David Lynch is like our nation’s super-fun, super-weird uncle, and it’s high time that he decided to get involved with a music festival. To his credit, he’s not riding the coattails of an established festival but has started one up from scratch.
It’s called the Festival of Disruption, and it’s going to happen in downtown Los Angeles on October 8 and 9. Lynch has put together the kind of impressive lineup of guests that you can only muster if you’ve long since become Hollywood royalty (albeit in a surrealist sort of way).
There will also be “talks” with figures such as the stars of Lynch’s masterpiece Blue Velvet (Kyle MacLachlan & Laura Dern), Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, and Mel Brooks, who was Lynch’s producer on The Elephant Man. There will also be screenings of Lynch’s films, daily Transcendental Meditation sessions, and more.
The venue is the Ace Theatre Hotel and Theatre, located at 929 South Broadway. Tickets go on sale Friday, June 24th at 10:00 a.m. PST. 100% of the proceeds will benefit the David Lynch Foundation, whose mission is reducing toxic stress and trauma among at-risk populations, including victims of domestic violence, veterans suffering from PTSD, and underserved urban youth, through the evidence-based Transcendental Meditation technique.
I blog about French music producer Drixxxe‘s superb mixes of songs from ‘70s softcore porn-y films every time he releases a new one. Drixxxe just added another mix to the “Sextape” theme and it’s good. Like really good. Listen to it, below.
A lot of these mixes don’t have tracklists, but some of songs come from films like Sessomatto, Black Lolita, Aunt Peg, Madame Claude, Emmanuelle and the Girls of Madame Claude, Vampyros Lesbos, Sex O’Clock USA, Skin Flicks, Odyssey, Le Sex Shop and Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals and many, many more.
If you can’t get enough of the “Sextape” series, click here to listen to more mixes. There’s hours and hours of this softcore music for your pleasure awaiting you. What are you waiting for? Call now…
Most days if you ask me to name my favorite actress, I’m going to answer Meiko Kaji.
The Japanese singer and star of dozens of films, notably the Stray Cat Rock series and the Lady Snowblood movies, is a haunting beauty with a commanding screen presence, able to convey more with one squint of her eye than most actors could in an entire page of dialogue.
I was thrilled to learn that my favorite Blu-Ray label, Arrow Video (who I’ve professed my love for on this blog before) is releasing my top-pick Meiko Kaji film, Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 in a glorious 2K HD restoration as part of a box set along with the three other films in the Scorpion series.
Arrow’s box set of the “Scorpion” films is available for pre-order HERE.
The entire Scorpion, or Sasori series, which consists of the films Female Convict 701: Scorpion, Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41, Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable, and Female Convict Scorpion: Grudge Song are all visually striking early ‘70s Japanese exploitation films filled with violent imagery, but it’s the second film in the series that goes well above and beyond the genre.
Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 contains all of the stock violence, humiliation, and revenge elements of the women-in-prison formula, but director Shunya Ito’s stylized manga-inspired set-pieces, camera techniques, and avant-garde compositions are downright lysergic at times. The film tends to transcend its own narrative, becoming a stunning dreamscape, rising above its lowbrow subject matter to become a profoundly important cinematic vision. A vision that, sadly, many will write off due to the fact that it’s, well, a women-in-prison flick.
I curate a long-running cult film series at a local arthouse, and had the pleasure of presenting Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 to a packed theater who, by and large, had never seen the film before. I’ve had several patrons tell me since that it is now one of their favorite films.
In the film Matsu, nicknamed “Scorpion,” is hogtied in solitary confinement due to her willfully rebellious nature. Little do the warden or guards know that even tied, Scorpion has been creating a shank by holding a spoon in her teeth and sharpening it by scraping on the concrete floor. Scorpion is trapped in a never-ending cycle of violent rebellion and brutal reprisals, but nothing can break her. Eventually she escapes prison with six other female inmates, leading them on a violent rampage, exacting ruthless revenge on the men who have wronged her.
Director Ito has described the Scorpion character as “the ultimate rebel.” Much like Eastwood’s “Man With No Name,” Matsu barely speaks a word throughout the entire series. She’s an absolute outsider, completely unbreakable, single-mindedly dedicated to revenge, and, perhaps, the most graceful yet savage feminist anti-hero ever to glare at an audience from the silver screen.
The recurring theme song of the Scorpion films is the evocative “Urami-Bushi” which became a hit song and is sung by Meiko Kaji herself. Quentin Tarantino liked it so much he pilfered it for Kill Bill.
Here’s Meiko Kaji performing the song on Japanese televison:
An unused fake mug shot of John Belushi taken during the filming of ‘The Blues Brothers.’
I must admit a bit of bias when it comes to this post as its about my very favorite film of all time (and perhaps yours too), what could easily be considered the greatest credit in director John Landis’ long career, 1980’s The Blues Brothers.
John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and Carrie Fisher looking cozy on the set of ‘The Blues Brothers.’
Of particular interest are the images of Dan Aykroyd and a 23-year-old Carrie Fisher looking quite cozy alongside her fictional cold-footed fiancee in the film, charismatic comedian John Belushi. Which of course got me wondering if I had somehow missed out on the news that the two actors had perhaps had a shotgun free, off-screen fling. As it turns out, Fisher was actually briefly engaged to Dan Aykroyd who asked her to marry him after he “saved her life” by performing the Heimlich maneuver when she was choking on what Fisher recalls was a boring old brussel sprout, not a fistfull of Quaaludes. Sadly the engagement didn’t last, and Fisher left Aykroyd for her former paramour Paul Simon whom she would marry in 1983—the same year that Aykroyd married former Miss Virginia of 1976, blonde beauty queen and actress, Donna Dixon.
Of course, the scene where Joliet Jake and Elwood take a scenic 100 mph drive through the Dixie Square Mall (you know, the place that had “everything”) is probably the very first thing that most people think of when it comes to The Blues Brothers. The mall had been left to decline after closing its doors in 1979 and had since become an epicenter for gang violence and vandalism. A good bit of timing for Landis who proposed the idea of letting his movie crew and two actors—wearing dark sunglasses with a full tank of gas and a half a pack of cigarettes—finish it off. Dixie Square got a Hollywood makeover, and Landis let the cameras roll while Belushi and Aykroyd tore it apart again like a pair of wild dogs. However, the scene where the Blues Mobile makes its final journey to the place where they “have that Picasso,” Daley Plaza, proved to be a bit more difficult to pull off. So Landis sent John Belushi off to work his charm on the mayor of Chicago at the time, Jane Byrne.
According to Byrne, she met with a very “sweaty and nervous” John Belushi in her office who offered her a $200,000 donation to Chicago’s orphans if she would allow them to film that scene and others in Chicago. Byrne of course agreed and large group of stunt people, six camera crews; 300 extras (with an additional 100 dressed up as Chicago’s finest); 300 members of the National Guard decked out as soldiers; a four-man SWAT team; seven mounted police officers; three Sherman M3 tanks; five fire engines and two Bell Jet Ranger helicopters were unleashed on Daley Plaza. To the great satisfaction of Mayor Byrne who was not a fan of Chicago’s 48th mayor, Richard J. Daley who no longer dines at Chez Paul because he’s dead. Tons of intriguing images shot during the making of this remarkable rock and roll cinematic triumph follow. Dig it!
Former Chicago mayor Jane Byrne and her daughter Kathy wearing Jake and Elwood’s signature hats and sunglasses with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.
Pope John Paul II paying a visit to the set of ‘The Blues Brothers’ to ‘bless the set.’ Here, John Belushi can be seen kissing the Pope’s ring.
While not exactly dangerous this early film Satán se divierte by Segundo de Chomón is certainly amusing and a work of art. De Chomón was a Spanish filmmaker whose pioneering work in camera tricks and optical illusions was to influence generations of filmmaker. Many of his “tricks” are still used today.
De Chomón is often compared to that other giant of early cinema Georges Méliès—the great French filmmaker whose works included A Trip to the Moon (1902) and The Impossible Voyage (1904). While there was undoubtedly a rivalry between the two men—with Méliès taking the tape for innovation—de Chomón made his mark by developing a mechanical stencil-based film tinting process that was known as Pathécolor. He also diversified his filmmaking talents into documentaries, dramas and special effects for other directors.
Satán se divierte or Satan at Play aka The Red Specter (1907) is a superb example of De Chomón’s work with its camera tricks—some of which would be later revisited in films like Bride of Frankenstein—stage show magic and beautiful color stencilling.
Watch ‘The Devil at Play’ plus ‘Haunted House’ and ‘Voyage to the Planet Jupiter,’ after the jump…
William Burroughs’ work has always been controversial. When Naked Lunch was first published it was denounced by critics as “obscene,” “repugnant” and “not unlike wading through the drains of a big city.” The poet and arbiter of highbrow taste, Edith Sitwell decried the book stating she did not want “to spend the rest of my life with my nose nailed to other people’s lavatories.” Its publication led to an infamous obscenity trial where Norman Mailer was called as a witness to defend the book and its writer. Mailer famously declared Burroughs as:
....the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius.
However, Burroughs was generally unfazed by his detractors—after all he wasn’t writing for them.
When Burroughs decided to make a short film The Cut-Ups with B-movie smut-peddler Antony Balch it was perhaps inevitable that their collaboration caused similar outrage.
When The Cut-Ups was first screened at the Cinephone, Oxford Street, London in 1966:
Members of the audience rushed out saying, ‘It’s disgusting,’ to which the staff would reply, ‘It’s got a U certificate, nothing disgusting about it, nothing the censor objected to.’
Toshio Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses is one of the most audacious and astounding feature films ever made, a visually-stunning hodgepodge of cutting edge 60s graphic design, Warholian underground cinema, documentary filmmaking along with wildly experimental editing techniques. Matsumoto’s dazzling freewheeling filmmaking breaks the Brechtian fourth wall several times—interviewing the actors about their roles and pulling a shot out to reveal the camera and lighting crew—and shows the influence of William Klein’s fashionista extravaganza Who Are You, Polly Magoo?, the films of Jean Luc Godard and Alain Resnais, even Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Funeral Parade of Roses is a furious and dizzying bombardment of violence, sex, and drugs. The 1969 film is well-known to have been a major influence on Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, and we see this in the sped-up montage scenes set to classical music, the sound design and editing style, and art direction (not to mention the false-eyelashes and the phallic lollipops). It was produced via the Art Theatre Guild (ATG) the legendary Japanese production company and distributors of the country’s “New Wave” cinema that was shunned by the major studios. In one underground “in-joke” New York’s avant-garde cinema promoter Jonas Mekas is mentioned by name and quoted:
“All definitions of cinema have been erased. The doors are now open.”
All this and I’ve yet to mention that Funeral Parade of Roses takes place in Tokyo’s gay underworld—Bara no sôretsu is the original Japanese title, “bara” meaning “rose” which equates to the pejorative use of “pansy”—giving it a particularly edgy reputation for a film made in Japan in 1969.
Salvador Dali loved the Marx Brothers. He loved their madcap, anarchic comedy. In particular Dali loved Harpo Marx—the blonde corkscrew-haired comic mime whose visual comedy—unlike the quick witty repartee of his brother Groucho—was universal and needed no translation. Dali described Harpo as one of America’s three great Surrealists—the other two being Walt Disney and Cecil B. DeMille.
The pair first met at a party in Paris in 1936. Harpo told Dali how much he liked his paintings. Dali told Harpo how much he loved his films—in particular Animal Crackers which he described as “the summit of the evolution of comic cinema.” Dali gushed over Harpo’s performance where he pulled fish and cutlery from his pocket and shot the hats of beautiful women—this was true Surrealism!
I met Harpo for the first time in his garden. He was naked, crowned with roses, and in the center of a veritable forest of harps (he was surrounded by at least five hundred harps). He was caressing, like a new Leda, a dazzling white swan, and feeding it a statue of the Venus de Milo made of cheese, which he grated against the strings of the nearest harp. An almost springlike breeze drew a curious murmur from the harp forest. In Harpo’s pupils glows the same spectral light to be observed in Picasso’s.
When Harpo returned to America, Dali sent him a harp wrapped in cellophane with barbed wire for strings and spoons, knives and forks glued all over its frame. In return Harpo sent Dali a photograph of himself playing the harp with bandaged fingers. He invited Dali to Hollywood saying he’d be more than happy to pose for the great artist—if he cared to smear paint all over him. Dali was delighted to take up the offer. In 1937, he arrived in Hollywood with his wife Gala. He visited Harpo and sketched him playing his barbed wire harp with a lobster on his head. Natch.
Dali’s sketch of Harpo playing the harp.
Dali brought Harpo a gift—a movie script he wanted the Marx Brothers to make. The script was called Giraffes on Horseback Salads or The Surrealist Woman. It was a series of unconnected scenes typed in blue ribbon over twenty-two pages with various notes written in ink. Dali had already made two infamous films with his friend the director Luis Buñuel—Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L’Age d’Or. Now he wanted to cast Harpo and cinema’s “greatest Surrealist act” the Marx Brothers in a film that just might revolutionize Hollywood—or maybe not...
Read Dali’s script and see his sketches for ‘Giraffes on Horseback Salads,’ after the jump…
I’ve heard some great stories about the David Cronenberg movies that almost were. Indeed, I once heard Cronenberg himself tell the tale of taking a phone call from the office of George Lucas, who wanted to feel the Toronto-born director out on the subject of directing Return of the Jedi. Cronenberg sniffed that he didn’t really direct material written by other people, and that was the end of that. (The conversation is all the more ironic if you consider that since that moment, Cronenberg has directed material originated by William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, and Don DeLillo, among others. Maybe he just didn’t think of Lucas as a writer on that level?)
Cronenberg also turned down a chance to direct Top Gun, finding it too jingoistic (plus, as a Canadian, Cronenberg doubly wasn’t into it).
What I didn’t know until recently is that Cronenberg was the first director to be considered to direct Total Recall, which was eventually directed (rather well) by Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, previously responsible for Robocop.
Interestingly, Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon had tried to develop Philp K. Dick’s story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” as a script in the 1970s before concluding that the special effects would be too costly—their next project would become Alien, the commercial success of which kick-started the orignal PKD project again.
Cronenberg worked on pre-production for the PKD project for about a year, a process that generated the fascinating concept art seen below. His choice for the lead role was to have been William Hurt, a far cry from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s, er, likely less thoughtful approach to the movie. After Cronenberg’s labors, the producers told him that they admired his treatment but were hoping for something a little bit closer to “Raiders of the Lost Ark Go to Mars,” so Cronenberg returned to a project that would have a tone that interested him much more, that being a remake of the 1958 sci-fi classic The Fly.
Purportedly, Cronenberg’s take on the material would have been lot closer to Dick’s original story than the Verhoeven movie.
The artworks here were created by Ron Miller and his wife Judith Miller, who was responsible for the 3-D models, as well as production designer Pierluigi Basile.
This is one of those clever ideas that make me want to kick myself for not thinking of it first... Anyway, Firebox is selling a face-melting Major Arnold Toht candle (the sinister SS agent whose face melts off at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark).
According to UK-based Firebox, “Thankfully it melts a lot slower than his face does in the film.”
Doesn’t emit a blood-curdling screech as it burns
Perhaps a good Father’s Day gift if your dad’s a fan of the film? It’s $28.39 + shipping.