VIDEO: Stuff I Learned from "The New Barbarians"/"Warriors of the Wasteland"

If there’s one event I can count on to bring me maximum glee every month, it’s the Kevin Geeks Out show at 92YTribeca. I had the honor of being part of the January show, themed around “Visions of the Future,” and recapped lovingly by Pal of the Tenebrous Empire B-Sol over at The Vault of Horror.
For those of you who weren’t able to make it out due to geography, fear of winter weather, or other circumstances I’ll assume were beyond your control, I’ve posted my presentation along with a freshly-recorded intro, since the video that Baron XIII took looked… well, it… kinda looked like it was filmed while he was deep in the throes of ergot poisoning.
Without further fanfare, enjoy the Tenebrous Take on Enzo G. Castellari’s “The New Barbarians” aka “Warriors of the Wasteland:”
This flick has been a movie-night staple for me and my pals for several years now, to the point where it’s one of my go-to’s for a good laugh. If you’d like to read more about my “New Barbarians”-related joy, click here for my full write-up. I’d advise you to just rent–nay, PURCHASE–a copy now, though!

Horrors of the Runway 2010: Bride of Frankenstein Hair, Doll Heads, Terror Makeup Takes Berlin

Typically, when I put the words “horror” and “fashion” together in a sentence, I’m talking about things like bedazzled denim or pleated, belted, high-waisted short-shorts. I’m taking a refreshingly literal stance on those words today and sharing some of the horror- and genre-influenced styles that have been shown at recent fashion shows.
Now, I realize that the phrase “haute couture” implies a certain amount of not-ready-for-the-street grandstanding on the part of designers, a sort of artist’s statement in clothing that eventually trickles down in a diluted form more appropriate for real life attire. That having been said, I, for one, am TOTALLY PREPARED to don any one of the dominatrix riding outfits shown in the Dior show at Paris Fashion Week 2010. “Venus in Furs” meets “Bride of Frankenstein” is a style concept whose day has come, friends.
White hair streaks appeared in the Chanel collection as well (let’s all take a moment of awed silence to appreciate of one of my Top Ten Living Legends, Karl Lagerfeld, OK?). Here, the look is more Queen of Hearts than Wife of the Monster. I think the shape is quite reminiscent of Gary Oldman’s old-man-Drac coiffure, don’t you? WITNESS:

Givenchy went full-out Continental Gothic with styles that could be sported by any of the many villainesses in any of the many Paul Naschy horror offerings. Diaphanous gown goodness and dramatic mantilla madness ahoy:
Zuhair Murad drew inspiration from 19th Century military outfits, proving that even those questionable nude-lined black crepe dresses I am so suspicious of can be catapulted right into APPROVED status with the addition of kaiserrific medals:
Speaking of Those Wacky Germans, let’s discuss Patrick Mohr’s Berlin Fashion Week show, titled “Are We Shaved?” Mohr is a vexing designer for me, creating tempting gauze tunics and scarves in the only color that matters (that’s “black,” in case you needed to be told), and then bitchslapping me with dhoti pants and… well, models that look like THIS:
I know that many of you find dolls to be incredibly creepy. I also know that many of you are avid doll collectors and doll lovers. For all of these people, I highlight this amazing show by Australian hairdresser Jayne Wild. Yes, she styled wigs for walking, blinking, sashaying, human-sized Blythe dolls, at least one of whom is rocking a horror hostess style that looks fabulous even on a dead-eyed, macrocephalic, artificial-headed model:
Check out the doll heads in action here:

Juan Lopez Moctezuma’s Vampire Visions: "Alucarda" [1978] and "Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary" [1975]

It’s simultaneously blessing and a curse to come to a horror movie with a thirst to unearth the filmmakers’ artistry. Sometimes, it’s a little like rooting through a box of Froot Loops to find the prize hidden inside, only to come up with multicolored dust caked under your fingernails and nothing but a two-stage lenticular card showing an image of a clown shifting from side to side. Just like the treat DOES exist in the cereal box, there IS a vision in a movie, but it’s nothing to get terribly excited about.

“Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary” isn’t a particularly interesting movie when viewed on its own merits. It’s a straightforward, competent-enough tale of modern-day vampirism that, much like its spiritual cousin “Martin” (directed by George A. Romero and superhighly recommended), downplays supernatural themes in favor of the concepts of madness, family legacy, and tragedy. Cristina Ferrare’s portrayal of Mary, a painter with a compulsion to drink human blood, is untouchably icy and the resulting effect is that the viewer never really empathizes with her struggle to hide her murderous activities from her loved ones.

What IS interesting about “Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary” is that it was directed by Mexican filmmaker Juan López Moctezuma, who created two of the greatest statements in surrealist horror filmmaking of all time: “Alucarda” and “The Mansion of Madness.” More interesting still, “Mary, Mary” was made between “Mansion” and “Alucarda.” “Mary, Mary’s” similarities to “Alucarda” are particularly striking, but ultimately the different choices made in the latter film make up a large portion of its success.
Where “Mary, Mary” might be seen as that lenticular clown card, “Alucarda” is a movie of another sort altogether. It’s like finding the Golden Ticket inside the Wonka Bar, to mix my metaphors entirely and inextricably. It tells the story of two adolescent girls (dark and dangerous Alucarda and naive Justine) who form a deep–almost obsessive–spiritual bond when they are brought to live at a convent orphanage. After their dabbling in occult rituals gets all-too-serious, the girls are possessed by demons, unleashing all manner of bad mojo on their keepers. Yes, friends–it’s pretty much Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” car-crashed into Ken Russell’s “The Devils.” I geek about “Alucarda” with’s Nate Yapp in a podcast linked here. I’m going to assume a general familiarity with this movie, so in the interests of time, I’ll link to more in-depth takes from my two of my fave blogs. For a wonderful and reverent review of “Alucarda,” check out this write-up at Killer Kittens from Beyond the Grave. Junk is gonna get fairly reverent fairly quickly, so if you want a palate-cleansing and very-silly-but-delighted-nonetheless review, check out Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies’ take on “Alucarda” here.
So who made these two seemingly disparate movies? Juan López Moctezuma is an interesting figure in Mexican cinema. His work exists in a sort of limbo between the mainstream seat-filling fare of monster mashes, vampire chillers, and masked wrestling films that characterized the country’s genre offerings well into the 1970s and the dreamscapes of Alejandro Jodorowsky (whose western-film-themed masterpiece “El Topo” was co-produced by Moctezuma). While Jodorowsky dove head-first into deeply symbolic stories that have genre elements, Moctezuma’s films are horror stories with symbolic elements.
All that brings us back to today’s vampirrific topics of discussion. Defining what makes two kinda-similar movies made by definitely-the-same guy so very different in terms of their effectiveness breaks down a little like this:
"Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary"

1. The destructive power of compulsion is front and center in both stories. Mary murders and exsanguinates her victims while in a trance-like state, seemingly powerless against the overwhelming need to consume blood. Alucarda and Justine are taken over by powers outside of their bodies and made to commit animalistic, violent, and antisocial acts. All of these women are operating on a level that’s unreasoning and primal, and this behavior causes chaos in their lives that spills into the lives of those around them.
"Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary"

2. A lesbian relationship is the turning point in both films. While the physicality of the relationship between Justine and Alucarda is largely implied, the moment when Mary allows Greta to take her home for a romantic interlude marks the point when Mary first preys on someone she knows. Her tearful admission of guilt before drugging, stabbing, and feeding off Greta is one of the few moments when Ferrare’s portrayal of the elusive vampiress is relatable. In “Alucarda,” the sealing of the girls’ relationship in a blood pact is the beginning of the events that will lead to both girls’ downfalls. It is this kind of curiosity that leads them directly to their dabbling in the occult and ultimately to their dealings with the Devil. There is a sense of mutual protection and shared affection in the depiction of the girls’ love, but there’s also an inverse sexuality and ultimately a destructive power to this love.
"Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary"

3. “Mary, Mary” deals with inheriting evil from one’s family: Mary is the daughter of a mysterious man who taught her the ways of blood-drinking. “Alucarda” takes this suggestion one step further, implying that the titular orphan was predestined to channel evil forces, and that abandonment by her family led to the unleashing of these forces on the innocent people trying to help her. Mary’s father casts his shadow over the entire film, from the presence of his eerie portrait (I love the fact that this is modeled on a publicity still of John Carradine, who plays Mary’s father here, as Dracula in “House of Dracula”) in Mary’s home to the suspicion that he might not be dead after all. In contrast, Alucarda is never aware of her mother’s legacy, and blindly stumbles into her diabolical activities.
"Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary"

4. “Alucarda” plays out in a well-defined, thoroughly realized setting with heaps of cultural texture, while such moments are rare in “Mary, Mary.” In spite of repeated mentions of Mexican locations via dialogue and the casting of Mexican genre vet actors in supporting roles, there’s very little in the way of local color in “Mary, Mary.” The notable exception is during a street fair that Mary and Ben attend, in which the masked revelers are used very effectively to heighten suspense. In comparison, every frame in “Alucarda” is infused with exoticism, from the bloodied bandages that make up the nuns’ habits, to the cave-like interiors of the convent, to the period costumes of the girls.
"Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary"

5. Science informs “Mary, Mary” while the supernatural is the focus of “Alucarda.” Mary is not a traditional vampire–she employs a knife to cut her victims, she goes out in daylight, and it is suggested that her condition is a genetic inheritance. While there are some clever moments that challenge notions of traditional vampirism, such as Mary’s murder of a fisherman on a sunny beach, there’s just not enough tension derived from this challenging of commonly-held folklore. “Alucarda,” on the other hand, directly states that science is weak in the face of overwhelming supernatural odds, setting up its well-meaning doctor for the shock of his life when he realizes that the increasingly gruesome exorcism efforts on the part of the nuns and priests tasked with taking care of Alucarda and Justine are actually the only appropriate means to fight their demonic possession.
"Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary"

6. “Mary, Mary” is a fairly restrained film–Mary spends much of her screen time in what approaches a fugue state, only showing emotion when she’s about to kill. Restraint is nowhere to be found in “Alucarda,” a movie whose Mondo Macabro DVD box art promises “more loud screaming than any [other] horror movie.” This is not hyperbole, folks–Alucarda and Justine spend a not-insignificant portion of the script blaspheming, howling, and cackling. Moctezuma evokes a medieval passion play, with its direct moral message, graphic depictions of violence, and literal religious interpretation. While underlying themes may be ambiguous (this isn’t a decrying of the girls’ love, nor is it an endorsement), the intent is to make the story itself as clear-cut as possible.
“Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary” is pretty much a case study in what happens when an auteur director doesn’t succeed in balancing a strong vision with a narrative that’s intended to appeal to a broader audience. The unrealized potential–the movie that could have been–lurks under the surface of the finished product. It’s to the benefit of all fans of subversive cinema that “Alucarda” exists as a testament to Moctezuma’s unbridled imagination.

Andrea Kett: "For Collectors of Superior Smut"

I’ll admit–I’m more than a little bit in love with the work of artist Andrea Kett. Her naughty-creepy paintings blend a vintage fashion-plate aesthetic with some delightfully macabre subject matter.

Seriously, friends–how can I not adore an artist who understands the niche awesomeness of a Sexy Mummy?
Check out her Etsy shop here and scoop up one of her pieces for yourself.
ADDENDUM: Thank you to everyone who’s coming out to Kevin Geeks Out: Visions of the Future tonight, and also to folks who can’t make it who’ve offered their words of support! Seriously, I’m totally overwhelmed and delighted and… yeah… more than a little nervous. I’ve tasked Baron XIII with video recording duties, so with any luck at all I can share the clip next week. See some of you tonight!

Fashion Advice from John Willie’s BIZARRE

One of the interesting things–to me, anyhow–is how John Willie’s drawings from his fetish publication BIZARRE (the ball-gagged face that launched a thousand glossy ‘zine ships) were created during the late 1940s and through the 1950s and yet evoke the strict glamour of the 1920s and 1930s. At that point, fashion wasn’t the self-referential echo-chamber of retro-inspired street styles that it is now, and I wonder if this favoring of earlier styles would be seen as hopelessly out-of-date and mayb
e even a bit naive.
There’s also a smirky sense of humor that goes along with Willie’s deeply eccentric aesthetic. Where there’s a sense of grime and meanness to the bondage mags of the 70s and onwards, Willie’s tongue is planted firmly in his cheek in his photos and illustrations. Sure, the content is way–WAY–over-the-top, from the depictions of different types of gags to the various ways in which a model’s hands can be wound behind her back, but one of the things that keeps BIZARRE from being despicable is that its look and feel are that of a madcap fantasy. BIZARRE is about as realistic as “Barbarella” or H. Rider Haggard’s “She.” Oh–and there’s the not-small-at-all matter of John Willie being a superb draftsman, even if his figures bear more resemblance to an engineer’s sketch of a particularly complicated machine than to any human being currently walking the earth.
BIZARRE certainly implies a variety of arcane sexual acts, but the drawings within its pages focus on the eroticized trappings of this sex. A favorite motif of Willie’s is the elaborately fetishized “Fancy Dress” or “Motley” outfit. In these drawings to
the right and below, his devious creativity is on full display. While Diana the Huntress and the French Maid might be obvious choices for a kink enthusiast, it takes a special brand of brain to blend a straitjacket with a festive Christmas cracker:

Miss Bizarre, shown below, combines pretty much ALL of the various and sundry Special Needs from the pages of BIZARRE into a single outfit of incredible absurdity. While there’s certainly the intent to titillate, the accompanying text, directed at a lady who might discover a copy of the magazine (in her partner’s sock drawer or under the bed or hidden in the bathroom or wherever people kept porn in 1953), is satirical in tone:

If a fair maiden finds the light of her life reading “Bizarre,” she will realise that something is in the wind. The question is what? What must she do? What must she wear to please him? One false step and a beautiful romance may be loused up–but don’t worry! We’re right with you in your hour of crisis! Just leave it to Willie.

It is assumed that you are already an expert in wrestling, judo and boxing. Therefore if you are required to take the dominant role you will be able to cope with the situation, but it may be the other way so you must appear very helpless and feminine.

He may like boots, so you wear one boot; long sheer stockings, so you display one on the other leg–held up tightly by at least six suspenders. Similarly you have a bloomer and fancy garter on the other leg, and over it a pair of brief frilly scanties.

The extremely wasp-waisted corset of black kid has convenient rings to which shafts can be attached should you be required to serve as a girl pony; and the ring in the nose in this case is an excellent substitute for a bit to which the reins are attached.

Your makeup must be extreme, including a tattoo on your left shoulder, and you are drenched in perfume. You are covered in jewels but the bracelet on your right wrist is a pair of handcuffs. Your long hair, scarcely visible from the front (he may like it short) cascades down your back unbraided under your black gleaming rubber cape whose hood can be brought forward to cover the face (a la Blind Girl Fluff).

Having rigged yourself up in this ensemble you strap one arm tightly back at the waist. Then your head held high by the stiffly boned collar, your earrings brushing your shoulders, you pick up a riding quirt, and with the shackles on your ankles jingling, go and interrupt his reading.

Now we don’t guarantee that this is going to be absolutely perfect. We may have overlooked something but at least it will show an enthusiastic desire to cooperate; and we present the idea with our best wishes for a prosperous and happy New Year.
But gentlemen, you are in NO WAY off the hook. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander (as my very earthy, very Scottish great-grandmother used to say, though probably not under these circumstances). Heels and corsets appear to be recommended for events from “Informal Evenings” all the way to the Board Room.
Consider yourselves on notice!

La Puritana (aka Scorpion’s Kiss) [1989]

CAUTION: This review gets a lot more spoilery than the reviews I normally write, so if you had a grey-market copy of “La Puritana” sitting at home, waiting for an evening when you were in a mood for a revenge story/80s prime time soap opera mash-up, you might want to skip this review. For the remaining 99.99% of my readership, carry on as you were.
"La Puritana"
The first image of our film–it’s pretty much downhill in terms of “Good Taste” from here.
Eurotrash cinema wears many faces. There’s the surrealist dreamscape film; the gore-soaked splatter epic; the thinly-veiled, churned-out rip-off capitalizing on a hit film’s success; the boobs-a-poppin’, pants-droppin’ sleaze story. “La Puritana” has its feet planted firmly on the soil of this last type of movie–it’s a softcore porn with a revenge storyline and giallo trappings. Produced as it was in 1989, almost twenty years after the best gialli had been made, this isn’t an example of the finest suspense cinema Italy had to offer. What it DOES have to recommend it is one of the silliest plots I’ve seen in a while and characters motivated entirely by their respective ids (even more so than usual).
Lady Lawyer Annabella Allori (played by a dramatically surgically-enhanced Margit Evelyn Newton) arrives in a sleepy Southern Italian town and embarks on a mission to avenge the death of a family who had been misused by… well, by pretty much every other character we get to meet in the movie. Drug addict Gabriele has left Annabella an audiocassette (remember those things?) containing his recounting of his and his mother’s abuse at the hands of various wealthy and powerful men. Dispensing with any appearances of subtlety straight away, we learn that the mayor has pimped weak-willed Gabriele and his alcoholic mother to a Count, a drug-dealing pharmacist, the local priest, and a wealthy physician. It’s almost as if the movie is making a point about the corrupting nature of power, but I can’t… quite… put it together…
"La Puritana"
We get Teachable Moments right from Scene One, in which Gabriele expires in a hospital bed, occasioning precisely NO RESPONSE from the hospital staff (I got yer socialized medicine RIGHT HERE, lieblings). On the plus side, apparently there are BARS in Italian hospitals, because we’re treated to a scene in which Annabella shares a cocktail with Dr. Carlo (played by a rather puffy but still mostly-awesome Helmut Berger), surrounded by a bunch of doctors STILL WEARING THEIR WHITE COATS. “I’ve got a three o’clock triple bypass; this calls for a J&B, barkeep.”
"La Puritana"
Also, I’m thinking that Italian Law School is pretty darn different from American Law School, because Annabella spends the film clad in an array of eye-popping but not-ready-for-the-courtroom outfits, including her Barbie cleavage bowtie skirt suit. Seriously. This is the kind of clothing that Joan Collins would deem far too loud for her to don. Power shoulders, pulse-quickening prints, and plastic tribal jewelry define the aesthetic of this film’s fashions. And that’s to say nothing of the nigh-upon-Trojan layers of makeup worn over the lead actress’ distractingly nipped-and-inflated features.
"La Puritana"
I’m tap-dancing around the meat of the story because I feel like it’s important to set the scene, but it’s high time that I reveal the element makes this movie special. As in: the “Special Education” kind of special. Annabella uses her sensuality to exact her revenge, enticing the scoundrels who participated in the destruction of her friends by having sex with them. Not just flirting, holding out the promise of sex, only to pounce at the last moment with her virtue intact–girlfriend does the deed. WITH ALL OF THE VILLAINS (except the gay one, because our scriptwriter is at least a little bit grounded in reality). But here’s the incredible thing–she doesn’t actually NEED to seduce anyone! In fact, she could skip having sex with these guys entirely and the plot would still work. But then we’d be deprived of several oily and literal sex scenes that play out like penetration-free moments from one of those “couple’s pornos” with the tacked-on plots that can be used to trick unwilling spouses into viewing hardcore sex.
Back to our movie, though! Let me break down for you exactly how Annabella could have avoided having sex with any of these evildoers:
  • Annabella discovers that the mayor is taking bribes and seduces him, but… the police already knew that he was corrupt thanks to a series of anonymous letters, and it seems that the crooked senator who set the mayor up was already looking to kill him. Yeah–I know!
  • In order to exact her revenge on the Count, Annabella seduces his daughter in a gym sauna with the clever application of warm tea (I don’t understand this either–must be some kind of super-secret lesbonic mojo thang), photographs another of their couplings, and then fellates the Count, causing him to have a heart attack and only THEN revealing the photos. You’re thinking what I’m thinking–the “blow job” step could be eliminated entirely.
  • An amoral pharmacist (played by Gabriele Tinti, aka Mr. Laura Gemser) is selling heroin out of his storefront, and Annabella sends the cops in after him–but only after they have sex in the back room of the pharmacy in order to provide her with “a sleeping aid.” *facepalm*
My fave REVENGE moment comes when Annabella reveals her intentions to cause the death of a gay, pedophiliac Catholic priest. Shrieking in terror, he runs out the door of the church and IMMEDIATELY falls under the wheels of a car. I mean, credit where credit’s due–Annabella may have questionable reasons for seduction, but her psychic powers can-NOT be beat.
"La Puritana"
In a genre distinguished by its stupid plots, this Italo-thriller out-stupids most of its competitors. Credit where credit is due–“La Puritana” wears its intentions to show lots of nudity on its sleeve and the absence of tension, directorial style, and common sense don’t work against this prime directive. Also on the up-side, even though Helmut Berger is looking worse for the wear here, his ass looks way better than any middle-aged man’s ass deserves to look. Gold star for that!
"La Puritana"
"La Puritana"
BONUS MATERIALS: above is a shot of leotards, for those of you who are reotarded for leotards. You know who you are.

Gratitude and Tenebrous Trivia

Let me start out by saying a genuine “thank you” to everyone who’s mentioned me and the Love Train in their various blogs during the recent handing-out of awards, honors, and nods. I never thought that writing about kinky erotica, decades-old movies, and questionable fashion and art would gain me the accolades of my peers, but we live in a puzzling and sometimes-wonderful world. I’m truly flattered, touched, and more than a little amazed at the kind words folks have had to say about my work, and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge these folks (my apologies if you’re not listed here–please feel free to whack me upside the head in the comments if you’ve shouted out and not been listed):
Apparently I’m supposed to do some sort of “7 Things About Me” meme in order to claim my award and then pass it along to 7 other people, but I was never very good at choosing favorites. I know–it’s a terrible shortcoming and the character flaw that would likely lead to my demise were I the hero in a Greek tragedy. Suffice to say I encourage you to check out the blogs in my blogroll over to the right; there are some creative, inspiring folks who are posting exciting stuff to the “weird” tube of the internet. I *will*, however, play along with the 7 Things meme, mainly because it lets me go more off-topic than usual.
Seven Things About Me

  1. I appeared for a split-second in a Conan O’Brien sketch filmed in 1997 and titled “Rip Taylor Is Depressed.” I was dressed in a nun’s habit and while Mr. Taylor wanted to position me closer to the camera, the director felt I might upstage the confetti-tossing comedian. And FYI–Rip Taylor is one of the raddest dudes around and I have a deep and personal love for him.
  2. My official karaoke song is Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law.”
  3. I think we need to petition to bring back the X Rating. It’s not copyrighted, you can just USE it, filmmakers! OWN the verboten and wear it as a seal of pride; to hell with this pussy NC-17 bullcrap. Also: where did double-X go? Was there ever a double-X? It’s like a beautiful mystery that I feel is insufficiently answered via Wikipedia.
  4. I would not like to buy the world a Coke, let alone teach it to sing. Perfect harmony is not achievable–learn to embrace chaos, folks.
  5. An overwhelming percentage of my high school English class was female, which led to me getting cast as John Proctor in our readings of Arthur Miller’s witch trial parable “The Crucible.” I tried to make it as uncomfortable as possible for everyone involved, and I’d like to think I succeeded.
  6. I thank a dark deity for the internet every day, because otherwise I would never remember anybody’s names. Seriously–I have some kind of really specific speech aphasia when it comes to attaching a name to a face. Also, I am really uncomfortable with hand-shaking, as I feel it’s an art I have yet to master.
  7. I just realized my most recent unfinished acrylic painting has been sitting untouched in my apartment for almost two years, and this embarrasses me deeply.

The Gore Gore Girls [1972]

Plenty of accusations of misogyny are levied at horror films, and while I think that there are certainly some exhaustingly outdated tropes of slut-shaming and what can be seen as a troubling reenforcement of rape culture in many shock flicks, it’s rare that I find myself leaving a movie and thinking “gee whiz, that film hates women.”
I left “The Gore Gore Girls” thinking “gee whiz, this film hates women.”
Let me get things back on their typically culturally-relativistic track by saying that I adore director Herschell Gordon Lewis’ paleo-gore epics “Blood Feast” and “2,000 Maniacs.” They’re far-out gross-outs that play as sicko comedies, and Lewis’ obsession with re-purposed animal parts from the butcher’s shop is a unique take on the depiction of blood and guts. “Blood Feast” is particularly tongue-in-cheek in its use of meat, what with its themes of cannibalistic buffets and blood sacrifice. All this is to say that I wasn’t exactly UN-prepared for the assault on my eyeballs that was “The Gore Gore Girls,” Lewis’ last foray into gorehound filmmaking prior to his re-emergence in the early aughts.
"The Gore Gore Girls" Film Still

Allow me to set up “The Gore Gore Girls” for you, all right? Asshole detective Abraham Gentry is hired by ambitious young newspaper reporter Nancy Weston to uncover who’s behind a series of vicious murders of strippers. Gentry has one thing the cops don’t have–no, not a cane and/or a perm! I’m talking about the ability to bribe answers out of low-life underworld types. Being-as-how Gentry is a successful businessman (and because the plot says so), Weston is instantly attracted to this oily Borat impersonator and spends much of her time in the movie a) pining for a helping of what’s hidden in Gentry’s shiny polyester trousers or b) being put in booze comas when Gentry quadruples the strength of the drinks she’s served. In order to speed up his investigation, Gentry plants deliberately misleading clues to throw the bumbling cops off the scent of the real killer and repeatedly places women in the path of the murderer.

"The Gore Gore Girls" Film Still
There’s a salacious glee taken in showing the graphic mutilation of the female victims, including the complete obliteration of women’s faces. While the gore effects aren’t exactly convincing (in fact, they look just like a broken mannequin’s head has been filled with butcher’s remnants), the lingering shots of gloved hands squeezing and smashing this meat-that-was-allegedly-a-person are deeply disturbing. It doesn’t help matters that the mood vacillates wildly between this kind of vicious violence and a zany, vaudevillian brand of comedy. Frequently, both moods are shoved down one’s throat simultaneously in scenes like the one where a woman’s nipples are cut off with scissors, causing white milk and chocolate milk to spill forth in turn. Genital mutilation–now fortified with wackiness!
"The Gore Gore Girls" Film Still
Red herrings abound, from the melon-smashing ‘Nam vet who is a strip club frequenter to the militant feminist who has threatened to murder strippers in the past. Speaking of militant feminism–you know what you never hear about anymore? Bra burning. You know what this movie is uniquely obsessed with? Bra burning. Letting one’s breasts drape freely within one’s sweater is tantamount to planting a kiss on the devil’s ass.
The movie’s got no love for the feminists, but neither is it very empathetic towards the strippers, who are portrayed as dim-witted and sex-starved, or merely as bodies to toss in harm’s way.
"The Gore Gore Girls" Film Still
Perhaps most vexing of all is the fact that I can’t deny this movie’s impact. It’s a hateful piece of movie-making, no doubt about it, but it manages to be thought-provoking in its very dementia. There’s some Brechtian fourth-wall bashing in the form of Gentry’s direct addresses to the audience, who are treated as if they are as smart as Gentry. This was particularly problematic to me, because it implies that the audience shares some of Gentry’s More Questionable Viewpoints, like that whole “it’s totally fine to drug women and get women killed if it means a hefty payday” thing. And back to that kooky humor–IT WORKS. It’s shocking and grotesque, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t elicit a very uncomfortable chuckle or two.
“The Gore Gore Girls” isn’t what anyone would call a particularly good movie, but its sheer, balls-out, batshit insane embrace of offensive humor and graphic violence make it a very memorable movie. In its credit, it IS the best film I’ve ever seen where Henny Youngman and a bucket of sheep’s eyeballs are given equal screen time.
"The Gore Gore Girls" Film Still

Miscellany: Tenebrous LIVE!, T-Shirts, Prurient Documentary Filmmaking

Happy Friday, interpals! In the spirit of knowledge sharing, I’m going to hit you up with a few bits of datum that I feel will enhance your collective lives.
On Friday, January 22, I’ll be appearing as part of the Kevin Geeks Out series of weird and wonderful film appreciation presentations at 92YTribeca. If you’re in the New York City area, you should come on down and enjoy an evening of nerdy glee surrounding Visions of the Future. My own vision of the future is Italian, post-nuclear, and guaranteed to have about 1,000% more codpieces than any other film on the docket for the evening. For those who need to be bribed, THERE WILL BE FREE DIPPIN DOTS. For those who, like me, want to enjoy everything through a shiny veneer of alcohol, THERE IS A BAR ON SITE. Click here to buy advance tickets.
I don’t shill for companies I don’t patronize. I don’t accept advertising. Once I start getting paid for something, it starts being work, and we all know that work stinks and that’s why you get paid to be there. Related: the expansion of my t-shirt collection is something towards which I devote a portion of the money I earn from work-actual. In the spirit of all this, I’m going to offer up some recommendations of t-shirt vendors and designers who make my black little heart go pitter-pat:
  • Fright Rags – Original designs, limited editions, and rad poster reproductions.
  • Giallo T-Shirts – Pop art designs inspired by Italian thrillers. My life wasn’t complete until I owned an Ivan Rassimov shirt.
  • Rotten Cotton – One of the original sources for gruesome, badass shirt designs. Lots of poster-inspired stuff as well as official licensed shirts and limited editions.
  • November Fire – Staggering collection of designs, including cult film posters, occult symbols, and military themes, available on a number of shirt styles for men and women.
  • Threadless – Limited edition designs ranging from the twee to the snarky, with plenty of horror stuff in the mix. My glow-in-the-dark villain stick figures shirt is one of my most treasured tees.
August 21, 2009

For extra bonus awesome, go to town with scissors for a customized look. Here’s a video tutorial to re-create the style in my photo above:

I watch a lot of documentaries, and they vary in quality from profound to thought-provoking to humorous to unintentionally silly. The problem with Robinson Devor’s “Zoo,” a documentary film about a man who died while being fucked by a horse at a sex farm, is that Devor never really owns the fact that he’s making a documentary film about a man who died while being fucked by a horse at a sex farm. Devor is aiming square at “profound,” applying moody cinematography and affecting a tone of ethical ambiguity. The documentary is so deliberately quiet in its tone and so cautiously philosophical about the nature of this paraphilia that the overall effect is pretty goddamn comedic. By the time the actor hired to play Cop #1 in a re-enactment for the film is interviewed about the nature of life and death, the piece has dissolved into postmodern comedy. Is this meta or merely a bad decision–or is it something akin to genius? The actor’s observation that his friend had a broken leg treated at the same hospital where the horse-fucked man bled to death was so self-centric it could have been included for no reason other than cynical humor. Funnier still is the elegantly-lensed, slow-motion sequence of a central casting “redneck” fleeing from the scene of the victim’s accidental death with a bucket full of bestiality pornography.

I guess I just really object to making prurient subjects seem “tasteful” so people can feel less bad about their morbid curiosity. Seriously–even if there’s a veneer “lyrical style,” you’re still watching a documentary film about a man who died while being fucked by a horse at a sex farm. There’s just not enough content or insight in the interviews to justify the lofty goals of the filmmaker, but there hella-sure is a re-enactment scene of cops having a “2 Girls, 1 Cup” moment while watching the bestiality footage at the precinct house.
Related to this: if I was an actor, I would never ever EVER agree to appear in any type of re-enactment. Audiences that have a limited grasp on stuff like “metaphor” have an equally limited grasp on the notion of “re-enactment.” I know *I* wouldn’t want to forever be known as “the Happy Horseman” for the rest of my on-screen career.

Adult Eurocomix Torture Dungeon Jamboree!

Sure, America has its DC Comics Legion of Doom, and those villains seemed pretty darned nasty while menacing kids over their sugar cereal and “Super Friends” on Saturday mornings. Let me just tell you that the Legion of Doom has nothing–BUT nothing–on the villains of Italian fumetti neri, adult comics that fused sex and violence into a fantastical art trashgasm.

In his two-page tribute to these comics, artist Lucio Filippucci* captures the hyperbolic zeal of these comics by placing some of the best-known of these masked supervillains in a montage of flogtastic proportions. This is a little like Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “Monster Mash,” if it had more BDSM and came from Decadent Continental Europe:
"Sogni Prohibiti" - Tribute to Fumetti Neri
"Sogni Prohibiti" - Tribute to Fumetti Neri
Maybe the word supervillain isn’t the right one to describe these dramatis personae-they’re often the FOCUS of the stories, not merely antagonists. In the montage above, Killing/Kilink (lower left, page 1), Kriminal (center left, page 2) and Satanik (center right, page 2) are the titular characters in their stories. Madame Brutal (lower right, page 1) is a nemesis of the James-Bond-like Goldrake (who is clearly doing none-too-well in that particular scenario), and the awesomely-named Baron von Nütter (upper right, page 2) is out to do no goddamn good to Isabella, a displaced noblewoman out for revenge… and by the looks of things, not succeeding.
*Filipucci is one of the illustrators of the “Martin Mystère” series published by Bonelli Comics, a house best known to US audiences for the “Dylan Dog” comics. Further down the Trivia Maze, “Dylan Dog” author Tiziano Sclavi should be familiar to an even wider group of genre fans as the author of the justifiably highly-praised horror film “Dellamorte Dellamore,” aka “Cemetery Man.” And yes, my goal IS to be the James Burke of exploitation entertainment.