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Putney Swope: Most under-rated cult film of the 1960s?
01:07 pm


Putney Swope
Robert Downey Sr.

Robert Downey Sr.‘s Putney Swope is an unusual film that splits audiences into two camps without breaking a sweat: those who absolutely love it and think it’s an unheralded masterpiece, and those who utterly loathe it (Check out Amazon reviews!) A third and far larger category would be comprised of everyone who’s never even heard of this odd little gem in the first place. Back in the early 80s, when super rare cheap to license cult films would often appear on some schlocky video label long before some mainstream films became available Putney Swope would often show up in the “Midnight Movies” or cult films section of video rental shops. After that it more or less disappeared until it came out on DVD. Every once in a while it’s on TV, too, but it’s still, sadly, Putney Swope is not a widely known film.

The Coen Brothers, Chris Rock, Dave Chapelle and Paul Thomas Anderson are all known to be big fans of the film. Jane Fonda declared it a masterpiece to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show in 1969 and the Beastie Boys have sampled from it and rapped about it. Anderson even lifted a scene from it for Boogie Nights.
The first three times I saw Putney Swope I thought it was an incredible masterpiece. I was stunned by it. I laughed out loud. I sobbed. It was amazing. It was profound and symbolic of everything! Then again, the first three times I saw the film I was ridiculously high on LSD and I watched it over and over again, by myself, three times in the same night!
When the acid wore off I still thought it was a great and profound film, perhaps just not as great. That didn’t stop me from being an evangelist for this weird little movie, which satirized race, how race was portrayed in advertising, race in the workplace, black militants, white privilege and corporate corruption (there’s even a hint of Orwell’s Animal Farm in it), to all of my friends. Man did I force this film on a lot of (grateful!) people. I’ve easily seen it 30 times.
The plot goes something like this: Arnold Johnson (who later played “Hutch” on Sanford and Son) is Putney Swope, a middled-aged black man who works at a Madison Avenue advertising agency with a bunch of corrupt corporate buffoons. When the founder of the agency dies mid-speech, the board holds a vote to find his successor while his body goes cold on the table. Everyone writes down a name on a piece of paper. They are informed that they cannot vote for themselves and so each man tears up his ballot. They cut deals with each other and then all vote for the one guy who they think no one else will vote for either, Putney Swope, the only black guy.

So Swope becomes the new CEO with a landslide. His motto is “Rockin’ the boat’s a drag. You gotta sink the boat!”  He promptly fires all of the white executives (save for one), renames the agency “Truth & Soul” and hires a young, idealistic and politically militant black staff who want to tell the actual truth in advertising. “Truth & Soul” refuse to take accounts from cigarette manufacturers, liquor companies or the war machine. They become so successful that the government becomes alarmed. Eventually everyone becomes corrupted, even Putney himself, who takes to dressing like Fidel Castro.
That’s about it, plot-wise, but a lot of stuff happens in Putney Swope that would be difficult to try to describe here. The film is mainly in black and white, but the commercial parodies are in color. Antonio Fargas Jr. (“Huggy Bear” on Starsky & Hutch) has a memorable role as “The Arab,” Putney’s Muslim advisor and prankster Alan Abel is also seen in a cameo role. Putney Swope has great lines like “Anything that I have to say would just be redundant”; “A job? Who wants a JOB?”; and “Are you for surreal?!” that have been quoted over and over again (at least in my house). The US president and his wife are played by midgets who engage in a threesome with a photographer. There is a Mark David Chapman-type weirdo hovering around. It’s hard to describe, you really just have to see it. I think Putney Swope is one of the great, great, great American counterculture films of the 1960s. One day. I predict confidently, it will be seen as the equal to Easy Rider or Five Easy Pieces. I’m surprised that French cinemaphiles haven’t discovered it yet… but they will. They will.

This probably isn’t the best way to watch the film (grab the Putney Swope DVD on Amazon)  but DO watch the first scene up to the point where Putney takes over the advertising agency. If that doesn’t make you want to watch the rest, I can’t do much for you…



If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Los Angeles next weekend, there’s going to be a Robert Downey Sr. celebration to end all celebrations with the great man in attendance (this is a true rarity on the west coast as Downey refuses to fly) held from 12/5 - 12/8 at Cinefamily. TRUTH AND SOUL INC. featuring special guests Paul Thomas Anderson, Louis C.K., and an intimate conversation with Robert Downey Sr. and his son, Robert Downey Jr. about his film legacy. This event is a fundraiser for Cinefamily, LA’s premiere cinematheque for first-run arthouse and repertory films and who better to represent all that Cinefamily stands for than this maverick filmmaker?


Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’: Storyboard vs. finished film
08:45 am


John Carpenter
Anne Billson

As the film writer Anne Billson has pointed out most critics were wrong about John Carpenter’s The Thing when it was first released in 1982. In general they hated it and damned the film as “too phony looking to be disgusting. It qualifies only as instant junk.” While another reviewer squealed:

“The only avenue left to explore would seem to be either concentration camp documentaries or the snuff movie.”

The reviews were sadly all rather disappointing, more so for the fact these hacks had failed to grasp how Carpenter had created an adult, intelligent and highly faithful cinematic version of John W. Campbell’s source story “Who Goes There?”—the basis for Howard Hawks’ original production The Thing from Another World directed by Christian Nyby in 1951. Unlike the Hawks’ production, Carpenter kept snug with Campbell’s tale of paranoia and a shape-shifting alien. More importantly, his version was also a major progression in cinematic story-telling as the expected tropes of character and motivation were made quickly apparent without having to be overly explained or developed through dialog. A younger audience understood this, the older critics did not, and damned the film for what they perceived was its lack of emotional depth. This is maybe explained by the release earlier in the same year of Steven Spielberg’s grossly sentimental E.T.: The Extraterrestrial which received overwhelmingly positive reviews. However, as Billson notes, some of the opprobrium heaped on Carpenter had been previously dumped on Nyby:

Variety wrote: “What the old picture delivered – and what Carpenter has missed – was a sense of intense dread.” Which is funny, because in 1951, the same paper had said of Nyby’s film: “The resourcefulness shown in building the plot groundwork is lacking as the yarn gets into full swing. Cast members ... fail to communicate any real terror.”

The negative reviews had a deleterious affect on Carpenter, who later said:

“I take every failure hard. The one I took the hardest was The Thing. My career would have been different if that had been a big hit…The movie was hated. Even by science-fiction fans. They thought that I had betrayed some kind of trust, and the piling on was insane. Even the original movie’s director, Christian Nyby, was dissing me.”

Which was a shame, for John Carpenter is a true artist, one of American cinema’s greatest offbeat film directors, whose movies have had considerable influence on succeeding generations of filmmakers.

Film editor Vashni Nedomansky is a fan of Carpenter’s The Thing, describing the film as one of his favorites and going so far as to claim:

The story, characters, score, location and practical visual effects are some of the most memorable in film history.

He also writes that certain of film’s scenes “destroyed” him and “left me cinematically scarred as a child.”

As a fan of the film, Nedomansky recently edited together a comparison between the original storyboards by Mike Ploog and Mentor Huebner with Carpenter’s finished movie. It’s an interesting comparison as it reveals how collaborative a process filmmaking can be, as Nedomansky explains on his blog Vashi Visuals:

The visuals of both the desolate Antarctic and the ever-morphing alien creatures in THE THING were envisioned long before the movie was shot. Extensive storyboards were drawn by artist Michael Ploog and Mentor Huebner so that all the departments of the production were on the same page in their preparation for the shoot. This is nothing new…but the similarity between the storyboards and the final imagery shot by legendary DP Dean Cundey is staggering. Storyboards are often only a guide, but in this film they were so specifically rendered that they became gospel. The detail and artistry of Ploog’s work up front, allowed the crew to have clear and defined goals on those frigid shooting days in both Alaska and Canada.

To demonstrate this point…I’ve taken two scenes from THE THING and laid down the storyboards next to the shots in the final edit of the film. The video below examines the discovery of the alien spaceship and the transformation of Norris in the shocking scene that still haunts me today. Just like Hitchcock worked with Saul Bass to create the famous shower scene in Psycho…Ploog crafted beautiful storyboards for Carpenter so that the time on set was best utilized to tell the story.

You will find more storyboards from The Thing here and Anne Billson’s BFI Classic book on John Carpenter’s The Thing can be found here.

With thanks to Scheme Comix.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Let Charles Mingus help you with your cat poop problems
07:31 am


John Cassavetes
Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus is one of the greatest jazz composers of all time, and he also, it seems, shared some similarities with your typical crazy cat lady. He liked having cats around, and spent a lot of time thinking about the nettlesome issue of feline fecal matter.

On p. 77 of Cassavetes on Cassavetes we find the following anecdote, told by John Cassavetes, about enlisting Mingus to do the soundtrack for his first movie, Shadows. Mingus would only do it if Cassavetes would come over to Mingus’ house and clean up the cat shit—but even that didn’t solve Mingus’ problem:

First we were going to use Miles Davis, but then he signed with Columbia Records and I got so angry I didn’t want to use him. Anyway, someone said there was this great improvisational artist down in the Village who’d cut a few records, so I listened to a couple and oh!—this guy was wonderful! Charlie Mingus. So Charlie said, “Listen, man, would you do me a favor? I’ll do it for you, but you have got to do something for me.” “Sure, sure,” I say. “Listen, I’ve got these cats that are shitting all over the floor. Can you have a couple of your people come up and clean the cat shit? I can’t work; they shit all over my music.” So we went up with scrubbing brushes and cleaned up the thing. Now he says, “I can’t work in this place. It’s so clean. I’ve got to wait for the cats to shit.”

Cassavetes had intended for Mingus to improvise the needed music in a single session, but Mingus demanded to compose it properly. Cassavetes ended up using music composed by Mingus’ saxophonist Shafi Hadi. Meanwhile, two years after the first release of Shadows in 1957, Mingus completed his own soundtrack to the movie. According to Cassavetes, those Mingus compositions are “Nostalgia in Times Square” and “Alice’s Wonderland.” 

At some point Charles Mingus figured out the best method of toilet training a cat, and he felt he had to get the word out. He wrote a short pamphlet called “The Charles Mingus CAT-alog for Toilet Training Your Cat.” You could order the “CAT-alog” directly from Mingus, and it also appeared in a publication called Changes that existed between 1968 and 1975 and was run by Mingus’ wife, Sue Graham. (Interestingly, the officiant at their wedding was Allen Ginsberg.) You can read the entirety of Mingus’ “CAT-alog” at this website, which is administered by Graham. Mingus’ main point is to execute the transfer to the toilet very slowly: “The main thing to remember is not to rush or confuse” the cat. Also, don’t use kitty litter: “Be sure to use torn up newspaper, not kitty litter. Stop using kitty litter. (When the time comes you cannot put sand in a toilet.)”

Recently Studio 360 dedicated a segment to Mingus’ kitty program, even enlisting actor Reg E. Cathey, familiar from such TV shows as The Wire and House of Cards, to read Mingus’ pamphlet in its entirety.

Listen to Mingus’ “Pussy Cat Dues,” after the jump…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Blood Freak! The ultimate Thanksgiving gore film (and a true Golden Turkey!)
11:57 am


cult films

For those of you true seekers out there, here is the ultimate Thanksgiving film on so many levels. First thank the universe this was even made, wasn’t burned or left in a dumpster like so many other small weird films and is waiting for you to devour it. From my buddies Something Weird Video, here is the perfect rundown on this, the world’s only marijuana-addict-turkey-monster-anti-drug-pro-Jesus-gore film!

For those that think they’ve seen everything comes Blood Freak, a rampaging turkey monster on a marijuana high!

Finding himself sandwiched between Bible-thumping good-girl Angel and her bad-girl sister Ann, a muscle bound biker named Herschell (Steve Hawkes, star of two obscure Tarzan films) falls under Ann’s seductive spell when she offers him some weed. Quickly becoming a writhing, spastic addict - “I have a feeling I’m hooked!” - the big galoot then gets a job at a turkey farm where he’s fed meat treated with an experimental drug and, like any junkie who eats tainted turkey meat, turns into a man with a giant turkey head. Yes, A Man With A Giant Turkey Head. Who also gobbles like a big dumb bird.

Still hungry for a fix, Herschell-the-Turkey-Man proceeds to attack fellow drug addicts whose blood he drinks with his pointy little turkey beak. In one magical moment, he even buzz-saws the leg off a pusher who holds his stump and howls for what seems like days. All of which is punctuated by philosophical pondering by co-director Brad Grinter (Flesh Feast) before two potheads with a machete decide to go on their version of a turkey shoot…

Wow. A monster movie quite unlike any other, Blood Freak is a jaw-dropping almost legendary milestone in crackpot filmmaking, and the ultimate cinematic turkey. Gobble-gobble!

To top it off there is a narrator who reads from a page on his desk, chain smokes while babbling about the dangers of ingesting chemicals, and at one point has a coughing fit ON SCREEN! This came out on video in the 80’s and it is one of a very small handful of films that still make my head spin.

For those of you who just want a quick dabble, here’s the trailer:

And for the tried and true freaks here is the complete film (with a silly three minute intro by a non-scary horror host)! Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Howie Pyro | Discussion
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There’s a Facehugger from ‘Alien’ dog leash
08:36 am



You might have been expecting something closer to a muzzle, but this is not a Facehugger per se, more like an Alien “Backhugger.” Still you have to admire this creative take on a dog leash by Etsy shop GCFX. It’s designed to fit small to medium sized dogs, 15-35 pounds. Big dogs need not apply.

While I dig the idea, I don’t dig the $150 price tag.


via Geekologie

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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‘Made in Germany’ documentary explores the enigmatic blankness of Heino
05:36 am



There is something about Heino’s image that captures the imagination. All of the interview subjects in the documentary Heino: Made in Germany talk about the elements of the look: the blond hair, the dark sunglasses, the turtleneck, the inert stage presence. “Like a traffic sign or a pictogram, even children can memorize him,” former Heino impersonator Norbert Hähnel says. But what hides behind those dark glasses? There’s no lust, no dread, no anger, no sorrow, no mischief, no humor, no identifiable human desire of any kind in his persona. One young fan praises his “sobriety and modesty,” which may be the only qualities that can be positively attributed to the star.

Heino has called himself “the singer of the silent majority,” boasting that he’s sold more records in Germany than Frank Sinatra or the Beatles. There isn’t a perfect American analogue to Heino, but Pat Boone might give you some idea of the singer’s temperature. Both singers strive to appear wholesome and nonthreatening, though there’s a touch of militaristic pomp in Heino’s voice that would sound very strange coming from Boone. On his 2013 comeback album Mit Freundlichen Grüßen, Heino took a page out of Boone’s playbook, adopting a kind of Vegas/Ed Hardy “hard rock guy” image and covering Rammstein’s “Sonne,” along with other “folk songs of the young generation.”

Norbert Hähnel, one of the most interesting characters in the film, owned a Berlin record store and label called Der Scheissladen (I don’t speak German, but I believe this translates as “the Shit Shop”). Hähnel created a minor scandal in the 80s by impersonating the singer and insisting that he was the real Heino, earning him the hatred of Heino fans everywhere. Heino’s record company ended Hähnel’s career as “the true Heino” with a lawsuit that landed the Shit Shop owner in jail. Hähnel’s reminiscences of his first encounter with Heino are telling; even his youthful attempt to antagonize the singer only left him staring into the void:

It must have been at the end of the ‘60s. Maybe I was 17 at that time. Heino performed at a fashion show for older people. He had like two or three singles out so far. I thought it was actually very frightening to see what came up to us. But still I was fascinated by that person and so I had to watch his show. [...]

I think I remember a situation in which he was onstage saying, “All the young people nowadays don’t sing in anything but the English language,” and so on. I interrupted by yelling “fascist” or something like that. It ended up in a tumult. All the old people turned around looking for me. That’s the story. Just a small commotion, nothing to be too excited about.


Schlager singer Guildo Horn suggests the secret of Heino’s popularity lay in the relationship between his folk repertoire and postwar German identity:

After the Second World War, everything concerning German culture, German music, and especially folk music was so infested that you better not touch it at all. All the folk songs and stuff like that had been sung by the Nazis. They broke and tainted those songs. But then Heino came and didn’t give a damn about it.

It seems there was a thrill of the forbidden associated with Heino’s return to traditional German culture—that’s why it was banned in East Germany. The documentary includes a clip of East German broadcaster Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler denouncing Heino:

Every young and old reactionary can identify with this right-winger of the West German Schlager business. He is the flaxen-haired past singing the old songs.

The film also includes quite a bit of Heino-head Jello Biafra talking about his fascination with the singer, whose records used to blast through the PA before Dead Kennedys shows to wind up the crowd. Be warned: if you listen to enough of this stuff, you might start to like it.

Thank you Greg Bummer of Azusa, CA!

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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16mm print of Wes Craven’s banned cut of ‘Last House On The Left’ up for auction on eBay
09:34 am


Wes Craven
David Hess
The Last House on the Left

Horror fans may be interested putting in a bid for an original 16mm print of Wes Craven’s “banned” exploitation shocker The Last House on the Left which is currently up for grabs on eBay.

The print was owned by actor David Hess who starred in the film and is now being sold by his son. The print is in “perfect condition and was stored in a sealed container for years protecting it from any damage.”

Need I say more it’s a one of a kind and will come with one of very few signed pictures still in my families possession. And a copy of the sound track on cd or vinyl.

The Last House on the Left was banned in the UK by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) which refused to give the movie a certificate on grounds of sadism and violence. The film was later released uncut on video in 1982 but was again banned under the Video Recordings Act of 1984 by the Department of Public Prosecutions as a “Video Nasty.” The film remained banned throughout the eighties and nineties until it was eventually released (with 31 seconds cut) in the UK on DVD in 2002.

If you fancy putting in a bid you will have to be quick as bidding finishes in just about eight hours, details here.

H/T Tim Lucas

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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The Count goes hardcore in ‘Dracula Sucks’
07:54 am


Jamie Gillis

If one had to name one literary character from the past 200 years that has influenced numerous films, short stories, books, pieces of music, commercials and even video games, there is one strikingly demonic figure that should immediately pop into mind. That’s right. The man himself—Count Dracula.

Bram Stoker’s character—who was not, apparently, based on the historical Romanian warlord Vlad the Impaler—has appeared in nearly every cinematic genre, ranging from horror (natch) to westerns and even comedies. Another genre that the most epochal vampire has graced is adult film, which also might be the least examined. The big standout on that small but notable list is 1978’s Lust at First Bite aka Dracula’s Bride aka Dracula Sucks.

Combining explicit sex and Dracula is the veritable chocolate with the peanut butter. The real shocker isn’t that there is a hardcore version of Stoker’s tale but that there are not more adult films based on his character. The very nature of Dracula, a charismatic monster riddled with polluted sexuality, makes him the perfect seductive villain for erotica of any stripe.
Extra from a Ratt Video? No. It's one of Dracula's Brides.
The title alone of Dracula Sucks might bring to mind something heavy in the groin but light in the brains department, but there is actual substance to this version, albeit in a deliriously strange way. Directed by Philip Marshak and with industry notable William Margold chipping in on writing duties, Dracula Sucks begins with Richard (Richard Bulik), the nephew of Irene Renfield (Pat Manning) and, you guessed it, the son of the Renfield. His aunt has taken him to a castle retreat in rural California to be in the care of the brother and sister team of the Sewards, Arthur (John Leslie) and Sybil (Kay Parker). He’s arrived to receive treatment for his night terrors, which will soon grow exponentially as the voice of his dead father starts to call to him.

This ghastly force leads him to the body of Dracula (Jamie Gillis). Richard follows his daddy’s instructions and removes the stake out of the corpse, only to quickly find out that the voice pulling him the whole time was not his father’s but Dracula himself! This puts him over the edge and faster than you can say “Ballad of Dwight Frye,” Richard is all bug-eyed, emitting noises of the insane and making the insect world his own personal buffet.
The Son of Renfield
Meanwhile, Dracula is introduced as a new neighbor to not only the Sewards, but to their non-patient residents, including dear friends Lucy (Serena, looking like the living embodiment of a Vargas girl) and Mina (Annette Haven), as well as their respective suitors, Dr. Bradley (Mike Ranger) and Jonathan Harker (Paul Thomas.) Things go from strange to stranger to strangest as a wave of infected sexuality and blood starts to sweep through the asylum as Dracula hones in on Mina, with whom he has fallen in love.

Dracula Sucks has to be one of the stranger approximations of Stoker’s classic tale that I have ever seen. There’s a strain of goony humor that is undercut by a genuinely eerie ambiance. It is an unwell universe where the dysfunctional out-rules the healthy and that includes a large part of the medical staff.  From the incest between the Sewards, the character of Henry (Margold) who, when not assisting the doctors, has a fixation on apples and ends up raping Irene and the fact that Van Helsing (played by character actor heavy Reggie Nalder) manages to out-creep Dracula, there are no real character safety zones here. On top of that, there is the striking image of the Count’s handmaidens, who look like glamorous ghouls who just escaped Hell’s war zone, creeping across the asylum grounds at night. Speaking of startling visuals, there’s also a doozy of an image where Dracula has a vision upon meeting Lucy. The vision in question is a solarized shot of him urinating on her while fire is chroma-keyed into the shot. It is completely infernal, messed up and striking in a witchy-psychedelic piss type way.
Jamie Gillis is Dracula
While there are some obvious liberties taken with the story, which makes the film about on par with 99% of the rest of the Dracula-centric titles, there is one key element that it nails from Stoker’s source material better than most. Keeping in mind that the novel was written in the Victorian era by a man who was very much an upstanding byproduct of it, the sexuality in the book is tame. It’s highly doubtful that any eroticism in Stoker’s text was ever intentional, since vampirism plays out more like a metaphor for venereal disease than anything else. So amping of the sexuality factor to include a communicable disease is perfect for the material. The fake vampire teeth used here is pretty jarring. Not because they look authentic, in fact, far from it. But it’s that line where something looks so artificial that it takes on an even more alien and bent look. (Anyone who has seen the Count Yorga films will know exactly what I am talking about here.)

The cast is good and features a veritable who’s who of adult film in the 1970’s. John Holmes even appears in a small supporting role as “Dr. John Stoker,” who ends up having his equally famous member get bitten by a female vampire. (Surely a scene that will have 8 out of 10 guys running to the hills!) The acting, as a whole, is really good, with the usually frosty Haven making a likable Mina. Richard Bulik makes an interesting Renfield, with his performance going from decent Dwight Frye cosplay into something more genuinely unhinged. However, like other vampire films before it, the real stars of the show are the hunter and the hunted.
Johnny Wadd: Vampire
Nader, whose career spanned from working with Hitchcock in The Man Who Knew Too Much to playing vampire Kurt Barlow in the first adaptation of Stephen King’s book, Salem’s Lot, is typically remarkable here. One has to wonder what was going through his mind while making Dracula Sucks, since established “straight” actors typically didn’t usually appear in adult films, then or now. (One exception from that time period was Aldo Ray acting in the 1976 adult title, Sweet Savage. Also, neither gentleman dropped trow, though that would have been potentially spooky on a whole other level!) Then there’s Jamie Gillis as Dracula. Given that one of Gillis’ nicknames has been “the dark prince of porn,” it was only natural to have him here as the Count. His good looks and natural intense energy plays into the role perfectly. He’s more animalistic than say Lugosi or Lee, but retains the charisma that is typically associated with the role. Given that Gillis was a really terrific actor in general, it does make one wish he had more to do, but given that the literary Dracula only appears in a fraction of the text, it only makes sense to have him more as a shadow figure.
Reggie Nalder as Van Helsing
For the hardcore vampire film lovers, Vinegar Syndrome have released this on a sweet two-disc set that also includes the Lust at First Bite version, which is more traditionally edited and features more sex than blood. Interestingly, both Dracula Sucks and Lust at First Bite have two different endings, making it the sex-vampire equivalent of King Kong Vs Godzilla. (Ignore the fact that the dual-ending for the latter is a myth.) Naturally, Dracula Sucks is not going to be for everyone but for those who like their vampire tales weird, lurid, occasionally silly and ultimately memorable, then do check it out.

Posted by Heather Drain | Discussion
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Patti Smith interviews David Lynch
07:30 am


Patti Smith
David Lynch

Though I’m sure your thoughts are probably on higher things than mine, I couldn’t help but consider the benefits of hair dye while watching this interview between Patti Smith and David Lynch. Is there a point when life can be enhanced by a teeny drop of Nice ‘n’ Easy? I was a tad surprised this question wasn’t raised during the interview, however, Ms. Smith and Mr. Lynch did share their thoughts about singer Bobby Vinton and the film Blue Velvet, the series Twin Peaks (which Smith claims “reconnected [her] to the world and art”) and the feminist band Pussy Riot, of which Ms. Smith says:

These girls did something absolutely original. As even a mother or a grandmother, they are in my prayers.

The interview is taken from the “Encounters” strand of BBC’s “flagship” news and current affairs program Newsnight,  in which two notable people interview each other about issues relating to their work. If you’re a fan of either Ms. Smith or Mr. Lynch, you will surely enjoy this.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Kubrick didn’t fake the moon landing, but Led Zeppelin DID fake playing Madison Square Garden, 1973
05:36 pm


Led Zeppelin

Japanese poster for ‘The Song Remains the Same,’ 1976
True or false: The performances from The Song Remains the Same, the concert film that supposedly documents Led Zeppelin’s 1973 Madison Square Garden shows weren’t actually filmed at Madison Square Garden?

Mostly true!

It’s not exactly a secret but it’s neither something that seems to be widely known by the general public, or even most Led Zeppelin fans for that matter. Now I’m not trying to imply here that Led Zeppelin didn’t even play Madison Square Garden for three nights in late July of 1973, because of course they did and The Song Remains the Same‘s original director, Joe Massot (Wonderwall) was there with a camera crew trained on them when they did. This much is not being disputed.

The problem was, as the group and their manager Peter Grant found out only after they’d fired Massot from the project, is that he’d gotten inadequate—practically unusable—coverage that wouldn’t sync properly or cut. Some great shots but nothing that could be used to create an edited sequence.

Grant brought in Aussie director Peter Clifton, the guy they probably should have hired in the first place, to see what could made from this mess, but the initial prognosis looked pretty grim until Clifton suggested reshooting the entire running order of the Madison Square Garden show on Madison Square Garden’s stage… recreated at Shepperton Studios in England!

Everyone assumes they’re watching the group at MSG, but in reality what we are watching (for the most part) is Led Zeppelin rocking out on a soundstage in Surrey, southeast of London. Without an audience.

On a playback screen, the band could watch themselves in the earlier footage—keeping their movements and positions in roughly the same general areas—and play along to the MSG soundtrack. So what we mostly see in the finished film are Clifton’s close-ups and medium distance footage of the band members shot at Shepperton, but intercut with Massot’s footage of the trappings of MSG, wide shots, shots framed from behind the band towards the audience and so forth.

Once you know all this, it’s screamingly obvious what was shot where.

Complicating matters for Clifton, John Paul Jones had recently cut his hair short (he’s wearing a wig in the Shepperton footage) and Robert Plant’s teeth had been fixed since the New York City shows the year before.

Jimmy Page spilled the beans in the May 2008 issue of Uncut Magazine,

“I’m sort of miming at Shepperton to what I’d played at Madison Square Garden, but of course, although I’ve got a rough approximation of what I was playing from night to night, it’s not exact. So the film that came out in the ‘70s is a bit warts-and-all.”

This little known behind-the-scenes story of the making of The Song Remains the Same is barely touched upon in some of the major books about Led Zeppelin—but in Chris Welch’s 2001 biography Peter Grant: The Man who Led Zeppelin, the story is told in greater detail, finishing thusly:

As far as Grant and Zeppelin were concerned, the movie song had ended. But they left behind smouldering resentments among the filmmakers and a few puzzles for movie buffs. Says Peter Clifton: “If you look at the credits they wrote something very interesting. ‘Musical performances were presented live at Madison Square Garden.’ It was somewhat ambiguous because the film was obviously done somewhere else!”

When he was asked about the provenance of the ‘live’ shots of Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden, Peter Grant did admit that they had indeed shot some material at Shepperton studios, recreating the same stage set while the band donned the same clothes they wore at the actual gig. “Yes, we did,” he said. “But we didn’t shout about the fact.”

See for yourself:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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