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.
Monday, October 28, 2013
This almost-slasher film was based on the real Phantom Killer Texarkana Moonlight Murders in 1946. I have yet to read about the murders so I am not sure how accurate the film is. I sincerely doubt the actual killer tied a knife to a tuba slide and played the tuba behind a tied up woman, stabbing her to death. So bad.
The film had some really good qualities. The killer looked amazing and terrifying. The film came out in 1976, two years before Halloween and six years before Jason swiped his look in Friday the 13th part II. The action sequences were tense as the killer was not slick or agile, being tossed around and struggling with the victims. Mary Jane from Gilligan's Island has one particularly harrowing scene that goes on forever as she struggles and fights and flees. The victims are not teeny-boppers eager to die.
The ending was a bit anti-climactic, but after the credits ran, I was satisfied and interested in the real case. The crimes, as portrayed in the film, felt a lot like the Zodiac killings in the 1960's and 70's. The movie was essentially a Texas 1946 version of the 2007 Zodiac film. The story follows the police investigation. The plot of the film is not the plot of a slasher film 'Who can survive the killer?' it is 'Can the police catch a killer?'
There are some extremely out of place and horrible comedy moments in the film. The director plays a bumbling, rookie cop, and just ruins every scene he's in. There is a pointless narration which runs throughout, attempting to pull the film into the hard nosed detective, film noir, genre. The tuba killing attempts to be weird and comes off as unrealistic and weak. The final scene takes place in broad daylight which doesn't make a lot of sense and hurts the credibility of the characters. I also don't understand why trains are this unstoppable moving force in films. How many gunfights start in, on, and around trains and the operators of the train don't stop?
If you like the ultraviolence, this has a little, not a lot. If you're in the mood for a good old fashioned crime drama, set in Texas, with dates and times and stakeouts and pushy press and weird side characters and Texas Rangers and a tricky killer, this is a winner.
(Poster courtesy of Wrong Side of the Art.)
Thursday, October 24, 2013
The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft has the story behind these sweet necropants. You can be super duper hardcore, practice a little black magic, look fab in your new pants, and make money while your at it.
Here's the information from their site:
Here's the information from their site:
If you want to make your own necropants (literally; nábrók) you have to get permission from a living man to use his skin after his dead. After he has been buried you must dig up his body and flay the skin of the corpse in one piece from the waist down. As soon as you step into the pants they will stick to your own skin. A coin must be stolen from a poor widow and placed in the scrotum along with the magical sign, nábrókarstafur, written on a piece of paper. Consequently the coin will draw money into the scrotum so it will never be empty, as long as the original coin is not removed. To ensure salvation the owner has to convince someone else to overtake the pants and step into each leg as soon as he gets out of it. The necropants will thus keep the money-gathering nature for generations.Here's the sigil, nábrókarstafur.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Monday, October 14, 2013
This slasher starts out with a nightmare dream sequence, runs us through a sorority initiation ceremony, whisks us to an insane asylum, takes us to a mansion, back to the sorority house, and finally deposits us at a huge, empty shopping mall. The story really shoots for the stars, incorporating all sorts of slasher elements and when it seems too much, they are all brought together with deftness.
The Initiation doesn't twist or stretch the genre, it takes all the interesting bits and pieces of other slashers and builds a pretty decent film.
Daphne Zuniga plays a rich, but sheltered woman entering her first year in college. She's taking the initiation into a sorority which leads her to the mall her father owns. She has been plagued by the same nightmare her whole life. Someone escapes from a mental hospital and begins a killing spree. That burn victim gardener looks mean and suspicious. Her mother seems to be hiding something. A solid slasher storyline.
The acting is decent. Daphne Zuniga has a wonderful, youthful, beauty which makes it easy to like her character. The second cutest woman in the movie gets naked a few times which is always nice. The rest of the characters are underwritten and flat at first, but as the film moves along, a few of them are fleshed out.
The kills are good. A few garden fork stabbings, an axe to the head, an arrow, an off-screen throat slit. They are all effective.
The music score is dated and mostly horrible. Might be fun to laugh at.
I was genuinely surprised at the ending. Even re-watching it, I mis-remembered the ending and was surprised again. If you want a solid, by the numbers, slasher, this a great option.
Here's a trailer. Be warned... boobs.
(Poster courtesy of Wrong Side of the Art.)
Saturday, October 12, 2013
A cool, hour long, documentary on the state of comics in the early 1990's. It has a bit of comic book history and some fun interviews. If you know anything about comics, there is not a lot of new information. Fun to see where the industry was at in the early 90's.
Friday, October 11, 2013
One of the stand outs of the golden age of slasher films is My Bloody Valentine. The film is a Tier 1 slasher shot in Canada with one of the best scripts in the genre.
Twenty years ago a group of miners were the victims of a preventable accident. A cave-in caused by the negligence of their supervisors eager to get to the annual Valentine's Day dance, trapped the miners for several days. Only one man survived, feeding off the corpses of the dead. His name was Harry Warden. Harry took revenge on the supervisors by cutting out their hearts. Harry Warden was sent to an insane asylum.
Now, after all these years without a Valentine's Day dance, the town is all a bustle preparing to re-instate the annual tradition. The problem is that people keep getting killed, and their hearts keep getting separated from the rest of their bodies. Has Harry Warden returned?
My Bloody Valentine is a top rate slasher. The story is expertly written. It is lean and tight and written in a small way, allowing for a smaller production to look big league. The actors are all fine at their job and likeable. There is a real sense of camaraderie, that this group has been around each other their whole lives. You really get to know them and like them. Which makes it all the more interesting when they are slaughtered.
The film could really be played as a straight whodunnit, without the slasher elements, and the VHS version that I grew up with was mostly that. In 2009 an unrated version was released on DVD with a few extra minutes of warm, delicious, gore. You can see from some of the stills that the added shots were taken from an inferior negative source. It doesn't matter, though, the kills are all good. The effects are good. As I said earlier, because the cast is so good, it can make the kills seem even more vicious.
The mine location is the central point to the film. At no time does it feel like a Hollywood set. You will feel the darkness and the cold of being below ground. The actors throw out jargon and move around like they really belong there. The killer's mining outfit is super cool. His headlamp provides lens flares and lights up his victim's faces. A cool addition.
My Bloody Valentine also works pretty well as a date movie. The kills are straight down the middle with five guys and five gals. There are a pair of mild sex scenes. There are more characters in love than in lust. The characters are a little older and are lower middle class mine workers. The love triangle involving the main characters is interesting and well written. No one is a bad guy/gal.
The 2009 DVD re-release came at the same time as a 3-D remake was shit out by Hollywood. The 1981 version is set-up perfectly for a prequel and/or a sequel. A remake was the wrong choice.
I normally try to stay away from the internet noise. If I don't have something new to add to the discussion of a film, even if it is miniscule, I try not to write about it. In this case, I'm just riding the wave. If you like horror films, see this movie. It is one of the best slashers out there.
(Poster courtesy of Wrong Side of the Art.)
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Monday, October 7, 2013
For all its faults I'm a big fan of this film. The killer's premise is laughable, the killer's movement around the hospital is quicker than The Flash, and worst of the all the film suffers from multiple personalities: from serious horror to unintentionally funny to intentionally funny to trying to be funny but just coming off pathetic, I can see how the tonal inconsistencies in this movie can drive many people to hitting the STOP button. I have always found the film to play like a story from Kafka or Sartre. Taken literally, the film doesn't work, but as an allegory or nightmare, it is effective and the unfunny humor is frustrating and stifling.
As a kid, I thought Barbi Benton was an A-List movie star. I really thought I had found some secret film she did. And when she took off her top, I just about blew mine. I was stunned. Barbi Benton really holds the film together. She keeps it straight horror, putting up with the weak attempts at surreal humor. Her character is serious and has depth. This isn't teenagers, making out and smoking dope, she is a mother, recently divorced, with a new boyfriend. She's an adult.
As far as I know, the film skipped the DVD era. My VHS copy is wretched and I complained for years not having a DVD of the film. Recently, a beautiful blu-ray was released. It is just stunning in its clarity. I noticed immediately that after the chase with the killer begins, Barbi Benton's face is covered in sweat. It gives me a warm fuzzy that she would be cool with humanizing her doll-like visage this way. My wife, not knowing her name, even said, "Her face is so perfect. She looks like a doll," when the film started.
The other actors really move around Barbi Benton. They are fine for the most part, but you will not get wrapped up in their character or mourn their deaths. This is a who-done-it and the bloodletting is really a check mark of innocence.
The sound track also plays like a surreal nightmare.
The kills are fine. Nothing spectacular, a few are goofy, but the crimson does flow. The pacing is excellent. If an enterprising slasher fan stripped out the humorous scenes and shots, I think a nice, straight horror, fan-edit could be made.
The blu-ray is extremely clean. If you can handle a little surreal humor, this is an excellent Tier 2 slasher film. It's not going to scare you or disturb you. If you watch it with a group, the nightmare insanity becomes shake-your-head-hilarious. It's a damn fun film.
I'm sorry but the stills are from a low grade copy. I'm working on pulling stills from my blu-ray. Below is the full film.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
I had always liked the way he looked, like Snake Eyes had left GI Joe and hit the mean streets of New York. I flipped through many issues but it wasn't until issue #47 that I bought the comic. Batman was on the cover. It was a two-for-one, a buck fifty for Vigiliante AND Batman.
Vigilante, AKA Adrian Chase, was a District Attorney in New York City. The mob blew up his home, hoping to kill Adrian Chase, but instead, killed Chase's wife and kids. This pissed off Adrian Chase and he became Vigilante by night, killing criminals.
In issue #47, Vigilante gets a top secret mission from the federal government to take out a Russian spy working in Gotham. Batman finds Vigilante and as the two fight, the Master Detective basically sums up the last 46 issues of the series. Adrian Chase became a judge. As Vigilante, he accidentally killed a cop. Adrian Chase was sent to prison. This was heavy stuff for a comic.
Issue #48 starts out with Vigilante, back in New York, shooting a criminal to death. A Vigilante copycat viciously murders some criminals harassing a homeless man. Adrian Chase meets up with an old lover named, Black Thorn, they have sex. The copycat kills two would-be rapists. Vigilante and Thorn take a shower together. The copycat throws a guy in front of a subway car. This comic is a teenage boy's dream.
Vigilante fit in with tone of the late 1980's perfectly. Action movies like Dirty Harry and Death Wish, which started out in the 70's as social commentary, were firing off sequels that had audiences cheering as criminals were blown away. Hundreds of action films were churned out in the 80's. Characters from R-rated films like Rambo and The Terminator were made into action figures and given cartoons. The action spilled over into reality when Bernhard Goetz shot at four teenagers in New York. The teens had told him to give them five dollars. He was dubbed the Subway Vigilante and lauded on television and radio.
Comic books followed the movies in reflecting the country's dark mood. The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen are generally considered as the first comics to bring comics out of puberty and into adulthood; but the industry didn't grow up gracefully. As rough as it got, violence was still mostly cool and fun and quickly forgotten.
The Green Lantern's girlfriend was found dead in a refrigerator. Did he suffer PTSD? Batgirl was shot, stripped, and photographed by the Joker. Did she receive counseling of any kind? No, she just changed her name to Oracle and carried on her hero-ing in a wheelchair for 24 years (she is back as Batgirl, in a very well written series). The Punisher was in Daredevil's comic every month murdering the guilty with great style and without consequence. Amidst the frenzy, Vigilante was doing his part to murder the streets of New York into safety. The Vigilante comic seemed to be the same as the others: over the top violence without consequence, to feed the blood lust of teenage boys.
Issue #49. The copycat is called The Homeless Avenger. He is caught by a group of thugs. When Thorn tries to stop them from tearing the Avenger apart, Vigilante stops her. It's the Avenger's battle. The Avenger agrees. Thorn doesn't. Vigilante beats her up for two pages and knocks her out.
Issue #50 (February 1988). Adrian Chase reads the newspaper. The Homeless Avenger was murdered by the thugs. Chase remembers his own kids and wife. Dead. He remembers past friends and colleagues. All dead. Thorn is bruised and swollen. She tries to argue with Chase and he slaps her. Chase runs off and, as Vigilante, starts a killing spree. He beats up some kids in a movie theater, kills scores of thugs, and accidentally kills a police officer.
Vigilante returns to his apartment and kills himself.
#50 was the last issue.
Re-reading the last four issues as an adult, Vigilante is a ham-fisted, grossly simplified take on a serious topic. But as a teenager it tackled these horrible issues with a context and tone that got us talking to each other; about consequences, about suicide, about violence, about protecting the weakest of us, about heroes falling. No one thought Vigilante was cool, hitting his girlfriend, beating up kids, and falling into insanity. I can't look at these issues of Vigilante and say they are immature and simple. It's like saying Dr. Seuss is immature and simple, he only writes for kids.
I'm 40 now. Own a home, married, two kids. After years of free storage, my mom asked me to take the last of my comics, four long boxes, a few weeks ago. I found my Vigilante comics, all four of them. As I finished re-reading them, I noticed that the last panel of #50 has Adrian Chase's gravestone. He died on October 6, 1987. So, on this anniversary, RIP to Adrian Chase.
I wrote to Vigilante writer, Paul Kupperberg, via his website but received no reply. I also wrote to Vigilante editor, Mike Gold via his fantastic ComicMix site. He did not respond either. Interestingly, I cannot find anything online where anyone from the creative team talks about the end of Vigilante.
Below is the editorial at the end of issue #50, written by Mike Gold. Click the picture for a larger view.
If you cannot read it, it says:
Once again, I’m going to have to ask you to read this issue’s story before you read this page.
*****The conclusion to this issue’s story was preordained, ever since Adrian threw that policeman off the fire escape back in #37. When we started working on VIGILANTE together. Paul Kupperberg and I have approached this run as a multi-part story. Whereas sales on this book weren’t setting the world on fire, it was the two of us who asked for the cancellation of this book in order to tell this story. Don’t worry; there will be a couple of important follow-ups.
Keeping to a set of laws is the only thing that keeps a society sane. We don’t always play by the rules, but the difference between a super-hero and a vigilante is that the government condones, or at least needs, the activities of the super-hero.
In our story, Adrian Chase was not a sane men. He was driven by a strong sense of right and wrong, but, as Paul has shown time and time again, there’s a thin line between the super-hero and the vigilante, a line Adrian was incapable of seeing. It is easy to understand how he got that way, but motivation alone is not an excuse.
Suicide is not a solution to one’s problems. I spent years working in the social services field, and I talked with hundreds of would-be suicides. I never talked with one who ever thought suicide was going to resolve anything. It would just make the issue moot.
Inside each of us lurks a potential vigilante who wants to strike back at evil. Luckily, we keep that vigilante in check. Adrian Chase could not. His desire to commit suicide, his actually pulling the trigger, is understandable if not acceptable: he had become the evil he was fighting. Adrian Chase has paid the price of his actions, as he understood it.
On May 14, 2013, Paul Kupperberg did an AMA on Reddit regarding his work with Archie Comics. You can read it HERE. He responded to a handful of questions via video. Below, Paul Kupperberg responds to a question regarding comics becoming tonally dark.