If you are a fan of Claudia Jennings, you will undoubtedly enjoy this well-researched, fascinating portrait by Eric Karell. I first spoke to Mr. Karell almost two years ago and immediately perceived his remarkable passion for horror and cult movies. His knowledge of Claudia Jennings and her place in the cinematic universe is unrivaled.

-Roger Corman, from his forward for Claudia Jennings, the Authorized Biography.

Now available for purchase on Amazon.com or www.midmar.com
 

Why We're Great >

 A review of Claudia's break-out film, Unholy Rollers! Just click on the top Review bar on the far left.

So much has changed in our country since the last edition of Claudia Jennings by Eric Karell. My family and I wish for your safety and security during this time of crisis. 

 

 

Please take a few minutes to peruse the website. There are archived movie reviews including one of Unholy Rollers, Claudia's breakout film. Just click on the top left button.  

I've included a pair of recipes to keep you busy if shut-in or quarantined. A delicious, easy to make soda bread and my classic seafood gumbo. Scroll down until you see them!

Some of you may be wondering about the picture of Claudia above. It was a gift she gave to Producer Si Litvinoff ( A Clockwork Orange) when they were dating. I've always thought this photo captured the many aspects of her personality. Obviously, she was quite proud of her beauty but the little notes and doodles drawn on the picture show a definite girlish side. It was through her association with Mr. Litvinoff that Claudia gained a role in The Man Who Fell to Earth, also produced by Mr. Litvinoff.

    

                                  International Horror Part Four 

                                       The Films of Germany

In my opinion the cinema of Germany was the birthplace of the horror film and the innovations in cinematography, set design, narrative and direction made its industry second to none.

I believe the greatest horror film of all time, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, created a path from which many films of terror walked down in subsequent years. The distorted sense of normalcy, the bizarre Expressionist sets, extreme make-up and the twist ending all started with this one remarkable film.

Starting in the 1910s German cinema produced films that had substance as well as terror. The Student of Prague (1913) had a complex narrative similar to Faust.

As the decade progressed such movies such as The Eyes of the Mummy, The Golem and Die Pest in Florenz chilled audiences and amazed them with special effects.

However it was the 1920s where the industry found its stride. Nosferatu, The Hands of Orlac, Vampyr and others were works of art not just cinema. F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, Robert Wiene and Paul Leni directed the great expressionistic classics of those years. Many movies were also influenced by Cubist, Bauhaus and other forms of art and architecture.

 

Metropolis by Lang, still stands as an effective testament to the political conscience underlying many science fiction films. The film used amazing special effects, camera work and set design to create a world vastly different than our own. Another one of Lang's films, M, is a landmark psychological thriller, with compelling images and provocative insight into society.

During the pre-war and World War 2 years the industry was turned into a propaganda factory for the Nazis and many of the talented directors, actors and other key personnel fled the country to avoid persecution. Many found a home in America and settled in Hollywood. The influx of such talent influenced many American horror films, and in particular, set the stage for the creation of film noir.

After the war, horror films were banned outright as the nation tried to rebuild.

In the late 1950s and 1960s , German made horror movies began to reappear. This coincided with the revival of horror cinema in Europe as a whole and many German  films were made in conjunction with Italian, Spanish, French and Italian producers. 

1959s The Head opened the  gate to a new wave of German horror. The subject matter became more gruesome and subversive as the 1960s and 70s arrived. Such titles as The Haunted Castle, Night of the Vampires, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism and Mark of the Devil generally delivered what they promised in the way of female nudity, torments of all kinds, graphic murders and mutilations.

In 1970 Jonathan was released , a more thoughtful film about an apocalyptic world where vampires rule the world with an iron fist. An allegory about fascism, there is less emphasis on gore and more on narrative.

The same cannot be said for the 1980s when the majority of German horror ventured into full exploitation territory. No film sums up this era of German cinema than Nekromantik, a shocking work where two lovers develop a taste for necrophilia.

 

The industry began to focus less on mythical beasts and more on serial killers, and more realistic threats. Auteurs such as Olaf Ittenbach, Jorg Buttereit and others made blood drenched epics about killers that walk among us. Although the technical expertise that made Germany the envy of the world's film industry in the 1920s is still there, the restraint and subtlety is long gone.

 

One can say that the nation's cinema adapted to present day markets. One can also mention more violence, blood and sadism doesn't make an entire horror experience.

                                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                         Movie Review 

                                     Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

                                             Directed by Russ Meyer

                                Written by Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert

                       Starring- Dolly Reid, Cynthia Myers, John Lazar, Edy Williams,                                        Erica Gavin, Phyllis Davis

It would not be an exaggeration to call Beyond the Valley of the Dolls one of the strangest movies ever produced. Looking to cash in on Jacqueline Susann’s deliciously trashy novel (and subsequent trashy big studio film) the movie is by turns funny, amateurish, gross, distasteful, misogynistic, exploitative and brilliant.

There are so many back-stories and interesting behind the camera plot-lines that Meyers himself would be hard pressed to invent similar tales. Distinguished film critic Roger Ebert helped write the screenplay (in addition to two other films by Meyer), surprising because, while Ebert would praise an occasional exploitation film (The Last House on the Left) he generally held a dim view of horror and slasher cinema.

Ms. Susanne was not pleased with the appropriation of her novel’s title and sued 20th Century Fox for damaging her reputation. The case wasn’t settled until well after the author’s death, and resulted in a $2million judgment against the studio.

Originally intended as a sequel to Valley of the Dolls, Suzann was asked by 20th Century Fox to write a screenplay but declined. Meyer and novice screenwriter Roger Ebert then put together a script in six weeks. The pair wanted movie that would be a farcical look at Hollywood , genres, situations, dialogue, characters, and success formulas, heavily overlaid with such shocking violence that some critics and audiences didn't know whether the movie 'knew' it was a comedy”. Meyer’s intention was for the film to "simultaneously be a satire, a serious melodrama, a rock musical, a comedy, a violent exploitation picture, a skin flick, and a morality tale ( the movie debuting soon after the Sharon Tate murders) of what the opening called 'the oft-times nightmarish world of Show Business".

The plot is more or less a classic tale of the innocent girl going to the big city, where, corruption, depravity and death await. In this particular case, we have three damsels, Kelly (Dolly Reid), Casey (Cynthia Myers) and Petronella (Marcia McBroom). Reid and Myers were Playboy centerfolds, with Myers having the distinction of the first Playmate born in the 1950s. Her original photos were taken when she was only 17, so Playboy had to wait until Myers was 18 to publish the pictorial. Reid would later marry famed American comedian Dick Martin (star of the hit comedy show Laugh-In) divorce and remarry him.

  The three ladies perform in a rock band, The Kelly Affair, managed by Harris Allsworth (David Gurian), Kelly's boyfriend. The four travel to Los Angeles to find Kelly's estranged aunt, Susan Lake (Phyllis Davis), heiress to a family fortune.

 Susan welcomes Kelly and her friends, promising a portion of her inheritance to her niece, but Susan's sleazy financial advisor Porter Hall (Duncan McLeod) discredits them as dirty hippies “who probably smoke grass” in an attempt to embezzle her fortune himself. Undeterred, Susan introduces The Kelly Affair to a bizarre, well-connected rock producer, Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell (LaZar), who coaxes them into an impromptu performance at one of his outrageous parties, after a set by real-life band The Strawberry Alarm Clock. Kelly’s band is so well-received that Z-Man becomes their Svengali-style manager, changing their name to The Carrie Nations and starting a long-feud with Harris.

Z-man is an odd character in a movie full of odd characters. His speech is a strange mixture of faux-Shakespearean blank verse, mixed with hip 60s lingo. He also has a Nazi-admiring man servant (a theme in some of Meyer’s films) who Z-man reminds to “turn off the ovens” as the man servant leaves for the evening.

Kelly drifts away from Harris and takes up with Lance Rocke (Michael Blodgett) a gigolo who wants Kelly’s inheritance for himself. Harris at first fends off the advances of porn star Ashley St. Ives (Edy Williams, one-time Meyer’s wife) but after losing Kelly, he allows Ashley to seduce him. Ashley soon tires of his conventional nature and inability to perform sexually due to increasing drug and alcohol intake. Harris descends further into heavy drug and alcohol use, leading to a fistfight with Lance and a drug-fueled one night snuggle with Casey which results in her being knocked up. Kelly ends her affair with Lance after he severely beats Harris. Casey, distraught at getting pregnant then has a lesbian affair with clothes designer Roxanne (Erica Gavin), who pressures her to have an abortion. Are you still with me?

Meanwhile, Petronella has a seemingly enchanted romance with law student Emerson Thorne (Harrison Page). After a romance style novel meeting at Z-Man's party, they are shown running slow-motion through golden fields and frolicking in a haystack. Their fairy-tale love affair frays when Pet sleeps with Randy Black (James Inglehart), a violent prize fighter, supposedly based on Mohammed Ali, who beats up Emerson and tries to run him down with a car.

His self-destructive behavior finally catches up to him and Harris does a swan dive off the rafters in a TV studio where the Carrie Nations are performing. Some say it was a cry for help but I just saw it as a means of getting attention. Anyway, Harris survives but is a paraplegic as a result of his injuries. Kelly devotes her life to his recovery, pretty much giving Harris what he wanted all along.

Emerson eventually forgives Petronella for her dalliance with the pugilist. Casey and Roxanne have a steamy, intimate romance, but their happy Sapphic love fest ends when Z-Man invites Casey, Roxanne, and Lance to a psychedelic-fueled party at his house. After Z-Man tries to seduce Lance, who spurns him, he reveals that he has female breasts, meaning he is really a Z-Woman.  Z-Man then goes on a murderous rampage: he beheads Lance with a sword, stabs his servant Otto (Henry Rowland) to death, and shoots Roxanne and Casey, killing them.

Harris, Kelly and Petronella arrive at the house and see the carnage, then dispatch Z-Woman. A happy result is that Harris can now move his feet, meaning he is on the way to recovery. Could happen.

 A prologue shows everyone has a happy ending except Porter.

Looking at the film as a whole it is a curious work. Billing itself as a satire, the actors appear to have taken a different approach resulting in a convoluted narrative. Some script changes made at the last minute made the narrative incongruous if not unnecessary, such as Z-Man’s exposure (no pun intended) as a woman.

The film also has an uneven cinematic style. Some scenes are shot with great care and atmosphere, such as when Z-Man sticks a gun down Roxanne’s gullet, who fellates the weapon   in her sleep, before her brains are blown out. Then again, some of the interior scenes appear like cheapo TV shows in their quality and camera work.

Looking back at the film in 1980 Roger Ebert said to Film Comment

“I think of it as an essay on our generic expectations. It's an anthology of stock situations, characters, dialogue, clichés and stereotypes, set to music and manipulated to work as exposition and satire at the same time; it's cause and effect, a wind-up machine to generate emotions, pure movie without message.

In the ironic world of Hollywood the movie was a tremendous financial success. Not only that, the distinguished newspaper, The Village Voice named it one of the top 100 films of all time. The work deserves its place in cult film lore, although I find a host of similar films more worthy.

 

So, if you enjoy your sleazy cinema with lots of gratuitous violence, naked female anatomy and over the top misogyny (all hallmarks of Meyer’s film catalogue) heaven awaits.

However, if you’re the type of film watcher who needs intentional humor to ameliorate the brutality, Hitlerian fetishes, and violence which seemed to make light of the Sharon Tate murders, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, might not be your cup of herbal tea.

 

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                                 Interview with Fred Olen Ray

If you are not familiar with Fred Olen Ray then your cinematic education is in need of a good lesson.

Fred is one of the last great auteurs in cinema today, having come full circle from making cheapie horror flics to making Christmas movies for network television.

I had the great honor and pleasure to interview him last Fall. I originally wanted to interview him for my biography of Claudia Jennings, since he was close with one of her former boyfriends, Gary Graver. That meeting never happened due to his busy schedule, but I later caught up with him.

Mr. Ray has made every type of genre film and worked with a startling number of awesome actors from Barbara Steele, Cameron Mitchell, Martine Bestwick, Dick Miller, Jeffrey Combs, Sid Haig, Martin Landau, Robert Quarry, Paul Naschy, Lee Van Cleef, David Carradine, Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer, Gunnar Hansen and scores of others. 

Among his achievements are Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, The Tomb, Evil Toons, Deep Space, Armed Response and Attack of the 60-foot Centerfold.

These days Mr. Ray concentrates his efforts on Christmas holiday films such as the popular One Fine Christmas, A Baking Christmas, A Wedding for Christmas and A Christmas in Vermont.

A kind and gracious gentleman, it was an honor and pleasure to interview him.

Eric: Thank you again for agreeing to the interview, Mr. Ray. I suppose my first question is the one I would have asked when I writing Claudia’s biography. How did you meet Gary Graver?

FOR: I met Gary when we were working on Commando Squad. And Gary was so easy to work with. If I wanted a shot with a certain amount of sunlight or a particular angle, he would instinctively deliver it. And if the sun was going down or something else was happening Gary would always deliver the shot. I watched the documentary on Orson Welles’ last film the other week and you know he did almost all the cinematography for it.

Eric: Gary was multitalented, wasn’t he?

FOR: Yes, he was an actor, a director, obviously a fine cinematographer, but he was also a great writer. And there’s no way to know how many films and projects he was involved with because he used different names and was sometimes uncredited. He was one of the most generous people I’ve ever met in Hollywood. And he and Orson were long time associates and friends. Gary did everything for Welles from go-fer, to cinematographer.

Eric: Weren’t you and he going to make a film with Oja Kodar?

ROR: Yes, and I was very excited to be a part of the project. Oja was Orson’s mistress and when he passed away, she wanted Gary to shoot the film. It was called Jaded and was going to feature footage from Orson’s unfinished movie of The Merchant of Venice. Somewhere, somehow the film disappeared which was a shame. I believe Gary also shot some scenes with her in Croatia as part of another film. I am also a distant relative of Orson’s. But Gary did a lot of second unit work for films such as The Howling, Enter the Dragon and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Eric: Did you ever get a chance to meet Claudia Jennings?

FOR: No, she died about three years before I moved to L.A. But Gary was a player. Besides Claudia, he dated Erica Gavin, Barbara Luna and then dated Jillian Kestner. Sad to say he didn’t marry Jillian until the day before he died. And she tragically died almost a year to the day after Gary passed away. It was stunning to all of us. They were such a sweet couple. All of our families were close,

Eric: Can you tell me about your influences growing that made you want to be a director?

FOR: Well I grew up in the era of the monster renaissance, with the Munsters, Famous Monsters of Filmland and those movies by Roger Corman and others. When I was a kid you were either into surfing, hot rods or monsters. I was into monsters. And kids were into making their own movies because of the availability of the 8mm cameras. So, I got one, around 1967 and started making my own movies. I never wanted to make short movies. I always wanted to make features. Because I wanted to make money, there’s no money in shorts. I did one a few years ago and it won a shitload of awards. But I lost every dollar I put into it.

Eric: Please tell me about the first movie I saw of yours, Scalps. I felt it had the quality look of more ballyhooed films like The Hills Have Eyes.

FOR: Well we had no budget for that film. The budget was $15,000 and we came in under. One note on Scalps, it never appeared anywhere in the world in its entirety uncut, except for the original US theatrical release.

Eric: Which actors do you remember the most?

FOR: Well a lot of it depended on the budget we had. The bigger the picture the bigger names we could attract. Actors like Lee Van Cleef, Martin Landau, Shelley Long, Dennis Weaver, Telly Savalas, Cliff Robertson and so on. For a film fan like me it was heaven. In fact, I used to try and drive as many of them to the set each day just to have that one-on-one time. People like Barbara Steele, Van Cleef and John Carradine. Because there’s no time once you get to the set. It’s a 12-hour day and all business. But in the drive over I could ask them about their life and careers and get to know them a bit.

Eric: Michelle Bauer seems to have been your muse, appearing in a number of features. When did you meet her?

FOR: It was on the set of The Tomb. She was very talented and very beautiful. She also had a great sense of humor. She appeared in that film and then a few others I directed and we gradually became friends. I still see her a couple times a month out here.

Eric: Could you tell me about your experience with Robert Quarry?

FOR: Well Bob was retired when I convinced him to do a movie for me. Same with Sid Haig who I had to convince to shave his head for a role, But next time I saw him he had his full “Sid Haig” beard grown out. But Robert came in and became a part of the family. He was living in a small apartment, hadn’t worked for a while and existed on social security and a modest pension. So, we immediately hit off to the point where he house sat for my son when I was out of town. We would have breakfast every Sunday. He did great work for me. And he even did the voice work for the monster in Evil Toons. He became the Uncle I never had.

Eric: Tell about your relationship with Quentin Tarantino

FOR: You know that’s funny. A guy named Clifton and Tarantino came to the set where I was filming Bad Girls from Mars. They wanted to borrow a synchronized 16 mm movie camera that actually plugged into a wall socket. I had lent this camera out to several directors who ended up becoming pretty famous. Anyway, Tarantino comes back and returns the camera saying it didn’t synchronize properly. Well it had for everyone else. So, it came as bit of a surprise when I saw an interview with him, where he said I was instrumental in getting him started in the film business. Which was nice, even if it wasn’t very true.

Eric: Mr. Ray, please tell me a little about the Retromedia Entertainment Group you started.

FOR: It’s a hobby, just a lark. It started when someone wanted to license Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers for DVD and I said wait a minute…I’ve got all these other titles, why should I let someone cherry-pick my films. We started converting many of the films to DVD, which was a great learning experience, since I knew very little about DVD’s at the time. We did the cover art and found enough distributors to make the Group a worthwhile project. And I only license films that I would like to watch personally. But I’m enjoying it, I’ve had a good time, and it's making money.

Eric: Is there any chance of finding some of your lost films through Retromedia?

FOR: I don’t know maybe. There’s a company in Florida that specializes in finding lost works. I grew up near Sarasota and my parents were totally opposed to my career choice- a middle class kid with smarts wanting to make monster movies. And they were half-right. There’s a big difference between shooting a film with your own camera, in your backyard to making big budget movies on network TV, in theaters or on HBO and Cinemax. It’s a different kind of person who can do that. Some people have it, some people don’t. There were also a ton of Florida made films that were tax dodges. Producers could write off twice the amount of money the film lost and still make a profit. It was like the film The Producers, Mel Brooks' first movie. There was a movie made in Ft. Lauderdale called The Great Balloon Race with a huge, all-star cast, I don’t know if it ever got released. When I read about it, I immediately thought this was a tax dodge.

Eric: Just a few more questions before we run out of time. I read an interview where you were less than sanguine about the current state of the horror genre and didn’t think much of the new wave of directors. Was that accurate?

FOR: Well horror will always be an enduring genre, no doubt. But my answers in that interview were strictly personal. There aren’t any current films that interest me as an individual. Besides going to the movies today is an iffy proposition. Why should I pay exorbitant prices for what probably be a disappointment? I can stay home, sit in a comfortable chair and watch Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein or The Fall of the House of Usher and have a great time. To me its better than going to a theater and wasting a couple hours of my life that I will never get back (laughing). But I’ve always lived my life as I wanted. I raised two kids as a single parent, don’t owe anybody child support or alimony. I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do with my family life and professional life. A lot of actresses used to come up to me and tell me they were scream queens. I told them, unless they were half-dressed, in waist high swamp water in a Roger Corman film, freezing to death at night, they weren’t scream queens. We made a few of so-called Scream Queen movies, which were good, then we made one more called Little Devils, but the timing was wrong and it didn’t do very well at the box office. But today, a lot of films call themselves Scream Queen movies, but I don’t feel they qualify. And so many times the contemporary actresses who are self-styled scream queens are just standing on the shoulders of the ladies who pioneered the trope in the Corman films. These girls want to latch onto the fame without doing the work or busting their ass like the real scream queens did.

Eric: I suppose the modern version of the scream queen is now “final girl”?

FOR: I’m not sure what that is.

Eric: It’s the name given in horror films to the last female character left alive.

FOR: Well I’m a bit unfamiliar with the modern horror genre. I don’t visit any horror webzine sites and things like that. These days I’m a director, that’s my job, just like someone going to work at K-Mart. I get up at 5 AM and it’s a job. Don’t get me wrong it’s a job but a well paying one and I only have to work 2-3 times a year. It’s a profession. It would be a hobby if I wasn’t working so much. They say no one’s happy with their job unless they would do it for free. That’s the way I feel about film-making- I’d do it for free if I could afford to.

Eric: Last question. Are their any circumstances under which you’d return to the horror and adventure genres?

FOR: Well I go where the money is and right now, TV movies like women’s thrillers and Christmas films are in demand. But I’m a director for hire, I’ll go where the budget dictates. At this moment, though, the TV movies are where the interest is. But there are things I won’t film. I won’t film drug abuse or women being abused. I’m not a person who would direct a film with a lot of rapes- it turns my stomach. Oh, one last thing. Gary shot a film with Claudia for Roger Corman called Deathsport.

Eric: Yes, they’d actually met before on the set of Moonshine County Express

FOR: I had worked with David Carradine (one of the starts of Deathsport) and he told me the director of Deathsport had gotten upset with Claudia and slapped her. David told me he “roughed him up”. Apparently, the next day the director showed with a pistol on his hip. Carradine called Corman and said I can’t work like this. One thing I was always good about was keeping my temper on the set. It never made anything better, in fact it would make things worse.

Eric: Eventually Corman fired the original director and brought in another to finish the film. Mr. Ray I want to thank you so much for your time and recollections. I wish we had more time to explore your wrestling career and talk more in-depth about some of your films. Your reputation as a stand-up guy and gentleman is well deserved. Best of luck to you on your future projects.

FOR: No problem, my pleasure.

                                      SEED- 2007
                                 directed by Uwe Boll, starring Michael Pare, and Will Anderson
                                                  " Bolled Over"
I've spent a great amount of time and effort watching and studying extreme cinema. Much of it is amateurish, such as the August Underground films. Uwe Boll represents a select group of European directors and auteurs that specialize in body destruction, extreme cruelty and a sense of perversity not often found in mainstream cinema. These gentleman include Lars von Trier, Tom Six, Alexandre Aja and Olaf Ittenbach, who worked with Boll on a few projects.
Boll is considered one of the most controversial, because of his films and his outrageous comments to the media, calling some of his contemporaries and critics "retards".
I found Seed one of the most offensive films I've ever watched. The first few minutes of running time consist of a PETA documentary that shows graphic mutilations and murders of live dogs. Where PETA's use of the footage may have to been to raise sympathy for their cause ( a dubious proposition) Boll's use of it is strictly for exploitation and the subversive nature of his film. He also cynically disclosed he was going to donate some of the profits for the film to various charities, a transparent and disingenuous move.
The movie is of the slasher/serial killer genre. It is especially heartless as animals, women, children and men are all tortured and murdered by the main character Max Seed. As a boy he was disfigured when his schoolbus caught fire, so naturally he turned out to be a psychotic killer. After accumulating 666 murders he is caught. The authorities try to execute him, but after two attempts to fry him on old sparky, the warden, executioner, the police detective who caught him and prison doctor are afraid a third attempt would not put him down, triggering an old law stipulating he can go free. They decide, unwisely, to bury him alive in a sealed coffin, where they hope the maniac will just quietly into the night. Fat fucking chance.
Max digs himself out and goes on a rampage. In one loathsome scene he ties a woman to a chair and chops at her head with a small axe until the walls of the room are drenched in blood . After 30 or so whacks, her head is considerably diminished.
Then Max goes after everyone who had anything to do with his almost electrocution and premature burial. They are dispatched in various gory ways until no one is left but the police detective. He puts four cops to guard his family and tries to track down Max. Well, I guess he doesn't watch too many horror movies. He gets a note from the killer and speeds over to his house, only to find the four cops chopped into pieces and carefully stacked in the bathtub. The detective (played by Pare-oh Michael, we mourn for the days of Streets of Fire) is lured to the house where Seed is holding his family hostage. A predictable downbeat ending concludes this outrage before the final credits roll.
So let's add up the positives of the film. The SFX are good. Other than that, the dialogue is perfunctory and lame, the direction aimless, the tension is limp and even the music is lame. The camera work is middling and the set design looks like it came from an infomercial. Boll who did make some laudable films such as Rampage, missed the boat on this one. Boll is also able to convince high quality actors to appear in his films and then makes them into bad ones. No easy thing to do.
All of things could be excused except for the animal atrocities in the beginning of the movie. We've seen critters being killed before-Cannibal Holocaust is an notorious example. The art in film however derives from transcending a "documentary" experience into something hyper-natural. Other than a few genuine weirdos, would we want to watch actual concentration camp horrors and snuff films? Watching a gory, visceral horror film should be a transcendent experience.  The characters should make us care about them, the movie should have a much larger vision and it should be fun, even if its of the roller-coaster variety. I often compare extreme films to those of Herschell Gordon Lewis' sadistic romps. Lewis at least had a tongue in cheek sensibility so the audience didn't have to take his films too seriously. Unfortunately, Boll made a bad movie worse with his careless use of sadistic dog killing footage. I understand he no longer makes films, but owns some successful restaurants in Vancouver. Next time I'm there I must visit one.  Hopefully, the images of the poor dogs being butchered will have been erased from my memory.

                                    Movie Review- The Reflecting Skin- 1990

Imagine walking into any of the fine Metropolitan Museums of Art in our country, say San Francisco, Chicago or New York. Then imagine a gallery with just one painting, a work so vast that it takes two hours to see all of it. Every part of the painting bears careful examination because it would be a shame to miss any nuance, symbol or emotion the masterpiece elicits.

The Reflecting Skin, directed by Phillip Ridley, is not so much a horror film but an art film that explores the horrors, and fears of childhood depicted as a nightmarish descent into adolescent hell. As I see it, if Ingmar Bergman was born and raised in the Midwest, this would be his contribution to the horror genre. It is one of the finest American Gothic horrors to be filmed, all the more miraculous since its director is British.

The story is viewed through the eyes of young Seth Dove (Jeremy Cooper, in a bravura performance), who lives on remote farm, in the middle of a bucolic paradise, somewhere in the Midwest. He and his friends delight in tormenting a young English widow, Dolphin Blue (Lindsey Duncan) for no apparent reason except childish cruelty. The opening scene is one you will never forget.

 

Seth lives with a domineering mother and detached, withdrawn father, who run a gas station. One day a group of black leather clad punks drive up in a black Cadillac needing some petrol. These are no singing, dancing hoods from Grease as we will discover. They make Seth a promise that someday soon, they will return for him.

Forced to go Dolphin Blue's home to apologize for a vicious prank, Seth is fascinated by her family's whaling artifacts. He also learns her backstory, how her husband committed suicide a week after their marriage. Dolphin Blue then mentions her depression and how she feels "two hundred years old.". Because Seth had heard his father discussing vampires because of a novel he's reading, so the lad starts to believe Dolphin is a real vampire.

When one of Seth's friends goes missing, he and another friend ransack Dolphin's house, but run in terror when they spy her masturbating. Seth later finds his friend dead in an isolated cistern. The police suspect Seth's dad, owing to a previous homosexual incident in his past. The father, overcome with despair and believing the police will not leave him in peace, pours gas over himself and becomes a human s'mores.

Cameron (Viggo Mortensen), Seth's brother, comes home to look after the boy, as the mother has become comatose. While visiting their father's grave site, Cameron meets Dolphin and find they have a mutual attraction. To Seth's horror the two begin a passionate affair. Cameron confesses to Dolphin he was part of the government's atomic bomb experiments. Seth and his friend then witness the two making love which repels them.

As the boys run away, the black Cadillac appears and the leather gang kidnaps Seth's friend, who is found dead the next day.

Cameron we discover is dying from radiation sickness. Seth interpret this as a sign of Dolphin's vampirism as she is slowly sucking the life out of him. He decides not to warn her of the black Cadillac and Dolphin happily accepts a ride from the men. Later on, when Dolphin's body is found, Cameron melts down in front of his brother. Seth, finally realizing what he has done, screams into the setting sun, a cry that is simultaneously filled with anger, shame, despair and sorrow.

One can describe this film in many ways. A work of great beauty, it is reminiscent of the films of David Lynch (Blue Velvet in particular) that even a sunny, All-American setting se can hide real decay and terror. Sometimes the horrors happen in broad daylight. The use of shadow in nighttime and interior shots are striking, especially when Seth's father erupts in a ball of flame in the middle of the night.

There is no doubt The Reflecting Skin is a morbid, over-the-top and disturbing work. It takes time to unfold so if you're looking for a roller coaster type horror romp, this is not that film. Instead it is a door few of us want to enter; a world of nightmares, unspeakable acts, unknown antagonists and a downbeat ending so profound that it's controlled and visionary qualities cut through the heart like a broadsword. Ridley is one of the most talented individuals in the world. He is a distinguished writer, lyricist, and director. A man for all seasons, it seems. Between the acting, photography, story and a general sense of uneasiness, I feel this is his Magnum Opus.

 
 

My Favorite 103 Films of All-time

2019 Edition

 

1.Casablance (1942)

2. The Godfather (1972)

3. Vertigo (1958)

4. The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

5. Raging Bull (1980)

6. Citizen Kane (1941)

7. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

8. Singing in the Rain (1952)

9. La Jete'e (1962)

10. Fargo ( 1976)

11. City Lights (1931)

12. Schindler's List (1993)

13. The Searchers (1956)

14. Unforgiven (1992)

15. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

16. Potempkin ( 1925)

17. The General (1927)

18. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

19. Treasure of the Sierre Madre (1948)

20. Lawrence of Arabia ( 1962)

21.Miller's Crossing (1990)

22. On the Waterfront (1954)

23. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

24. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

25. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

26. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

27. The Battle of Algiers (1966)

28. One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

29. The Godfather Part 2 (1974)

30. Rosemary's Baby (1968)

31. The Grapes of Wrath ( 1940)

32. Double Indemnity (1944)

33. Intolerance (1916)

34. West Side Story (1961)

35. Taxi Driver ( 1976)

36.Duck Soup (1933)

37. Cabaret (1972)

38. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

39. In the Heat of the Night (1967)

40. Chinatown (1974)

41. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

42. Gone with the Wind (1939)

43. Come and See (1985)

44. Dr. Strangelove ( 1962)

45. The Sound of Music (1965)

46. Mary Poppins (1964)

47. The Thing (1954)

48. Goodfellas (1990)

49. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

50. Rashamon (1950)

51. Michael Clayton (2007)

52. The Exterminating Angel (1962)

53. No Country for Old Men (2007)

54. The Tree of Life (2011)

55. Performance (1970)

56. Ran (1985)

57. Breathless (1960)

58. Annie Hall (1977)

59. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

60. Rear Window (1954)

61. King of Hearts (1966)

62. Jaws (1975)

63. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

64. The Third Man (1949)

65.The Long Good Friday (1979)

66. La Strada (1954)

67. Haxan (1922)

68. Solaris (1972)

69. Silence of the Lambs (1991)

70. Stalker ( 1979)

71. Little Big Man (1970)

72. L'Avventura (1960)

73. Casino (1995)

74. The Dark Knight (2008)

75. Orphee (1950)

76. The Vanishing (1988)

77. Un Chien Andalou (1929)

78. The Wild Bunch (1969)

79. 12 Angry Men (1957)

80. Wings of Desire ( 1987)

81. Spartacus ( 1960)

82. Blade Runner (1982)

83. Knife in the Water (1962)

84.Psycho (1960)

85. Star Wars (1977)

86. Sunset Blvd. (1950)

87. Closely Watched Trains (1966)

88. Grande Illusion (1937)

89. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

90. The Seventh Seal (1957)

91. Taxi Driver (1976)

92. Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf (1966)

93. Metropolis (1927)

94. The French Connection (1971)

95. Aguirre Wrath of God (1972)

96. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

97. Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001)

98. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)

99. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

100. Fail Safe (1964)

Unlike many GOAT lists, mine spans all genres and directing philosophies.

101. Anatomy of a Murder
102. Reservoir Dogs
103. King Kong

10 Great Films that Rage Against the            Establishment

1.Vanishing Point-1971

2. Easy Rider-1969

3. Bonnie and Clyde-1967  

4. If...-1968

5. One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest-1975

6. A Clockwork Orange-1971

7.Zabriskie Point-1970

8.V For Vendetta-2005

9. Night of the Living Dead-1968 A horror film? Why not? 

10. The Cannonball Run- 1981

My Current Top 100 Films in Cinema History

 

Fast Irish Soda Bread

Using only a handful of ingredients , this quick bread has tremendous flavor and moistnessServe with any Irish dish or a salad for a satisfying meal.

  • Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut into chunks

  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk  

  • 1/2 cup  raisins

  •  

  •  *Substitute 4 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to equal 1 1/4 cups. Let stand 5 minutes.

How to Directions

 

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside

  2. Combine all ingredients except buttermilk and currants in bowl; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk and raisins just until moistened.

  3. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead gently 10 times. Shape into ball. Place onto prepared baking sheet. Pat into 6-inch circle. Cut 1/2 inch deep “X” in top of dough with sharp knife.

  4. STEP 4

  5. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. 

  • Serve with a good slather of Irish butter!

Chef Eric’s Gumbo

Ingredients

2 cups salad oil

2 cups flour

2 green peppers

2 onions

2 red peppers

2 stalks celery

1# andouille sausage

1 bunch green onions- white part only- reserve green for garnish

4 tomatoes

8 cloves garlic

1 gallon stock- can use fish, shellfish, chicken or combination

2# total of  shrimp, crab, fish, oysters, cooked chicken, duck, ham- any or all, in combination

1 t.thyme

1 t. each white, black, cayenne pepper

1# okra

1T. file’  powder

Directions

 

Make roux- Heat oil in a sturdy pot to medium high. Add the flour and stir constantly, scraping the roux from the outside to the inside. If the roux starts to burn remove from the burner for a few moments until the mixture starts to cool down. Keep stirring and the roux will turn colors, from white to tan, then light brown and finally the color of melted dark chocolate.  Remember the darker your roux is the darker the broth  of the gumbo! 

Add vegies- cook until softened

Add garlic-

Add tomatoes, spices, green onions

Cook briefly

Add stock

Simmer 30-40 minutes

Add okra- cook 10 minutes

Add cooked andouille, cooked meats and seafood in order of cooking time.-firm fish takes longer to cook. Oysters, and shrimp go in at the end.

Simmer until fish is cooked.

Add file’. Serve immediately with rice.

My Magner's Autumn Bomb

The season always needs a beverage to bring on the spirit and the weather of the time of year. The following is a simple and refreshing way to celebrate the Fall. Whether enjoying an al fresco drink on the patio or trying to numb the pain of your football team's ignominious defeat, this treat combing a trans-Atlantic taste of cider and bourbon will do the trick. Happy Halloween!!

Pour 1 pint well chilled Magners Cider into a large glass. Pour a measure of your favorite bourbon in a clean shot glass. Carefully ease the shot glass into the Magners and drink quickly. Take a deep breath to enjoy the flavors and repeat.

 

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