Posts of Note in the League of Tana Tea Drinkers

I am working with A Panel of Experts to prepare Something Very Special for you all that I shall post early next week, but sadly my day job is getting in the way of my blogging efforts. Don’t fear, gentle readers–it’s a big internet and my fellow members of the LOTT D continue to publish some great stuff. In addition to visiting the main page of the League to see all the wonderul member blogs, I encourage you to take a gander at these recent posts of note.

Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies continues to add titles to my ever-expanding movie wishlist with this review of the intriguing-sounding Tower of Evil. Psychedelic orgies for the win!

The Drunken Severed Head has a wonderful chat with David Patrick Kelly, actor in such classics as The Warriors and Commando (everybody loves those movies–all the cool kids do, anyway).

Arbogast takes on the film adaptation of Steven King’s The Mist.

The Groovy Age of Horror shares a birthday gift of fumetti erotici (thank you, Jaako, for your bounty of smutty goodness).

Kindertrauma continues to make me giggle with their series of Faux-sters for sequels that could have been.

Shudder at the ghastly horror of pre-code horror comics in The Ghoul’s Revenge at the Horrors of It All (or, really, just read the whole damn blog–it’s divine, I assure thee).

Frankensteinia reveals why May 26th just might be the coolest day of the year with this wonderful tribute to horror legends Vincent Price and Christopher Lee.

The Vault of Horror continues its investigation of the development of the modern zombie movie in this fascinating third installment.

Zombos Closet of Horrors rounds out this week’s offerings with this poignant memorial to the Coney Island of yesteryear.

The New Barbarians [1982]

I had planned to write up Enzo G. Castellari’s 1977 crime drama “The Heroin Busters” in this space today, but after watching it, I didn’t have much to say, so I’ll bullet my brief thoughts here and continue on to something far more fabulous and a lot closer to my heart.

  • The Goblin soundtrack was the STAR of “Heroin Busters.” Seriously, that soundtrack is so good you can listen to it sans-movie. Very funky, atmospheric, seventies-hip stuff.
  • Good performances throughout, including David Hemmings’ turn as a narcotics inspector, as well as gritty action sequences, well-edited with fairly engaging tension.
  • Plenty of psychedelic costume choices and unintentionally hilarious portrayals of the Counterculture Menace.

But… in spite of this goodness, I am not inspired by this movie in the same way that I am by other Castellari offerings. Enzo G. Castellari is really a master of Italian action movies, and I’m deeply concerned about the announcement that Quentin Tarantino is remaking “The Inglorious Bastards” because I know that movie won’t capture the splendid, low-budget weirdness that Castellari injects into his work (also, without Fred Williamson’s swagger, I question whether the story will work *at all*). With this news in mind and upon watching “Heroin Busters,” I found myself craving another Castellari film–a favorite of mine in the tradition that surpasses “so bad it’s good” genre stuff and rockets right into the stratosphere of the Fantastique. That movie, internet, is “The New Barbarians.”

I touched on the amazing fashion statements of “The New Barbarians” last week, but I feel compelled to devote a post to this movie, which is simultaneously a “Road Warrior” rip-off, and yet so much more. Rather than offering a traditional write-up, I’ll explain why I enjoy watching “New Barbarians” more than “Road Warrior” (I know, I know–I never claimed to be an arbiter of good taste).

1. Fred “the Black William Shatner” Williamson. I know, I used this picture in two posts. But it’s just that good. In the post-nuke future, Fred Williamson has zero cigars–that’s the kind of dedication he brings to his portrayal of Nadir, the world’s cockiest sidekick, in this film. What he lacks in cigars, he makes up for in gold-plated armor and leather chaps. No human on earth has the on-screen arrogance of Fred Williamson, and his delivery of dialogue would make “Dramatic Pause” Shatner blush. How much Fred Williamson was there in “Road Warrior?” None, meine Freunde. More’s the pity.

2. Related to 1–every character has an abnormal amount of macho swagger. I can only postulate that something about the atomic bomb contributed to this. Above is the hero of this fine story, Scorpion. I don’t think his parents gave him that name, but after the collapse of civilization, you’re kind of free to make up whatever name you want, and if you’re full to the brim with bravado, then you call yourself something like “Scorpion.” Then you get to DARE people to mock you by driving a completely bad-ass hot rod with a skull hood ornament. I’m pretty sure that Fred Williamson was cast in this movie merely to balance Scorpion’s incredible gasconade.

3. This chick. She’s totally hott, and wears skintight purple leather chaps. You’d just have to be as smooth as Scorpion to make time with her.

4. Everything in this movie explodes. No–seriously; everything. From moment one, where an awesome model city falls prey to tiny explosions, to the final firey showdown, everything explodes. Even people. Nadir’s crossbow shoots exploding arrows. Crazily-retrofitted dune buggies run into walls and burst into flames. All these explosions convince me that the overarching message of this movie is FUCK SUBTELTY. Now that is a message I can endorse!

5. Weird villains. You thought Lord Humongous, with his tiny leatherman outfit and gimpy hockey mask, was a little homoerotic? Well, what if a bunch of rogue hairdressers banded together, called themselves the Templars, and enforced their policy of non-reproduction with flamethrowers and sodomy? Oh yes, you read that correctly–these guys want to ensure the end of the world by preventing people from breeding future generations of offspring, and are willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to make their bleak vision a reality. Even if that means buttraping the protagonist, which they do in one of the more jaw-dropping scenes in action-movie history.

“The New Barbarians” is the kind of movie that makes me regret I have but two thumbs up to give. Maybe I need to adopt Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies’ Alonzo the Armless Scale in future posts?

The Last of the Tiny Paintings

Series 1 of the tiny paintings is now complete and each of these wee cards has been placed gently into the hands of its recipient. Marvel at itty-bitty Ilsa and Fuad Ramses above. I was at a loss as to what would be an appropriate art card to trade for home-baked goodies, but the Baron pointed out that nobody doesn’t love a fine Egyptian Feast.
The bribery process for a card in Series 2 begins… now!

Fashion Advice from the Movies Installment 1 – For the Gentlemen

Dear Menfolk, I know there are some troubling media images out there that might misguide you in your outfitting efforts. In a post-Metrosexual world, it can be hard to make the right fashion choices. But–please–I beg of you, shave your pubey beards, retire your True Religion jeans, and for heaven’s sake, doff your dreadful ironic t-shirts (you didn’t like Motley Crue the first time around). Allow me to guide you in matters relating to style, using a template we can all relate to: Genre Cinema. I implore you to recognize that there are lessons to be learned from these valuable cultural documents, provided one is looking in the right places.

1. Accessories – if you feel like you’re wearing too many, add another. Just look at Coffin Joe–he could have stopped at the top hat and cape, nodding to that earlier icon of evil style, Count Dracula. Instead, CJ makes this statement his own, adding facial hair (well-groomed–take note!) and long, curving Mandarin fingernails. Is this evocation of Fu Manchu an example of cultural appropriation? Nay–I say this is the sign of a worldly fellow who is not willing to accept ethnic stereotypes. Our wicked Brazillian undertaker goes a step further, accessorizing even in his choice of companion–a disfigured hunchback–creating a truly multi-textured style narrative.

2. Leather is always the right choice. Don’t be limited by colors. Sure, chicks dig the bad boy image of black leather, and its has a classic, seasonless appeal cannot be denied. A light-colored leather is perfect for camoflauge, as Diabolik shows us above, and this fresh hue blends seamlessly with Spring’s whimsical color palette.

3. Pair a fabulous hairstyle with a say-something codpiece. In “The New Barbarians,” men are challenged by more than just surviving after the nuclear apocalypse–they need to come up with a garment statement that balances personal expression with all-important Junk Protection. Fred Williamson had no problem kicking it to the ladies, even though his character was burdened with the unfortunate name “Nadir.” Why, you may ask? Clearly his apparel played an important role–Nadir was at the Apex of post-nuke style, with his gold-plated codpiece and sporty headband. Not to be outdone, the marauding Templars sported outfits that coordinated without playing “matchey matchey.” Uniforms don’t have to be uniform–think outside the box! Lest we move on to quickly, let’s not underplay the impact of a sleek half-ponytail or a butch purple mowhawk. Not ready for such a display of follicular flash? Consider some brushed-in highlights, sported so chicly in this film by George Eastman. He’s come miles since “Anthropophagus,” hasn’t he?

4. Forget smiles–let a smirk be your umbrella. Trust me on this one. She looks like she’s all upset, but Satan has clearly won her over with his charms, possibly aided by his flashy cape (see rule 1 above).

5. Don’t be afraid of cosmetics; just make sure you’re the guy with the baseball bat. That’s why the mime gang didn’t get much screen time in “The Warriors”–going half way never works.

6. Pick the right pair of jeans. Related to Rule 5, if you pick the wrong pair of jeans, carry a machine gun. This means you no longer have to fear ironing a crease in the front of your bell-bottoms or sporting a crotch-crushing eighteen-inch rise. Set your inner Urkel free as long as you’ve got the right firepower. Which brings us to Rule 7…

7. The “What Would Helmut Berger Do?” [WWHBD?] Rule. This is related to the Berger Corollary (see footnote here) and, frankly, may not apply to a wider demographic. Still, you could potentially tap into a little bit of that hott Teutonic mojo with a zebra car coat of your own. Try it–what do you have to lose?

Arbogast on Film: There Will Be Blood Libel

One of the reasons why I’m so tickled to be part of the LOTT D is because I get to have my own li’l name on a list with the likes of the mysterious Arbogast of Arbogast on Film. Thought-provoking critique sits next to quirky humor in the never-boring world of this shadowy internet figure. I like to think that Arbogast spends his free time engaged in sinister crimes like a latter-day Fantomas (I bet he has disappearing-ink business cards and everything). It is my pleasure to share one of his recent posts below.

There Will Be Blood Libel

My first reaction upon seeing photos of the cast of the 2008 remake of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was “Funny, they don’t look Jewish.”

I consider Wes Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) to be one of the great unintentional blood libels of the latter half of the 20th Century. I don’t think for a minute that Craven is anti-Semitic but rather that he, like all of us, carries with him learned associations that exist apart from his conscious mind. Just as David Lynch has in the past identified a sense of evil in effeminacy (BLUE VELVET) and ethnicity (WILD AT HEART), Wes Craven particularizes in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT his perception of pure evil with a distinctly Hebraic flavor. Though none of the characters identify themselves explicitly as being Jewish, David Hess’ Krug is depicted as an obnoxious cigar-smoking “Jew Yorker” whose perpetual stubble, curly hair, olive-colored skin and outer borough accent code him as an obvious Heeb. Add to that, Krug has been convicted for the killing of a Catholic priest and two nuns.

Cast in the role of Krug’s accomplice, Weasel Podowski, Fred J. Lincoln wears the
slate-colored hair and slack suit of a Lower East Side alter cocker while both Jeramie Rain (as Sadie, a common Jewish name that also brings to mind Manson killer Susan Atkins, aka Sadie Mae Glutz) and Marc Sheffler (as Krug’s schlemiel of a son, Junior) have “difficult” ethnic hair. Weasel’s rap sheet identifies him as a child molester, which fits the historical blood libel that slandered Jews as sacrificers of children. The quartet is shown to be “animal-like,” to inhabit a dirty tenement (a dwelling associated with foreigners) and, while transporting their kidnap victims from the city to the country, Krug and Sadie engage in rear-entry sex (coitus more ferarum, or “sex by way of the beasts”), a form of copulation frequently associated (however unfairly) with non-Christians.

The transition of the kidnappers/killers from the city to the country is a key element of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, illustrating an old white Anglo-Saxon fear of the contamination of suburbia’s assumed purity by ethnic types (as Fairfield County, the film’s location and setting, became a destination for upwardly mobile urban Jews post-World War II). The waspy surname of one of the victims and her parents, Collingwood, is eerily similar to Sadie’s imaged alias (Agatha Greenwood), suggesting that Krug & Company aspire in some part to assimilate even while they shred the very fabric of Christian society.

In the film’s most disturbing sequence, Krug, Weasel and Sadie
kill their captives after stripping them and humiliating them sexually.
When Phyllis tries to escape, she is run to ground, stabbed and then butchered in a scene that can’t help but evoke shechita, or Jewish ritual slaughter. Phyllis’ intestines are pulled out of her oozing abdominal cavity and examined, as a shochet would do to determine if a slaughtered animal were fit to be declared kosher. Obviously, Phyllis’ disemboweling is not genuinely kosher but does suggest that Krug & Co. are operating on auto pilot, as if by collective cultural memory, in the same way that their earlier torment of Phyllis and Mari echoed the treatment of Jews bound for concentration camps. The kidnappers seem to be maltreating their captives as a form of confused racial self-hatred, channeling ritualistic acts that both glorify and slander their ancestors.

Having killed Phylllis, Krug rapes Mari… but not before he uses a switchblade to carve his name into her sternum. This gesture reminded me of Rabbi Lowe scratching the word “EMET” into the forehead of The Golem. (With his helmet hair, Krug even resembles Paul Wegener’s iconic 1920 interpretation of THE GOLEM.) As EMET is the Hebrew word for “truth,” Krug’s mutilation of Mari might be said to be his way of sending a wake-up call to WASP society, announcing both his arrival and his intention to destroy their four-square, missionary position world. (In this regard, Krug also bears a resemblance to the character of Berger from the musical HAIR, who comes to his position of iconoclastic hippie king from a distinctly urban Jewish environment.) And can it be mere coincidence that Krug comes to his decision to shoot Mari after having overheard her reciting the Lord’s Prayer, as she wades into a woodland pond in a cleansing act of self baptism?

At this point it’s worth remembering that LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is a remake of sorts of Ingmar Bergman’s THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960), a Medieval morality tale set at a time when Christianity was waging war against Paganism for world and spiritual dominance. LAST HOUSE hews closely to the VIRGIN SPRING template by having its spree killers (who pose as salesmen, and in so doing aligning themselves with Jews via the merchant class) taken in by Mari’s parents, who feed them in a scene that mimics da Vinci’s The Last Supper (while leaving an empty chair in the foreground – for Elijah?). Over the course of the evening, the truth comes out and Mari’s parents turn on her killers. While the ensuing slaughter is strong stuff, the third act’s oddest/most brutal bit of business is Mrs. Collingwood’s oral castration of Weasel in a scene that seems to mock the Jewish rite of circumcision (thus explaining the chair left empty for Elijah). It should also be noted that she performs this act after first using Weasel’s leather belt to bind his hands in what could be construed as an allusion to the philactery, the calfskin box containing Hebraic scripture that some Jews wear strapped to their heads and wrapped around their left arms during weekday prayers.

Again, I hasten to add that I don’t believe ex-Baptist Wes Craven set out to slander the Jews with LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT but the Jewishness of the killers he created cannot be ignored. My feeling is that Craven was writing/casting/directing instinctively from a series of societal and cultural presets and prejudices. Certainly, living and working (first as a taxi driver and then as a young filmmaker) in New York, Craven would have had plenty of negative experiences with people of all ethnic persuasions. I half suspect Krug was modeled on a particularly noxious distributor who blew fetid cigar smoke in Craven’s face while cheating him out of profits. However it all came together, these textures (real or imagined) give the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT intriguing layers of meaning. You won’t find this kind of subtext in a New Millennium remake claiming to pay homage to 70s cinema while pissing all over a glorious, difficult and demanding decade that was never afraid to get blood on its hands.

Tuesday Flickr Report

Flickr is a rabbit hole of wonderfulness that I can get lost in for hours. Much like YouTube is good for more than funny videos of cats, Flickr is about a lot more than other people’s vacation photos.

GirlFriday_2 has an astonishing photo pool that includes wonderful fashion photos, film stills and psychedelic art, and she has just recently added a few pictures from the Jean-Rollin-scripted comic “Saga of Xam.” I’ve included a little nibble above–visit her photostream to see more.

Bebecyanure1 recently uploaded a few dozen vintage fumetti covers ranging in subject matter from titillating to downright smutty. Just one example from her collection is shown above–make it a point to see the rest!

The Virgin of Nuremberg [1963]

The Virgin of Nuremberg is a particularly vexing film, in that it is a Technicolor reminder of the fact that I don’t live in a castle with a gruesome past that I get to explore via candlelight, dressed in my finest Hammer Films robe, menaced by mysterious Germans and–

Wait–this review got off on entirely the wrong foot. Allow me to compose myself.

When I was a kid, my favorite dessert was the wizard sundae at Friendly’s, composed of a scoop of vanilla ice cream arranged in a dish with candies for eyes and an upended ice cream cone for a hat. The best part of the sundae came at the very end, when the ice cream and cone had been thoroughly enjoyed and there was that delightful little pile of Reese’s Pieces floating in a tiny pond of melted sugary deliciousness. I’ve had better quality treats since then, as well as many more sophisticated desserts, but there’s an undeniable pleasure in the simple and familiar delights of that wizard sundae. The Virgin of Nuremberg is the cinematic equivalent of the wizard sundae, with a cone and ice cream scoop composed of Gothic horror cliches and a surprise treat of Nazi mad science standing in for the Reese’s Pieces candies.

The film is a veritable checklist of Gothic tropes, opening as it does with a nightrobed beauty roaming the halls of a darkened castle during a thunderstorm. The beauty in question is Mary Hunter (Rossana Podestà), wife of Max Hunter (Georges Rivière), the son of a Nazi general and descendant of the Punisher, a beastly figure who struck terror into the women of the region during the seventeenth century by torturing and killing ladies of loose morals. With a pedigree like that, what woman wouldn’t fall under the spell of Max Hunter? In the opening sequence, Mary stumbles upon a fresh body in the Virgin of Nuremberg that sits in the castle’s museum, an iron-maiden-like device that kills by thrusting spikes into the eyes of its victims. Mary spends the first half of the film trying to figure out what, exactly, happened that fateful night while her husband and the servants in the castle try to shield her from the gruesome goings-on. It becomes clear that the Punisher has returned after a centuries-long hiatus and, in even if you’re not privy to the copious spoiler-age in the promotional materials for this movie, it’ll be darn clear to you who’s behind the murders even if poor Mary isn’t hip to the haps till about five minutes from the end of the film. The plot isn’t about creating mystery, it’s about how these creakily-obvious things are revealed to the audience. I find it impossible to hate any movie that crams so many elements of the genre into a single movie (including RAT TORTURE!), and then rewards me by adding in a spectacularly preposterous Nazi subplot. That’s positively a Valentine in my world.

Director Antonio Margheriti is not a nuanced craftsman nor a brazen auteur–he’s a solid horror director given to what I’ll politely call Flights Of Fancy regarding the level of his involvement in the Paul Morrissey Dracula and Frankenstein films. Virgin is an excellent example of Margheriti’s work–an unsubtle film that demands to be loved for its unsubtelties rather than in spite of them. Riz Ortolani’s score is jazzy and overwrought, but is right in time with the pacing of the film. Everything in this movie–everything–is announced with portentous music, either a trumpet blare or a piano trill, to the point where I tuned most of the music out about three-quarters of the way through the movie. It’s the cinematic equivalent of typing in capital letters, but this was somehow wonderful within the context of this kind of film. The dialogue is stilted and at times downright silly–no human being in the year nineteen sixty three announced himself by saying “it is I,” and when Max introduces Christopher Lee’s disfigured butler character Erich as “the very best person in the whole world,” I almost did a coffee spittake. However, if the dialogue was handled in a naturalistic manner, it would’ve spoiled the overall effect of the movie as a joyously absurd and, ultimately, very fun Gothic chiller.

Enjoy a gallery of film stills from The Virgin of Nuremberg on Flickr.

More Tiny Paintings!

My dear inter-friends, because I viewed yesterday’s kind words as encouragement, I shall share Tiny Edwige, Tiny Soledad and Tiny Udo with you. Am I procrastinating from working on my in-progress, full-size painting by creating these little cards? Probably. But I don’t want to meet the person who isn’t charmed and delighted by the prospect of owning a watercolor portrait of one of my favorite screen actors. Additionally, you can view this as my way of encouraging any future acts generosity on your part. I know the Costuminatrix is already angling for a Marisa Mell portrait.
This weekend, I plan on wresting control of the television out of the hands of the Baron, who has misappropriated it for “Grand Theft Auto IV” purposes. More movie-related thoughts will be posted next week!

My Tiny Painting – Let Me Show You It

Some people love me and want me to be happy. This leads them to send me large, somewhat-unexpected boxes filled with naughty movies, or compels them to let me crash on their couches, or leads them to bake designer cookies for me.

I pay tribute to these friends by drawing tiny art cards (they’re 2.5″ x 3.5″) as a trade for their services to the Tenebrous Empire. I was so tickled by the way this one came out that I’m sharing it with you, internet.

This is also a shameless ploy to get more people to send me more movies and cookies. So’s you know–the going rate for Mr. Berger here was several hours’ worth of garage-rock MP3s and a half-dozen Unmentionable DVDs.

ADDENDUM: This seemed like a fair enough place to post this, seeing as how we’re on the topic of beautiful men. Someone please tell me that it’s not true that John Philip Law has passed away. Not Diabolik–say it ain’t so, internet!

ADDENDUM II: Sadly, this news is accurate. Mr. Law died on May 13th. Kim at Cinebeats posted this wonderful tribute to John Philip Law, one of the suavest gents to grace the screen with his presence. I couldn’t do the topic any more justice than she’s already done–it’s a lovely tribute.