Death Machines [1976]

Last night was an evening of crushing lows capped off by ridiculous highs courtesy of BCI/Eclipse’s DVD box, “Drive-In Classics Volume 4,” which I purchased due to its inclusion of Empire fave and truly guilty pleasure “Don’t Answer the Phone.”  After getting thirty minutes into “Chain Gang Women,” hearing no less than three folksy songs about the travails of the working man, seeing plenty of footage of guys bitching about being on a chain gang, and catching a glimpse of precisely zero women, I decided to fast-forward through to the end of the movie, only to discover that the title of the flick should really be “Chain Gang; Women” with the latter term only applicable in that “two” does in fact qualify “woman” for a pluralization of that word.  Tossing caution to the wind, I decided to pick up another alluringly-titled film:  “Death Machines.”  Oh baby, does “Death Machines” ever BRING IT!

The bounty of cheesy excellence begins right from the credits sequence, which reveals that headlining star Ron Marchini (apparently a student of Bruce Lee) also produced the film.  I’m a sucker for action movie vanity projects (paging David Heavener!), and this is certainly one of the weirder ego vehicles I’ve seen.  I’m trying to picture Mr. Marchini picking up this script, eyes widening as he reads, and slamming it down on the table:  “YES!  This is IT!  The role of White Death Machine is the one I was BORN to play!”  The credits roll over a painting of a metal pyramid with faces on each side, which opens to show a set of blade-like teeth and the words DEATH MACHINES.  Yeah, that’s the sound of my heart skipping a beat–total cheese excellence, people.
The plot of the film concerns the inscrutable dragon lady Madame Lee, who is training a group of assassins who, through the application of some sort of mysterious Far Eastern drug, are impervious to harm.  Actress Mari Honjo is an absolute scream–her accent is an amalgam of Fu Manchu movie pidgin and the Bishop from the end of “the Princess Bride” (“mawwiage…”), and her bug-eyed facial expressions demonstrate that she has acting range capable of displaying emotions from “manic” to “batshit.”  And did I mention she wears THE draggiest geisha wig?  Seriously–just check out this clip (accurately titled “Token Race Fight”) from the opening minutes of the movie:
That’s right, folks–when training assassins, be sure to pair them up according to their ethnicities!   I’m a little suspicious of White Death Machine’s technique at the conclusion of this clip, but I suppose ultimately that it’s in character.  These guys aren’t afraid to stray from martial arts tradition, as is evidenced by their addition of new kung fu techniques such as “bulldozer,” “pickup truck,” and “defenestration” in other scenes.
I was convinced that this was a post-“Terminator” rip-off, taking the theme of the unstoppable, black-clad assassin hell-bent on eliminating his target and even seeming to mimic a few scenes, such as the police-station bust-up.  However, “Death Machines” pre-dates the first “Terminator” flick by eight years.  Putting aside such small matters as the “sensible plotting,” “effective use of tension,” and “competent acting” of “Terminator,” this could be… No–never mind.  That’s too stupid for me to even complete that sentence.
I’ve concentrated an awful lot on the bad guys, but I’ve made no mention of Our Hero, Frank Thomas, mediocre karate student and ONE-HANDED BARTENDER, whose mono-armed-ness is portrayed via the use of a single black ski glove.  I can’t help but geek out all over again on the fact that Frank has a barroom brawl with an elderly guy dressed like a sea captain and LOSES, yet remains Humanity’s Only Hope against the Death Machines.  No–f’reals.

“Death Machines” begs, pleads, and even demands to be seen in order to revel in its silly goodness.  If you’re not already sold, PLEASE watch the trailer for lip-smacking trash-movie bliss:

The Case of the Bloody Iris [1972]

I’m going to come right out and say that this giallo looks significantly better on paper than it does in the offing, but “the Case of the Bloody Iris” (alternately known by its ultra-florid Italian-translated title “What Are Those Strange Drops of Blood Doing on Jennifer’s Body?”) is not without its charm. After the frustration I experienced upon watching “Strip Nude for Your Killer,” I pushed my unwatched gialli to the back of the shelf in order to give myself some much-needed distance.  I don’t like being bitter–snarky, I’m cool with, but the kind of let-down that the dyed-in-the-wool weird movie enthusiast experiences upon seeing too many sub-par genre entries can border on “soul-crushing.”  The niblets of goodness in “Bloody Iris” are frequent enough to make the movie a worthwhile experience in spite of the fact that the movie slips up in several places that could’ve elevated it to “excellent” status.

"Case of the Bloody Iris" Film Still
All of the elements marking a successful Italo-thriller are in play here:
  • Chic urban setting – check
  • Limited group of players/potential suspects – check
  • Perverse sexuality – check
  • Babetastic women in jaw-dropping eye makeup – doublepluscheck
The story tracks fashion model Jennifer Lansbury, played by the iconic Edwige Fenech (who always manages to look spectacular, no matter how lousy the movie she’s playing in might be–and trust me, they’re *frequently* lousy), and a series of murders taking place in the apartment building she’s just moved into.  Her links to a hippie free-love cult with a possessive leader lead Jennifer to believe she might be the next target of the killer, but she soon comes to discover that there are potential suspects around every corner.
"Case of the Bloody Iris" Film Still
A significant portion of the beauty of the film relies on its actresses, who are frequently in various states of undress–Fenech spends much of the first twenty minutes of screen time in body paint, skimpy lingerie, or less, and her co-stars Carla Brait (who was also smokin’ hott in “Torso”), Paola Quattrini, and Annabella Incontrera sashay alluringly as well.  “Bloody Iris” lacks the kind of bravura camerawork of Bava, Argento, and even Sergio Martino, and there are times when one yearns for that kind of visual showboating.  The film takes place in what is billed as an ultra-modern high-rise apartment (but which sometimes looks at least twenty years out of date style-wise from the time the movie was lensed), and its architecture is sometimes used to clever effect as in the shots up and down a vertiginous staircase. Some moments employ a fish-eye lens, which is a neat little effect, though it’s not used with the same kind of impact I’ve seen it impart in other, more psychedelic flicks. There are even shades of “Tenebre” when the masked-and-gloved killer traps Jennifer in her own shirt as its being pulled up over her head.
"Case of the Bloody Iris" Film Still
That’s not to say the movie is in any way incompetent–the suspense scenes are more effective than in many similar films, and Edwige does a creditable job in her standard woman-in-peril role.  I know many of you are nodding your heads when I posit that the woman is absolutely dazzling, and it wouldn’t be displeasing to watch ninety minutes of her making those signature little pouting, flirtations expressions at the camera.  What pushes the movie slightly over the border from “standard fare” to “pleasant diversion” are the proliferation of groovy plot elements and interesting characters.  Jennifer’s roommate Marilyn (Paola Quattrini) is a nice contrast to Jennifer’s vulnerability, with her quirky behavior and devil-may-care attitude.  I would totally invite her to *my* party, friends!  Carla Brait’s character Mizar is an exotic dancer whose wrestling/domination cabaret act adds some spice. Ben Carra is effectively threatening as Jennifer’s estranged husband and sex-cult leader, and there are plenty of  other cool supporting characters including the flamboyant gay-Woody-Allen-esque photographer, an eccentric stamp-collecting police inspector, the elderly horror-fumetti-hoarding widow with a horrible secret, and–my personal favorite–the sexy harsh-bird lesbian neighbor with Designs on Jennifer.  George Hilton plays a suave architect who begins a love affair with Jennifer, even as the police inspector begins to believe he might be behind the murders.  It all leads up to a satisfying conclusion that doesn’t veer too far into Wackytown territory, as with other films of this ilk.
"Case of the Bloody Iris" Film Still
Ultimately, the issue I have with “Bloody Iris” is its flat visual style.  All the pieces were on the chess board to provide plentiful opportunities to dazzle, and with a more daring cinematographer or a more creative directorial vision, this could’ve ranked as one of my fave thrillers.  It’s ninety minutes well-spent on an entertaining murder mystery and there’s plenty to delight fans of the form, but if you’re waiting for that moment of grin-inducing genius, you’ll find yourself disappointed.

"Case of the Bloody Iris" Film Still

Social Networking, Thank Yous, and Hott Nun Link Action

Pal of the Tenebrous Empire and all-around super-blogger Darius Whiteplume of Adventures in Nerdliness recently mentioned that he found blogging to be the best form of social networking he’s found, and I’ve got to agree.  In the past year (February 15  was my one-year blogiversary!) that I’ve been updating here, I’ve encountered some marvelous writers who also happen to be great, supportive human beings.  It’s about time that I took a minute out to say THANK YOU to everyone who’s reading my blather and supporting me (or enabling me, depending on your perspective).  I’m honestly kind of astonished to have gained any visibility at all, and I owe particular debts of gratitude to Arbogast on Film, Frankensteinia, and the members of the League of Tana Tea Drinkers for their early and enthusiastic shout-outs in my direction.  I’m risking an all-out LOVE IN over here, but suffice to say my readers rule.  Thanks for making this a truly rewarding diversion for me!

Related to the glee of social networking, I’ve recently picked up the Twitter habit, as you might’ve noticed from the widget at Blog-Right.  I cannot tell a lie–I kind of love the format and I’d welcome new fellow nerds to add to my daily diet of tweeting!

Just so I’m not breaking my own self-imposed rule and adding a content-free post to this blog, I’ll share this interview with portrait painter Shawn Barber on has 
some truly gorgeous images of Barber’s work, including the totally-NSFW version of the already fairly NSFW nun painting shown here.  Much like the most amazing thing about a Vargas painting is the painter’s ability to capture the look of the silk stocking on a woman’s leg, I’m REALLY impressed with Barber’s ability to paint tattooed skin.  This is good stuff people–check it out!

M.I.A. on DVD: Stephen Sayadian’s "Dr. Caligari" [1989]

When I was invited to participate in Jeremy Richey’s M.I.A. on DVD Blogathon taking place over at his marvelously eclectic blog Moon In The Gutter,  a film leapt to my mind that absolutely demands a DVD release:  Stephen Sayadian’s 1989 trash-terpiece of candy-colored pop-surrealist nihilism, “Dr. Caligari.”

I was first exposed to Sayadian’s work when I was handed Nth-generation videocasettes of “Cafe Flesh” and “Dr. Caligari” and told “watch these–they’re weird; I think you’ll dig them.” Dig them I did indeed, and I wound up crafting a short article on the fucked-up philosophy and eye-assaulting visuals of the films published in Issue 4 of Ultra Violent Magazine.  While “Cafe Flesh”  has received the DVD treatment (it’s bare-bones but still to be lauded, considering the disposable nature our culture assigns to other XXX flicks), “Dr. Caligari” languishes in limbo, begging to be rediscovered.
To say Sayadian’s “Dr. Caligari” is a reimagining of the German Expressionist milestone is accurate, even if that catchword makes my brain itch in a distinctly unpleasant fashion.  The 1989 movie dispenses with the dreamlike fairground and city of the original and expands the madhouse sequence to encompass the entirety of its eighty brainfuckling minutes.  The focus is on sex here, and anyone who’s seen one of Sayadian’s pseudonymous “Rinse Dream” porn flicks (“Cafe Flesh” or “Party Doll a Go-Go!” to name the most famous) knows that it’s not hanging-from-the-chandeliers glee-sex or the kind of slick kink one might expect from a similarly-themed Eurotrash film.  No indeedy–this is sneering, body-horror sex that casts human erotic impulses as contemptible and weak.
Dark?  You betcha.  But this is black comedy we’re dealing with here, and the manner in which Sayadian splatters the screen with madness elicits the same kind of laughter as that classic of altered-state art-sk00l viewing that is Richard Elfman’s “Forbidden Zone.”  Much like Elfman, Sayadian directs his actors to deliver their utterly ridiculous dialogue in a deliberately affected style of speech that just begs to be imitated.  Lines like “I’ve got an EKG you can dance to” and exchanges such as “Describe your life in three words;”  “Un. Ending. Torment;” are among the most obscenely quotable in weird cinema history.  I’d wager that no other film has successfully milked comedy out of a character inspired by heinous child-murderer and cannibal Albert Fish, and for that accomplishment alone, “Dr. Caligari” earns a prominent place in the trash cinema pantheon.
Check out the trailer for this film to get a little bit of the flavor of “Dr. Caligari”:
And here’s a short clip to further whetten your appetite for the bizarre:
For yet more of the madness of this film, check out the House of Self-Indulgence review of “Dr. Caligari” right here–I *heart* Yum-Yum, who will be crowned Official Stephen Sayadian Expert when the Tenebrous Empire comes to power.  SO MOTE IT BE.
NOTA BENE:  I am aware of the fact that Excalibur Films offers a DVD-R of this film in a blank envelope.  Making a movie available =/= releasing it on DVD in My Imperial Opinion, so I’m classing this as MIA on DVD.  A proper R1 commercial release would warm the very cockles of my black little heart.

"Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" [1970]

I’d heard a lot of great stuff about the Czech film “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders” over the past couple of years from all the right sources.  As I think I’ve stated here before, I get really leery when I hear words like “unsung classic” being bandied about, having been disappointed too many times.  In this case, I’ve got to say that the reviewers I admire were correct–“Valerie” is an absolutely stunning film, so visually rich and dense with potential meaning that a single blog post can’t really do it justice.  Every frame of this movie could be a surrealist painting, and by the time its hour-and-fifteen minute run-time is up, it’s as if one is awakening from a beautiful dream whose importance hovers just out of reach of concrete understanding.
"Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" Film Still
The film tells the story of a young woman’s blossoming sexuality told through totemic/pagan symbolism.   Strange things begin happening to 13-year-old Valerie after the onset of her period, with a pair of mystical and covetousness-inducing pearl earrings serving as the central metaphor for her virginity, simultaneously throwing our heroine into danger while helping to save her from the very jaws of doom multiple times throughout the film.  Valerie’s safety is threatened by the Nosferatu-like Weasel, who (in typical fairy-tale logic) is a Bishop, a vampire, and Valerie’s father.  The Weasel vampirizes Valerie’s grandmother, whose youth is restored in spectacular fashion–vamp-Granny is a sharp-featured fashionista who deserves a post devoted entirely to her breathtaking outfits (girlfriend makes jodhpurs WORK, lemme tell you).  This movie has some serious nightmare-fodder in the form of the Weasel, who gives Graf Orlok a run for his money in the creepy vampiric ghoul department with crooked teeth, blacker-than-black cloak and pointed ears serving as a gooseflesh-inducing image of evil.
"Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" Film Still
Sex is dealt with candidly without ever veering into luridness–there’s no doubt that the vampires are after more than just Valerie’s lifeblood, and the very young actress (Jaroslava Schallerová, who was thirteen at the time of filming) is shown learning the power of her erotic allure.  Her beauty is mesmerizing and delicate, and there were times at which I had an almost-visceral sense of wanting to protect the young girl from the horrors looming large around her.
"Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" Film Still
Like the surrealist painters, sex is discussed with the use of heavy symbolism that blends the beauty of sex with an acknowledgement of the animal nature of the act and a strong undercurrent of neurotic horror. This movie is a psychoanalyst’s wet dream, providing rich soil in which Jungians and Freudians can mud-wrestle to their hearts’ content. Is the story a cautionary tale against the dangers of physical love, or an indictment of societal pressures that feed off young people? 
"Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" Film Still
Honestly, this movie needs to be seen in order to be appreciated–detailing the plot-line and the occurrences makes it seem risque and horror-themed, but that’s not the purpose, and it diminishes the film’s emotional resonance.
"Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" Film Still

Count Carl von Cosel: Isn’t It Necromantic?

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, and I feel like you deserve a special, romantic treat, dear Interpals.  

In keeping with the sexy mummies theme established earlier this month, let’s take some time to reflect upon the true-life story of Count Carl von Cosel (nee Carl Tanzler), a German gent who migrated to the sunny climes of Key West only to fall madly in love with tuberculosis patient Elena Hoyos.  After Hoyos’ death at age 22, von Cosel stole her body from her tomb and preserved her, living with the body for seven years until being discovered by the woman’s family.  I know–that’s got to be awkward.  The case garnered worldwide attention, and von Cosel’s repeated assertions that his love was a chaste one earned him the sympathy of the public, so he was acquitted of legal wrong-doing.  Now, since you’re reading about this here, I assume you’ve surmised that the results of an autopsy on Elena’s mummy later revealed the faux-Count’s love to be of a far touchy-feelier-in-a-subequatorial-manner sort.
I’m kind of fixated on getting a copy of the September 1947 issue of “Fantastic Adventures” (image above) that includes excerpts from Von Cosel’s memoirs.  Just check out the interior illustration pictured in this post over at Curley’s Den.  

My first exposure to this story was through the really-rather-ghastly HBO series “Autopsy,” and I’m not ashamed to tell you that the images presented in that show live on in my nightmares.  Be forewarned that the link above includes a small B&W photo of Elena’s body that is really not intended for the faint of heart.
For a significantly more lighthearted exploration of the case, check out this clip from the sadly-short-lived History Channel “Weird US,” made by the guys who made my home state famous for its bizzarritude, the Mark and Mark at “Weird NJ”:

FYI to the true crime buffs (you know who you are)–I’ve read Ben Harrison’s “Undying Love” and can recommend it.

Savage Intruder [1969]

I went into viewing “Savage Intruder” in the best way possible–by receiving a copy from a friend who didn’t get round to watching it and who pitched it in a manner making the movie UNPOSSIBLE for me to refuse: “I think this is some kind of hippie version of ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ but I’m pretty sure I’m afraid to watch it.” Dear friend, I am delighted to leap bodily upon that grenade for you. In this case, my selflessness paid dividends in the form of one of my favorite genre cliches–that of the killer hippie. Bonus points for the fact that “Savage Intruder” passes that most nebulous of Tenebrous Quality Tests–I totally want to see this remade with an all-drag cast.
Much like my experience watching “Raw Force” (a movie that also has an alarmingly Rough Trade Title), I’m sort of glad I didn’t

see the poster before watching the movie–while it’s an honest poster, it also sets up certain expectations that might’ve oversold the product for me–this is a fun bit of trash cinema, but it’s also very flawed.  Let’s cover the great bits first, shall we?

"Savage Intruder" Film Still
An awesomely moody opening credits sequence sets the mood–there are artistic shots of the decaying Hollywood sign accompanied by the sound of wind over creaking metal, and then–BAM–cut to the dismembered head and hands of a middle-aged woman resting at the foot of the Hollywood hills.  I won’t lie–it is an effective shock that indicates the kind of mean spirit that infuses this movie.  Moving directly from this gruesome image, we are introduced to the murderer in action as he stalks an older woman and assaults her in her home.  The violence in this scene is cringeworthy, moving from a botched electric knife mutilation to a murder by meat cleaver.  By the time hippie drifter Vic Valence, played with a sneer by David Garfield, shows up at the home of faded actress Katherine Parker (Miriam Hopkins) with his doctor’s bag in hand, we know that tragedy will ensue.  Vic is hired as a nurse to attend to Katherine’s needs while she is house-bound after an alcohol-induced tumble, and he quickly endears himself to the delusional former star, taking advantage of her generosity while arousing the suspicion of her elderly housekeeper and secretary.  This film changes the “Sunset Boulevard” story arc, though–not only does it substitute seedy cruelty for the Gothicry of the Billy Wilder masterpiece, but we know going into the story that Vic is a deranged murderer with some serious Mommy Issues that are elaborated upon in a series of creepy fisheye-lensed flashbacks.  
"Savage Intruder" Film Still
The movie derives its conflict from the battle of the hippie generation and the Hollywood establishment.  Hopkins (a 1930s glamour gal herself) puts in a classic camp performance as Katherine, the attention-craving screen star, reminiscing about the shiny past of the town while a montage of seedy strip clubs and drug-crazed hippie parties provides a backdrop.  Vic mentions acting in a Warhol movie, indicating his detachment from the traditional film-making landscape.  It’s interesting to note that “Savage Intruder” predates the Warhol-produced Paul Morrissey flick “Heat” by three years, since that film also focuses on a younger man/older actress relationship that yields tragic results.
"Savage Intruder" Film Still

The movie is extremely flawed, but it comes very close to psychedelic marvelousness at several points.  Some of the violence is truly cringeworthy–the opening murder setpiece is shocking, and there are close-ups of a hatchet attack during Vic’s flashbacks that induces some wincing. These flashbacks are extremely effective, with leering faces enlarged to full screen, giving a sense of lurid goings-on.  The campy performances of the older actors are spot-on, inspiring some comparisons to “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.”   I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the AWESOME hippie party during which Katherine relapses into alcoholism at Vic’s urging–a midget drug-pusher, flaming queens, groovy babes and a skeletal Santa Claus are all present for no reason except to further the cause of weirdness! Also, my mannequin-fearing pals have reason to get the shudders here–I shan’t reveal more, but life-sized dolls are used to creepy effect.
"Savage Intruder" Film Still
As mentioned above, the architecture of the story ultimately harms the film. Knowing Vic’s homicidal urges early on makes it pretty easy to see where everything is going, and an ambiguous ending that might have worked in a less literal movie sputters here, when a strong ending or even a graphic image might have helped sustain the impact of the first two thirds of the film.  Vic’s character never achieves a level of nuance that would make him a chilling psychopath–he’s just shown as a bastard who sometimes kills older women.  There’s never a vulnerability to him–instead he’s just brimming with hostility, misogyny and occasional racism (the “no tickee, no washee” line he uses on Asian cook Greta is perceived by her as rakishly charming, in fact).
"Savage Intruder" Film Still
I have no problem calling “Savage Intruder” an almost-amazing film.  With a little more finesse, it could be called an unsung classic, but alas it misses its mark by inches.  Still, for fans of campy cinema, this is well worth the ninety minute investment.

New York Comic Con 2009 Recap

New York Comic Con is by far the biggest, craziest convention I attend–about ten times larger (by my math-lexic guesstimate) than any of the horror cons I’ve been to.  In spite of (or perhaps because of) its size, it’s also about ten times better run and attendees are about ten times better behaved than those of any of the horror cons I’ve attended.  Sure, there’s a bit of a trade-show air to about a third of the goings-on, but I’ll take trade-show over “I wonder if this guy is chatting me up because he wants to make me into a lampshade” any day.

Also, NYCC has a lot more hot girls dressed in skimpy superhero outfits.  I’ll get right to what I’m sure is the point for many of you and post this picture that includes a hott Wonder Woman (also, Baron XIII’s amazing deadpan expression in spite of his being surrounded by AWESOME):
New York Comic Con 2009
I’ll confess–about eight steps inside the gates of the Javitz Center, before I even got my laminate, I was in the grips of SERIOUS SENSORY OVERLOAD.  Giant Ugly Dolls, multiple Bob Fetts, and a horde of Harley Quinns sent my brain reeling in a not-unpleasant manner.  Being in NYCC for an hour gave me that wobbly “I’ve been drinking in the afternoon” feeling, which persisted until I was well outside of the gates (let the record show I was NOT drinking in the afternoon, FYI).
In typical style, I managed to buy nothing that relates to comics (d’oh), but if I had to pick out a comics-related highlight, I’d have to say that Geoff Grogan’s collage-style Frankenstein story was a monster mash after my own heart.  Gorgeous artwork and and a brilliant narrative style make this must-have stuff.
Remembering the Groovy Age of Horror reviews from a few months back, I picked up David Wellington’s “13 Bullets,” “99 Coffins” and “Vampire Zero,”  seizing the opportunity to have each book autographed by the author.  I’m about thirty pages into the first book and I’m loving it.  Let me hear an AMEN! for monster-style vampires.  Per Mr. Wellington, his next project involves werewolves, handled in a similarly monstrous style (I know I have a couple of serious werewolf enthusiasts reading this–consider yourselves informed and shouted-out).
Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to con-land without coming back with tee shirts.  It’s a sick, sad addiction–I know.  I picture myself sobbing while my mother tries to pull several pounds of silk-screened cotton out of my clenching fists, televised on A&E’s “Intervention” some day.  For those of you who share a similar fixation, hie thee to Chop Shop and for some hella-excellent tee shirt design action.  Unless, of course, you’re OK with being less cool than I am due to my ownership of “Internets” and “Darwin” shirts.
New York Comic Con 2009
In the toy report, it’s a Vincent Price kinda year.  Though I didn’t manage to snap photos, there are gorgeous “Pit and the Pendulum” and “Masque of the Red Death” dolls coming out, along with these amazing portrait-styled figures pictured above.  I have a strict No Action Figures policy in effect in my own home (such are the compromises one makes in order to cohabit with another human being), but please–PLEASE–make me happy and add these to your collections, won’t you?
In conclusion, a picture of me with Krampus (not sure if he knew he was Krampus or not, but in my world–KRAMPUS):

New York Comic Con 2009

"Ong-Bak" [2003]

I make no secret of the fact that I was a rather delicate child when it came to matters of horror movies–until the time I was in my early teens, I avoided any gory films, strictly limiting my horror film intake to B&W classics of the Universal school and wacky mid-century rubber-suited, frequently-atomic monster stories.  My love of freaky filmage blossomed due in large part to an early taste for action flicks, particularly those of the 1980s martial-arts variety (TRUE FACT:  it is physically unpossible for me to turn the channel when “Bloodsport” is on teevee).  I have a great amount of warm fuzzy feelings surrounding movies that play out like Mad Libs of asskickery.  You can play along at home!

The villain:
a) killed my family member
b) disrespected my dojo
c) took advantage of the poor-but-noble villagers from my home town
And in so doing, pissed off the wrong:
a) country-boy
b) cop
c) former Navy SEAL
Who is now forced to:
a) compete in an underground fight club
b) infiltrate the gang responsible for the misdeed
c) go back to the life he thought he’d left behind
A lot of films incorporate smatterings of all these elements, and certainly there are little nuggets of joy that differentiate one film from another to keep them from becoming boring, but martial arts movies are really all about the comforting knowledge that good will win out over naughty evil and that there will be a lot of bone-crunchings and head-bashings along the way.  That’s just gorgeous in its simplicity, isn’t it?
“Ong-Bak,” a 2003 Thai martial arts flick, follows proudly in the tradition of the most by-the-book Hong Kong martial arts movies, adding in an important element of spicy awesome:  Tony Jaa.  HOLY CRAP–this guy is amazing!  His muay-thai kickboxing moves are sharp and really effective-looking (not that I’d want to be on the wrong side of one of Cynthia Rothrock’s over-the-head-backwards kicks, but still–that seems to be more for show than anything else).  The fight and action sequences are seamlessly executed, due in no small part to the much-promoted fact that the actors perform their own stunts.  There’s a cleverness evident in the machine-gun pacing of the action setpieces that keeps the movie from seeming too much like a visit to the circus.
The highlight, for me, takes place about midway through the film, when Tony Jaa’s character (along with his buffoonish soon-to-be sidekicks) is chased through the winding alleyways and marketplaces of Bangkok.  Inspired as much by the Warner Brothers as by the Shaw Brothers, take a look at all the ingenious obstacles that face the hero during this pursuit: 
In retrospect, I can see why I never got into watching televised competitive sports–watching a bunch of guys get the ball into the proper area of a big rectangle is nothing compared to watching a guy deliver a deadly knee-blow to his opponent’s throat. 
Oh, and as to the plot, it’s C, A, A.  In case you were to busy wondering about such a small detail as that instead of enjoying the ride like you’re supposed to!

Clovis Trouille’s Sexy Mummies

Sort of a collage artist working in oil paints, surrealist painter Clovis Trouille revisited many of the same images throughout his decades-long career.  I’ve shown some of Trouille’s nun-related art in the past, and in addition to these convent cuties, he painted seductive harem girls, mysterious masked characters, figures inspired by Hollywood advertising, and also these totally amazing eroticized mummy figures, shown below.

"La Momie Somnambule" - Clovis Trouille
“La Momie Somnambule” – 1942
"La Grasse Matinee" - Clovis Trouille
“La Grasse Matinee” – 1955 – 1962