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Trash film king David F. Friedman R.I.P.
02.15.2011
12:16 am

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Movies
Pop Culture

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David F. Friedman

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Some of my most vivid childhood memories revolved around the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis and his production partner David F. Friedman. Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs! and Color Me Blood Red were taboo pleasures for a kid entering his teens. I grew up in the American south and exploitation flicks were standard fare at the sleazepit movie theaters in Norfolk, Virginia near where I lived. I was a connoisseur at an early age of the high brow horror of Hammer films but took particular delight in the blood-soaked thrills of Lewis and Friedman’s joint venture Box Office Spectaculars.

It all started with Blood Feast. In 1963 Feast for me was the kind of jaw-dropping experience that up until then had only been rivaled by the gory centerfolds of the National Enquirer, nudist magazines and Tijuana bibles. These were sights not intended for the eyes of innocent youth. But, by the age of 12, my innocence had long been pummeled into oblivion by my strong left hand. Lewis and Friedman had tapped into something that psychiatrists are still grappling with: the thin line between sex and violence. I was too young to get any tongue but not too young to watch young women having their tongues ripped out. I blame the movies for much of what made me into the sick fuck I am today.

My buddy Leo and I would scour the movie section of the local newspaper every weekend hoping and praying to see the Box Office Spectacular name attached to any new releases. If we scored, we’d take the 20 mile ride by bus into Norfolk and, along with a handful of sailors on weekend leave, watch the latest B.O.S. bloodbath. A matinee was fifty cents back then and a flick like Blood Feast delivered tremendous bang for half a buck. Short on narrative and plot, but long on explicit scenes of over-the-top gore, David F. Friedman knew exactly what his audience came for. Somewhere in Baltimore, John Waters was transfixed by the same blood red thrills as Leo and me. And later a film geek in L.A. by the name of Quentin Tarantino would discover a battered video of Color Me Blood Red, a tale of blood, guts and fine art, on a dusty shelf somewhere and feel a tingling sensation in his scrotum that later translated into a creative act.

In many ways, I credit Friedman for creating the D.I.Y. in-your-face energy that would later manifest in punk rock.

I’m not here to write an obituary or bio of David F. Friedman. There are and will be plenty on the Internet. I just wanted to share a few personal memories of seeing his films. The Deuce has a detailed bio on Friedman here. Also, Friedman wrote a wonderfully entertaining autobiography A Youth in Babylon: Confessions of a Trash-Film King . It’s out-of-print but Amazon has some reasonably priced used copies you can snag here.

The best way to honor Mr. Friedman is to share one of his Dixiefied gore classics with you. Two Thousand Maniacs! sent me stumbling out of the theater in 1964 with something resembling a religious experience. In its depiction of backwoods psychopaths in a frenzy of bloodlust it not only freaked me out for the obvious reasons, it touched a deeper nerve. I was beginning to wise up to the mob mentality that existed among the various factions in my school and neighborhood, the kind of group psychosis that lead men into wars like Vietnam. I was just a kid but I was already developing a distaste for the kind of cruelty people bestow upon outsiders and things they don’t understand and the glee in which they often display in treating the “other” with harsh injustice.

I may be giving David F. Friedman and Herschell Gordon Lewis credit for a political/sociological subtext in Two Thousand Maniacs! they never intended. But intentional or not, I think these two film makers were tapping into something in themselves that like all art, dreams and fairytales delve into universal truths. Two Thousand Maniacs! in its own bizarro way is a commentary on and critique of the conformity and narrow mindedness of the 1950s. Were the kings of trash cinema anarchists in disguise? Is Two Thousand Maniacs! a radical anti-war film? Or a situationist act of subversion that eviscerates the white supremacism that still prevailed in the American south in 1964—the year of its release and the year in which George Wallace ran for President?

Two Thousand Maniacs! in all its gory glory.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Velvet Underground documentary from 1986 puts it all together in a nice package

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Originally broadcast in 1986 in the UK, The South Bank Show’s Velvet Underground documentary was directed by Kim Evans with the help of Mary Harron. It contains interviews with Lou, John, Sterling, Moe, Nico, Warhol and lots of early Velvet performance footage, including stuff shot by Jonas Mekas. For hardcore Velvet fans none of this will be new, but isn’t it nice to have it compiled in a visually pleasing package? And for the casual VU fan, this is essential.

John Cale: “The only reason we wore sunglasses on stage was because we couldn’t stand the sight of the audience.”
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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The Stones (or something)
02.10.2011
07:50 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Heroes
Music
Pop Culture

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The Stones

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The Stones. Looking a bit rough. Actually it’s Stones Throw from Tampa,Florida.
 

 
With thanks to Matt Devine and Marc Campbell

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape

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In 1984 the British government drew up a list of 72 films which it deemed so reprehensible that they should be banned. Anyone found in possession of a copy, or actively distributing one of the films, could face a prison sentence. This was in the very early days of video, when distribution of movies on VHS was unregulated, and the new medium could be found in almost every small local corner shop. This is the story covered by the fantastic documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape by British horror director Jake West, which was released late last year in the UK.

More than just a look at the films that were banned by the UK Government in 1984, it’s an examination of the political climate of the era, and the moral panic whipped up by national newspapers, busy looking for an easy scapegoat for society’s problems (and probably a bit worried that their own medium was under threat). The most fascinating part, for me, are the interviews with the dubious, so-called “moral leaders” that decided the public couldn’t handle this type of thing in the first place. A quarter of a century later and society has relegated them to a status of mockery, yet they still cling dearly to the notion that they were doing something right and protecting stupid people from themselves, not just furthering their own mealy-mouthed careers. Sociopathic politicians aren’t just a new phenomena, you know.
 

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Interestingly, one of the prime movers in the the banning of these films was a man called Peter Kruger, who was the head of Scotland Yard’s Obscene Publications Unit. It may be just one huge coincidence, but almost a year later saw the release of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street, and the unleashing of one of the greatest horror characters of all time, Freddy Krueger. Was this Craven’s own F.U. to the British board of censors? Perhaps not, but it doesn’t take a wild leap of the imagination to draw this conclusion - Craven is a smart, politically aware man whose own Last House On The Left ended up on the list of 72 banned films.

The three-disc DVD set, called Video Nasties - the Definitive Guide, comes with the documentary itself, and split over a further two discs a guide to all 72 films on the list (almost half of which were unbanned at the time) with commentary from British horror critics like Kim Newman, Alan Jones and Stephen Thrower. It also comes lovingly packaged in a fake video cassette box with artwork by Graham Humphreys, who created the now iconic British sleeve for The Evil Dead (another banned film on the list). So far only available in the UK, for anyone with a multi-region DVD player the film can be found on Amazon.co.uk and comes highly recommended. This documentary is not just for horror buffs, it is for anyone with an interest in politics, culture, and how liberal ideals can be thwarted by a select, self-interested few.
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
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New York City in 1977: A beautiful rock and roll hellhole

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Blackout.
 
Punk, disco, hip hop, the blackout, Son of Sam, Tony Manero, CBGB, Studio 54, Max’s Kansas City, Show World, Paradise Garage, cocaine, polyester and leather—1977 in New York City was exhilarating, a nightmare, fun, dangerous and never boring. It was the year I arrived in downtown Manhattan with a beautiful woman, no money and a rock and roll band. I hit the streets running and never looked back…unless it was to watch my back.

I was living in the decaying Hotel Earle in the West Village when NYC went black. The power failure of July 13, 1977 knocked the city to its knees. I was sitting on the window sill of my room keeping cool or as cool as one could keep during a sweltering summer night in the city. I was drinking a nice cold beer and listening to the music of the streets when at around 9:30 p.m. everything suddenly went completely dark…and I mean dark, dark as Aleister Crowley’s asshole. It was the strangest fucking thing you could imagine. One moment the city was there, then next it was gone. The only illumination came from automobile headlights lacerating the night like ghostly Ginsu knives. My girlfriend and I clutched hands and felt our way down the stairs and out onto the sidewalk. We walked to Bleecker street in spooky darkness. We weren’t alone. The avenues were teeming with the dazed and confused. Not that unusual for the Village, but the confusion was different. Was the world coming to an end?

By midnight the streets were mobbed with people who had figured out that civilization wasn’t ending, it was on vacation. There was a festive vibe in the air. It was like Mardi Gras for the blind. The bars and pubs that stayed open were candlelit and booze was flowing for free. Refrigerators weren’t working and there was no way to keep perishables from spoiling so instead of facing the prospect of throwing food away some joints were feeding people for free. A few cabbies got into the spirit of things and maneuvered their taxis in such a way as to shine their headlights into the cafes providing diners with surreal mood lighting. It was a prison break theme park. And this wild night was bringing out the best in New Yorkers. But it didn’t last. As the blackout continued through the next day and night, things started to change. The novelty of the crisis wore off and it got ugly. What had started out as a party turned into looting and violence. An unexpected payday for the poor and desperate.

The blackout put the whole gamut of what makes New York marvelous and miserable on display: the “I got your back, brother” slamming into the “fuck you!”

These were times when the city was an unseemly beast, a scabrous, moulting fat rat that was exciting to look at but terrifying. Part of the excitement came from the ever present sense that things could go haywire at any minute. I lived intensely in the moment, acutely aware of everything around me, jacked up in a state of heightened consciousness that was both Zen and manic. Being in the here and now of New York City in 1977 wasn’t a hippie thing, it was survival. And when I got inside the safety zone of Max’s or CBGB, among my tribe, I was ready to get fucked up, to get high, to dance and celebrate.

In the city of night, we went to bed at dawn and rose at dusk. We were vampires before vampires became hip. 

NY77: The Coolest Year In Hell is a terrific documentary that captures a pivotal moment in the history of a city and its pop culture. Here’s the whole beautiful mess.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Klaus Nomi and Iggy Pop destroy David Bowie

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This is a clip from The Venture Bros’ Showdown at Cremation Creek (Part II) which aired in 2006.

I never thought back in the late ‘70s when I knew Klaus Nomi that one day he’d be a cartoon action hero. But upon reflection nothing about Klaus should surprise me. Here he is teaming up with Iggy Pop to defeat David Bowie. Tons of subtext for a cartoon.

More can be found here.

“Now you’re gonna be my dog.”

“Ding, dong, the queen bitch is dead.”
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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MyWTF?!: The Rise and Fall of MySpace

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Image by Adam de la Mere.

Ah, it seems like only yesterday when MySpace was the biggest and most important website in the world. I remember attending a music biz pow-wow about five years ago and being told by a manager that as an artist I would not be taken seriously if I didn’t have a MySpace. Well, five years on and the opposite is almost certainly true—if you are a new artist and all you have is a MySpace, you are not going to be taken seriously.

There is an almost bewildering array of sites now dedicated to artist-uploads and legally sharing music. The biggest of these is probably Soundcloud, which this Wednesday is organising its first ever “meet-up”. Users of the site are gathering in cities all over the world, to meet face to face, and also to engage in jam sessions and round table discussion forums.  This kind of pro-user approach is something that MySpace could have done with 2 or 3 years ago, extending its reach from the e-world into the real world, and bringing together its most active users. But, for whatever reason, it never happened. Now potential users are spoiled for choice, with the likes of Mixcloud, Bandcamp, Fairtilizer, ReverbNation and more vying for their music hosting.

For my money, MySpace in its prime was the best music based social networking site. Perhaps I am being nostalgic, but it gave great access to the visual and blog cultures that surround and hugely inform modern music, more so than the sites mentioned above. It was open to hacking and adjustment via code, so you could make your profile look the way you wanted. However, they fumbled the ball badly. I have to say it - you fucked it up guys. Majorly - and this is coming from someone who at one point had roughly 20 different MySpace profiles on the go, representing different acts, production aliases, and a couple of hard-to-hear soundtracks that deserved to be on the web. I haven’t logged in to my primary profile as the Niallist since last autumn.

So why the downturn? While it would be tempting to class this as yet another example of fickle generation Y, the truth is much more simple. MySpace treated its music uploaders like shit. I don’t know if this was a deliberate move on their part, or the result of not understanding a good thing when they had it. I guess it could be something to do with the site being bought by Murdoch, and any avenue of profit being bled dry. As a site of cultural importance it is long over, to the point where I think it is never even going to see a Bebo-style ironic/nostalgic resurgence.

MySpace constantly felt the need to model itself on Twitter and Facebook, sites which serve vastly different purposes. MySpace was never about fast flowing streams of information, where the profile itself is largely unimportant. Quite the opposite, MySpace was all about the profile, and being able to browse through lots of them at your own leisure. Now, the current staff can claim they are merely moving forward with the times, but this is at the expense of the functions that MySpace was originally great at. It just comes across as, at best misguided, and at worse desperate. Talk about killing the goose who laid the golden egg.

Some specific examples: the “download” function was disabled at some point around 2007, making sharing of music through the site impossible. Yet, the button remained on the music player, goading us with a function we couldn’t use for a good year or more, and giving other sites the chance to supersede them with much easier sharing and monetizing functionality. Also, it makes less than zero sense for a social networking site that claims to be trying to combat spamming to change their friend-adding process so that you can no longer screen friends’ requests. Anyone who requested you as a friend after Dec 2009 was automatically added to your friends list and able to message you and post on your comments wall, a huge boon for porn and spam bots everywhere.

The British music/new media blogger and lecturer Andrew Dubber started a campaign called “Happy Quit MySpace Day” that has grown in popularity hugely since its launch in 2009. Incredibly, one year later (when Dubber had asked people to delete their profiles) MySpace itself had a massive relaunch which simply made the site much, much worse. Aside from re-branding it as “My_____” (which is just asking for trouble), it now looks a confusing mess. The music content has become secondary. Old codes which could be easily manipulated by the user to their own desire don’t work anymore, meaning that some profiles, which had taken a long time to cultivate a certain look or a vibe, are now blank. Logging in reveals the true extent of the damage. It seems as if no-one at MySpace heeded any advice from musicians, bloggers, or respected insider voices like Dubber. They have blindly stuck to their guns of trying to turn it into a fast flowing info stream like Facebook, and as such have killed it.

Oh well, maybe this whole thing is just me getting old. Maybe a new generation of kids will re-discover MySpace, hack it and make it look good again—but you know what, my feeling on this is “why would they bother?” Their needs are better served by other networking sites. MySpace, for a while you were on to something amazing. But you blew it. Sorry.

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
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Tura Satana Interview

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Dangerous Minds’ Paul Gallagher has already done a fitting tribute to Tura Satana, but I thought I’d share this interview that Tura gave for Kevin Sean Michaels’ 2008 documentary The Wild World Of Ted V. Mikels. Tura starred in Mikel’s The Astro-Zombies and The Doll Squad. In the interview she discusses working with Mikels and Russ Meyer.
 

 
Tura Satana does a striptease in “The Doll Squad” and is interviewed by Sandra Bernhard after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Happy Anniversary Lux Interior

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Singer with The Cramps, and legendary rock’n'roll front man, Lux Interior passed away two years ago today. It seems more fitting to celebrate the man on the anniversary of his death than his birth (October 21st), and besides, any excuse to get some Cramps up on DM is always welcome.

Lux is up there with Iggy Pop for sheer rock magnetism. His early performances are mind blowing - the way he moved, the way he sang, his physical appearance, it’s just incredible. Many people have tried to cop his moves, but none could do it like Lux. Outside of drag Lux was the only man to ever look good in a pair of stilettos, and I am always amazed at his pants’ ability to stay up even with the flies wide open and his hand in there. It’s what rock’n'roll should be about, but sadly rarely is. Here’s to his memory, and to all the folks missing him on this day.

Here’s the Cramps performing “The Crusher” live in Germany in 1993:
 

 
After the jump, more Lux performance footage, Lux in SpongeBob SquarePants, and an interview with the Cramps...

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
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When poets were rock stars: 1965’s literary Woodstock ‘Wholly Communion’

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British film maker Peter Whitehead chronicled London’s sixties counterculture scene in Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London and the seminal rock and roll of the decade in videos and documentaries for The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. What Whitehead did for pop culture, he did for poetry in the combustible Wholly Communion.

On 11 June 1965, the Royal Albert Hall played host to a slew of American and European beat poets for an extraordinary impromptu event - the International Poetry Incarnation - that arguably marked the birth of London’s gestating counterculture. Cast in the role of historian, as a man-on-the-scene, and massively elevating his limited resources, Whitehead constructed the extraordinary Wholly Communion from the unfolding circus. As Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Harry Fainlight, Alexander Trocchi and others took to the stage, Whitehead confidently wandered with his borrowed camera, creating a participatory and anarchic film that is as much a landmark as the event itself, and launched his career.

 
When poets were rock stars. Enjoy Wholly Communion in all of its delightful chaos.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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