Saturday, January 10, 2015
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Happy birthday and Merry Christmas to Black Friday, which was released on December 20, 1974, forty years ago.
Black Christmas is part of the trinity of masterpiece films directed by Bob Clark. A Christmas Story (still the funniest movie ever made) and Porky's (1950's era teen sex comedy) complete the triangle of perfectness.
The film is based off of the old babysitter and the man upstairs, mixed with a series of murders that screenwriter, Roy Moore, remembered having occurred around Christmas time in Canada. Black Christmas is usually considered the first slasher film. Italian giallos had many of the standards, but it was Black Christmas that put them all together and create the slasher film standard.
I have an affinity for many of the film in the 1970's because of a certain chaos in the storytelling. Things are revealed without explanation. Who and why? are thrown out the window. There is a comfort being held safely in the hands of a competent 70's directors hands; you may not understand it all, but you're sure they do. From Texas Chain Saw Massacre on up to Star Wars, this kind of storytelling ruled the 70's. Who is the cannibalistic family? What were the Clone Wars? In Black Christmas, who is the killer? Why is he killing? What the hell is up with that ending? It's better not to know.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
The Planet of the Apes cartoon starts on August 6, 1976.
I did not know about this series until recently. It is slow, but the constant zooms and pans make it feel a little more frenetic than it is.
The art is good, the animation is not fantastic. The voice acting is a bit bored.
If you're a fan of Doug Wildey and his original Jonny Quest series, the art here is Wildey-infused. He worked as "Supervising Director and Associate Producer" on the series.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Happy 30th birthday to my favorite Friday the 13th film. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was released on April 13, 1984.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Monday, November 25, 2013
Friday, November 15, 2013
Thursday, November 7, 2013
First of all, rest in peace to west coast wrestling promoter. Roland Alexander. Alexander was the founder and promoter for APW (All Pro Wrestling) based in Hayward, CA. Alexander passed away on November 5, 2013. Mike Johnson at PWInsder has a well written and thorough obituary HERE.
I attended several APW shows through the years. The shows were always good. However, through the 1990's, most independent wrestling fans were turning to hardcore wrestling, "extreme" wrestling, and promotions where the crimson was free flowing. APW always remained family friendly. I can remember only one series of matches between Vic Grimes and Erin O'Grady (Crash Holly) which took a turn to the crimson.
I met Roland Alexander a number of times. He was one of those guys who appeared to be a jerk and seemed to actively pursue the character of asshole promoter, but, to me, the words that came out of his mouth were far too kind to believe the schtick. I was allowed ringside to photograph a show when WCW scout and ex-promoter Jim Barnett came out to look at APW wrestling Michael Modest and Donovan Morgan. Alexander didn't know me. When I was working on my Bruiser Brody documentary (which became this book) he allowed me backstage at the 2001 King of the Indies tournament shows to tape interviews. There was no benefit to Alexander.
Roland Alexander had an amazing appearance in Barry Blaustein's wrestling documentary, Beyond the Mat. The guy is shown conversely as a creep, a greedy sleazeball, a concerned leader, and a tearful promoter. It's an amazing portrayal; completely insane.
Secondly, for some damn reason, I was watching old mini-dv tapes the other night, when I came across my 2001 King of the Indies tape. It's got interviews with several wrestlers and the entirety of the final match between Bryan Danielson (American Dragon) vs. Low-Ki. The version below is superior as we were one camera, one spot, and not set-up to tape matches. But the fact that Roland Alexander passed away makes the timing of my re-discovery of this tape somewhat strange.
Thirdly, look above. Look at that fucking line up! At the time, I had no idea who half the guys were. To a wrestling fan, this is some kind of insane super-card wet dream. The second night's card also featured a battle royal. Wrestler and journalist, Bryan Alvarez, was in that battle royal had this to say today:
"-- Sad to hear about the death of Roland Alexander of All Pro Wrestling. He could be a controversial character but he was always very nice to me and even booked me for the Battle Royal at the legendary King of Indies event in 2001 which in many ways directly lead to the creation of Ring of Honor, and was the first time a lot of people were exposed to guys like Low-Ki, Bryan Danielson, Spanky and others."This was posted HERE at Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Online.
I also met wrestling journalist, Dave Meltzer, at the second night's show. Meltzer would be a great help with my Bruiser Brody book.
Here is the APW King of the Indies tournament final. Bryan Danielson vs. Low Ki.
Here is a chunk from Beyond the Mat featuring Roland Alexander. The audio is horrible.
Writer Max Landis and illustrator AP Quach published this naughty and amazing "Disney" comic, Boy's Night Out, over on Sassquach.com. The comic is 29 pages and is shockingly good. Beware of cussing and seedy conversations.
I get freaked out and concerned about corporate interests in art, Disney continually dictating copyright law to lawmakers, and all of those artist's rights issues. But, remember that Dan O'Neill was sued by Disney in the 70's for publishing two issues of Air Pirates Funnies, which also had a couple of Disney characters shown in a similarly unsanitized light. Disney won the lawsuit against O'Neil. It will be interesting to see what happens to Boy's Night Out.
(Via Oldhat on Whitechapel)
Thursday, October 31, 2013
I review a lot of slasher films on this site. The genre is right up there with the spaghetti western in my book. I recently released my top 10 list (well, it's more of a class) and I'm always updating my BIG Chronological List of Slashers. I use a lot of made up verbiage and personal systems for ranking and categorizing slasher films. This post started out as a quick explanation of those things and evolved in to much more.
You can find a whole lot of information regarding slasher films over at this Wikipedia page. I don't buy into some of the information presented there. There are many films wherein groups of people are murdered one by one. This in and of itself, does not a slasher make. The page also reads like some sort of one-upsmanship game by slasher fans, adding comments and information about their favorite, obscure slasher film.
I have read Vera Dika's book, Carol Clover's book, Adam Rockoff's book, and Richard Nowell's amazingly researched book, each with paragraph long titles. If you are interested in the history, finances, and cultural anthropology of the slasher genre read these books. My feeling is that they are interesting in as much as an artist's statement is at an art gallery: knowing what the production companies intentions were, how the distributor marketed films, where the markets were, where the culture was. I waver between keen interest and wanting to puke.
If you like your artwork with no explanation; to make up your own mind without context. Just go watch the films. This post is meant to provide a pinch of context, some history, a smidge of my ranking system, and a somewhat blurry definition of the genre. If it is not enough, go dive into the books listed above and learn about gross revenues and propitious cultural morays.
Like always, I encourage you to make your own lists, your own definitions, to create your own universe. When you die, this universe ends for you. Go out and be the god you are. Go watch the slasher films you want to watch. And if I can help you decide which ones, I would be greatly honored.
A very short history
I am not a stickler about the scores of pre-slasher, thriller films. Yes, Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians contributed, the Grand Guignol in France contributed. We know about Thirteen Women and Without Warning. I believe the genre began to take shape with Michael Powell's Peeping Tom and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, both released in 1960. In both films, the audience does not latch onto police detectives in search of a killer. The serial killer is the main character and the psychology of that character is explored in detail.
In 1963 Herschell Gordon Lewis and Dave Friedman released Blood Feast. The psychology of the killer was irrelevant and just about everything else took a back seat to the bloodshed and violence. This was the first gore film and contributed greatly to the visceral attention to the act of murder which helped define the slasher genre.
Blood and Black Lace, directed by Mario Bava was released in 1964. It was an early entry into the Italian giallo cycle of films and had a lot of features which later became staples of the slasher film.The single killer in a black coat, gloves, and a spooky mask. Killing without firearms, faceless and unstoppable. Bava also directed Twitch of the Death Nerve, released in 1971, which also influenced the slasher genre in much the same way as Blood and Black Lace.
While it seems like a long stretch to horror fans, film history buffs know that 1969's Easy Rider crashed through the roof and opened up independently produced films, targeted at youth audiences, to the major film distributors. These distributors scrambled to find hit films in dark corners they had never dared look before. Art films, foreign films, experimental films, even exploitation films were snatched up and taken out of the underground and into the mainstream cinema.
In 1974 all the elements came together when Bob Clark's, Black Christmas was released. This Canadian produced (as in, the Canadian government helped produce it) film is the first proper slasher film. Black Christmas failed at the box office, a spark failing to ignite.
"Did John Carpenter rip-off Black Christmas? No, he did not. The story, very briefly was that John was an admirer of Black Christmas and subsequently I was hired to direct his first screenplay, set in the mountains of Tennessee. It didn't end up happening. I had to move on. It was Warner Brothers. And John had asked me, very quickly, did I intend to do a sequel to Black Christmas? He admired it a great deal. I said, 'No, this is going to be my last horror film.' And he said, 'But if you did, what would it be?' And I simply said, 'It would be the next year. The killer would have been caught and he's escaped. He's come back to the town. No one knows he's back in Bedford, this small, North Eastern town. And I'm going to call it Halloween.'"
- Bob Clark (HERE at :47. Bob Clark goes on to make it clear that John Carpenter did NOT rip-off Black Christmas.)
In 1978, John Carpenter's Halloween was independently released and slowly started a fire. Its popularity created the slasher genre.
Ezra Pound said that there are Innovators, Masters, and Imitators.
Films like Black Christmas and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were clear innovators of the genre. Halloween, Friday the 13th, and the first fifteen minutes of When a Stranger Calls are the clear Masters, with many other slasher films up for debate regarding their Master status.
The bulk of the genre is Imitators. Being an imitator is not a negative mark. Imitators are what make a genre.
There are also a handful of self-described labels to identify and categorize slasher films:
I use these labels frequently. For the most part I tend to dismiss fantasy slashers. I mostly cannot stand them. I mostly try to ignore them. I mostly want them burned.
|Friday the 13th part 2|
|Edge of the Axe|
I have a sort of Tier system set up in my skull as well. It is not as defined as I'd like but I use this system to delineate budget, production value, and distributor strength. Friday the 13th, Halloween, their sequels, My Bloody Valentine, these are Tier 1 films.
The Burning, Prom Night, Hospital Massacre, would fall under Tier 2.
Tier 3 films were usually made with great love by small crews of buddies or by fly-by-night production companies looking for a quick buck. Many released straight to video. Intruder, Don't Go in the Woods, and The Nail Gun Massacre are all examples of Tier 3 slashers.
What is a slasher?
Any time you try to squeeze a cycle of films together into a genre, you find that as they stretch the genre and flex their creativity, they puncture your sack and destroy your definitions. I will lay out some very general guidelines that I use. If you are a little shit about it, you can find films on my big list that will break these rules.
1. A killer kills. This is the primary reason this film exists. All other plot points are MacGuffins.
2. The killer is a person.
3. The killer does not use a firearm.
4. The killer cannot be reasoned with.
5. The story does not follow the police. It follows the killer or the victims.
6. A final victim kills the killer or at least, escapes. There is a survivor.
(The screen grabs are from my Fantasti-frames site.)
Going to Pieces is a decent documentary based off of Adam Rokoff's book. However, their glossing over of Black Christmas (a quick close-up of the poster) is unforgivable.