Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception since 2006, or earlater

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Special Edition: 10 Quintessential List + 13 More on Bright Lights


As a lifelong classic horror fan it gets my arse all in a tether when channels like IFC figure what we need are marathons of crappy HALLOWEEN sequels, or that horror means only three names: Freddy, Jason, Michael or god forbid, Jigsaw. To me that's like bringing a keg of green dyed Bud Lite to a highbrow Dublin wake. It's gouache (the watery paint, not the adjective). It's the one time of the year the punters might learn something about our rich horror heritage but instead they're allowed to indulge in feeling that 'classic' doesn't extend back farther than the mid-90s.

Well, rejoice brothers and one sister. I've made a grand list of 13 horrors fit for even Hiram Walker himself, found only on Acidemic's more coherent and lauded (laudanum-laminated) cousin, Bright Lights Film Journal:

Sh! The Horror! 
13 Suggestions for an Uncommon Halloween 
Viewing Experience

Also, make sure to visit my Netflix horror recommendations on:

Post-Giallo Nightmare Logic ala Netflix
and Netflix Deadpan Comic Horror Inititative
and Last year's 13 Obscure Horror Gems (via Slant)


Many lists... many masters. But this next list cuts through them all, for they are the lesser-known but relentlessly magnificent gems I watch every year around this time, as far back as whenever I first taped, bought, or saw them. Each is so laden with atmosphere you can smell the bonfires and first chill of night, feel the centuries of huddling around the harvest hearth in your collective ancestral ganglia. Rather than finish all these half-assed reviews I've been struggling with, here now, some short mentions of all the favorites I revisit every year.


CITY OF THE DEAD 
(AKA Horror Hotel)
(1960) Dir. John Moxey

There's so many strange similarities between this Amicus debut feature and Psycho that, were they not made in the exact same year on opposite sides of the Atlantic, you'd swear they were emulating each other. Both feature naive but courageous and very pretty blondes who wear their hair moddishly short and leave their comfort zones on big adventures, alone, against other people's advice or good common sense, and wind up staying at decrepit inns where they are killed, by a knife, in the middle of the night, and the middle of the picture. Then follows the boyfriend to investigate and eliminate the threat, but the damage has been done; our locus of identification is forever shattered. Welcome to the 60s. (from: CinemArchetype #5: The Human Sacrifice)

Even her name, Nan Barlow, evokes her sacrificial position (similarity to John Barleycorn) and her beauty and low-key acting style evoke Veronica Lake--who played a witch herself years earlier. But what's most important is the swirling black and white fog, sinister shadows, minimalist sets, and the feeling of pre-ordained noir-ish dread, Nan reading a history book about the burning death of Elisabeth Selwyn to (unwittingly) Selwyn herself in her ghostly materialization alias as the hotelkeeper, also reading about the human sacrifice, guileless about how the things she's reading about--the Candlemass sacrifice to Lucifer at the hour of 13--will be happening to her in a few hours -- just a sweet innocent college student unaware of the dangers around her, with no smirking boyfriend to protect her (he tried to talk her out of it but didn't come along). There are no outdoor shots: the town is just a fog-bound ever-dark soundstage, and all the better for it, especially in the moments of warmth like Nan's refuge in the cozy bookstore. Add Christopher Lee, Brit actors rocking "American" accents, a very-deep voiced ghost Satanist (Valentine Dyall), and a bunch of comeuppance heaped upon that smug boyfriend when he finally shows up (he sounds like he's doing a Ralph Meeker impression)--and you get a favorite of mine that makes a great triple bill with BURN WITCH BURN (an actual line in the film) and VOODOO MAN. In each our loyalty and sympathy is always in flux, the hatred for intolerance and denial and its long-term damage on the world vs. the actual bottomless malevolence and pagan human sacrifice at the core of pre-Christian religion, making Christianity seem, if you'll forgive the expression, the lesser of two evils. After all, we come to like cute little Nan - the unlucky Alice drawn to her Barlow-corn wicker girl wonderland waterloo and her death is genuinely upsetting --maybe even more so than Marion Crane's, because Nan has time to see it coming - to know what's in store having just read about it, and we feel her bottomless dread as she looks into the merciless eyes of her killers as they coldly chant the hour. It helps make the admittedly silly climax cathartic, and then there's one final PSYCHO-echo, a slow turn of a chair into the light to see the corpse of the presiding female spirit. 

MESSIAH OF EVIL
(1976) Dir. Willard Huyck 

This impressive debut feature from future Lucasfilm writers Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz stars Mariana Hill as Arletty, the emotionally vacant daughter of a disappeared artist (Royal Dano). There's a hushed quality to Messiah of Evil, all the better to hear the waves crashing in the distance. Nobody shouts until they're about to die, usually at the hands of cannibal mobs. A super-chill dandy, Thom (Michael Greer), and his two girlfriends, Laura (Anitra Ford) and Toni (Joy Bang), join Arletty in an attempt to unravel the mysteries afoot in this secluded, unfriendly location, and as Thom busts a move on Arletty, the girlfriends get bored and disappear into the ominous blackness. Among the film's more haunting elements: photorealist faces peering through windows and a wall weirdly painted with a full-size escalator. At any moment, this empty house seems as if it could warp into a nightmarish shopping mall—one of many bizarre evocations of a film that cannily mixes Lovecraftian dread with Antonioni-esque alienation. (Slant 10/30/14)


KILL BABY KILL
(1966) Dir. Mario Bava

It take a few viewings to really appreciate KILL BABY; it's not as highly regarded as some of Bava's other work, which is probably due to a history of bad prints and title changes. A Victorian Gothic Italian rural villa ghost story, KILL, BABY, KILL's Italian title was OPERAZIONE PAURA! (Operation: Terror!). We don't blame them for changing it, but why make it sound like a giallo spy thriller? The similar sounding film FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL! KILL came out the previous year, and was a film that set the bar for outre grooviness, but grooviness hadn't even been invented in the BABY's Victorian Age setting. Instead there are beautiful 'old master lighted' bowls of fruit, great wind effects, sedatives ("give her 20 drops") and an array of strange and wonderful women, including a beautiful brunette bruja (Fabienne Dali), a terrified innkeeper's daughter (Micaela Esdra), a stylish and terrified med student named Monica (Erika Blanc), and Melissa Graps, a ghost girl with blonde hair (to tie the film even deeper into RIGHT ONE, she's played by a very spooky boy, Velerio Valeri). She's like Italy's Victorian era version of THE BAD SEED times the SHINING's murdered twins divided by Norman Bates in "wouldn't hurt a fly" drag. In fact, I've seen this movie ten times now and it gets better every time, even if it does occasionally put me to sleep.  Since BABY tells only one story, it's not as relentlessly scary and blackly comic as Bava's 1963 trilogy BLACK SABBATH, and can seem padded here and there with repeated shots of bells tolling and gloomy ghost-eye exteriors. Cool scenes of victims returned as undead servants of the evil spirit, foreshadowed all through the first 2/3 of the film never materialize. Did Bava run out of undead make-up? Is that the reason the film is so slow, and yet over so fast? Who cares, it's Halloween down to its core  (more)


THE UNDEAD
(1957) Dir. Roger Corman

I saw UNDEAD when very young on TV and the scene were Duncan seeks shelter at the witch's house is to me the eternally definitive Halloween moment, Dorothy Neumann the definitive good witch. Her crooked nose, clearly made by cheap putty that seems always about to dry and fall off (you can see the line between Neumann's real nose and the false one), bubbling cauldron, and other trappings, puts to rest the libelous claim of Glenda in OZ that "only bad witches are ugly" (the bad witch is sexy Alison Hayes) and I love the casual way she asks the stranger at her door "Are you from this era or from a time yet to be?" as if hypnotists from the future were not uncommon.

Lastly, the insidiously merry laugh of Satan himself, played brilliantly by Richard Devon, incorporating modern wit and ancient evil as a good-humored beatnik trickster who transcends time itself and recognizes the time-traveling hypnotist right away, by name! Awesome. Once the rubes leave, the site of the black mass becomes a point of contact between the by-now-insane hypnotist, Duncan, the devil, and both witches as they all argue for and against Duncan going back to the executioner in the morning. Ingeniously, Corman finaly moves his camera outside, making the sun and sky seem suddenly more unreal and dreamlike than the black fog supermarket-bound night that came before.


THE DEVIL RIDES OUT
1968 Dir. Terence Fisher

Here in Hammer's tight little adaptation of Dennis Wheatley's novel we have everything that makes British devil films great: Christopher Lee, some intelligent older women, Charles Gray as a sophisticated, witty villain, and upper crust Jet setters cult worshipping Satan through black magic, peppered with a few older eccentrics who look like any minute they're flying to Manhattan for Rosemary's baby shower. (CinemArchetype 17: THE DEVIL)


1968 Dir. Jack Hill

As with GIRLY, described in my last post, SPIDER BABY seems to merge with my psyche as if it had been made just for me... zeroed in but not in a sort of overkill give the people what they want kind of way but a perfectly-realized, just gory and strange enough but never to the point of post-modern narrative disruption way. It lies on the historical time line between my love for those old Bela Lugosi Monogram and PRC poverty row horrors and the art film Corman-school mix of post-beat wit and Corman trained mastery of on-the-fly shock, schlock, and drive-in pacing. Nowhere are there the tedious elements that usually mar old dark house and murderous family films: no snarky reporters, imbecilic cops, doting old ladies or suspicious tire salesmen and yet there are all sorts of groovy meta links to the gonzo films of the past in the casting: Monogram mainstay Mantan Moreland opens the film as an unlucky telegram Sam; Carol Ohmart, the archetypal broad in Castle's House on Haunted Hill (1957) and Corman's The Creature from the Haunted Sea, is great at making greed and contempt super sexy; Sid Haig, the Jack Hill and later Rob Zombie perennial, brings weird savage naive pathos. Why, the whole thing just stinks with atmosphere! (that's a quote from the sun-dappled but roughly similar and underrated Boogeyman Will Get You (1943). (more)


PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE
(1959) Dir. Ed Wood

"...if you’re old enough to remember UHF TV then you remember seeing PLAN NINE or BRIDE OF THE MONSTER and having your mind blown. Wood understood children’s need for disruption of narrative and that need is the same as Godard’s. Nothing bores children like heavy plot-driven adult conversations and mature coded historically accurate subtlety. When green slime drops from a CARRIE bucket onto Kid’s Choice Awards presenters, how different is the laugh derived than the laugh when Tor Johnson bumps into the doorways and shakes the walls in BRIDE?"(see my MUBI List: Accidental Brecht)

Wait, is this from OPERA?

THE RAVEN
(1963) Dir. Roger Corman

A personal favorite Halloween perennial, this loose comedic 'adaptation' of Poe has reluctant sorceress Vincent Price longing for his Lenore and Peter Lorre (old and bloated but still hilarious) as the raven, turned that way by Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff), who it just so happens killed Price's father and has, as it turns out, stolen Lenore (Hazel Court) - who's still alive (a bit like he stole Lugosi's wife in the 1934Black Cat, another Poe "adaptation"). Soon they're all packed away in a carriage, along with a super young Jack Nicholson as Lorre's son Rexford. It all culminates in a memorable sorcerer duel that's fun for all ages.

The Blu-ray remastering is jaw dropping --as different as beautiful soothing night from shitty gray-ass day; its vast and impressive sets (Corman kept all the sets from past Poe films and by the time of The Raven he'd assembled them all into a vast sprawling Gothic maze) always looked kind of brownish and washed out but now every flicker of the big fire pit is a poem; once the gang enter Scarabus's castle the HD transfer begins to shimmer and glow in a new hauntingly lovely greenish gold reflective light and inward depth. The Les Baxter score at times errs on the side of the smugness and helicopter overbearance; but this is pure uncut Halloween delight, so might as well bring the kids by which I mean depressed lovelorn sophomores reeling from too much bad acid too soon in life, catching this at the Student Union, aching in their tired raging bones for the velvet-lined purr of Price. (Mephisto from Missourri - 10/14)


HORROR EXPRESS
(1972)

This Spanish-British horror union of Horror Express (1972) was long a favorite of my father's back in the day, with a bad guy as an alien that passes from body to body that's been thawed out from inside the frozen ape man brought onto the Orient Express by Himalayan explorer Christopher Lee. The thing inside --which drinks your brain through your eyes rendering your brain creaseless--crashed here before life began; its glowing red eyes carry imprints of things it has seen such as the Earth from far away, and dinosaurs. They look like drawings from a book but that's not the reason superstitious Rasputin-style monk (giallo regular Alberto De Mendoza ["thy will be done as it is in Hell!"]) steals it off the tray. There's also Silvia Tortosa as a foxy countess, Alice Reinheart as a foxy spy and Telly Savalas as a Cossack who comes barging onto the train at the worst possible time rocking his usual awesome ridiculous hamminess ("Who are da killas!? WHO!??" he shouts to the assembled first class dining car. "Who are da trubblemakers!"). Christopher Lee Peter Cushing make an engaging Holmes-and-other-Holmes style duo (aided well by Totosa) and the Orient Express makes a perfect backdrop for a tale of existential steam-powered escape, where through the ever-increasing momentum of man's scientific reasoning --the lone guiding red lights hurtling through the Ice Age Siberian tundra; the train whistle Morricone-ish score, the alien red eyes sucking up information the way we wish we could with books and professors and maybe will be able to one day with brain boosting chip memory implants, we get a tragic and profound sense of science still having a long way to go before we can escape the gravity of these archaic bone machines with any kind of permanent return to our true friends and family... out there, in a way that's infinitely more profound than The Man who Fell to Earth. 

(see also: The Creeping Flesh - 1973)


(1985) Dir. Dario Argento

I've seen fire and I've seen rain, and I've seen SUSPIRIA enough times to not even mention it here - but PHENOMENA is a perennial because it's got Jennifer Connelly in the dark mirror twin role to her LABYRINTH wanderer (made the following year). With her oil-black hair and the echo and flanger-pedal-drenched electric guitar and throbbing synth moments of ex-Goblin Claudio Simonetti's score giving a certain extra-sensory charm to the stunning miniature golf course-style Alpine scenery, if you can move into the frame of mind of being at a near-deserted drive in in the middle of nowhere or even if you can't, you will dig the spook show surrealism and great wind noises.

It takes all the hot topics of the early 1980s/late 1970s and mashes em up real nice with Argento's bizaarro-Italiano seasoning: a chimp named Tanga (played by a very cool chimp named Inga, which was my beloved black dog's name!) avenging his slain master ; THE SWARM-style bug attacks; CARRIE-esque telekinetic revenge against bratty schoolmates (replete with wind blowing the hair back ala FIRESTARTER); deformed Jason-like freaks, flaming lakes, a razor left in a trash can for the chimp to find); beheadings, maggots, POV killers shots with a knife on a pole ala PEEPING TOM, etc., all scenically filmed around the base of the Alps, where it's nice and stark and windy, in what wheelchair-bound Donald Pleasance dryly refers to as "the Transylvania of Switzerland."

People have written bad things about Connelly's acting, i.e. her blank expressions when she should be scared, but hey--I think she's letter-perfect, as the film would be ruined by her trying to actually emote. There she goes, walking around in killer's houses with an expression as if she's asleep. Well that's the point, genius! She's a sleepwalker! PHENOMENA works best, as its fans note, as a fairy tale, with Connelly's power to attract bugs perhaps the key to her fearlessness. She's like a superhero, hence the killer's question, "why don't you call your insects?" when she's about to be decapitated."(more)



THE HOWLING 
(1981) Dir: Joe Dante

For my money this is the best lycanthrope study since WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1934), the one with Henry Hull and Warner Oland fighting over a Tibetan flower, not the one with David Naughton arguing with a decomposing Griffin Dunne in a Piccadilly cinema. Maybe I just don't care much for werewolves that get hung up on the letter of the law, like Landis' AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, which came out the same year as HOWLING and there was much to-do in the press at the time about which make-up artist did the better transformation. Rick Baker is a genius, sure, but he and Landis makes Naughton's transformation unbearably agonizing, the moon inescapable, the beast itself a real wolf puppet on all fours--he takes it all way too literally. Joe Dante and Rob Bottin on the other hand know it's a goddamn metaphor so don't get hung up on the 'real' parameters. The HOWLING wolves move way beyond such hang ups, looming tall like monster gargoyles. Following in the shoes of Dante's patron saint, Roger Corman, HOWLING taps into the lupine side of 1970s sexual swinger and EST-ish energy, it's funny and scary and trashy and witty all at once, and then adds De Palma meta-refraction and audio mimesis procedural delirium, Carpenter ominousness, Cronenbergian clinical immediacy, and a plethora of great bit roles by folks like Dick Miller, John Sayles, Kenneth Tobey, Slim Pickens, Kevin McCarthy, Forry Ackerman, and Corman himself..
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Even FURTHER LISTS:
Great Women of Horror - Acidemic Top Ten. 

Netflix 24-hour Horror Marathon 
(though only about half the films listed are still streaming over there. Netflix what happened to you, man?)

CinemArchetype 17: THE DEVIL

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hauntology for a De-New America!



The rise of the retro-analog synth soundtrack in recent horror and science fiction films--both in and out of the mainstream--has brought us into a weird wondrous future alternate reality where perhaps, ideally, orchestral scores will stop. Maybe it's a question of age -- if you were an impressionable American child in 70s then the Carpenter carpets and Goblin pulsing, the sounds of yesterday's vision for the horror future, are now like the mystery of death and eternity tied into some deeper-than-nostalgic tugging, like a rope you're following through the Thing whiteout Arctic storm. But the rope itself is just white noise.

random painting from Night Gallery

There's so many overlapping trails you could get lost right quick without the right guide. So pay me five teen dolor and I'll take you to see Simon Reynolds, Mark Fisher, and Ghost Box, all enthralled by the same thing, as I am, this moment of clarity, the Memento moment, when we finally remember that we've forgotten the present, that nostalgia and endless proliferation of media make the present impossible in the face of so much immediate, accessible past. Much of our 'leisure time' is now spent either shopping for or cueing up the next experience of the past (the next movie, book, track). The rest of the time were immersed in these past haunted worlds, now curated by ourselves; we've become our own channels' sole programmers. It's great. All we've lost is loss of choice as a chance to expand our horizons:

If you need a working definition of hauntology, here Reynolds rounds up some writers who best sum up the hauntology sound, he starts out with Matthew Ingram at The Wire ("memory is a theoretical portal to the phantasmal kingdom, not a trivial exercise in retro stylistics" and ends up with Dickens and then W.S. Merwin ("Tell me what you see vanishing and I / Will tell you who you are") and it all makes frickin' beautiful eloquent sense.

As I've said (but forgotten), I found it because I love John Carpenter and thanks to Netflix showing me The Machine and Beyond the Black Rainbow, I finally realized part of the reason why was all synth related. I was like oh wow, I love these movies but 50% of that love comes solely from their pulsing analog retro-futurist scores, both of which are on Spotify. From there the Moog crumb trail widens deeper into the black forest of retro-futurist analog sci fi TV and the 70s cryptozoological funk of Goblin, which in turn leads me unto Ghost Box, Scarfolk Council, and now Simon Reynolds and Ghost of my Life author Mark Fisher, who repurposed Derrida's original (Communist-spectral) meaning towards haunted music, via his childhood spent attuned to the quietly forward-thinking electronic music of BBC's Radiophonic Orchestra. Since England's never fully bowed their TV channels to the Lowest Common Denominator monetizing, or had to knuckle down to Christian boycott, the BBC of the 70s was deep and proudly into the occult, leading a whole generation of artists who'd done LSD in the 60s to the reins of the new decade, and the children's minds were right there in sync with these cool cats, in ways we all lost in the 80s, when videotape erased the mystery from media through the very act of preserving it. Britain's notorious 'Video Nasties' ban kept the mystery alive for a few more years than in the States, where collective desensitization to TV violence was already a huge problem (or not, depending on who you ask).


For me it all began with Boards of Canada's Music has the Right to Children in 1998 and then Zombi's Cosmos in 2003, tapping for maybe the first time into the retrofuturist analog rainy day weirdness of old 70s filmstrip tape accompaniments for elementary school primers on ESP, Argento frisson and druids. Since this stuff was all on CD, the warm pulsing sound of analog was the first time doubly ghosted and like a double negative became positive. The past sounded warmer and more organic, even more futuristic, than the immediate present. That's hauntology, and I'm hooked... at least until November, when those loathsome orchestras will inevitably return right as night starts lurching way forward sooner and sooner, snaking their way across the stand-still city like a rope of sweaty reflective mylar-enshrouded woe.

Here's my #1 of two Spotify lists:
Heirs of Goblin Carpenter



And now here's some of the more noteworthy soundtracks and soundtrack-ish works.
DESICCATED SWIMMING AREA:

THE NICK (OST)
Cliff Martinez (2014)
Soderbergh's Cinemax series set in turn of the century surgery at the Knickerbocker Hospital would be a bore if the score was in the hands of an orchestral windbag like Howard Shore or John Williams, but Martinez realizes the power of hauntology at its fullest - not the actual past music (which was after all, trying to evoke its own past), but the retro-futurist music of remembering the past, or envisioning brutal operations under primitive instruments still screaming through the emotional machine, the amniotic pulse of analog which now seems so welcomingly inhuman in our overly human age that we cling to it like we would a churning life raft in a brutally tranquil sea.

LOST THEMES
John Carpenter(2015)
He's not the visionary filmmaker he once was but Lost Themes lets fans of the master know he's still got the gift of making superbly creepy synth-based music. Each track on here could well be the theme song from a classic early 80s or late 70s opus like Assault on Precinct 13 or Escape from New York, and whatever autumnal sights or sounds you see or are thoughts thinking while listening to JC's masterful mix of piano, electric guitar and analog synths are suddenly fraught with a sudden Panavision ominousness.

PROPHECY OF THE BLACK WIDOW
Umberto (2010)
Steve Moore's big band going for that Goblin-Carpenter vibe with an intensely percussive and bizarro rock 80s synthesizer twist, NNF calls it "electro-satanic Goblin worship."

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW
Sinoa Caves (2014)
For when your floating down the street at dawn, chased in slow motion by your own shadow looming 60 feet tall and with burning coal eyes or are tripping your face off at an airport, part Gy├Ârgy Ligeti from THE SHINING and part Claudio Simonetti from TENEBRE.

YELLOW (OST)
Antoni Maiovvi (2013) 
Musik for remembering what it felt like as a 16 year-old driving home at night in the rain after seeing The Terminator at an empty theater in Woodbridge, NJ. As we learn in all the great writing on hauntology, that's what the uncanny frisson memory of the mediated grave robbers from outer space medias are for. Maiovvi's soundtrack is for a 'neo-giallo' short film set in Berlin. I'll probably never see it, but I do like the soundtrack.
BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (OST)
Broadcast (2013)

Formerly a late-to-the-trip hop female fronted kind of Stereolab-Combustible Edison hybrid, Broadcast were nothing if not classy, cocktail retro swing-ready, and a touch derivative. Turns out they were just waiting for the 70s BBC ghost documentary childhood analog synth reverie to kick in to become the sickly and glow-in-the dark poster child for the hauntology movement via this merge with amniotic Focus Group. There's presumably some real occult documentary voiceover buried somewhere in this ominous, but always playful mix of tape loops, effect, and poppy little stabs; "the bee colony" is a classic example of their rare ability to bring in vocals without breaking the mood.

COSMOS 
Zombi (2004) 
In the beginning, as far as this futurist giallo nostalgia went, there was just this bass and drums duo with an intensely percussive and bizarro world synthesizer twist. They've gone on to deliver great neo-giallo work that would be perfect on any Argento or Fulci film from 1971-82.

FROM OUT HERE
Advisory Circle (2014)
However you got here, this is where to stay, if  you're me, perusing the Ghost Box catalog, The Belbury Poly can get too upbeat, other acts too newsreel sample crazed but Advisory Circle never waver from the straight up 70s synth analog spookiness. "The Ghost Box aesthetic has expanded beyond spooky public information films full of roll necks and bowl cuts to something involving sharper cheekbones and haircuts. Their palette seems to shift from faded film oranges and browns to black." - Wire (B. Coley 7/15) so true, Wire.

IT FOLLOWS (OST)
Disasterpiece (2014)
From the very first notes of the very first shot, you just know, things are never going to be the same old concept of old sameness again.


COLD IN JULY (OST)
Jeff Grace (2014)
".... while tipping its hat to John Carpenter [it] moves beyond mere cloning of ones influences. Jeff Grace feels like a real contender for the electronic score crown. Cold In July is undeniably a post millennial classic synth soundtrack that makes the terrific and very enjoyable music of Umberto, Zombi, Salisbury & Barrow feel like mere fanboys playing at wanting to be their heroes Moroder, Goblin, Tangerine Dream etc [...] Somehow he puts new textures into the atmospheres of these tracks and adds a new level of sophistication to synth scoring.(Space Debris - Cardrossmaniac)

UNTIL SILENCE
Roll the Dice (2014)
Third studio album from the Swedish electronic duo with a history of Swedish TV scoring and DJ circuit touring though their forte is clearly an ominous analog horror-ready cinematic boom just perfect for walking briskly through the park while being shadowed by (or walking) a big black dog. (pick track; "Blood in Blood Out" - with its ominous thudding bass note piano keys banging ominously over a morse code echo and rising under current it's as if Carpenter's Halloween score had a moody son who was growing slowly with every three chord return into a gigantic mutant/

THE MACHINE (OST)
Tom Raybould (2010)
Dig these bizarro retro phat synth paranoid scores: Rayboulds is somewhere between Vangelis for BLADE RUNNER, John Carpenter for ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and Tangerine Dream for SORCERER, and the perfect wallpaper for a crisp fall afternoon wandering through a dying landscape.


CUB (OST)
Steve Moore (2015)
"Cub is a retro-synth soundtrack that's so good it doesn't need to pretend it's anything new. This score is the sound of a man and his synthesiser creating fabulous minimal and spooky analogue sounds not unlike John Carpenter whereas Zombi were more like your full on horror prog rock group along the lines of Tangerine Dream or Goblin.(Space Debris)






Sleep Games -- Pye Corner Audio
Dead Air - Mordant Music
Room 237  (OST) - Jonathan Snypes & William Hutson
Access and Amplify - The Brain
From the Grave - Umberto
Brainstorm - Steve Moore, Majeure
Night Drive - Chromatics
Hic Stunt Leones - Alessandro Parissi
Belbury Tales - Belbury Poly
Drokk - Geoff Barrow, Ben Salisbury
Only God Forgives (OST) - Cliff Martinez
Polygon Mountain - Ubre Blanca
Ga'an - Ga'an
Solar Maximum - Majeure
Unicornography - The Focus Group
Psychical - Ensemble Economique

FURTHANCE:


And when in England visit lovely:

and also lovely Clinkskell

This 2012 clinkety-clink riveter from Boing Boing pen plinketer Mark Pilkington explores muchly the fiction and authorial booky wook aspect: "Hauntologists mine the past for music's future."
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And this quintessential post from Rouge's Foam scribe Adam Harper, explores a wide range of music, film, and art: Hauntology: the Past Inside the Present. 

Hard to believe it's from 2009. Were was I all this time? Ah, what a loaded question.



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HAUNTOLOGY FOR A RED OCTOBER



JULIAN HOUSE (Design/Videos)



  A FIELD IN ENGLAND (2013)

POST SCRIPT:
And then Shout Factory debuts this the same week I'm writing this post... It's cometh. Who says America's behind the screens when it comes to hauntological excavastalgia?


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Up from the Meyer: GHASTLY LOVE OF JOHNNY X, EL MONSTRO DEL MAR, VELVET VAMPIRE, THE GIRLFRIENDS





The thrilling dirty kick drive-in fodder of yesteryear: it's all that sustains us now in this grim caged digital future. Dig those 'stressed' retro posters above (for films no older than 2010) and know the whole score. One finds the post-AIP middle ground between the 50s juvenile delinquent musicals and the Roger Corman aliens of Bronson Canyon; the other says fuck the middle ground and crashes Faster Pussycat Kill Kill into frickin' Loch Ness, like a kid bashing action figures from different movies and sizes into each other. Both fusions are noble enough, their love and knowledge of the films they're homage-ing clear enough, that they make a solid post-retro double bill, or even a quadruple bill with two films from the actual drive-in era I discuss afterwards. The first one of these is a solid entry in the 'foursome of sexy babes hit summer vacation at a sunny lake hoping to score' genre, and the other's a female-directed film about a female bisexual vampire... So there are a lot of tough and sexy women going on in these films --their flesh soft, their curves wanton. But a note of caution, handle with care and don't drop your guard.... 

EL MONSTRO DEL MAR
(2010) dir. Stuart Simpson
**3/4

Here, at last is a movie that actually delivers what the Bitch Slaps and Cat Runs all promise - genuinely bad girls of the sort we thought only Russ Meyer, John Waters, and Jack Hill ever truly understood.  Starting out in Faster Pussycat black and white, the film erupts into color with the ladies' first throat slit (an innocent--if 'interested'--male), letting us know right off that while some 'bad' girls spend their time waiting for some sleaze bag to warrant their vengeance, these girls consider any dude they meet as a fair game in-season blood orgy waiting to happen ---no provocation needed. None shall escape, not even the kraken....

Needless to say,  we're in Australia. 

Occupying a punk rock zone between John Waters and Russ Meyer-Jack Hill drive-in feminism but amping up the attitude, there's a refreshing amorality at play, breaking the sanctified arrangement that says women protagonists can't kill without a reason and even then have to cry afterwards, or be somehow damaged from it. The Monstro women say fuck that, they actually seem to have seen Russ Meyer and Jack Hill movies rather than just name checking them. You can bet they don't carry soft drinks in their cooler, and if you get that reference, then you've probably seen Faster Pussycat Kill Kill! as many times as I have and will like this film. It's really low budget, underground-ish, but a lot of love and chutzpah went into it, and you can tell director Simpson's quite well-versed in 60s-70s drive-in parlance. These broads all carry folding knives and when they sense danger they reach into their boots and unfold them as naturally and subtly as they might light a cigarette, which so Hawksian I want to cry. They smoke constantly which makes them cooler than even Meyer's Pussycat trio. If only Russ'd studied his Dobbsianism he'd know...

As the dark-haired leader, Baretta, Nelli Scarlett rocks a welcome drag queen edge - evoking at various times: Divine, Tura Satana, Mary Woronov, and Shirley Stoler. Karli Madden is in the Lori Williams role (the hard-partying semi-innocent still holding onto some measure of compassion);  Kate Watts is the Haji (Baretta's right-hand bitch). They're all decked out in that retro 50s Trash and Vaudeville chic--bows, bangs, and black--which all might be too campy but here it seems like their genuine style --they transcend time and fakery (this is all of their film debuts and they're joyously free of any kind of trite 'professionalism' or tedious polish). 

Remember your lines
While the it lacks Meyer's punchy editing, wild angles and existentially gonzo dialogue ("like a velvet glove cast in iron!"), Monstro makes do with sheer perversity and the sense these girls must be pretty fun to hang out with in real life: their playful coked up drunken banter and horseplay is naturalistic and real in the ways it just clearly wasn't with Meyer, where his women were big and strong but it was clear they weren't deviating from an already gonzo script (the over-the-top acting worked because the lines were great: they could stand the tone-deaf shouting). In Simpson's homage here, well, the lines are just okay but they feel natural; by the same token, these girls look like they drink a lot, and could fuck a man up no sweat and not even remember it. This kind of naturalism doesn't always work, especially if some old 'pro' joins the cast and can't tap into the collective vibe of the other actors. The old man tied to this chair for life ("better you should be nailed to it!") by the lakeside in Monstro (Norman Yemm) is a little too old and dour to fit with the rest of them and so he throws off the curve. It would have been better with a man like Stuart Lancaster ("you girls nudists or are ya just short of clothes?") who could actually match the larger than life action without overdoing it, and could contextualize and shape the less accomplished performers around him. Instead it's clear old Yemm doesn't get what's going on in this film and is trying to warp the warpedness back to some kind of normality, like a dickweed pink instead of a stealth Dobbs, gluing Humpty Dumpty back into an egg shape rather than --as the rest of the cast is making--a Julian Schnabel-style shell bit mosaic

Simpson also did his own cinematography, clearly high-contrast HD video but even so a welcome change of pace from that sun-bleached look shot-on-HD indies attain when transferred to 35mm. Other retro chic auteurs like Larry Blamire (Lost Skeleton of Cadavra) end up delivering what looks like a color video switched to black and white on FCP - there's no contrast or grain or silvery glimmer. Simpson, on the other hand, gives each setting its own look: the black and white opener is a black and white video but still crisp, the switch to color cool and appropriate (ala the expanded version of Death-Proof) the sight of the girls whipping out their knives from their boots at the sight of something alive and rustling in the bushes has a dreamy pastoral lushness that evokes Rollin or Malick; the seaside look is high contrast and darkly inviting; the interior of the beach shack feels like a real beach shack, the kind full of garage sale furniture and warped wood panelling, almost like the back of an Avenue B coffee shop; you can smell the dirty wet sand and sea water; some old seafaring dogs have a chubby little girl with them who runs off when the monster rips them to shreds; Moby Dick (Orson at the ship bow altar) on the TV in the shack; old Norman Yemm in the wheelchair tells his granddaughter (Kyrie Capri) she must never go into the ocean but doesn't tell her why until it's far too late, so it becomes a saga of an innocent young girl finally telling her coward of a grandfather to fuck off, then grabbing a shotgun to settle old scores, i.e. tienes mucho mas cajones grandes than the ever-cowering Susan Bernard in Pussycat. At night the ladies rock out to a cassette of Pinetop Smith and the monster is a mix of puppet and CGI rather than just the latter so what's not to love... como uno venganza


THE GHASTLY LOVE OF JOHNNY X
(2012) Dir. Paul Bunnell
***1/4

Bronson Canyon and its legendary 'Bat Cave' is a magical corner of Griffith Park that's been incorporated into hundreds of films and never more perfectly than in the B-movie sci-fi of the 1950s where it stood in for Mars, the Moon, prehistoric Arizona, and so on. It's not seen as much these days, but lo! Out of the cool Bronson dark and into the California sunshine, comes a legitimately weird and great 50s sci-fi rock musical homage from Paul Bunnell. Shot in Kodak's lovely high contrast Eastman Plus-X Negative Film 5231 (Bunnell snagged the last rolls before it was discontinued), The Ghastly Love of Johnny X can stand proudly in that same super classy gorgeous black-and-white retro realm as Tim Burton's Ed Wood  and David Lynch's Elephant Man, which both got their black and white beauty from the same stock. In other words this isn't some Larry Blamire Lost Skeleton-style no-budget homage, where it's just HD video with the color drained out. It looks like a million bucks and it was (two in fact), so how did such a cult classic-in-the-making wind up in the margin's margins? Maybe, like Plan Nine itself, it's just so far behind its time it's still ten years ahead.

The irrepressible De Anna Joy Brooks
Bunnell may not the first modern day auteur to tap the tar pit of 50s low budget drive-in filmmaking, to realize that there is style and true rebellion amidst the wealth of tail fins, tortoise shell sunglasses, tight skirts, jukeboxes, flying saucers and zombie frugging ---but there's no prize for first, especially in retro-homage. And while there's a smattering of musical theatricality with his cast, Bunnell is no fey poseur. His tale never backs down from the kind of dirt in the nice girl's face para-misogyny that would please Victor Jory in Cat Women of the Moon but would make Tim Burton loosen his skinny tie and blush.

You know me: my misogyny radar is rivaled only by NORAD, so if it doesn't go off for this film, even with all the demeaning shit going on, then it's all good. It's like it would be with, say, John Waters, where the open-hearted love is palpable no matter what horrible stuff is going on, so you're never worried or offended. As with Russ Meyer and El Monstro above, women are the strongest characters, like the tough Bobbi Socks (the too-cool Katherine Giaquinto), who (SPOILER) saves the day by dragging a Tor Johnson-meets-Bobby Moynihan skinhead named Sluggo (Jed Rowen) off a cliff. Yes Bobbi was my favorite, but then--as soon as she's off-camera, after dying to save Johnny... and Johnny... Groovy Johnny forgets all about her so he can mope over some (male) soda jerk too stupid to stay out of switchblade range. I wanted to scream at Johnny through the TV transistor, I wanted to scream "Hey Johnny! If you did sleep with Bobbi Socks and then let her take the literal fall to save you from the loathsome Sluggo then the least you can do is look down there and see if maybe she's still alive. Maybe shed one goddamned tear for Bobbi Socks! (I asked Bunnell about it and he says he kind of forgot about her when writing the script, but Bobbi Socks I got mad love for you! You deserved better). (END SPOILER). 

The main romance for our Johnny though, is the other strong woman, Bliss (De Anna Joy Brooks) a badass chick spouting the kind of tough girl aggressive maneater dialogue that might make even Russ Meyer sit up and take notes in his coffin! She's been cooling her heels in Bronson canyon with Johnny, "and his pack of jackals, for forty days and forty nights." She's restless and wants to take a bite out of Chip (Les Williams) the blank-faced soda jerk at a nearby diner, or at least take him out for a spin in her "motor rotor." There's also a devoted fan Kate Maberly as a moist-eyed young faun enthralled with the Cramps-zombie Roy Orbison rockabilly star ushered (played and sung by ex-Seed Creed Bratton [The Office]); and Heather Provost as the cool brassy wife of the club manager King Clayton (Phantasm's Reggie Bannister).

Cute Kate Maberly as Mickey O'Flynn's devoted fan
. And  good old Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as an alien judge in a Devo hat who sentences Johnny to Earth, with his leather jacket and opaque sunglasses and crew of snickering toadies and preening debs... following him like a cloud of sycophants.

Not very tall, but at least better looking than Eric Von Zipper,  Johnny X, (Will "Tromeo" Keenan) has the sunglasses and facial structure of a (Warhol era) young Lou Reed and knows just when to overact and hog the stage and when to underact and let other cast members shine around him. I liked his moment of sad confession to a literally dead-drunk Creed in a truly beautifully-lit backstage dressing room, shimmering in the deep black of the Eastman Plus with the same spooky decay as the back rooms of Kubrck's The Killing.

Ego Plum (Frieda Kahlo's grandson) score-- full of theremins, booming brass, crashing timpani, wailing harmonies and lurid synth notes--is enough to make Danny Elfman hide under the bed and vow to never be twee again. As for the songs, they're about what you'd expect for the most part, trailing into fantasy numbers with Johnny and the gang: the choreography's groovy without being showy; the singing voices are properly mixed so you can decipher every lyric (a rarity, even in the best of these endeavors) and everyone's on the same jazzy theater geek page as they dovetail from 'reality' into Off-Broadway Expressionism with a faux-50s Grease (if Travolta's gang were composed of members of the Cramps) patina. The best (diegetic) music comes from old Creed, who represents all that's wrong, weird and wondrous about this goofy corner of the desert world. His craggy face seems born to be dead under such brilliant black and white photography and he brings all his ex-rock star sadness to bear (and that sadness is mighty, believe you me) to this newly dead creature of the night.

Also worth mentioning: the special effects / CGI involving Johnny's crazy astro suit, powered up through the rock club soundboard, and/or zapping people--these effect don't feel CGI at all but retro analog delicious. Even without the stereo on you can feel the power surging in your belly and those rings of lightwaves are truly magical - all the more so for not being overused. In short, if there's a just god in the 50s ceramic oven of heaven, Ghastly Love of Johnny X--that cake of equal parts Wood, Waters and Grease, wrapped in Meyers dough--shall finally rise to sainthood in the cult classics pantheon. Do herself a favor, friend. Go Ghastly.


THE ROOMMATES
(1973 ) Dir. Arthur Marks
***

The "quartet or trio of hottie young things having summer flings across a wide age/class spectrum" genre stretches back to the 30s' Gold Diggers series (and then disappeared some time in the 90s, only seen recently in Tarantino's Death-Proof), but don't let that stop you from believing it all began with The Valley of the Dolls when you're digging Arthur Marks' spritely 1973 masterpiece The RoomMates. The girls even use the phrase "beyond the Valley of the Dolls" in some of the Laugh-In derived, cut-on-the-punchline 'modern women sexual mores' soundbytes. Kind of a Russ Meyer for the normal proportions / hot bare midriff set, Marks knew how to hit all the right drive-in points (the array of girls allows each viewer to pick their special crush) without sacrificing momentum, wit, and covert feminist flair. The RoomMates comes in the middle of a three film Arthur Marks 1973 roll beginning with Bonnie's Kids and ending Detroit 9000. All of them be slammin' but Detroit is for when you're in a Joe Rocco mood, which is always. Bonnie's Kids is for when you're in a Bolling strait, but RoomMates is for whenever you need soothing fir tree-flanked mountain lakes and eye-candy/crush-worthy distraction.  


That's what I need. Here, in fall of 2015, my girlfriend just moved out and the panic attacks a feminine presence never fails to allay come fast and relentless; the darkness comes earlier and earlier, and alone now in my haunted mansion the existential panic kicks in like an old familiar enemy, the blue devil Deborah Kerr speaks of in Night of the Iguana. And so I naturally turn to onscreen women in the 70s, girls who could have been my babysitters, happy and free, in films that allow me to gaze back on a great legacy of damage --inflicted and suffered--along with the good times, in my long trail of broken hearts, shattered illusions, and six week stands. But happy memories bring only bittersweet aching, fleeting crack highs followed by crushing sadness and loneliness --the eternal nagging constant. Luckily, the free-spirited, sexually-active girls of The RoomMates are an eternal balm to that lonesome. And like Russ Meyer, Jack Hill, and Roger Corman, Marks loves strong women, and gorgeous mountain lake scenery. There are groovy 70s cars and giant old growth fir trees, so what's not to live for?


So here's a rundown: AIP WIP blonde mainstay Roberta Collins thinks she's found love with an older rich divorced swinger, but she rushes it, wants to start 'picking out furniture together' --with predictable results; Marki Bey (Sugar Hill) works at the local library, arousing male middle aged white male attention and dumping her white boyfriend for a cool black cop; Pat Woodell sleeps with the same polecat married loser every time she comes up (as he sleazily mentions they've been having these trysts since she was sixteen); her younger cousin (Christina Hart) is staying there for the summer--and drawing the eye of that same sleazy pole-cat. Woodell, in turn, treats a young homeless wandering handyman--he tries to get her to let her guard down but--like shit. But wait, is he the mysterious roaming killer?

The 'never mix never worry' racism of these kind of movies--the only black man and only black woman in the cast always hook up--usually irritate my liberal arts rash, but I only mention it here because here it's cool because the black guy's less a 'brother' or a 'cop' and more a nice, low key guy along the lines of Austin Stoker in Assault on Precinct 13, and the white guy a hipster like herself and none of the three seem particularly stigmatized, and Bey's doing her usual witty brand of over-acting where she might be hamming it up but is radiating a contagious kind of blast-having.

Hottest of them all though (my special crush): Laurie Rose (left) is the girl off to her own location-- a counsellor at all-boys camp, which seems insane considering how hot she is in a midriff and shorts camp ensemble. She seduces one of her charges for no other reason than he's shy--what is the phrase about the happy camper? It is like every dream I ever had as a kid coming true, what every kid who'd rather sulk than fit in thinks his petulance will win him.

Wait, 70s, come back!

I was only five when The RoomMates came out, the slasher boom was years away, but Marks saw ahead: a killer at Camp Arrowhead makes for a great half-way through semi-side plot, offering both a genuinely scary (lots of good deep dark night shots) midnight knife chase and later a hilarious sniper massacre at a groovy country club party on the veranda. You'll guess the killer early if you're an astute cineaste, but it doesn't matter; the party never stops and everyone has enough material when they head back to school to "write ten books!" Yeah, says Collins, "but have we really suffered?" Weird last line, considering the massacre, but hey, those killings spice it up, aren't too vile or misogynist in their executions (rather reflecting yet another maladjusted attitude towards sexual desire), and the callous way that a rash of murders does nothing to dampen anyone's glib resort town spirits prefigures Scream and makes all Brody's fuss over closing beaches and mayoral meddling seem like girly hysterics.

The Gorgon Blu-ray (doubled with Marks' inferior --but still pretty good-- A Woman for all Men) is flawlessly restored, so Harry J. May's peerless photography and the gorgeous lakefront scenery can really reach out and smooth even the most ruffle-damaged of feathers, and I should know. Laurie Rose Laurie Rose... you are the 70s to me, and just as gone.


THE VELVET VAMPIRE
(1971) Dir. Stephanie Rothman
**3/4

The box office success of Hammer's 1970 Vampire Lovers proved to even the most conservative backers that the world was finally ready for lesbian-themed vampire movies and so they came, a cloud of blood-drinking bats opening the veins of 1971-4. Sheridan Le Fanu's 1872 lesbian vampire novella Carmilla (pre-dating Stoker's Dracula by 26 years) was a public domain wellspring anyone might drink from, so there was a pre-set blueprint. But of the many offerings, The Velvet Vampire (AKA Cemetery Girls) is the only one I know of that's directed by an actual woman, Corman company regular Stephanie Rothman. That makes it special to begin with, and it is.

Celeste Yarnall plays the (bisexual) vampire, Diane LeFanu (!). She can move around in the daytime, which saves a lot of money on lighting (see also Franco's Vampyros Lesbos) and she likes couples rather than just girls, which ensures her take-out order includes hunky Lee (Michael Blodgett) as well as his reluctant-to-come girlfriend Suzy (Sherry Miles). They meet at mutual friend Stoker's (!) gallery show and are promptly invited for a wild weekend to Diane's remote desert hideaway. Suzy's not keen on going to some mysterious femme's pad in the middle of nowhere. Neither would we, of course, in her shoes; but Lee's hooked, and Suzy doesn't want to seem either square or permissive.

I relate to her woeful misgivings about the situation. Especially since getting sober, I'm terrified of being stranded in the middle of nowhere bored out of my skull but unable to escape as some lecherous comfortable-in-his-own-skin host makes the least veiled moves on our girlfriend (or vice versa). (Don't even get me started on Cordoba, Argentina. You know who you are).

Anyway, the drive out is very interesting, as the world of LA disappears in endless flat scrub brush and desert hills. Yarnall isn't the sexiest vampire lesbian (or even the coolest) but she can ensure some communal wild dream sequences which--a rarity--prove as important to the story as the film's core reality. They also succeed in proving that a floor length mirror standing in the middle of the desert is worlds of cool, especially if you add a Touch of Evil headboard, and Diane LeFanu in flowing red robes watching you in the conscious world through a two-way mirror sitting next to a skull,  as you sleep. Perhaps an echo of Rothman herself watching the rushes, layer her hungry staring together with their desert mirage-dream (which they wake up and share, taking the fact they've had the same weird dream in Midsummer Night-esque stride).



This film was frequently on early Saturday morning TV when I was growing up and I never understood what was going on in it, though the title promised a lot. I'm sure it was edited near to death and there was very little 'monsterness' as my dad called it, neither velvet nor vampires to be found, and I was too young to get any references, sapphic (which would have been edited out) or other, but I remembered the yellow dune buggy and the blonde haired lad (Michael Blodgett) and his doleful girlfriend, and the glare of the red dress amidst the desert scrubs. And I tried to watch it a few years ago out of loyalty a few years back (I'm a friends with Michael Blodgett's daughter) but that old DVD (from "Cheesy Flix" or something) was worse than the old UHF), only now that there's finally a good version (on my beloved Shout!) is it watchable. Now the red dresses worn by Diane and the yellow of the dune buggy really pop amidst the desert gold and brown, and the score--a haunting Jimi Page-style Middle Eastern slow tempo cycling acoustic guitar (an unbilled Grass/Dollarhide) with some rushing whoozy blood thinning synth drones--tap a deep psychedelic plaintiveness that makes those weird dreams vibrate on a whole other level. There's also a great old blues man (an unbilled Johnny Shines) singing "Hellhounds on my Trail" at Stoker's art opening.

All in all, Rothman brings a unique feminine energy one can relate to even if it throws some of us male viewers off our game. We're not used to seeing the gender reverse of Universal horror templates, with the heavy-lidded beauty of Michael Blodgett kind of put forth as the object of desire (ala say the shirtless boys in Twilight), and his girlfriend just the frosting, so to speak, rather than the cake itself.

What's more noticeable now, too, is how Lee's slowly mounting, increasingly desperate attempt to escape goes from distractedly dismissing Suzy's worry as mere reticence to stealing the dune buggy; Blodgett ably outpaces David Manners' similar escalation in The Black Cat and this sequence proves itself the most indelible bit of the film, acting-wise. If you've ever spent a weekend as part of a couple invited to someone's remote house and then couldn't escape for whatever reason, or any other element of the Velvet triangle, then you'll agree: Rothman's film gets it all very right. There's also a cool nocturnal chase climax that leads from the desert to the bus back to LA, and through the bus station as Diane relentlessly, patiently, stalks her prey.

The most remarkable sequence however is surely the one in Diane's bedroom where she seduces each member of the couple in turn, using the exact same rap, with the exact same sincerity, one after the other. Remember it the next time you see Tim Curry's sweet transsexual pull the EXACT same thing on Janet Weiss and Brad in Rocky Horror Picture Show a few years later. So way to go, Stephanie Rothman! This film may not achieve any notable greatness, but top marks for being the first lady director of the Corman's New World, teaching a few slyly Byron-esque moves to sweet transvestites from Transylvania, and going deep into the heady world wherein seduction and destruction are inseparable, even under blazing desert sun. (2)

NOTES:
1. Five aces, partner (that's a whaddaya call a finesse)
2."I'm very tired of the whole tradition in western art in which women are always presented nude and men aren't. I'm not going to dress women and undress men – that would be a form of tortured vengeance. But I certainly am going to undress men, and the result is probably a more healthy environment, because one group of people presenting another in a vulnerable, weaker, more servile position is always distorted" - Rothman (1973 interview)
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