An Italian poster for Dario Argento’s 1975 film ‘Profondo Rosso’ aka ‘Deep Red.’
This October two versions of Dario Argento’s Suspiria have been making the rounds at independent movie theaters across the country following the discovery of an Italian-language 35MM cut in an abandoned theater in Italy. In addition to that Synapse films finally finished their 4K restoration of Suspira (which took nearly four years) and released it as a gorgeously packaged Blu-ray which is also screening in selected theaters through the end of 2017. So, in light of it being a very Argento October this year—to say nothing of his courageous daughter’s stand against Harvey Weinstein—let’s take a look at some of the artwork that has been used on movie posters, DVD releases, a few lobby cards, and even a vintage VHS tape for Argento’s goretastic films.
Some of the artwork and photography that follows is graphic especially when it comes to the covers created for various re-releases of Argento’s films put out by Arrow Video. But since we’re talking about a director who has been affectionately referred to as the “The Italian Hitchcock,” you should know to expect lots of blood, gore, and massive head trauma by way of sharp objects. YAY!
Most of Charles Atlas’ movies cover the world of dance, but in the late 1980s he put together a diverting documentary about the New York sound of the moment, with special focus on two budding stars from that scene, John Zorn and Sonic Youth. The movie is called Put Blood in the Music; the title derives from a comment made by Glenn Branca.
Atlas’ playful methods involve some minor video trickery—his illustrious list of talking heads, about which more later, are always superimposed over footage of NYC street scenes. Atlas’ thesis, one voiced by most of his guests who discuss the matter in the movie, is that the special conditions only New York City can provide are responsible for the particular qualities of the music produced by its citizens—bracing, dissonant, heterogeneous.
Put Blood in the Music has a very impressive roster of participants, including Branca, Lydia Lunch, John Cale, Kramer, Christian Marclay, Vernon Reid, Arto Lindsay, Hal Willner, Richard Edson, Karen Finley, and Lenny Kaye. Obviously we see a lot of Zorn and the SY people as well.
Karen Finley in ‘Put Blood in the Music’
Zorn is a more engaging presence than Sonic Youth, who at a distance of about three decades, are also far more familiar these days. Zorn was about 25 when this was filmed, but he seems even younger than that. He’s the kind of music nerd who has distinct, serious phases of getting “obsessed” with hardcore or obscure Japanese pop; can converse insightfully about the music of Carl Stalling, composer for the old Warner Bros. cartoon shorts; and as a teen was quite taken by the music of Argentinian experimental composer Mauricio Kagel.
The Sonic Youth section is no less impressive—the high point may be the glimpse we get of Ciccone Youth covering Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love,” a subject already discussed at length here. Sonic Youth are arguably at the peak of their powers—they had just recorded Daydream Nation.
One of the most famous Mouseketeers ever, Annette Funicello offering Ozzy Osbourne some Skippy peanut butter.
As documented in the 1992 book by super-groovy groupie Pamela Des Barres Take Another Little Piece of My Heart: A Groupie Grows Up, Des Barres brought the unlikely coupling of Ozzy Osbourne and Annette Funicello together for an interview and photoshoot in 1989. The wild concept for the bizarre meeting was the idea of publisher and entrepreneur Quay Hayes—a friend of Des Barres who was getting ready to launch Twist Magazine. Sadly, the magazine never saw the light of day, though the images from the photo session did as well as a few juicy tidbits from the interview between Ozz and Annette.
According to Des Barres, the two traded questions during which Funicello drilled Ozzy on his drug use and issues with addiction—something most rock journalists steered clear of back in the day. In what was perhaps a way to throw Funicello off of her game, Ozzy countered by asking the then 47-year-old former Mouseketeer if her beloved Walt Disney had really been frozen which made Funicello cry. Interestingly, a year later Funicello would defend Ozzy’s misunderstood 1980 classic “Suicide Solution” in an interview with her beach-blanket buddy, Frankie Avalon saying that the song didn’t advocate suicide but was instead trying to convey situations or “conditions” under which a teenager might take their own lives.
The other weird thing I dug up about Ozzy and Annette’s get-together are the claims of a man who says he’s Funicello’s son. J.P. Moss (also known as Jason Paul Moss) wrote the 2105 book Beyond Magic Gates: An Unauthorized Biography of Annette Funicello which details his allegation that he was abducted in 1970 from the hospital after Funicello gave birth to him, and it’s a typo-riddled read, I’ll just say that much. As it relates to this post, Moss uploaded a video on YouTube where he tries to debunk Funicello and Ozzy’s meeting calling it a “conspiracy.” The “conspiracy” in question involved the Mafia and Sharon Osbourne’s father, the infamous Don Arden. Moss says that Funicello deliberately lied about the timeframe about meeting Ozzy in her own 1995 autobiography, A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: My Story because Don Arden told her to. I’ve posted Moss’ video below as well as a few photos that support the fact that Ozzy and Annette were in the same room together at the same time and that Annette’s favorite peanut butter, Skippy, was involved.
As someone who discovered James Bond films and David Bowie right around the same time, I found the following anecdote, supplied by Dylan Jones during the press launch of his new Bowie bio, David Bowie: A Life, mighty amusing.
“[Screenwriter and novelist Hanif] Kureishi told me this story, that when David Bowie moved to Switzerland at the end of the Seventies to escape tax and drug dealers, he didn’t know anybody there. He was in this huge house on the outskirts of Geneva - he knew nobody.
“One day, about half-past five in the afternoon, there’s a knock on the door, and there he was: ‘Hello, David.’ Roger Moore comes in, and they had a cup of tea. He stays for drinks, and then dinner, and tells lots of stories about the James Bond films. They had a fantastic time - a brilliant night.”
“But then, the next day, at 5.30… Knock, knock, it’s Roger Moore. He invites himself in again, and sits down: ‘Yeah, I’ll have a gin and tonic, David.’ He tells the same stories - but they’re slightly less entertaining the second time around.
“After two weeks [of Moore turning up] at 5.25pm - literally every day - David Bowie could be found underneath the kitchen table pretending not to be in.”
Bowie turned down the role of the villainous Max Zorin in Moore’s final outing as 007 in A View to a Kill.
Now we know why!
It was announced this week that from March 2 through July 15, 2018, the Brooklyn Museum will mark the final stop of the Bowie exhibit that was organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. More than 300 objects from the singer’s life, including 60 stage costumes and set designs from his 1974 “Diamond Dogs” tour will be on display.
The “Nicolastick’ by Japanese snack giant, Umaibo. Actor Nicolas Cage is pictured on the package in character for the film ‘Army of One.’ Only available in Japan. BOO!
So here’s a thing you may or may not know about actor Nicolas Cage, he never stops working. This year alone he has been attached to eight movies (a few are currently in post-production) as well as two more set for 2018 release that are also in post-production. In 2016 Cage starred in Army of One—a film about a man who (after being visited by God) goes on a search and destroy mission to get Osama Bin Laden.
The reason I bring up that cinematic catastrophe is that the film is about to make its premiere in Japan where it is amusingly known as “Bin Laden is my Target.” And purchasing a ticket to one of the showings is the only way that you can score a package of Umaibo’s special “Nicolastick” foodstuff starting on October 13th. Known as the “delicious stick” in Japan, Umaibo makes a huge variety of the flavored corn snacks such as “Beef Tongue,” “Shrimp and Mayonnaise,” and “Salami” that is rumored to contain fragrant notes of delicious Cheeto dust. So what flavor did Mr. Cage’s Nicolastick get? Apparently, dull old plain old corn was good enough for this bizarre bit of publicity. I’m quite sure this strange promotional snack will show up on auction sites like eBay before too long so don’t worry! You still might get a chance to say that you know what a Nicolastick tastes like.
A few weeks ago I signed up for a new membership at the Cinematheque in Cleveland, and I’ve been attending movies there at a far higher rate than I was before. One of the previews I ended up seeing several times was the utterly infectious trailer for Jean-Luc Godard‘s La Chinoise, which was until very recently unavailable on DVD and a new digital restoration of which has been making the rounds of the art-house circuit this year.
A bizarre adaptation of Dostoevsky’s novel The Demons, La Chinoise puts five French-speaking radicals in a tidy Paris apartment decked out in appealing primary colors and festooned with slogans, as they push forward their Maoist agenda. This movie came out a year before the widespread unrest in Paris 1968, and not unusually Godard had his finger on the pulse of something. Godard’s wife, Anne Wiazemsky, plays the most radical (i.e. most bomb-throwing) character, and the final act of the movie centers around a lengthy debate on a moving train about the utility of political violence with an actual professor named Francis Jeanson who had been tried for treason for his radical activities in connection with the Algerian War. Jeanson argues against political violence in La Chinoise, while Godard piped in his own retorts into Wiazemsky’s earpiece during the take.
The movie La Chinoise is diverting, but in all honesty it tested my ability to stay out of REM state. The movie poses the as-yet-unasked question of what would happen if Wes Anderson directed a script by Yvonne Rainer, whose movies (I find them compulsively watchable) sometimes include characters reading political tracts aloud as dialogue. (To be fair, it’s a testament to Godard’s prodigious gifts that he could plausibly anticipate both Anderson and Rainer.)
I saw that preview probably five times and as a result, the featured song, “Mao Mao,” sung by Claude Channes and written by Channes, Gérard Guégan, and Gérard Hugé, would always get relentlessly lodged in my head for days afterward. Part of the song’s charm is the French pronunciation of “Mao”—at least in this song—with two strong syllables, “Ma-Oh,” whereas in English it’s a one-syllable word. The decision to end every line in the verse with “MA OH MA OH” and the infectious chorus apparently sung by children (or at least recorded to give that effect) makes this one hell of a song.
Not surprisingly, the song is about .... uh, Chairman Mao, supreme leader of China for a generation, known then in English as Mao Tse-Tung and today universally as Mao Zedong. It’s tempting to try to figure out whether the song is pro- or anti-Mao….. it’s a fool’s errand. The lyrics make references to both “renouncing” and “following” Mao and the song should most clearly be seen as the taking up of Mao as a pop subject. One might say that it’s postmodern in the sense that the status of Mao’s pluses and minuses take a back seat to his incomparable there-ness—as the leader of Communist China during the Vietnam War and having recently overseen the Cultural Revolution, Mao was there to be discussed, debated, apprehended no matter what.
La Chinoise is worth a look but what remains is the song (which does appear in the movie). I’ve seldom found a ditty about a brutal dictator as engaging as Channes’ masterpiece, and I had to pass it on to the faithful Dangerous Minds readership. Here are the lyrics in French and an English translation, followed by the trailer, which is a must-see for those who like odd, catchy songs.
Le Vietnam brûle et moi je hurle Mao Mao
Johnson rigole et moi je vole Mao Mao
Le napalm coule et moi je roule Mao Mao
Les villes crèvent et moi je rêve Mao Mao
Les putains crient et moi je ris Mao Mao
Le riz est fou et moi je joue Mao Mao
C’est le petit livre rouge
Qui fait que tout enfin bouge
L’impérialisme dicte partout sa loi
La révolution n’est pas un dîner
La bombe A est un tigre en papier
Les masses sont les véritables héros
Les Ricains tuent et moi je mue Mao Mao
Les fous sont rois et moi je bois Mao Mao
Les bombes tonnent et moi je sonne Mao Mao
Les bébés fuient et moi je fuis Mao Mao
Les Russes mangent et moi je danse Mao Mao
Giap dénonce, je renonce Mao Mao
C’est le petit livre rouge
Qui fait que tout enfin bouge
La base de l’armée, c’est le soldat
Le vrai pouvoir est au bout du fusil
Les monstres seront tous anéantis
L’ennemi ne périt pas de lui-même
Vietnam burns and me I spurn Mao Mao
Johnson giggles and me I wiggle Mao Mao
Napalm runs and me I gun Mao Mao
Cities die and me I cry Mao Mao
Whores cry and me I sigh Mao Mao
The rice is mad and me a cad
It’s the Little Red Book
That makes it all move
Imperialism lays down the law
Revolution is not a party
The A-bomb is a paper tiger
The masses are the real heroes
The Yanks kill and me I read Mao Mao
The jester is king and me I sing Mao Mao
The bombs go off and me I scoff Mao Mao
Girls run and me I follow Mao Mao
The Russians eat and me I dance Mao Mao
I denounce and I renounce Mao Mao
The writer and director Cameron Crowe recently tweeted an impressive piece of pop culture history. It was a photograph of the correspondence between Francis Coppola and John Lennon, in regard of the former-Beatle hanging out with the famed director in the Philippines and maybe writing/contributing some music for Coppola’s movie Apocalypse Now.
The pair had obviously met at some point and an idea had been suggested. What exactly this idea was, and how far or how seriously it was taken, well, we just don’t know. What seems apparent is that Coppola was feeling a tad lonely working and living 24/7 on location and the “rarified air” of the Philippines was having its own effect.
The letter starts off like a typical fan letter but Coppola probably lost Lennon at the line where he says he is living inside a volcano.
March 24, 1977
Mr. John Lennon
1307 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10019
We’ve never met but, of course, I’ve always enjoyed your work.
I am presently in the Philippines making “APOCALYPSE NOW”. I’ve been here eight months, expect to be here another several months. I live inside a volcano, which is a jungle paradise, where there are beautiful mineral springs; and thought of ever you were in the Far East or if ever you would enjoy spending a little time talking about things in general and some distant future projects that I have in mind, please, I would love to cook dinner for you and just talk, listen to music and talk about movies.
If coming to the Far East is difficult, then someday in the future, either in Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York, I would like to meet you.
Coppola feeling the pressure during ‘Apocalypse Now.’ After the jump Lennon’s letter of reply ...
Artist Steve Scotts’ spooky sculpture of Sigourney Weaver as “Ellen Ripley” from ‘Alien’
Steve Scotts is the incredibly talented sculptor and FX specialist who created this mind-bogglingly realistic sculpture of actress Sigourney Weaver in character as the ass-kicking alien killer, “Ellen Ripley.” Weaver would make her first appearance as Ripley in director Ridley Scott’s horror film franchise, which started with 1979’s Alien. Scotts documented his work by capturing images of his blow-by-blow process—and the photographs that chronicle the making of his faux “Ellen Ripley” are as astounding as they are atmospherically unsettling.
In his bio, Scotts recalls the moment that he knew his destiny to pursue art had been sealed. It was 1993 and Scotts’ family had finally deemed that he was old enough to see a film by Steven Spielberg—specifically Jurassic Park. Scotts would refer to this event as a “life-defining 127 minutes” and credits the great FX master Stan Winston (the dinosaur wizard behind the special effects in the film and 1986’s Aliens) as a key creative inspiration for his work. As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, Scotts’ sculpt of Sigourney as Ripley is so remarkably life-like it seems conceivable that she might blink or even breathe. Another reason Scotts’ sculpture of Ripley is a standout is the fact that he did it just by studying photos of Weaver in character from the film, then constructed it using foam, silicone, acrylic paint—and if I understand correctly real hair. I’m continually amazed by an artist who creates work that challenges grounded perceptions of reality—and Scotts’ sculpture of Ripley blurs the lines between what is real and what might be masquerading as such brilliantly.
Some images below are ever-so-slightly NSFW.
An eerie early shot of Scotts’ sculpt of Weaver as “Ripley.”
Royal College of Art student Richard Stanley was pals with the Who’s Pete Townshend (at one point staying the summer at the guitarist’s flat at 20 Ebury Street) and convinced him to play a character, based on himself to a certain degree, in Stanley’s student film Lone Ranger. Townshend also did the music for the short which was edited by longtime Robert Wyatt collaborator (she’s also married to him) Alfreda Benge. The great Storm Thorgerson served as Stanley’s Assistant Director. The 22-minute long 16mm film was Stanley’s Diploma film for his M.A. from the R.C.A. in 1968. Apparently just a single, scratchy German distribution print of the film survives today: “The dirt and scratches do not come from a plug-in” writes the director on Vimeo who goes on to add that “the budget, as I recall, was 50 quid, but of course everyone worked for free.”
The first idea for the film came out of many conversations with Pete Townshend about music and film, and his expressed interest in making a movie soundtrack. He was also thinking about Tommy in the same period.
The idea developed in conversations with fellow students Storm Thorgerson (later founder of Hipgnosis) and David Gale (later founder of improvisational theatre group Lumière & Son). Their good friend (and thereafter mine), Matthew Scurfield, became the main actor at the urging of Storm and Dave.
Lone Ranger was shot in South Kensington and Knightsbridge during January and February of 1968:
We were all living in London at the height of its swingingness. But strangely, in spite of a great feeling of social change in the air, it all seemed normal to us. Looking back, it is more documentary than I thought at the time.
None of us was quite sure what we are creating. A lot was improvised during shooting, although the scenes were all written as sketches of action and location. I specialized in camerawork at the RCA and was heavily influenced by French New Wave cameramen such as Raoul Coutard and Henri Decae. “The camera is a pen.”
Amidst all this chaos, three people were key in holding it all together: Chris Morphet, the cameraman, whose friendly cynicism has trimmed my bemused pomposity since 1963, and Alfie Benge, the editor, who somehow managed to build a new genre out of this bundle of sketches. And Pete, whose music somehow ties the whole thing together.
John Pasche, who did the graphics, was also the designer of the 1970 Rolling Stones’ lips and tongue logo. So Lone Ranger is perhaps the only project to unite creative connections between The Who, Pink Floyd and the Stones.
The star of the film is Matthew Scurfield, whose acting, it must be said, was rather uninhibited. This is a good thing.
From left: Chris Cornford, Matthew Scurfield, Pete Townshend
Amazingly, this eccentric little film was seen as controversial:
The board of the Film School tried to ban Lone Ranger from a show at the British Film Institute. Thanks to the protests of my fellow students, it was reinstated. The film went on to win a Golden Hugo at the Chicago film festival, and a script prize at the Nyons Film Festival.
The first season of Ryan Murphy’s docudrama series Feud, released earlier this year, has triggered an uptick in interest in the sublimely dishy goings-on that led to Robert Aldrich’s overwrought 1962 melodrama (if that is even the word for it) Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, which featured two actresses widely known to despise each other, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. (Weirdly, I’ve copyedited bios of bothwomen.) Ideally cast with Susan Sarandon as Davis and Jessica Lange as Crawford, the eight-episode narrative tackled one of Hollywood’s most curious releases, a pulpy embrace of camp, kitsch, and lurid material that seems miles ahead of its time.
In Italy, the movie, under the title Che fine ha fatto Baby Jane?, didn’t debut until the spring of 1963, but when it did Italian audiences were no doubt lured to purchase a ticket by this utterly fantastic atomic-age lobby art, done up in an eye-popping palette including a garish combination of hot pink, powder blue, and bright yellow. The irony, of course, is that none of these colors are to be found in the film itself, being that it was shot in black and white.