent undercover to communist Albania in order to spring political prisoners who you might mistake for aging showbiz folks found in a Hollywood unemployment line of the era. It’s a jaw-dropping, eye-popping camp spectacle as you watch one paycheck collecting Hollywood has-been after another shuffle before you in an unfunny film that can probably only be compared to or categorized alongside of Otto Preminger’s Skidoo, with its star-studded cast and general “counter culture as seen by Hollywood” tone.

The Phynx plays like a substandard (but big budget) Get Smart episode meets (a low budget) Around the World in 80 Days with a succession of (once) famous faces like Dorothy Lamour, Georgie Jessel, Kentucky Fried Chicken magnate Colonel Harlan Sanders, Butterfly McQueen, Xavier Cugat (sans Charo, who you’d expect to see in a film like this), Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, an Andrews Sister, Johnny “Tarzan” Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan (who played “Jane”), Busby Berkeley, Ruby Keeler, Rudy Vallée, Louis Hayward, Guy Lombardo, Andy Devine, Clint Walker, Cass Daley, Pat McCormick, boxer Joe Louis, Pat O’Brien (who quips about how if he’d played his cards differently, it would have been Ronald Reagan in this thing and not him), the Bowery Boys’ Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall (grandfather of DM’s own Oliver Hall), out lesbian actress Patsy Kelly, Larry Hankin (playing “Philbaby” a barely fictionalized version of Phil Spector, who declined to participate), Trini Lopez, Sally Struthers, Susan Bernard (from Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!), Martha Raye, gossip columnist Rona Barrett, George Tobias (henpecked Abner Kravitz from Bewitched), Joan Blondell and even the fucking Lone Ranger and Tonto.
 

 
Human punch lines? Oh, The Phynx has got ‘em. It practically invented the concept!

And did I mention that Richard Pryor (as the band’s sort of “soul consultant”) and James Brown (as the ambassador from the reord industry) do their thangs in The Phynx? I didn’t? Well they do! And the dude who played “Oddjob” in Goldfinger is in there, too. And Dick Clark and Ed Sullivan play themselves. Rich Little (who else) plays Richard Nixon. Warhol superstar Ultra Violet is present, too.

A picture is starting to emerge here, is it not? Even if this movie is shit—which it basically is—how can you possibly go wrong with a cast like this one? (You have to give them credit, though, they tried...)

The Phynx is unique. So much so that it’s never really been that easy to see. The studio knew they had a bomb on their hands. I don’t think it was ever properly released in theaters, at least not in America. Until a few years ago, when Warner Brothers finally put it out via their Warner Archive bespoke DVD service (for movies so unknown and culty that producing even a small batch of them is probably more than the public is willing to absorb) it had never come out before on home video either and the bootlegs you could find on eBay were always super crappy.

Below you can see the trailer for The Phynx that was made by Cinefamily when a 35mm print of the film was screened for the first time in decades during 2013’s Everything Is Festival (and hosted by Patton Oswalt):
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Cha Cha’: Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich star in ‘lost’ punk film, 1979
06.17.2015
08:20 am

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A girl's best friend is her guitar
Movies
Music
Punk

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Thanks to digital media the line between “rare” and “forget it” has become more like a chasm. The meaning of rarity has changed—it’s kind of funny to see something on YouTube marked “rare” —um, if it’s on YouTube for the whole world to watch at a click I’m not sure how it qualifies as “rare” anymore. It’s similar, though not precisely equivalent, for online marketplaces like discogs.com—if you can find an item with a simple search and buy it with a click, it’s far from inaccessible. It may be priced out of a given coveter’s reach in accordance with its scarcity, but that’s a far cry from having to crate-dig at record conventions in the forlorn hope that the Holy Grail just jumps in your hands someday.

But as if to thumb its nose at the age of ETEWAF, the 1979 Dutch film Cha Cha is practically impossible to see in its entirety. I’ve located exactly one NTSC VHS copy on GEMM, and I’m unaware of a US DVD (the Dutch have been more accommodating on that front). It’s on YouTube—in 15 parts!—but the first part has been yanked on copyright grounds, and 3 & 11 are just straight up missing. I suppose it’s cool that at least some of it can be seen.

The film stars Dutch rocker Herman Brood, who was quite well-known in Europe, but his biggest impact in the US was a lone Top-40 single that peaked at #35 in the autumn of 1979.
 

No photo, like me in my senior yearbook.

Brood was kind of the Amy Winehouse of his time, renowned as much for his unabashed drug abuse as for his music, and his addiction issues are likely to have led to his 2001 suicide. In Cha Cha, for which he has a writing credit, he plays a character with parallels to his own life—“Herman” in the film is a bank robber who decides to go legit, and his dubious “straight” career choice is singing in a New Wave band. In real life, Brood served time for dealing LSD before forming Herman Brood & His Wild Romance in 1976. From the ever-useful Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars:

One of Holland’s most outlandish musicians, Herman Brood was a drug-dealer turned rock phenomenon who found success with a variety of acts—his main priority being to stay in the papers as long as possible. And this didn’t stop at his death…

A distinctive art-school figure with his shock of black hair, pianist Brood joined the Moans, later to become rock-revival act Long Tall Ernie & the Shakers, before going on to sing with no lesser musicians than Van Morrison and John Mayall, until his dealing in LSD led to his imprisonment in 1968. Once back in the outside world, Brood’s subequent projects put him in the esteemed company of a post-Focus Jan Akkerman, and new-wave femme fatales Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich, with whom he starred in the 1979 movie Cha Cha. His main band were The Wild Romance, who found some commercial success, although even this was hampered by the singer’s wayward behavior with narcotics and prostitutes.

 

 
Brood was romantically involved with Hagen for a spell, And Hagen’s contemporary “Herrmann hieß er” (from Unbehagen) was an addiction song that was almost certainly about Brood. Cha Cha even featured a Hagen/Brood wedding scene. That never did happen in reality, though evidently it was a plan at one point. From the May 14, 1979 entry in Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter’s Guide to Underground Rock, 1970-1982:

Lene Lovich & Nina Hagen are reportedly in Amsterdam filming a movie in the making called Cha Cha with Dutch rock star Herman Brood. The film is about a bank robber who wants to go straight, and sees the easy path to that end is becoming a rock ‘n’ roll star. East Germany’s Nina Hagen shocked music fans with an announcement that she was not only leaving her band to go solo, but was also planning to marry Herman Brood.

 

 

 
While finding the film itself is a vexing matter, the soundtrack album is far more accessible. It’s quite good, full of spiky uptempo punk and post-punk, and in fact, it’s how I found out the film existed—I found the soundtrack LP for $5 (thank you, Hausfrau), and figured that was a reasonable price for a comp of Brood, Hagen, and Lovich tracks, peppered with a ton of Dutch and German bands I’d never heard of. Just be careful—Brood had a 1978 LP also called Cha Cha, which has no track overlap with the soundtrack album, and nothing in common with the film but the title.

Enjoy the trailer for the film, and if you should endeavor to procure a copy, happy hunting!
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Get Carter’: Michael Caine on location of the classic gangster film, 1971
06.15.2015
08:08 am

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Books
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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 if not better than Jack’s Return Home, and rate him up there with Chandler, Hammett and Ellroy—if not often ahead. 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. Thankfully, he is now rightly recognized as the father of British noir fiction.

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.
 
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‘Jack’s Return Home’: Michael Caine as Jack Carter returning to his hometown to find his brother’s killer.
 
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Man about town: Caine in Newcastle during filming.
 
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More photos of Michael Caine on location with ‘Get Carter,’ after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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