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‘The Hollow’: The inbred hillbilly hamlet where (literally) everyone’s related
10:12 am



The Hollow is a 1975 documentary about the inbred hillbilly residents of an area of New York State in Saratoga County known informally as “Allentown” for reasons that soon become abundantly clear. It begins with the following text:

Early in the 19th Century two families, the Allens and Kathans, settled in the Southern Adirondack Mountains of New York State. By 1960’s their descendants had isolated themselves in a remote hollow high in the mountains. Below lay the great Sacandaga Valley. Its rich lands rapidly filled with farms, factories and mills.

By the end of the century, the Allens and the Kathans had intermarried: all the residents in the Hollow were related. Because of their isolation, misunderstandings developed between them and the outside world.

The economic disasters of the 1930s shut down the factories and mills. In 1932 the Sacandaga River was dammed, flooding the fertile valley below the Hollow. Forced from their homes, the valley residents sought employment elsewhere, but the Allens and Kathans chose to remain up in the mountains.

The Hollow has no narration, the filmmakers (George Nierenberg and Gary Wand) simply trained their cameras on various Allens and Kathans and let them talk about their lives. There’s no narrative as such, either, but the publication of a newspaper article about the hamlet causes much consternation among the residents of Allentown, who become distrustful, even paranoiac about the world outside of their close knit enclave of approximately 200 intermarried, blood relatives.

The Hollow is like an anthropological study of a miniscule slice of America that time has completely forgotten, and the residents of Allentown, seem to like it that way. Incredibly, it was’t until the mid-1980s, nearly a decade after this film was shot, that indoor plumbing came to Allentown, which is apparently roughly 1200 ft. long by 400 ft. wide and covered on three sides by dense forest, and it is said, a fence. Anecdotal evidence points to many Allentowners having red hair.

In the wake of the documentary and the exposure of their grim living conditions, social workers began making tentative inroads with the Allentowners, but the attention was initially rebuffed by distrustful residents.

From a 1993 New York Times article about Allentown:

Clifford Logan of the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council said his agency had weatherized 150 homes in the Allentown area since then. “Once you do something nice for somebody you’re accepted,” he said, adding that he believes residents of the Hollow are slowly becoming more comfortable with outsiders. “They’ve been a town with a gate, and they’re opening up.” No Welfare, Thank You

But Emily Smith, deputy commissioner for the County Social Services Department, said the number of public assistance cases in the entire Hollow was “probably not more than a couple of handfuls” and has not grown in 15 years.

“They still tend to be a very close-knit group and they take care of each other,” she said. “Their ways don’t change much. They’re happy and that’s their way of life. To you and me, our standards are much higher but they don’t have those high standards and they’re not striving to have them.”

James Bowen, the Saratoga County Sheriff, said his services are rarely requested. “We don’t get a lot of calls from Allentown,” he said. “They sort of police themselves.”

While a local fire department provides service for the area, he said, “If one of the Allens has a fire, one of the Allens next door will help put it out.”

I found this film entirely engrossing. From the remarkable opening shots of the legless old coot discussing how he’d been… er fruitful and multiplied, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I don’t want to give the impression in any way that The Hollow is a hicksploitation movie—it’s not. There is no editorializing from the filmmakers whatsoever, the viewer has no idea what they might be thinking, which is one of the reasons The Hollow is such a strong film.

Here’s the trailer below. I can’t embed it here, but you can watch a sharp copy of the entire film at the FolkSteams website.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Weegee’s whimsical snapshots of people watching movies
09:28 am



The American photographer Arthur Fellig, who took the name Weegee as a reference to his seemingly clairvoyant ability to arrive at the scenes of grisly crimes, often in advance of the authorities (the name “Weegee” derives from the board game “Ouija”). No other photographer combines the worlds of news reporting and high art as seamlessly as he does—many of his photos were taken for immediate publication in newspapers, but the originality of his compositions have ensured that his work is routinely discussed in the same breath as masters of photography like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus, Berenice Abbott, and Garry Winogrand. The prime of Weegee’s career was in the 1940s and he died in 1968, but the vitality of his pictures and the lurid subject matter (many of his subjects are murder victims) led to a certain vogue in the 1980s and 1990s. His first book was called Naked City, a phrase that was adopted by avant-garde jazz musician John Zorn for one of his combos in the 1980s—I first discovered Weegee’s work through the cover of their first album. In 1992 Joe Pesci starred in a fictionalized version of Weegee’s life called The Public Eye, directed by Howard Franklin (in the movie, Pesci plays “Bernzy,” who is embroiled in an actual murder plot).

In 1943, with the use of an infrared flash and special film, Weegee captured audience members in New York City movie theaters, unaware that their images were being recorded. The results are predictably marvelous….


Many more after the jump…....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
John Waters eulogizes Dead Boy Stiv Bators in heartfelt video tribute
07:00 am


John Waters
Stiv Bators

The untimely passing of Stiv Bators is one of the most unexpected deaths in punk history. After years of onstage self-mutilation, brutal falls, and even an incident of theatrical hanging gone wrong that left him medically dead for several minutes, Stiv was hit by a car in Paris in 1990. He even walked away from the ER feeling fine, without seeing a doctor, only to die in his sleep later from a concussion. Bators, by all accounts a sweet guy, was mourned by many, including John Waters, who directed his brilliant performance as the dirtbag Bo-Bo in Polyester. The video eulogy you see below is a sincere moment of tenderness for the Pope of Trash, and a fitting tribute for such a lovely, disgusting punk legend.

In the director’s commentary on the Polyester DVD, Waters remarks that Bators’ girlfriend Caroline—who sprinkled his ashes across Jim Morrison’s gravesite in Paris—confessed to him that she snorted a bit of Stiv’s ashes to feel more connected to him

(Iggy Pop’s tearful videotaped condolences to Stiv’s parents are also quite moving, if you’re near a box of Kleenex.)

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa & the Monkees: ‘No, YOU’RE the popular musician, I’M dirty gross and ugly’

The Monkees are often referred to as the “Pre-Fab Four” in reference to the fact that they were a TV knock-off of the Beatles, recruited from a help wanted ad in Variety. Still, no matter how “uncool” they were supposed to be, the Monkees casting was a rare example of stroke of genius by committee. It’s difficult to imagine anyone but the four of them having the same chemistry, both comedically and (eventually) musically. And to further refute their “uncool” rep, John Lennon called them “the Marx Brothers of Rock” (he was right about that) and the Beatles even hosted a party for the Monkees in London when they toured England. (Furthermore, Mike Nesmith was present at the Abbey Road recording sessions for “A Day in the Life” and Peter Tork played banjo on George Harrison’s eclectic Wonderwall soundtrack).

Even that most far-out of the really far-out musicians of the day, Frank Zappa himself, made not just one, but two onscreen appearances with the Monkees: First in a TV segment where Mike pretended to be Frank and vice versa (which certainly foreshadowed Ringo Starr’s portrayal of Zappa in 200 Motels) before they destroyed a car with a sledgehammer to the tune of “Mother People,” and again in a brief cameo in Head.

Zappa’s Head cameo, after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
¡Películas muy locos, ay caramba! The awesomely lurid art of Mexican B-movie lobby cards

I don’t think I’m too far out on a limb in assuming that John Cozzoli probably has a completely amazing house. Cozzoli collects 20th Century monster movie ephemera, and he’s the best kind of collector—the kind who shares. He curates the online archive Zombos’ Closet, a vast trove of endearingly cheap thrills, including movie and book reviews, and scans of his collections of cinema pressbooks, goofy paper-cutout Halloween decorations, and his amazing collection of Mexican lobby cards from B-grade films. If you have time to descend into a serious rabbit-hole of marvelous trash-culture nostalgia, visit that site just as soon as you possibly can and revel in its contents. And if that’s not enough for you, Collectors Weekly ran a terrific in-depth interview with Cozzoli in 2012. But for now, enjoy some samples from his lobby card collection. This barely even scratches the surface of what he’s got to offer on his site. I went mostly for lurid horror, but he’s got TONS of luchador movie art, as well.

Cozzoli:There’s a mistaken belief that having a big budget guarantees a good movie: It doesn’t. Many movies with modest budgets have outdone movies with bigger pockets to draw from. I love seeing how creative a director and set designer can be when faced with limited resources to work from. Horror movies were originally A-listers, drawing notable actors and production teams. Over time they switched to B and C status as the studios realized they could still make a profit on a cheap movie. Even the bad movies sometimes show a sparkle of wit or style or dramatic directness that makes them enjoyable to watch.

While many Mexican lobby cards promote American movies, they also made cards for Spanish-language movies, often illustrated with vampires, witches, and mummies; Japanese movies, like those made by Toho Studios; and other non-Spanish-language movies. Really, just about any movie that could be shown in a local theater, foreign or domestic, had cards done for it. If the lobby cards were done for American or other non-Spanish-language movies, the compositions usually derive to some degree from the movie’s poster campaign, so these cards tend to be more, let’s say, sedate, and tone down the sex and mayhem. Spanish-language lobby cards are usually more vibrant and suggestive.

Monster kid and movie historian Professor Kinema (Jim Knusch) was the person who turned me on to these wonderful examples of movie promotion for theaters. It was while perusing his collection of lobby cards and pressbooks that I fell in love with both. One reason I focus on Mexican lobby cards is because at $5 to $10 a pop, they’re a lot cheaper than American cards, making them easier to collect. Additionally, Mexican cards for native Spanish movies are usually more colorful and dynamic, and the Mexican cards come in larger sizes, which make them more interesting and displayable.


Devil Bat’s Daughter, 1946

She Demons, 1958

The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues, 1955
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Astonishing matte paintings from ‘Ghostbusters’
09:37 am


matte paintings

Ghostbusters is one of the most iconic movies of all time—it was the most successful comedy of the 1980s, by far, and that’s an objectively true statement—it was the #6 grossing movie in that decade, behind (in order) E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Return of the Jedi, The Empire Strikes Back, Batman, and Raiders of the Lost Ark (box office figures from Box Office Mojo).

The question arises, Why was it so successful? Strictly considered as comedy, it doesn’t hold a candle to other movies of the era, such as Night Shift, Better Off Dead, Vacation, Airplane!, just to name a few. Aside from the obvious charm of its lead actors, Ghostbusters succeeds because of its scale, its status as a movie that’s both scary and funny (like Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein) in which all of Manhattan Island takes a righteous beating.

As it happens, Ghostbusters employed the talents of two of the nation’s leading matte artists, being Matthew Yuricich, a veteran of the trade who had worked on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Logan’s Run, Point Blank, Blade Runner, and North by Northwest, and Michelle Moen, called by Richard Edlund, the movie’s visual effects supervisor, “one of the best, if not the top, matte painters in the business.” A movie as successful as Ghostbusters benefits from key contributions from every corner, but if you wanted to argue that the movie’s matte artists were as responsible for its success as its actors, I wouldn’t argue.

Film is obviously a 2-D medium most of the time, which is what allows for the possibility for jaw-dropping visual trickery such as this. Taking in scenes like this, or scenes from Star Wars and Blade Runner, the mind knows that the images aren’t actually possible but it never occurs to the viewer that maybe somebody could paint a landscape that detailed and specific. But people can do that very thing—they’re visionaries who are responsible for some of the most indelible images of cinema history.

Many of these photos come from the indispensable blog Matte Shot.







Here we see how the shot is a combination of three different elements.


Here’s Yuricich working on the painting directly above.

via Tombolare

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Taco Bell’s weird-ass Orwell ripoff, complete with totalitarian clowns (yes, you read that right)

For their new ad campaign “Routine Republic,” Taco Bell has produced a mini-movie lasting three minutes that steals from ... well, you name it.  Just off the top of my head, it cribs from The Hunger Games, Insane Clown Posse, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, Divergent, Apple’s “1984” ad campaign, and any number of David Fincher movies.

You’d have to be a semiotics Ph.D. to uncover all the layers of mendacious allusion and outright theft going on here. If nothing else, it’s a contender for the “Protesting Too Much” Hall of Fame. See, the idea is that if you are eating yummy McGriddles from McDonald’s or delectable Croissan’wiches from Burger King for breakfast, you’re a brainwashed drone who needs to be liberated by ... an A.M. Crunchwrap from Taco Bell (which admittedly also sounds yummy). Yes, you read that right: a delicious Croissan’wich and you’re a soulless drone; a delicious A.M. Crunchwrap and you’re a hipsterish free spirit with the ability to cavort in the streets of Prague, perhaps and eventually open an artisanal and/or steampunk moustache wax boutique (I have nothing against hipsters, I’m just reading into the ad). Never mind that the most powerful electron microscope on earth wouldn’t be able to detect any ideological difference between a McGriddle and an A.M. Crunchwrap.

Sticking with the Orwell tip, the commercial repurposes the “four legs good, two legs bad” formulation of Animal Farm into the totalitarian regime’s “circle = good, hexagon = bad.” I could hardly write that with a straight face, it’s so stupid. So that’s right, fealty to a round shape is bad but the one with the six equal sides is good. The ad’s Winston Smith finds his Julia as they wait on line for their Victory Gin, er, a round breakfast sandwich, lock eyes, and escape together to the land of Borat-ish un-corporate-ness. Just to make sure you don’t miss the point, the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” kicks in at the moment of maximum individualism. Because it takes an individual to appreciate the world’s most universally beloved punk band, right?

Oh yeah, the clowns, I almost forgot. All the authority figures in “Oceania” or whatever have clown makeup on. Because McDonald’s corporate logo is a guy in a clown suit and you know, fuck that guy.

One touch I did like is that the evil kingdom is surrounded by a moat that is actually a drab ball pit, which is mostly associated with McDonald’s Playland. Of course, trying to demonize a wonderful, fun ball pit for children has to rank down there with the worst things any advertiser has ever done, but you know, all’s fair in love and breakfast war.
The ad itself, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘The Decline of Western Civilization’ trilogy FINALLY gets a DVD/Blu-ray release!

Penelope Spheeris’ brilliant Decline of Western Civilization is an infamous document of the early ‘80s LA punk scene featuring interviews and mind-blowing performance footage of The Germs, X, Fear, Circle Jerks, and Black Flag, among others. Her follow-up, Decline of Western Civilization Part II - The Metal Years, follows the mid-‘80s LA glam metal scene and features Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Dave Mustaine and Paul Stanley along with some amusing lesser-known hair-bands. It also famously features one of the most depressing interviews ever caught on film - a brutally pathetic poolside chat with alcoholic WASP guitarist, Chris Holmes. The third film in Spheeris’ trilogy, The Decline of Western Civilization III, is lesser known, but a fascinating look at the crusty squatter-punk scene of the mid-‘90s featuring musical performances by Final Conflict, Litmus Green, Naked Aggression and The Resistance.

Spheeris’ Decline of Western Civilization trilogy has been at the top of countless fans most-wanted DVD lists forever. I’ve personally been trying to replace my well-worn VHS copy since the dawn of the DVD format. Over the years there have been many hints that the films would get a proper digital video release. As far back as the late 90’s there was a website promising an “upcoming” release of the trilogy. As these films, particularly the first installment, have been at the tip-top of my must-have-list, I’ve followed the progress with an eagle eye. Spheeris has dropped hints on her Facebook page for years—at times promising a deluxe set loaded with extras. There were rumors that Black Flag’s notoriously difficult Greg Ginn was holding up the process. Though those rumors are unconfirmed and were never actually put forward by the Spheeris camp, it’s well known that Ginn has prevented film maker Dave Markey from releasing the Black Flag documentary Reality 86’d, as well as forcing him to remove the Black Flag footage from Markey’s other film The Slog Movie—which is itself sort of a low-rent version of the first Decline movie.

A lot of punk and metalhead DVD prayers got answered when, without fanfare or a press-release, a box set of the trilogy showed up for preorder on Amazon.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
‘Separate Cinema’: Unsettling and gorgeous posters from the age of segregated movies
11:16 am



Birthright, 1939. A black Harvard graduate confronts racism.
The images on this page come from a remarkable book that came out late last year, Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art, by John Duke Kisch; it’s an incredibly wide-ranging look at the posters of “black cinema” writ large, a category that includes not just the “race films” shown here but also Birth of a Nation, earnest Hollywood dramas, The Jazz Singer, Blaxploitation flicks, South African movies addressing apartheid, breakdancing movies from the 1980s, and much more. The book’s credibility couldn’t be greater, insofar as Henry Louis Gates Jr. supplies the foreword and Spike Lee the afterword.

The posters depicted here tell a tale of true segregation, a “separate but equal” industry, so to speak, that served up gripping melodramas to its chosen audience just as surely as Warner Bros. did for white audiences. The undisputed master of this period is Oscar Micheaux, who directed a couple of these movies. By Kisch’s lights “the most successful early black independent film producer and director,” Micheaux was the son of a Kentucky slave before working as a railway porter and homesteader; around World War I he started directing and producing movies, of which he directed more than 40 before he was done. Kisch describes his basic formula as follows:

Micheaux’s features were usually far superior to those made by other independent black studios, largely because he took a familiar Hollywood genre and gave it a distinctive African-American slant. Committed to “racial uplift,” he cast black characters in non-stereotypical roles, as farmers, oil men, explorers, professors, Broadway producers, or Secret Service agents.  … He brought to the screen diverse social issues that faced black America, and also portrayed an ideal world in which blacks were affluent, educated, and cultured. In the 1930s, his films represented a radical departure from Hollywood’s portrayal of African Americans as jesters and servants.

In our age, posters like this are simultaneously dazzling and upsetting, almost as taboo as the interracial drama The Exile (below) was in its day. Underlying so much of the rhetoric surrounding the racial situation in America is the understanding that all those bad things belonged to and are limited to the past; the horrors of Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland in 2014 showed everyone that no such assumptions are safe—even as Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (it’s included in the book too) both harks back to these unsettling movies and signals the potential for lasting change. 

Bosambo, 1935. British District Officer in Nigeria in the 1930’s rules his area strictly but justly, and struggles with gun-runners and slavers with the aid of a loyal native chief.

Black Gold, 1928. A town abandons its previous ways of life for the glamour and drama of the oil drilling trade.

The Flying Ace, 1926. A veteran World War I fighter pilot returns home a war hero and immediately regains his former job as a railroad company detective.
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Trippy Czechoslovakian movie posters of classic American films
12:28 pm



Hello Dolly, poster created 1970
Man, I really got lost in the massive archive of Czechoslovakian posters of American films on the Terry Posters website. I cherry-picked the ones I really dug, but there are a ton more that might strike your fancy. A lot of these are for sale too. If you see something you just gotta have, it just might be available for purchase.

As a side note: The poster for Ghostbusters below really has me scratching my head….

Ghostbusters, poster created 1988

Mary Poppins, poster created 1969

My Fair Lady, poster created 1967

Planet of the Apes, poster created 1970

Cinderella, poster created 1970

Rebel Without A Cause, poster created 1969
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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