Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How about some *non*-Xmas music?

This should take you out of the Yuletide mindset. Pure pop for now people, from the terrific Lou Christie, the man who gave us "Lightnin' Strikes," the catchiest ode to the sexiest double standard ever (*impossible* to ever forget that one). Here he is doing one of his hookier tunes, one of my all-time faves, "I'm Gonna Make You Mine." The video is a lip-synch deal, but what a lip-synch! By a pool in Florida, with two dancing babes, and a maybe not-so-wise decision to go with the shirtless/vest thing that was big for a while in the Swinging Sixties. Anyway, it's a damn hooky song.



UPDATE: reader Sandy noted that the original publicity film for this song is even more bizarre, as it features Lou in a scene reminiscent of the Geraldine Chaplin bit in Nashville (or any of several Godard flicks from the late '60s) where he walks through a junkyard filled with compacted cars singing his ode to unflappable romantic obsession. Truly he is a *wreck* because this babe won't date him....

Friday, December 19, 2008

Marco Ferreri on the Funhouse, all boxed up

My 1996 talk with the man who gave the world some of the strangest, craziest, funniest allegories about sex, politics, religion, and (his fave) the end of civilization can now be found subtitled as a supplement in The Marco Ferreri Collection from Koch Lorber. I’ve posted a few clips from it on YouTube. The video resolution isn’t as pristine as that of the original VHS, but you do have yellow subtitles (I for one am a fan of yellow subs) giving precise translations of Signore Ferreri’s sometimes cryptic and often evasive but always fascinating answers — and how incredibly beautiful is it to hear him say the English phrase “Bye Bye… [he pauses dramatically, to consider] Monkey”? I love this man’s work and was glad to be a small part of this ambitious box.

Denying his characters are obsessive (I have so many clips from the films themselves that counter his answer…)


On the politics in his films:


And yes, discussing our Funhouse favorite, Bye Bye Monkey:

Have yourself a noir little Christmas

Go ahead, "Baby Boy Frankie Bono," revisit the Blast of Silence I put up on YT earlier this year as part of a review of the Criterion release.

Allen Baron's film was shot on location in NYC, and its Christmas sequence in Rockefeller Center gives a gorgeous portrait of what the city looked like in the early Sixties — and also offers a terrific opportunity for our hitman anti-hero (played by Baron) to feel even more isolated from the rest of humanity. The awesomely hardboiled voice delivering the second-person narration is that of the late, great Lionel Stander.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"I'm gonna make him penetrate, I'm gonna make him be a girl..."

It seems like a century ago. I listened to the radio on my way to high school, a Catholic high school, a Catholic all-boys high school (if you need to diagnose any of my ailments, please begin there), since there was no better way than to start the day with rebellious rock n’ roll emanating from a small portable radio.

And lest you think the rock was not rebellious, or at least packaged to sound so, let me just me mention that the station being listened to on this particular morning was WHBI-FM, a local oddity that used to rent itself out to foreign programmers, but also had two “punk” programs that played the best and weirdest punk and new wave records — the two featured DJs (a guy named Phil Barry and a Brit called "Scratchy") were clearly into freaking out the listener, and I remember hearing the beloved Barnes and Barnes’ “Cemetery Girls” (their snappy ode to necrophilia) as well as a truly creepy story-song about kids picking on a fat girl at school (all this in the late-evening hours, listening on a transistor, or on my way to prison… er, school).

The morning I remember in particular the song below was playing. Yes, the video you’re about to watch is hopelessly silly, the performer looks ridiculous — plus I was stunned and amused to see his song punctuated with wonderfully cheesy German “saucy” comedy.

Just imagine, though, the song hitting a teenager, back then on a crappy little radio. The melody (actually, the backing track, if I’m not mistaken) stolen from the greatest French “New Wave” tune of all time, actually a tongue-in-cheek punk parody of sorts, the immortal Plastic Bertrand’s “Ca Plane Pour Moi” which can be seen and heard here.

This rip-off English song had a nasty little homoerotic lyric that absolutely freaked the shit out of my mother when she heard it come out of the radio (she loved William B. Williams, as I did, but hey, a kid’s gotta grow up some time). She told me I should turn it off, but much to her credit, didn’t shut the radio off herself (plus the song was already just about over by the time she registered how “dirty” it was).

I know this entire event reeks of a past time before teens were all-knowing and exposed to just about everything under the sun. I guess I’m happy to have lived through those innocent moments, and to have experienced, through WHBI’s “punk” music programs and WBAI’s amazing, still radical free-form shows, a time when regular old commercial radio could be challenging, weird, upsetting, and yes, just plain “dirty” for its era. What followed thereafter (Stern, “O&A,” and the rest…) was all pathetic compared to some insane dude singing about getting head from another guy during the breakfast hour….

Still "unabideable": the slippery streets of the city


I wrote a blog entry when I had health insurance from my job, and now I have none, so it’s even more relevant. It involves the increasingly slippery sidewalks of NYC, and it can be found here

Since my last rant-post mentioned Queens, I will now evoke Brooklyn and say that I’m freelancing (ah, the life of instability, how it molds the modern man…) a block away from the shopping area laughingly called the “Fulton Mall.” It’s a commercial area filled with crappy clothing stores blasting awful music (although it does have cheesy low-rent emporia that fascinate me like the one in the pic), but it also has one of my chief banes, one that can only get worse when it rains (rhyme unintentional, but inevitable): the new-model pavement that appears in so many commercial and upscale areas of the Five Boroughs. It's not quite the marbleized nightmare that rules Park Avenue and other upscale districts in Manhattan, but it also isn't the old traditional gray, drab, reliable kind (read: it's wretched to navigate during a downpour). In other words, if you’re uninsured, or old, or unsteady on your pins, you just know you’re going to take a tumble. The only solution, besides wearing rubbers or rubber-soled shoes everywhere, alla time, is to take baby-steps and proceed with ever so much care when the torrents are upon the city. No, we don’t need no national healthcare, not at all, ever….

Friday, December 12, 2008

The cineaste that time forgot: Marco Ferreri


This week on the show I’m happy to reach back and air segments from an interview I did back in 1996 with Italian filmmaker Marco Ferreri. The twist to this episode is that it’s not a rerun: that interview was licensed for use in the new Marco Ferreri Collection, released by Koch Lorber. Thus I'm showing the interview, now with English subtitles, rather than its former on-site translation (which was good, but way too polite). The Ferreri box in which the interview appears includes eight movies, five of which have never been on DVD before, and two of which had never reached these shores, even through the mail-order VHS channels I’ve been monitoring for so long.

On the episode I run through the themes common to Ferreri’s cinema: allegories about the ends or beginnings of civilizations; absurdist, dark humor; parables about the birth of feminism in the Seventies; and the inevitable sight of major French and Italian stars in embarrassing and bizarre situations. I am devoted to Ferreri’s work, and have had to scramble around to find copies of his films on VHS over the years. As for DVD, there were three Image releases of titles that appear in this box, but nothing else has seen release until this Koch box. To celebrate this, I thought I’d do a survey-post showing the little of Ferreri that has cropped up on YouTube. I plan on uploading scenes from my interview, but for the instant, these clips are your best immediate fix for Marco-mania.

The rare Italian video documentary Marco Ferrreri: The Director Who Came From the Future, included in the box, is excerpted here with English subs. It is the best (and I believe only) introduction to Ferreri on video.



Here is an extremely groovy trailer for Dillinger is Dead, which has been restored and is rumored to be a candidate for a Criterion release in the near future:



This appears to be a handmade trailer for La Cagna, aka Liza, which finds Marcello Mastroianni on an island with Catherine Deneuve and his dog. In the film’s most memorable series of scenes, Catherine kills the dog, and takes its place (wearing a collar, heeling, fetching sticks). Only Ferreri got major European stars to tackle this sort of weirdness:



Ferreri’s only arthouse hit in America was La Grande Bouffe(1973), the tale of four jaded middle-aged men deciding to eat and fuck themselves to death. Here’s a suitably odd moment from the beginning of the proceeedings:



A scene from the same film, that I didn’t have time to include in this week’s episode. The distinguished Michel Piccoli suffers death by farting. The way this clip is cut on YT you miss the opening, where he plays the piano while expelling gas at a good clip:



There are no subtitles for this clip from the amazing Don’t Touch the White Woman(1974), Ferreri’s tripped-out Seventies Western satire, but you won’t need them to understand Marcello as a ridiculous Custer and Michel Piccoli as a puffed-up Buffalo Bill (speaking French with a pronounced American accent):



There are a few clips on YouTube that come from the films that are just simply impossible to get in the U.S. In fact there’s one whole film, The Banquet, that is offered (sans English titles) on the site. Here’s a totally comprehensible, unsubbed bit from The Future is Woman showing Hanna Schygulla and the perfect Ornella Muti enjoying themselves at a tacky Italian nightclub (for those who dig Eighties cheese, this is it):



During my film-fan years, the only Ferreri film that got major distribution was Tales of Ordinary Madness, his 1981 Bukowski adaptation that featured the super-cool Ben Gazzara as Bukowski’s fictional alter-ego. Gazzara was the perfect envisionment of the Bukowski hero, with the best-ever voice to recite his poetry:



And how could I resist the urge to end with one of the stranger but more compelling Marco fever-dreams, Bye Bye Monkey (1978). These are clips I uploaded to YT when I began doing this blog some months ago:

Unabideables: Xmas music, everywhere!


I think even those who do delight in the seasonal insanity that is Christmas would admit that Xmas music is played to fucking death. Since I do a program that more often than not takes a “nostalgic” look at pop culture, I’m of course more interested in the way that old music shows up around the holidays. I was walking on the main street in Astoria Queens (Steinway) today, and heard some lesser-known Christmas tune by the Supremes being piped in all along the length of the street. This started several years ago, major streets and thoroughfares having Xmas music piped in to encourage folks to buy things. Of course, I think that kind of attempted brainwash backfires, as those who are going to buy will buy anyway, and those who don’t have the dough, or have other modes of buying things, or simply have no one to buy anything for, are just going to run for cover every time another one of those fucking tunes starts up over the loudspeaker.

I love vintage American music, “popular standards,” old singles, novelty tunes, and any old kinda crap that has a killer hook to it. What I find so overwhelming and obnoxious about the Xmas-music overload is that it’s the one time of the year that radio (yes, I still listen to commercial radio, for better or worse — mostly talk) plays old music. When else would you hear Gene Autry or Burl Ives but during the Christmas season? Burl and Gene might’ve gotten a spin on good old Joe Franklin’s now-defunct show here in NYC (I remember Joe playing an extremely maudlin Autry tune about children visiting their mother’s grave as a Mom’s Day song one year), but the best older music, the things written by the big guys (Gershwin, Porter, Kern, all those dead men) will never see the light of day on NY radio again — but during the holidays, we hear “Rudolph” and “Frosty” and “Silver Bells” and five to six dozen tunes that form the “canon” of Xmas music (that extends to “Run, Run, Rudolph” and, gak, “Last Christmas” by George Michael). So, old music is indeed out there, you might enjoy it, but no, that’s a horribly narrow demographic, that stuff can’t be played on the radio — unless, of course, if it can foster pretend dreams of a Norman Rockwell world that never existed, even when these songs were gracing the top 40 for the first time. Some of the songs are actually wonderful, some of the cornball renditions by such unrepentantly uncool performers like the Mitch Miller singers or Johnny Mathis or Der Bingle, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, do have their charms. But as they assault the senses in stores and on sidewalks, they are as horrible to encounter as the oldies I love so dearly being trussed up and thrown out on oldies stations, or the “classic rock” that actually does still have the power to stir it up — but not on classic-rock radio.

All self-evident to most of the people who would choose to read these words, but as I stand in the drug store listening to some hoary old number for the umpteenth time, I wonder if the folks who run the Duane Reade chain (or Rite Aid or CVS) actually think that assaulting the senses with the feeblest of nostalgic tunes (or the most touching, like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” run into the ground until it no longer has any resonance) inspires added commerce. Or if it’s as most of us suspect: that the multitude of holiday shoppers (say, the ones who killed that guy at Walmart on Long Island on Black Friday by trampling on him to get to the big-screen TVs) will spend themselves into poverty no matter what is playing on the loudspeaker, and the overload of holiday music is just another game engaged in by our beloved capitalist society. One more reason that I completely resist the arrival of the holiday season… but then, due to not ever having that idyllic never-was, never-will-be Yuletide, completely miss it once it’s actually over….

Saturday, December 6, 2008

RIP 4E: Deceased Artiste Forrest J. Ackerman


...or Uncle Forry, as he was known to a few generations of fanboys and fangirls over the past five decades. Forry's influence on fandom was, well, monstrously important (that one's for you, Sir): from his pioneering photo-gathering and pun-smithing chores on Famous Monsters of Filmland; to his appearances at fancons from the VERY first ones in the 1930s to the modern-day gatherings that take up entire cities; to his appearances in movies by Dante, Landis, Olen Ray, et al; to his utter childlike worship of Boris, Bela, Price, and of course, Lon Sr. — not forgetting the one monster that reduced three wonderful senior citizens (Forry, Ray Bradbury, and Ray Harryhausen) into little boys again on several occasions, King Kong (I hope I can be that young at their age, truly). He had a good bit of fun in his life from all directions (the Bill Landis bio of Kenneth Anger gets into the "sex-magick rituals" that used to be held at the Ackermansion, yowzah), and he will be missed by us all. He and the two Rays were the first generation of fanboys, and as such they deserve our admiration, respect, and love.

First I will direct you to Richard Corliss's wonderful obit for the man.

Then I will send you flying into "Music for Robots" an album credited to Forry, posted at the 36 15 blogspot.


Then, I must pass on this trove of the COVERS of FM, which should stir the soul of any proud fan-person. The first issue I had is on the right, but all the original covers can be found here. Go now!

Then I note that I am indeed extremely proud I got to interview the gent, and got the full tour of the Ackermansion. Here are the two clips I posted from our talk on YouTube. On Bela:



On early sci-fi fandom:


He tossed off at some point that he would like to have a good home for his awesomely beautiful collection of memorabilia (a lot of which was liquidated when his medical bills became too high a few years back, a tragedy), when he had gone "to that big sci-fi convention in the sky." He surely isn't standing in line, and is the first boy racing to the tables right now....

Friday, December 5, 2008

Oliver Reed: great actor, unforgettable talk show guest


This week I’m presenting the first part of my Ken Russell interview on the show. We discuss Oliver Reed, who starred in six of Mr. Russell’s films, and, interestingly, Ken says he doesn’t think Oliver was much of an actor, didn’t have much range. I would agree that he walked through a number of films, but he is exceptionally good in Russell’s work (perhaps because of the “system” they worked out — see the show to find out about it). You can currently view the entirety of Russell’s masterpiece, The Devils online. I’m not really sure how it has stayed up there, since YouTube is run by Americans, and thus is petrified by the very notion of nudity. Anyway, the film is a must-see (although it really needs to be viewed on at least a TV screen):



I would recommend heavily that you see Reed’s other works with Russell: The Debussy Film, Dante’s Inferno (where his readings of Rossetti's poems are sublime), and naturally enough, Tommy (Ollie’s scream-singing is quite something). Reed also starred in Russell’s Women in Love, where he participated in a scene that will NEVER be on YouTube — I’m talking, of course, about the insane naked wrestling scene with Alan Bates that pops into the film almost out of nowhere.

Over in the U.S., we did see Mr. Reed quite a lot on the big screen, but he also made an indelible impression on TV. He was one of several stars (I remember Robert Blake being one of the others) who invariably came on talk shows roaring drunk (his problem with booze ended his life prematurely at 62). I have assembled a little “round-up” of Ollie drunk on talk shows here and in England and, let me assure you, these are quite entertaining clips.

There is a full documentary about Reed that is available here. But I will start off the survey with this fascinating example of Reed stone-cold sober. He’s on The Tonight Show in 1975 with Shelley Winters, who is a major-league pain in the ass. In the third part of the interview, Ollie talks back to the never-quiet Shelley Winters, and makes a sexist remark that causes her to throw a drink in his face. It gets good about 2:30 in:



Here he is doing an insane American accent on the NBC Letterman. I think it should be entered into the record that everybody’s fave friendly host Dave was always an absolutely SHITTY straight man as a talk-show host, and seemed openly aggravated by many of his guests during the NBC years. He never, ever could play along with them, especially with comedians doing a character, like Pee-Wee, Andy Kaufman, or Bobcat. He in fact loved to show them up. Let me put this plainly: He sucked! Oliver, on the other hand, rocked:



Here he looks very worse for the wear, on a British show called After Dark, where he seems to be puzzling the other guests. Amazing television. This is actually a pretty interesting debate on violence, with Ollie in the middle.



On the British show The Word. He sings “Wild Thing” with the band Ned’s Atomic Dustbin!



Here he’s on another chat programme, making Serge Gainsbourg and Klaus Kinski seem like sober citizens. Wow!



Context for the preceding outburst can be found here. Now, would you rather watch Leno, or Letterman, or Kimmel, or Conan, or Craig letting someone pitch their latest bad movie, or bad sitcom, or bad CD, or would you rather have seen Ollie?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Here's to you, 2008

As the seasonal music begins to fill the air, I'd just like to add one more tune, dedicated to this wretched annum. Aside from the elation of the Presidential election and maybe like one other personal accomplishment, I would have to say the whole year needs to be over... NOW!

Thus the patron saints of my home borough of Queens. Bless you, boys:

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ken Russell playing a Mindgame off-Broadway (the Funhouse interview)

I recently got the chance to interview the oldest enfant terrible working in cinema, Mr. Ken Russell. I was intimidated going to the interview, as I've been watching his movies for the better part of three decades, and had gotten the impression that Mr. Russell was a current-day Von Stroheim (temperamental, capricious, prone to outbursts). The man I met was a brilliant, cultured, polite old Lion who knows his way around an anecdote. He was gracious, dodged no topic — including the not-exactly-complimentary review given his new play in The New York Times — and wound speaking to me for nearly double the length we had arranged. The chat will air on the Funhouse in installments and, as is always the case with the interviews I've done for the show, is allowing me the opportunity to re-view many of Mr. Russell's finer works, including his lesser known BBC biopics and his hands-down masterpiece The Devils. As a preview of the talk, I give you these two clips.

First, "Uncle Ken" talking about the play "Mindgame," currently playing at the Soho Playhouse in Manhattan.



Next, Russell offers his take on YouTube and the phenomenon of file-sharing rare movies.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Feeling depressed? Watch this

Winter has set in, there's been little to no heat in my Upper East Side tenement apartment for two days, the economy is a mess, the holiday frenzy is fast upon us, so what should you do? Watch these gentlemen:



That feels better.

One of the names I have constantly been searching on YouTube is "Peter Cook" (no, not that present-day lout). I need at some point to do a survey-post giving you the rounds of the amazing Cook finds on YT, but for the present I think the above should suffice. Well, since it's Xmas-time (which now begins at Halloween), I will throw in this one here, part of a series that is the only possible reason I'd revisit the worst of all Christmas tunes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Alan Rudolph in the Funhouse (where he belongs)

I've done several interviews at press junkets, and I can honestly say that, while I was positively thrilled to do some of them, the individuals being interviewed are usually ready with a canned answer or two (that's why I like to ask open-ended things, like querying Werner Herzog on the purposes of the documentary — harder to get a canned answer that way). One of the most pleasant experiences I had at a junket was talking to Alan Rudolph, who seemed totally at ease, and seemed to actually listen to my questions and provide original answers. Anyway, I offer these two clips from our interview, which was done in 1997 to promote the opening of his brilliantly off-kilter comedy-drama Afterglow. Rudolph has made about seven films that I absolutely love. He's a challenging director who deserves better recognition.

On his visual style, especially his trademark zooms:


On "small movies" and his mentor, the late, great Robert Altman:

Let us give thanks for terrific music: blogspot is heaven



I haven't had the chance to update my link-list on the right there, but there is one blog that I'd truly recommend for the finest in lounge, jazz, comedy, and yes, Vegas/Rat Pack live wonders, this gent right here has it all:

Jazz Hot Sauce blog

And for something I've been listening to more than once, I recommend this lively compilation CD of supersonic tunes from the Sixties and things from later eras that sound as if they were made in the Sixties. You've got Mongo Santamaria, Edwin Starr, the Kinks, Jacques Dutronc, Buddy Rich, and Andy Williams, do you need any more? Well worth the time to download!

Blow Up a Go Go!

For those who don't know how this download thing goes with the blogspot blogs:
-You get the link from the blog, click the sucker, and then if it's on the Megaupload site, just follow the prompts. If it's on RapidShare, go in as a "free user." Megaupload allows several downloads an hour, whereas Rapidshare allows only one (you're clear after an hour or two to go after more).
-You need an RAR "extractor," which is a free download for the PC and Mac, just dig one up (it's the equivalent of the Winzip Unzipper thing — this software changes every freakin' year!) Drop the file in there and voila! You've got the album in MP3 form.
-Certain of the music blogspots require that you entire a password in the RAR extractor before you drop the file in there -- the ones I've cited above DO NOT! Huzzah.

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Baby Doll" in the Funhouse (Carroll Baker interview)

I conducted an interview with Carroll Baker, the Fifties movie queen best known for starring in Baby Doll, at the Chiller Theater convention back in late 2000. We were flooded by sunlight, so I decided to air the chat in b&w, which seemed somehow appropriate for a Hollywood star from the Golden Age.

Here Ms. Baker talks about working with James Dean on Giant.


And here she discusses one of our Funhouse favorites, Italian filmmaker Marco Ferreri, with whom she made the 1967 feminist parable/comedy/drama/fascinating mess The Harem.

VHS Clearance: a "real" Video Dog, scary home vids, and a porn-star works out

VHS has been the building block of the Funhouse for the show's 15 years, and I have too many of those black plastic wonders in my possession (and in storage lockers, and in my psyche, they're everywhere!). I've featured quite a lot of high art on the program, but every so often I'd review the most ridiculous VHS titles I'd come across. I herewith submit three items shown on the show back in late '96.

First, a companion-piece to the "Video Aquarium" tapes that became popular in the Eighties. "Video Dog" was a concept that was supposed to boost the spirits of those souls who wanted to own a pet but were prohibited from doing so by their landlord — or who just didn't want to clean up the mess. It's an absolutely ridiculous concept, but it reaches its interactive peak at this point where you are supposed to give the dog a series of commands. It's ready and waiting to comply. This tape appears to bounce due to vague tracking problems — perhaps my VCR was telling me something....



Then we have an item that is intentionally ridiculous. I love Joe Flaherty of SCTV and always dug his Count Floyd character, but here's an oddity, one of two instructional videos he made as the character (the other one was, I kid you not, a fire safety video, that I saw on locally on a PBS station late night). Here he shows us "How to Make Funny Home Videos" as the late-night horror host without a clue.



And finally something that will get your blood circulating, in a manner of speaking. It's ex-underage porn star Traci Lords' workout tape, but it's not the version that made the rounds as the "Advanced" tape. That one, which is excerpted on YouTube already, just has Traci saying "transition...!" over and over again (oh my TVC 15). In this version she does raps on the soundtrack. I much prefer this iteration of her exercises for the crotch area. What a talented young woman she was.

(this tape bounces too, but do you really care?)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The grooviest cola im Deustchland

I've referred to the Sixties as "the gift that keeps on giving" in the past few weeks on the show, and truly it is so. Just saw the documentary on the Monks (Transatlantic Feedback), which is a terrific tale of the one-album band that has ascended into cult heaven (deservedly so). In the film they discuss how the band worked with Charles Wilp, a conceptual artist doing ultra-mod ads for a German cola I've never heard of. Of course the 'verts are on YouTube and so humbly pass 'em on. Blow yer mind.







Intelligence in the body politic? (Damn I'm happy)


I was a little kid when the Sixties ended, and although the Seventies really was a time of bizarre, reckless optimism, I can’t say I’ve ever experienced a political moment as blissful as this past Tuesday when, for one instant, it seemed like America might actually be ready to grow up. I’ve voted for Democrats every time out of the box, but they have been such an ineffective party (excepting the Clinton charisma) for the past 28 years it's been depressing (independents are a great big dream, but akin to throwing your vote away in this two-party monolith).

I was extremely cynical and pessimistic heading into Tuesday, as I honestly don’t think this is a mature country — as far as culture, issues surrounding sex, issues surrounding race, the preservation of the human race, and (especially) intelligence. I was unsure that a majority of Americans could agree on anything aside from the fact that “we’re Number One!” Obama’s landslide surely came about because of the dire economic climate and the fact that Bush and co. have run amok with the mandate of the uncaring, apathetic mob. For the country to have actually made a statement, though, that times are indeed wretched is like stepping onto the first step of the 12-step ladder. The result is an event that is the most positive thing happen to the American Left in politics, the single greatest victory on a national level, since Nixon resigned way, way, way back in 1974.

I’m certain things will swing back, although I would hope they do not. We have too many citizens who are defiantly proud of their stupidity and narrow-mindedness. For a moment, though, it is nice to even be able to consider a future wherein we open up intellectually and emotionally, and learn that we are part of a whole, not Number One, and that’s it’s very, very reassuring to not have an Old White Guy with a defiant, belligerent attitude running the place. Intelligence has a place in government and part of me fears that Barack will be constantly, constantly confronting fear and loathing from the enormous Right Wing we have in this country, and could well become a national version of David Dinkins (so much for New York being liberal — since DD, we’ve had two of the most backward-looking bull-headed Rightists in the head slot for the city). For this moment, at this time, however, I rejoice in Obama’s intelligence and his ascent to power. Hope really is infectious.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween! 2: Forry Ackerman on the Funhouse

On All Hallows Eve, I am pleased to present clips from my interview with Forrest J. Ackerman, the editor of a seminal pub in my childhood, Famous Monsters of Filmland. Forry is still out there kicking, and I’m sure he’s pleased that the “little monsters” like myself that he inspired to further worship of monster-movies and sci-fi/fantasy flicks are still digging the material all these years later. I talked to Uncle Forry back in 1996, and he reflected back on his friendship with the legends, including Bela:



He also offered up reminiscences of the earliest sci-fi fandom in this country, a buncha strangely dressed young people who loved what they read and saw at the movies. I was inspired to ask Forry this question from a wonderful interview with him I read in The Washington Post which spoke about his wearing a spaceman outfit at his first convention in NYC, and how he felt finally like he really belonged to a community. Forry and his pals at the time (who included a young gent named Bradbury and some other kid named Harryhausen) were pioneer fanboys, and as such, we still owe them a great debt for allowing all this stuff to come out of “the closet.”

Happy Halloween! Monster-mash your ass off, people!

While most people contend that identities are hidden behind costumes, makeup, and masks on Halloween, I contend that people's real personalities emerge when they have the convenient cover of a "character." It's always been my favorite holiday, and while I don't have much planned for the day this year, I am happy to celebrate with the non-commenting readership of this here blog.

Firstly, I recommend you check out my blog post last year saluting Alice Cooper, one of my all-time faves and a Halloween perennial. All but two of the links still work (so much for the vagaries of YouTube), so check it out! It's here

Then, onto the anthem for the holiday, the timeless novelty classic, "Monster Mash." I offer you two versions this year. First, this exceeding sparse rendition by Bobby "Boris" himself, from an unnamed show and seemingly with timecodes blurred out:



And then a repost of the video I put up on YT of Bobby and the immortal Zacherle dueting on the number at the Chiller Theatre con a few years ago. Please feel free to join in at home:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Deceased Artiste, and Funhouse guest, Rudy Ray Moore: RIP Dolemite!

This week saw the passings of two people I interviewed on the Funhouse. Actor Guillaume Depardieu (more on him in the weeks to come) sadly died at the very young age of 37 after a stormy life that was punctuated by a few really interesting performances on screen. Also leaving this mortal coil, at 81, was a legend of blaxploitation, comedian/scripter/producer/taboo-buster Rudy Ray Moore.

I had a great time speaking to Rudy at the Chiller back in '96, and just as good a time putting together the episode that evolved from the talk. I have placed the entire show on YouTube, and realized once again that, while public access has lost its luster for many in the age of YT, there are still things we can do on access that you can't do on the Net's number video portal, namely show the naked bodies of Dolemite's bevvy of sleazy-lookin' babes of all races (the "offending" portions -- when will America ever grow up? Answer: never! -- are covered with a little msg). The battle to talk dirty, or rather, to use Mr. Moore's phrase "use ghetto expressions," on stage was won during Rudy's long lifetime, but America is still a country that cringes at the thought of nudity and giggles at the notion of sex. All I can say about that is what the man woulda toldja: Dolemite was his name, and fucking up muthafuckas was his game. Farewell Rude One!

Part One:


Part Two:


And the Third and last part:

Friday, October 17, 2008

William Klein: Delirious montages

William Klein has only made a handful of films, but he carved out an amazingly fresh and vigorously strange and funny cinematic style, especially in his trio of fiction films. I’ve been showing scenes from Klein’s films on the program since mail-order copies became available from France, and so I was utterly delighted when Eclipse/the Criterion Collection released all three in the box-set The Delirious Fictions of William Klein. I’ve noticed that two of the most visually arresting scenes from two of the films were up on Youtube already, but in abbreviated versions, and so I thought it would be best to see the scenes in their full mondo-montage context.

First the sequence in Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (1966) in which our heroine (Dorothy McGowan) becomes part of an odd spoof of beauty-product pitches, and then flies away with her Prince Charming (Sami Frey) in a wonderful bit of photo-animation. The latter part of the sequence is striking, as it prefigures Terry Gilliam’s work at the end of the decade but was influenced by the work of Harry Smith (thanks to Stephen Kroninger for the citation).



Then the wonderful skewering of American patriotism from Klein’s Mr. Freedom (1969). John Abbey (where did he go?) does a dynamite job delivering Klein’s mock recitation of American values, followed by a bright and bouncy montage (with the occasional dark, menacing overtone) elaborating the joys of the U.S. of A.

The Mayor Who Wouldn't Leave



From the national to the local: let me just state for the record that our billionaire mayor here in NYC has decided he deserves a third term. He has done nothing to appreciably make the city better in any way, but he plays a good role as daddy-placator, he has made sure he's never avoided a camera, and is, above all, phenomenally wealthy (so everyone is cowed into thinking he must know what's talking about). His voice is a monotone drone that just disappears into itself (I continually think of the speakers who make PowerPoint presentations you fall asleep at when you're briefed about your benefits at a new job). He is a drippy little rich man, but he's got his game goin', and so he decided to take a tip from the Fascist bastard who preceded him. He feels the city owes him more time in charge. What to do? He is going to have the City Council overturn the ruling that Mayors can only serve two terms because — while that ruling was good enough for every Mayor before Guiliani — it isn't proper that a billionaire be asked to vacate his job.

Every time I even consider "Mayor Mike" and his b.s. reign over the city, I think of Charles Foster Kane's "I think it would be fun to run a newspaper." Mike thought it would be fun to run a major American city, and it has been — for him.

Credit where credit is due: The above image of King Michael of Bloomberg came from the Queens Crap blog, which you should all visit, provided you're a Queens-ite, or like the place.

Forget about "the Bradley Effect" — what about "the Mean Old Prick Effect"?


Ah, my friends (you know I really want to associate that phrase with Joe Franklin, NOT John McCain), I don’t often touch on politics, but let me just note my disdain for the Cranky Old Bastard who's the Grand Old Party’s candidate for Pres. He’s man who was “broken” during his time in captivity (he himself used that phrase at the Republican Convention, what a strange item to bring up in a campaign speech), yet never needed any treatment for his PTSD (as his wife noted last week, only those who didn’t “attend the Naval Academy” need that kind of therapy). He clearly evidences that snotty temperament every time he is confronted by any sort of probing question — usually those related to how his positions on different topics have changed from day to day, hour to hour, never mind year to year…. He’s a mean old dude who’s wealthy as shit and really doesn’t, let’s be honest, really doesn't care about ya, not one little bit.

UPDATE: In the one day since I wrote these words, Johnny "Mac" has since been a cutie-pie at both the Al Smith dinner and the Letterman show. He has a way with a dry joke, I'll give him that. But then again, Reagan was a charming old fuck and he was a shitty President. Let's not confuse being funny onstage with the Mean Old Bastard we saw in the three debates and in any of the interviews that were mildly probing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A smattering of Smothers: clips from the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

This week on the show I’m reviewing the new Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour box set. You can read a review I wrote of the box here. But I should note that I dearly love the Smothers and dug the box mightily. Here are four clips I wished I could’ve included in their entirety in my mere 28-minutes of program:
The set’s single best segment, an unaired medley by Harry Belafonte that was banned in 1968 by CBS, as it is accompanied by disturbing footage of the preceding summer’s Democratic convention in Chicago. It's a tour-de-force performance by the great Harry:


George Harrison dropping by to cheer on the Bros. (we have the visual for this on the program but I’m doin’ my review over it):



Mama Cass doing one of her finest ditties with Tom along for the ride:



The West Coast cast of Hair with Ragni, Rado, and Jennifer Warnes (then Jennifer Warren) in the cast:



Here are some items that aren’t on the box, but they deserve yer attention:
Ray Charles jams with… Jackie Mason? (this episode is on the box)



The legendary banned Pete Seeger song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy”



The legendary appearance by the Who:



An amazing turn by the Jefferson Airplane. Grace made herself up in blackface in order to mock the show, and just wound up seemingly especially exotic and cool-looking (and extremely stoned). “Crown of Creation”:



The second song, “Lather”:



And watching the box ensured that I just can’t get the Smothers’ theme outta my head. Here it is being hummed and sung by a nice assortment of guests from the third season:



And the single most mind-warping item to show up on the Net Smothers-wise (as it never aired on E! when they reran the shows), an appearance by the always awesome (and seldom seen) Mr. Harry Nilsson:

Friday, October 3, 2008

1979 wonderments

Let's take a little weekend journey through YouTube music postings, and I promise I won't try and sound too old and cranky ("these kids today... they couldn't craft a hooky riff if their life depended on it!"). Let's start out with two 1979 one-hit wonder bands. First, a public access clip (from San Leandro, California's "Girl George" show) of Pearl Harbor and the Explosions doing their only "hit" called "Driving." I love this song and have been haunted by the well-produced single, but this spare little performance is amazing for what it exhibits about the time and place, and Pearl's wonderfully goofy dancing:



That clip led me to this sad bit of radio history concerning one of Pearl's former bandmates, the actress/singer-turned-traffic-reporter Jane Dornacker, whose helicopter crashed into the Hudson River while she was on the air with WNBC's Joey Reynolds (who's now the all-night host on WOR in NYC, and an amazing AM-radio institution). Not something you want to listen to for a happy weekend, but it's a tragic bit of radio that comes up when you're searching for one-hit wonders (Dornacker's professional bio is fascinating, though). Back onto the happy stuff: the second 1979 one-hit wonder band, again this one was a "hit" on New Wave stations (in my case back then, WPIX-FM in NYC), the Sinceros doing "Take Me to Your Leader":



And since the poster for that vid notes that the musicians played with Lene Lovich, I must melt back into my youthful self and confess my never-ending love for Ms. Lovich. This was her own big 1979 hit, but I have chosen instead to give you an industrial-strength taste of second-LP Lene, killing me with her melodrama (yes, I loved/still love Kate Bush and Rachel Sweet also):



And since I'm in a New Wave vein on this weekend afternoon, let's remember perhaps the greatest unusual one-hit wonder band, Rockpile. Unusual in that they had two starring lead vocalists, Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe, and had been touring behind each guy, and accompanied each on his solo albums (the band was Edmunds, Lowe, Terry Williams, and Billy Bremner). This was their 1980 one-hit wonder, but I much prefer this high-energy version of Elvis Costello's "Girl Talk" from a show called "Countdown 1979." (See, there is some thought to this...) You have to love a song that includes the lines "Was it really murder/were you just pretending/lately I have heard/you are the living end..."



Here's Dave proclaimed as lead vocalist on "I Knew the Bride," one of Rockpile's absolute killer tracks, but he's actually engaged in some Everly-like double-vocals with Mr. Lowe. There is a terrific, prob alcohol-fueled version of this fronted by Nick the Knife on "Live Stiffs, Volume 2":



And, flipping back to 1978, one of the best live clips I've seen of long-haired young Nick warbling "So It Goes" (but where it's going, no one knows!) with the same band o'boys. This stuff is in my brain-pan forever, and I'm quiet pleased about it:



And since I'm on a free-form journey here, let's journey a few years hence (hence sometimes is a good direction to take) for this vintage bit of Nick with his bespectacled friend doing their greatest hit, which never dates (hippie sentiments in a "new wave" jacket):



And I'll move backwards to the early Seventies for song Lowe told us he Nicked the "Peace, Love" riff from. A beautiful ditty from a truly troubled but sublime and lovely singer-songwriter who died long before she should've, Judee Sill. Labelled a "religious" songwriter, she was actually in the vein of a lot of early Seventies spiritualists who embraced all kinds of religious imagery but favored an open theology (wherein you're allowed to worship what ya like, even nature, which the pious truly, truly hate). As a nonbeliever, I'm very touched by this song, thanks to Judee's lyrical skill, plaintive singing, and the classic early '70s arrangement (and here's the the only publicly released film of Sill performing it live). I thank Nick for confessing to his riff-copping on the "Old Grey Whistle Test" DVD:



Since there's so little Sill in existence, I might as well link to the other two extant clips, this live bit of video from USC and this UK TV appearance.

And since this whole post started out about one year, let me return to my "high" and "low" formulation by contrasting the beauty of Judee Sill with the eternal song of 1979 (and there is nothing like seeing the "group" trying to perform it in a live context, albeit lip-synching). And perhaps the finest trash legacy the year had for us (and remember this is when disco fever was at its peak, and even punk had gotten sorta silly), the German group Dschinghis Khan at the Eurovision song contest. There's nothing left to be said:

Voices of yesteryear

Two wonderful TV ads from 1974, both presenting a famous narrator speaking about a new record release. First up, it's Ringo shilling for his former bandmate Dr. Winston O'Boogie:



And an even more obscure cult figure, the "Old Philosopher" Eddie Lawrence, touting the joys of the Harry Nilsson LP "Pussycats" produced by the selfsame Jock (of Jock and Yono). I'd heard Harry do an Eddie Lawrence impression (with Flo and Eddie), but never knew the man himself was recruited for marketing:

Bollywood Beatles and Boone

What can I say, I can’t stay away from the “rabbit hole” that is YouTube. I should regularly thank the folks who’ve put up the clips that most grabbed my fancy in any given week, but I either forget or haven’t got enough time, or [insert excuse here]. I will give a salute to a guy who would like to be called Rick Rude’s Mustache for his “ravishing” video clips. He hasn’t put anything up in a year, but I still have to thank anyone who would share with us Pat Boone losing his toup:



And I don’t know as much as I’d like to about Bollywood (I really need a thorough course in this stuff, given my love of melodrama and sudden musical numbers), but I do know of the great, immortal Shammi Kapoor. Thus my thrill at seeing him cover the Fabs:



There are over 700 Shammi clips on YouTube, I will return to this motherlode at a future date....

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Underground in the Arthouse: Guy Maddin's Brand Upon the Brain!


I’ve been featuring clips from Guy Maddin’s films nearly since the Funhouse began, and have been very gratified to see that as the years have gone by, Guy hasn’t “gone Hollywood.” I don’t think it would be possible for him to do so anyway, given the special eccentricities of his art, but it’s been particularly interesting to see the ways in which he’s moved further and further from the multiplex “model” of bad mainstream cinema.

If a Maddin fan attempts to describe his work to the uninitiated, the first phrase that always comes out is “he makes tributes to silent movies.” That he does, but in fact he makes movies in the primitive, low-budget ways that silent moves were actually made (one of the myriad of reasons we can’t see him helming a multi-million dollar cookie-cutter H’wood pic). He pays tribute to the silent style, but his plotlines have always been particularly strange and self-aware — the scripts constructed for his films by Maddin and George Toles contain quirks and (especially) kinks that exaggerate and transcend the sleaziness of even the great outrĂ© silent filmmakers (including a Maddin fave, the great “Von,” Erich Von Stroheim). Add onto these Freudian-symbolic storylines the editing style that Maddin has recently adopted — in which simple actions are repeated, sped-up, slowed down, or even completely elided — and you’ve got a very special, particular style that seems to have more to do with the classic American underground films of the 1950s and ’60s than it does with silent movies.


Maddin has made a practice of borrowing from, and seriously exposing, his own family mythology in his recent work. Thus his most recent picture My Winnipeg was an uncategorizable dream film in which Maddin reflected on his hometown through the crucible of his childhood, with historical details, local legends, and yet another portrait of a domineering but loving mother thrown in for good measure.

The film before Winnipeg, Brand Upon the Brain! has just been released in the Criterion Collection, and so Maddin fans have the unique experience of seeing Guy enshrined along with the classic arthouse directors, and for once not suppying an audio commentary for the feature — his past films have nearly all had Guy expounding in detail on his filmmaking methods, while imparting his own personal neuroses. In fact, I’ve noticed that as his public persona has become more self-deprecating, his art has become more assured, as if the “Guy Maddin” who publicly represents the films is a Woody Allen-type construct, concealing a dedicated artist who has a found a way to more than work through his Freudian dilemmas and can appear bashful, but must be secretly delighting in turning his relatives into wildly colorful characters (as his real-life beauty-parlor owning aunt was turned into a hot blonde Madam in his Cowards Bend the Knee).

As I’ve noted more than once on the Funhouse, and have mentioned to Guy in an interview, if there is a single more Freudian scene than the urinal moment in Cowards where “Guy” sees that his father has a much, much bigger penis than he, I’ve yet to see it.

While Cowards and Winnipeg seemed like broader cartoon shadings of his family, Brand is an out-and-out fantasy scenario that he contends in the accompanying featurette is “97 percent true” because the familial relationships reflect the Maddin clan. The plot, about a lighthouse where a domineering mother sucks brain juice out of tots to keep herself looking young (in consort with her dead naked mad-scientist husband), is enriched by a host of unusual plot threads, my favorite being the adventures of a teen girl detective disguised as a boy who is the groom in the silver screen’s first lesbian Fantomas marriage (the detective babe wears the eyemask of the legendary French master-criminal).

Guy’s fascination with silent movies led him to conceive of a live-performance aspect to Brand that was undertaken in several cities, including Toronto, NYC, and L.A. These performance featured the film being projected while a live team of Foley artists created old-radio style sound effects, an orchestra playing the soundtrack (accompanied by a “castrato” singer, more anon), and a live narrator for the pic.

We missed out on Udo Kier here in N.Y. (dammit!!!), but we did have the largest array of narrators, or rather “interlocutors” of the kind in Japan who used to “explain” the action in silent-movie houses (the explanations here being a torrid text by Maddin friend Louis Negin). Among those who appeared here were Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson, poet John Ashbery, Tunde Adebimpe of the band TV on the Radio, Crispin Glover, and the woman who supplied the permanent audio track on the movie (permanent until this disc came along), Isabella Rossellini, who performed the narration at the NY Film Festival. The Criterion disc thus features a record eight variant soundtracks, as you can choose to hear Ms. Rossellini in the “finished product” mix or live, Guy himself, Negin, or from the live performances Anderson, Ashbery, Wallach, and Glover.

The most interesting aspect of Brand is that it actually works as a silent feature without the narration, but certainly the melodrama quotient was seriously heightened. To give you a taste of what’s on the disc, I offer the following two snippets, Guy holding forth on the lure of “melodramma” (I misspell on purpose to approximate Guy’s Canadian pronunciation of the word) and the opening half of his bizarro short “It’s My Mother’s Birthday Today,” starring the aforementioned “castrato” who is actually a male singer with a falsetto voice (and presumably a real set of teeth – sorry, too much Marx Bros. training). "Mother's Birthday" is one of two new shorts that appear on the Criterion disc (along with a deleted scene that has some wild action, but I could see how it needed to be cut out):



Here we have three of the narrators doing the same brief story told to the orphans in the lighthouse (oh yeah, the lighthouse is an orphanage, thus Mom has her pic of victims to get brain juice from). I chose to excerpt the versions done by the very placid and ironic Ms. Laurie Anderson, a slightly more frenzied version by the always quirky Mr. Crispin Glover, and a full-fledged “melodrammatic” live reading by Ms. Isabella Rossellini. Listen to the voice levels rise….



And, just for good measure, here again is a segment from my own interview with Guy, where he discusses his work appearing on YouTube and his unusual and amazing new editing style:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Inside the Mind of Comics Genius Alan Moore


Comics-writing wizard Alan Moore is my Kilgore Trout. As I remember it in the Vonnegut novels (I haven’t read ’em in a few years now), Trout is a sci-fi author whose stories only see the light of day in the form of lurid paperbacks and as filler in porn mags. In the meantime, however, he’s a brilliant writer dispensing cosmic wisdom in his works, while remaining unappreciated and certainly unknown to the public as a whole.

Moore is certainly not unknown, he’s one of the best-regarded writers of (that phrase, again!) “graphic novels” and is one of the gents who elevated the comic book into the realm of true literature. His works have been made into some middling movies (kudos to V for Vendetta for keeping the radical politics, though dispensing with much of the poetry of the piece), so he therefore can’t be too obscure. Still, Moore is thought of by those who aren’t familiar with his work as a toiler in the vineyard of capes and costumes, a superhero scribe who did that Watchmen thing everybody was raving about back in the Eighties.


Moore’s writing has always been compulsively readable, and he has been working in different genres since his start with the cartoon “Maxwell the Magic Cat” and short sci-fi and comedy features in 2000 AD. However, the last decade and a half has seen him grow into one of the most intriguing writers in the medium (a fact begrudgingly admitted in one of those alternative-comix-are-the-only-kind-to-read articles in The New York Times magazine section a few years back). In interviews and in a series of experimental and fascinating (and, yes, compulsively readable) comic series, he began to pass on a truly developed worldview that encompasses culture, politics, religion, and sex. Still, he is conceived of by the vast majority of folks (most definitely those who see the middling movies being made from his works) as a pulpsmith with a talent for plotting, but certainly not a visionary or modern-day soothsayer. The further I delved into his works a few years back, from his titanic, brilliant From Hell to the mind-bogglingly inclusive myth/culture/religion commentary in Promethea, it became apparent to me that this reclusive comic book writer, legendary for having opted out of the fan-con and personal-appearance circuit, is one of the most talented writers around. Who happens to be working in… yeah, comic books.


And why do I bring all this up? Well, because there are a few British television documentaries on Moore that are up in their entirety on YouTube, and a newly made docu about him is coming out next week from the Disinformation Company. The film called The Mindscape of Alan Moore may not be for those who are not familiar with Moore’s work or life, as it plunges you straight into his ideas without supplying context for who he is and what he represents in comic (and pop culture) history; for the background, you would need the docus on YT (plus the knowledge that he took up at age 40 heavy research into the worlds of magic, the occult, and religion). For those who are familiar with Moore’s writing in any way, however, Mindscape is a heady dose of the shaggy shaman’s philosophy on a whole host of topics. The presentation is extremely trippy, as befits Moore’s appearance and garb, but the picture essentially functions like a very interesting illustrated lecture by Alan on everything from war, politics, and culture to fame, pornography, and… quantum physics?

Moore has a terrific way of linking up disparate subjects, and I am a massive fan of artists and entertainers who connect things that ordinarily aren’t connected, or speak about the “imponderables” in layman’s terms. Moore does a lot of the latter in the film, giving us the gist of what he’s learned in his exploration of the occult, which is not so much about the spooky side of things as it is the threads between ideas. He has previously spoken about the notion of “idea-space” in interviews, but here he develops it at length (and with pitchas!) so we have the equivalent of an Errol Morris treatment of concepts that could be as dry as dust, but are vibrant, and yes, just a tad strange, but are first and foremost comprehensible reflections on the world around us. And, yeah, he does talk about his comics too (although the director, the colorfully named DeZ Vylenz, seemingly didn’t have him touch on a few of his key works like Promethea and Miracleman).

The two-disc set of Mindscape comes with an additional disc that contains six interviews, one with a comic historian (who doesn’t really offer a contextual overview, just his own reflections on Moore’s work) and five artists who have brought Moore’s work life. Of the latter, Dave Gibbons of The Watchmen provides the most interesting information about the working process — the other four artists (the men and women who illustrated V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea, and Lost Girls) wind up discoursing on various topics and proving that, as smart and talented as they are, they are not as engaging speakers as Moore himself.

The trailer for Mindscape can be seen here:


Here’s the four –part1987 British TV docu “Monsters, Maniacs and Moore” from the show England, Their England.:


For the comics-minded, Moore provides background about four of his most famous series on the show “Comics Britannia.” The gent who put up most of these clips on YT maintains a Moore interview site here


A unique interview with Moore for a low-budget video (could this be the British equivalent of pub-access?) can be found here, and those who understand French can see a translated interview
here, plus listen to a radio interview here.

An excellent intro for those who want to delve into the spiritual/supernatural side of Mr. Moore is this “Comic Tales” interview, cut into a bunch of smaller pieces:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Godard's latest short available online

Our hero Uncle Jean has once again produced a short film, weaving a "trailer" from old film, poetry, and classical music. I can’t tell you how happy I am that he is still around (a very young 77), providing us with gorgeous telegrams from his Swiss hideout, delighting our eyes, minds, and emotions. He is one of the finest poets the cinema has ever known.

The film is intended as a “trailer” for the Venice International Film Festival (click on the "Viennale Trailer 2008" link). For best visual quality visit their site:

http://www.viennale.at/english/index.shtml

If you just need a quick fix, it's up on YT from about five posters:

Friday, September 5, 2008

Flaming Creature: a new Jack Smith docu

When considering certain filmmakers whose work I haven’t gotten around to seeing, I always think of Andrew Sarris’s phrase in The American Cinema, “Subjects for Further Research.” In this case, I note that this week I got my first dose of the work of an American underground legend when I was given the assignment to review the excellent documentary by Mary Jordan entitled Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis, which has come out on DVD from Arts Alliance America. I’m a massive fan of the Kuchar Bros. (especially the greatest complainer in the history of video art, Mr. George Kuchar) and their fan John Waters, but I confess to being a Smith-less film lover.

Jordan’s documentary offers a superb introduction to Smith’s work and his artistic allure (as well as his unrepentant eccentricities). Included in the documentary are interviews with a host of Sixties downtown types, including big George K. himself, Judith Malina, Mary Woronov, John Zorn, Richard Foreman, Tony Conrad, Ronald Tavel, Jonas Mekas, Ken Jacobs, and John Waters (oh, and the further-researcher himself… Andrew Sarris!). Their comments on Smith and life in the Village film/theater scene are fascinating, but what I was particularly taken with (besides Jack’s all-consuming loathing of his landlords… yay, man!) were the scenes from Smith’s films, which have the layered beauty and costumed elegance of Kenneth Anger, with the playful satires of Hollywood (on no budget) of the Kuchar Bros. The trailer for Jordan’s docu:



In an earlier entry in this blog I presented YouTube and Ubuweb links to the works of George Kuchar, so herewith I present the only Smith film available on YT. Of course, you must keep in mind that what Jordan’s film reveals is that Smith made a practice of not finalizing any of his movies after his landmark Flaming Creatures (1963). This is an earlier item, Scotch Tape, which evidently showed up on the Sundance Channel at some point:



As a bonus, here’s a link to an “underground movie flip book” by Smith that can be found on Ubuweb.

Since there is so little Jack Smith work available on the Web, and because I am utterly obsessed with one-hit wonders, here’s a link to the amazing, and completely unrelated, Whistlin’ Jack Smith’s 1967 chronically hook-driven “I was Kaiser Bill’s Batman.” I would make a very strong bet that you ain’t getting this tune outta your cranium once you hear it:



UPDATE (9/8): Just this past weekend Anthology showed Flaming Creatures, so I finally was witness to the crazed genius of Jack S. Much has been said about the picture, and it remains (esp. in these tight-assed times) a work that is confrontational, by turns kinetic and reflective, ugly and beautiful, profound and extremely silly. And you still couldn't air the thing on any cable channel save Sundance (who slip in some exceptionally "challenging" images every now again, as with Pink Flamingos and The Purified).