30 January 2010

Black Cat

Italy - 1981
Director - Lucio Fulci
Media Home Entertainment, 1988, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 32 minutes

After coming across this old article in Fangoria, I was trying to find the ill fated Luigi Cozzi movie of the same name and I saw a listing for this online. There were several other versions of the Fulci film listed so I figured since this one didn't have any information it might be what I was looking for. I assumed that the seller wouldn't be so dumb as to list it separately without info when it was obvious it was already listed in several versions. I thought it might be worth the three bucks to see if it was what I was looking for. I was wrong.

27 January 2010

The Outing

United States – 1986
Director – Tom Daley
International Video Entertainment, 1986, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 27 minutes

In the 80’s, one small coastal city in southeastern Texas was determined to do establish itself as a new name in pop cinema, at least on the surface. This tiny breakwater outpost, nestled as it is at the top of the Gulf of Mexico, is just the place where big ideas wash ashore in the warm tropical breeze. The Outing opens to much promise with a healthy dose of sex and splatter. Instead of a good omen, this proves to be the ultimate anticlimax of deception. Its commitment to this premise is quickly abandoned, and instead of the gut crunching horror flick promised in the opening sequence, it abruptly switches gears into an uncomfortable and nonsensical rendition of a teenybopper slasher film.

By rubbing a magic lamp a teenage girl accidentally releases an Iron Age evil jinn/djinn/genie which is so confused by the plethora of ripe victims it encounters in the modern era that it is completely unsure what to do with itself. It uses the girl to convince her friends sneak into a museum basement to camp out for a night of groping, which they actually already wanted to do. This doesn’t narrow the jinn's options for delivering well deserved teenage death. Should I possess the school bully, or levitate and move solid objects? Maybe I’ll revive the dead, or perhaps influence the behavior of deadly animals, or wait, wait maybe I should possess the mechanical systems of the building? The guy has no consistency. Aside from these cheap FX moments, the bulk of the film’s content degenerates into a weird wasteland of plot, undeniably linear, but, full of abrupt, disjointed continuity gaps.

But a few years before the rest of the world caught on, Galveston already had an inkling that computers could fix any problem. Just like the ivory clunker in the previous year’s Computer Beach Party, also a product of Galveston, the CPU in The Outing is tossed in to salvage half-finished, nonsensical plot-threads. Grinding its gears and pistons together with maximum effort, and with none of the indecision plaguing its ancient rival, the clunky machine in question churns out a wordy recipe for semi-victory:

Poster from Wrong Side of the Art.

 A VHS sleeve from the UK.

An article in Fangoria 67 led me to The Outing. At the time, it was slightly less ambiguously titled The Lamp. At least it doesn’t make you think it’s a camping movie as the poster art cum-VHS box and tagline does. Don't get me wrong, the poster art is awesome, it's just that the name switch doesn't make much sense. Plus it gave me a hell of a time trying to find a copy of this movie. Expand this post below to read the article.

25 January 2010

Come Play With Me

United Kingdom - 1977
Director - George Harrison Marks

This film gets pretty low ratings online which is unfortunate considering the "entertainingly funny and blushingly saucy" poster artwork attributed to Tom William Chantrell, a British artist whose work you can see more of at Britposters.com. Without buying the film there seems to be no way to verify its low quality except for the usual blanket statements about British cinema.

You can see this poster on the wall in a scene in Jack Hazan and David Mingay's Clash socio-bio-pic Rude Boy.

23 January 2010

Gumby Magic

Gumby Magic
United States
Family Home Entertainment, 1987, VHS
Run Time - 50 minutes
This tape is listed at Amazon as "Gumby vol. 2," but it doesn't say that anywhere on the product. These later F.H.E. cassettes don't have volume numbers on 'em.

The Magic Wand
Mirror Land (Dec 29, 1956 modified version of Lost Found)
Robot Rumpus
Moon Trip
Trapped on the Moon
Gumby on the Moon (an edited a spliced version of the previous two episodes)
The Eggs and Trixie (Dec. 28, 1957, a modified version of the episode Egg Trouble)
Eager Beavers (modified version of Tree Trouble)
The Magic Show (a modified version of episode The Magic Wand)

I found out the hard way when I was a kid that being a fan of Gumby didn't look cool with the ladies, and I still ocassionally get shit for it from my friends. Now, emboldened by the death of Gumby creator Art Clokey, I'd like to begin the semi-complete record of Gumby cassettes that I've been sitting on for a while.

Rhino issued a DVD box set in 2002, but they were all the re-dubbed versions from the 1980's. I don't remember too well, but in any case I couldn't afford the set so I stuck with the VHS tapes. The problem with those is that the episodes are all out of order chronologically, jumping from the early 50's to the late 60's on the same tape, and the tapes themselves seem to have little order. For that reason I offer this somewhat clarifying ongoing "Gumby Archive." I'll include whatever information I can dig up, but send clarifications if you have any.

21 January 2010

Planet of the Apes Novels

Since this is one of my favorite movies ever I had to buy the novel when I saw it in a used bookstore, I recall it being quite good. It is written by the respected French author Pierre Boule, but the story is somewhat different from the film.

My friend picked this one up for me at a thrift store recently and I can only hope that the book is better than the movie, which was the worst in the series. If I'm not mistaken the cover image is actually from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and not Battle. In a search for novelisations of the other films I found one site that has 'em all, Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive, enjoy.

19 January 2010

Over The Top

United States - 1987
Director - Menahem Golan
Warner Home Video, 1987, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 34 minutes

Well before I ever saw Over The Top I had been witness to its long lasting impact. Any time anybody ever had an arm wrestling contest, drunk or sober someone inevitably yelled "Over the top!" If someone included the phrase "over the top" in the conversation, chances were good someone else would mutter approvingly. Directed by Israeli expatriate Menahem Golan, Over the Top is really an attempt to re-legitimize working class morality in an era of accelerating hyper-wealth.

This is the "arm warmer-less" version of the promotional artwork which can be found at The Movie Database, an open-source Wiki-style alternative to IMDB. It's actually rather nicer than the arm-warmer version seen above on my VHS tape and fortunately with the additional material, namely smashed gate and chrome sky ripples, it also includes the artists signature. One "R. Casaro", or Renato Casaro who I believe is responsible for the Conan the Barbarian poster below.

I found a few other posters attributed to Casaro, but other than these two, they're all too low resolution to confirm the artists signature.If you visit Imp Awards where I got this Running Man poster you'll find a number of other Casaro pieces. I just couldn't help but keep the tough guy theme rolling here.

18 January 2010


Mexico – 1996
Director – Enrique Lecuona Saiz
Lecuona Films, 1996, VHS
Run Time – 45 minutes

So it should come as no surprise that I love this documentary, I’ve been into the culture of the ancient Maya and modern Mexico for quite a few years now. This tape came up in a random online search for all things related to the former. Really it’s not much of a documentary since there’s not whole lot of historical information divulged in the narration. It’s more of a video tour, which is fine, I can get the information I want from a book. But, Yaxchilan happens to be one of the hardest to reach ancient Maya cities in Mexico, at least it was last I read. It’s cradled in a deep loop of the Ucumacinta River which forms the border between far south eastern Mexico and Guatemala. In that case it’s pretty cool to get some quality video footage of a place I may never get to visit, and there is some incredible stuff to see at Yaxchilan.

Several years ago when I presented this tape to my friend so that he could make a DVD transfer for me he returned it saying that he had been disappointed because it wasn’t more informative. I can only assume that he was looking for the entertaining but sensationalized fare typical of National Geographic or the Discovery Channel. I’ll admit, I’m entertained by that type of show, but this is not one of them, it’s a much drier thing. Its entire 45 minute running time actually consist of a heavily edited walking tour of the ruins. By heavily edited I mean that there isn’t any actual walking, but slow pan shots of the site and architecture with narration that describes the buildings, their hypothesized purposes, and some general history of the ancient Maya in the Yucatan Peninsula. Some of the stuff on offer can been in the photographs I’ve included here in lieu of screencaps. I got them both from the Wiki Yaxchilan and associated pages.

It has the feeling of a vacation home video that’s been really well edited, scored with some tinny synthesized tribal music and narrated by an attractive sounding man with a latin accent. At the end he reads a poem over a series of camera pulls and some piano music. Mossy stones and epic ruined cityscapes abound. Seeing these images puts in perspective the complexity and advancement of the indigenous New World cultures of which the Maya at Yaxchilan were only one. It brings to mind the kind of dystopian collapse most of us normally associate with European empires like Rome and Greece.

Y'know, just for posterity and the like, I have scanned and posted the entire pamphlet included with the Yaxchilan cassette. Just click the link below.

17 January 2010

Day Late and Dollar Short for the Blog "Award" Show

I like being really far behind in everything because it makes me feel special to  get to the party after the food is already eaten and the punch all watery and virgin. If only I hadn't spent so much time on my hair.
Thanks to Midnite Media and Mondo 70 for the accolades.

Here's the blogs I reciprocally nominate as my favorites:
Check 'em out.

16 January 2010

Rental Store Labels

Well, since the decline and ultimate demise of the rental store is well underway, and the VHS age is cold and buried in its grave it seemed like it might be kindof fun to post some of these old labels as a sortof memorial. Some of these stores may still be around, I don't know. When I get used tapes they could be from anywhere. I generally remove all the stickers, but I like to leave these on just to remember. I'll post more as I find them under the tag "Store Labels."



14 January 2010

Creature from the Black Lagoon

Creature from the Black Lagoon was one of the first real monster movies I remember seeing. Even during the long cold years when I couldn’t appreciate any other black and white film, for some reason Creature stayed with me. On the surface, the Creature story is about the fear that modern science is still somehow inadequate to meet the challenges revealed by its own discoveries. We're smart, but still profoundly impotent in the face of the natural cosmos. Some might suggest that this challenge comes specifically from nature itself, the unexplained biological processes of life. Or it might be science itself that poses a challenge, because our ability to generate useful answers is insufficient to keep pace with the reach of our minds.

The prologue of the film certainly supports such conclusions. In any case those conclusions aren't wrong nor are they necessarily right, I just think that they over emphasize external causes. Any film is open to multiple interpretations depending on one’s personal experiences. That's why I see Creature as something above and beyond those explanations. I identify with the Gillman because I see him as a facet of my own personality. For me Creature from the Black Lagoon is a story of man vs. himself.

First, and simplest of all, you can hardly blame the Gillman for feeling covetous of Kay (Julie Adams), she is rightfully the center of attention of the entire film. The Gillman hasn't seen a Gillwoman in millennia, but beyond the obvious biological urges, she's also undeniably beautiful and, though the Gillman probably doesn't know it, intelligent. She’s not just desirable to him, but to all of us, but he can't have her. As I see it this is not because he's a different species, but because he doesn't fit within the status quo. Modernity is only one aspect of his ostracism. Metaphorically speaking here, he hasn't mastered the outward modes of acceptable behavior, he's not civilized. More specifically he represents the ill mannered, unrefined element of our society and our individual personalities. And more simply, he's the weird kid at school, the one that nobody likes because he's "socially awkward." We are all glad we’re not him, and a little bit scared that we might become, or once were him. We’re scared that he lingers inside us. He doesn’t have any friends, he never gets the girl, so we can understand but remain wary of his loneliness, and at least in my case, sympathize with him.

Even if that wasn't you, you can still get a taste because as you'll recall I didn't say man vs. the weird kid, but man vs. himself. We're all implicated in this because ultimately it is about our own inner desires as portrayed by the Gillman. He is our Id. The dueling protagonists of Creature, Mark and David, in fact all the scientists in all three films spend their screen time acting rationally and "analyzing" the Gillman one minute, and schmoozing up with the female lead the next. Their dichotomous personalities are indicative of our own struggle to behave rationally and respectably while simultaneously harboring unpredictable biological drives. They are man’s competing visions of himself as civilized and his fear of his baser animal nature represented by the Gillman. Evolution is perhaps less something that man embraces, than something he fetishizes. Modernity and civilization, we would like to think, give us victory over our primitive condition. But the reality is far less heroic.

Whether we like it or not as we strive to be composed and act evolved, the Gillman resides within, reminding us that we are still animals. He is our social discomfort and our longing to fit in. We are the Black Lagoon, and he is just the simple instinct we try and control to maintain the façade of manners. He is everything the modern human mind has sought and struggled to convince us that we no longer are.

I love the Creature films, and I love posters, so this post is all about both, above are a French poster and an Argentine poster. All the ones above are American.

An LP of the soundtrack, and "other Jungle pictures". Even though I'm ambivalent about pinball, I wouldn't mind playing the Creature Pinball once or twice.

12 January 2010

Emiliano Zapata/Viva Zapata!

Mexico - 1970
Director - Felipe Cazals

Once I found this movie it was inevitable that would I run across the Marlon Brando film immediately afterwards. I never knew about either of them before yesterday, but you know how these things line up. The Mexican poster above graphically captures significantly more of the political philosophy Zapata espoused during the Mexican Revolution, specifically his dedication to protecting the land rights of the peasants and farmers. Those of the earlier film below, focus more on the individual Zapata which is fairly typical of the American cultural obsession with individualism and celebrity. Graphically the latter posters are certainly more stunning, but somewhat more ideologically shallow. That said, I have yet to see either film, but I'm working on that presently.

Viva Zapata!
United States - 1952
Director - Elia Kazan

This is my favorite poster for this Viva Zapata!, the jutting cactus really captures the romaticized drama of that particular historical moment.

11 January 2010

The Beast In Space

Italy- 1980
Director - Alfonso Brescia
Severin Films, 2008, DVD
Run Time - 1 hour, 32 minutes

I couldn't help but watch Alfonso Brescia's Beast In Space after having my mind totally exploded by his Trilogy of Pain. I wish I could go back and watch them again for the first time and feel violated all over again. That is why these days I watch whatever other Brescia trash I come across. I no longer feel surprised, but I want to recreate that feeling of shock and awe. The last one I found entirely by accident, realizing that Amazons vs. Supermen was a Brescia film only because the music had been recycled, and because it was such a unique flavor of terrible. I bought it because it was co-produced by the Shaw Bros. Studio and I was hoping for some bizarre kung-fu. What I got was a godawful emotional hangover.

I kindof found this one in the same way except that I spotted Brescia's pseudonym, "Al Bradley" in the opening credits. Beast In Space is a more "modern" spin on the French arthouse bestiality porno La Bete (The Beast, 1975). In Brescia's "space" version the Beast is a guy with goat legs (pants with hair glued on), ostensibly a satyr with a giant cock and a preference for human astronaut women. The rest of the plot is a barely connected mess of recycled garbage from the Trilogy, which to be perfectly honest was pretty much just recycling itself already.

This has the exact same feel as the Trilogy, foggy ethereal, and very low budget with an underlying foundation of swinger innuendo. The difference of course is that in this case, they follow through on the innuendo. There is an X rated version of Beast In Space, but I watched the soft version. Plain old grinding is fine with me, I have a hard time with the clinical body-double penetration shots typical of this era and genre, they're gross. (Like Thriller: A Cruel Picture) But it leaves me wondering if there are dirty versions of the Trilogy. Sleaze certainly fits the atmosphere set in those earlier films (and copied in this film), and it seems likely that the feel of the film, regardless of the plot/context should give us an indication of the film-makers true passion. Either Brescia's spaceships look like cheap nightclubs, or cheap nightclubs look like Brescia's spaceships. For all intents and purposes, they're the same thing.

Witness if you dare my intoxicated, stream of consciousness Brescia deflowering with the Trilogy of Pain. You've been warned:
Cosmos: War of the Planets
Star Odessey
War of the Robots

The DVD cover of the hardcore version.

08 January 2010

Anselmo Ballester

A week or two ago I posted some artwork for the 1954 movie Invasion U.S.A., and more recently the Marlon Brando picture On The Waterfront. After a little bit of research I found that both of those posters were done by Italian artist Anselmo Ballester. His signature is visible on both of them, I just didn't know who it belonged to. According to his ItalianWiki page, Ballester was born in Rome in the late 19th Century and did art for political posters before he did movies.

Above is another one by Ballester, for the 1947 film T-Men, directed by Anthony Mann, but I also highly reccomend this awesome gallery of Ballester's work. The site is in Italian, but the images are clickable and of course, beautiful.

07 January 2010

Why Vietnam?

Why Vietnam? with 2nd feature: The Battle of Khe Sanh
United States – 196?
Director – United States Department of Defense
United American Video Corporation, 1989, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour

It doesn’t bother me that this tape is just old government propaganda about the war, I’ve seen a lot of that and I understand the historical context. I recognize that for those willing to do a little looking, the ideological context of Vietnam is obvious and well documented and out there for the taking.

What bothers me is that the box proposes the title, “Why Vietnam?” as a socio-cultural question and suggests that some analysis will occur within its frames. It is the use of the past tense in the synopsis; “Why did the U.S. send our young men…?” clearly suggesting that there is to be some reflection on a past event, the causes and meanings of that conflict, what we learned from it. What it actually consists of is a government propaganda film bookended by a speech given by Lyndon Johnson in the mid-1960’s in which he proposed to answer a mother’s question: “Why is my son fighting in Vietnam?” It’s a legitimate question, for at the time it was still unclear to the American public just what was really at stake and what warranted such a precious investment of blood and riches. Up until that point Americans really didn’t know what Vietnam was all about and so, Johnson’s administration made a concerted effort to sell the war, to legitimize undeniably bellicose behavior with the rhetoric of freedom, justice and honor. I may not agree, but I’m okay with the past, I’m aware that these things happened and certain people took part. What I can’t abide is just redistributing a grainy government propaganda film under the guise of some serious reflective analysis. Don’t ask me one of the heaviest questions of the 20th Century American experience, and drop decrepit saber-rattling rhetoric in my lap for an answer. The least you can do is call it out for what it is, a government PR film, and let me buy it on my interest in history rather than some false pretense.

The second feature is a Department of Defense film about the 1968 Battle of Khe Sanh. Though lighter in tone, this too is merely a government film produced only slightly after the events. I saw this film some 6 years ago albeit in a higher quality print, but that’s not what’s disappointing. It too is misrepresented as an “objective” analysis. But at this point I’m complacent, I can only shake my head and pay attention to other things. Ultimately, the lies told are the same as they’ve always been, self deceptive and incomparably pitiful. That’s why this tape is useless, it is the very thing it purports to dissect. It offers nothing new, just the same sad rhetoric and circular justifications that got us into that mess, in a grainy washed out print no less.

04 January 2010

Road House

United States - 1948
Director - Jean Negulesco

Starring Ida Lupino, not Patrick Swayze.