Official Website of the Claudia Jennings biography, and author Eric Karell
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, An Authorized Biography.
"I am Claudia's champion."
The Strange Story of Film Critic Todd McCarthy and Claudia Jennings
In the interest of full disclosure I have never met, spoken with nor corresponded with Mr. McCarthy. However, I desperately wanted to.
I prefer to be positive and honest in my comments on the site. This essay might be construed as "sour grapes" or unfair, yet if I didn't have volumes of hard facts, the assertions you will read might be interpreted that way.
The subject of this essay was formerly the film critic of Variety and The Hollywood Reader, now is employed by Deadline Hollywood. Mr. McCarthy enjoyed a successful career as a writer, filmmaker and of course, critic, until a change of ownerships cost him his last two positions.
I have nothing but good things to say about Mr. McCarthy's career. Among the rapidly shrinking pool of true critics, his contributions have stood the test of time. However, the days of traditional movie criticism are dying, due to financial constraints, the necessity to kiss up to major studios and the proliferation of social media and internet sites of squonks like myself.
My interest in Mr. McCarthy began when I was researching material for Claudia's biography. When he was at Evanston Township High School, he submitted a film for a KODAK student movie contest. It was entitled Mimi and starred a classmate, Mary Eileen Chesterton. Mimi was her nickname but she would become better known as Claudia Jennings.
McCarthy, in what would become a passive-aggressive dance with Claudia over the years, had several interesting quotes. He claimed Mimi refused to take proper direction from him. He instructed her to walk among other young people, neither interacting or speaking to them. Then he qualified his statement by saying he was disappointed Mimi didn't "go above and beyond " that which the role required. And McCarthy freely admitted this was the point of the film.
Todd McCarthy, as if to hammer his point of passive/aggressiveness home, said the following to Ari Bass in 1996 when he looked back at Claudia’s career: “She wasn’t a great actress. Her appeal was in her unique look, her red hair and chiseled features. She certainly couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else. But she did show in films like Unholy Rollers a willingness to throw herself in to the action. On stage, her personality never boomed over the floodlights, and she wasn’t as funny as others in high school theater. She had a certain magnetism though, which was her trademark.” Damning with faint praise, I say.
When her first Playmate of the Month Centerfold hit the stands, Claudia was asked about her movie career thus far. She replied it consisted on one "experimental" film which annoyed McCarthy to no end.
I interviewed several students from ETHS, one who told me "...Todd seemed to always carry a torch for her. I think it even lasted when we all moved to Los Angeles he longed to be with her." Perhaps there was an underlying feeling of sexual tension and jealousy on McCarthy's part which colored his perception of Claudia.
As the years went by, McCarthy found himself working for Roger Corman in the marketing department of New World Pictures. When Claudia was filming The Great Texas Dynamite Chase, he was given the assignment of taking some publicity stills of her. Remember, Claudia was still recovering from an on-set accident. She was heavily medicated as a result, and not only from prescribed drugs.
McCarthy reported she was extremely rude to him, acting very "diva" like and generally made the experience an unpleasant one. Todd was hurt and rightfully so. She had been his friend in high school and he was merely doing his job. The fact she called him back and profusely apologized didn't assuage the pain, it appeared. When interviewed for the Fast Life/Untimely Death: Playmate Claudia Jennings”, The E! True Hollywood Story, in 2000, it was obvious he still held a grudge over 20 years after the incident.
When Claudia died in 1979, McCarthy wrote a perfunctory obituary and in 1995 directed a documentary short on her career, called appropriately Claudia Jennings. The work has a bloodless tone, and doesn't lavish praise or disrespect on the woman or her career.
Slowly, I began to dig up interviews with McCarthy where he spoke rather freely about the person he once knew as Mary Eileen"Mimi" Chesterton.
Shortly after she passed, Todd McCarthy, then chief film critic of Variety, wrote an article for Film Comment. The piece talks about how he first met Claudia at Evanston Township High School, but there is some significant discussion of her career. There is also a strange linkage between her personality, her career and her death that McCarthy fashions in the piece. In the article, McCarthy ponders whether Claudia’s death was a suicide. “One acquaintance immediately thought of Billy Wilder’s Fedora, guessing that Claudia might have done it on purpose. After all, she had recently lost out on the job of Kate Jackson’s replacement on Charlie’s Angels after having been led to believe she might get the part. But she was too tough for that, too level-headed to be plunged into depression over not winning a role. Despite my rejection of the notion of suicide, I shuddered to think that perhaps she had come to the same realization as her most cynical detractors: That she was indeed washed up. Where, after all, can a Queen of the Bs sexpot go once she hits thirty? All the answers are depressing.”
I do not agree with this rather insulting and misogynistic ( sexpot???!!) piece. However it does add one more bit of ammunition for my arguments. And this is where all of our paths, merge- McCarthy's, Claudia's and my own.
Once I discovered what a key role Todd had played in Claudia's story, I immediately asked if he wanted to collaborate on her biography. Was it forward of me, a bit crazy? Well, I did have some credentials and gave him the names of people I interviewed thus far, including Claudia's family, Bobby Hart, McCarthy's friend and sometime collaborator Ari Bass, and so on.
In exchange all I received was silence. Not even the courtesy of "no". I decided my email must have gotten lost so I sent a few more and even wrote a snail mail to him. Still nothing but crickets. I asked Ari Bass what I could do and he replied, quote " Todd's a bit of a strange bird. Try calling him." I did call and left a message. No reply ever came. At this point with the deadline for the book fast approaching, I decided there was no need for Mr. McCarthy's input. As much as I would have loved to pick his brain, just to gain a bit of the vast film knowledge he possesses, I had to complete my project.
Do I regret never having spoke to Todd McCarthy? Of course, just like I regretted never speaking to Hugh Hefner and Margaret McCormick. But at least they responded. I regret Mr. McCarthy's lack of respect and courtesy much more.
Nothing can diminish McCarthy's talent and brilliance as a film historian and writer. He won an Emmy for writing the PBS documentary on Preston Sturges. He won numerous awards for his documentary Visions of Light. His book on the legendary producer/director Howard Hawks is considered a masterpiece. He is adored and admired in a city that can be fickle and unforgiving. All I ever wanted was to bask in his glory for a while. And perhaps gain some insight into his feelings about Mimi.
Drive-In Feature of the Month
Vanishing Point -1971
Directed by Richard Sarafian
Starring-Barry Newman, Cleavon Little, Dean Jagger
Screenplay by Guillermo Cain
Cinematography by John Alonzo
The American automobile. Ever since the first Model T rolled off a primitive assembly line, personal vehicles have been a symbol of prosperity, individualism, status and freedom. Vanishing Point is the penultimate carsploitation movie, merging deep social commentary with thrilling chases, music, nudity and violence.
The film touched on the Viet Nam war, racism, police brutality, drug culture and much of the dirt underneath the fingers of American society.
The plot of the film revolves around a bet professional automobile delivery man makes with his drug dealer. The driver (Newman) drops off a black Imperial in Denver on a Friday night and insists on starting his next assignment; the delivery of a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Supercharged Magnum to San Francisco.
Kowalski stops at his favorite biker bar to score some Benzidrine to stay awake for the long drive. He bets his dealer the cost of the uppers the car will be delivered by 3 pm Sunday, even though the delivery is scheduled for Monday.
Through flashbacks we discover Kowalski is a stand-up guy. Medal of Honor winner in Viet Nam, former racecar and motorcycle racer. Also found time to be a former cop, where we see him break up the attempted rape of a young girl by his partner in the back of their patrol car.
Kowalski soon attracts the unwanted attention of two motorcycle policemen by going, let's say, 40 mph over the speed limit. He causes one to crash and evades the other by diving across a dry creek bed.
Kowalski is aided by a blind, black DJ named Super Soul (Little) who has a police radio and seems to be psychically connected to the driver. Besides cranking out some jamming tunes, Super Soul gives Kowalski the heads up on road blocks, traps and other police hijinks.
Now in Nevada, Kowalski cuts across the desert where he blows a tire. An old prospector (Jagger) who collects snakes for the local Pentecostal Church, gives him fuel and guides him back to the highway.
In the movie's only flash of cultural conservatism, a pair of homosexual hitchhikers try to rob Kowalski, only to have their asses kicked and stranded. Amazing in an era of tolerance LQBT characters were often the villains in so many drive-in films.
Meanwhile, a gang of racist rednecks led by an off-duty highway patrolman break into Super Soul's radio station and beat the living shit out him and his engineer. As Kowalski crosses into California on Saturday afternoon, he is helped by a pair of hippie bikers. One of them (Gilda Texter) makes a grand entrance and is the iconic symbol of the film by riding her motorcycle onto the scene, completely nude. The hippies give Kowalski some speed and help in eluding a police dragnet,
Realizing, he has no chance of winning the bet, Kowalski calls his dealer and acknowledges his defeat, but offers double or nothing on the return trip.
With Super Soul now working for the police, albeit under duress, Kowalski is slowly trapped with no way out. Will he face the music or will he...vanish.
Sarafian was a talented director (with Ruby, The Crossing Guard, Bound and Blue Streak on his resume) and this is his best film in my humble. The movie is lean and mean with a great soundtrack (featuring Delaney and Bonnie, Mountain and others) that moves along with a great pace. The American West provides an impressive backdrop for the chase sequences and car stunts.
The film isn't very subtle. The good guys and gals are perfect beings, the bad guys have only one dimension as goons and executioners sanctioned by the state. Newman as Kowalski is almost emotionless. We can't figure out if its from Nam (Posttraumatic Stress) or he's just too tired and wired to care all that much. In other words, the ideal anti-hero. One thing is for certain, Vanishing Point hits all the right notes, like a blues/rock guitar solo.
And one more thing...ignore and avoid the remake.
Horror from Ulster
The Boys from County Hell
A wee bit of bloody mischief from Northern Ireland
It's always refreshing to see a familiar horror trope treated in a new manner and The Boys from County Hell delivers the goods. Seems there is a legendary vampire afoot in in an isolated part of the county, wreaking havoc and scaring the bejeepers out of our cast of characters.
Director and writer Chris Baugh (who also gave us Bad Day for the Cut and Tin Star) weaves a tale that is comforting as Irish stew and smooth as 28 year old Bushmills single malt whiskey. And bloody as a slaughtered lamb. The film is also funny as modern favorites such as Shaun of the Dead. And to caution everyone who is sensitive to swear words, you will hear just about everyone common to the British Isles and then some.
The basic plot involves a cairn erected in the middle of a field, crowned with an animal skull. Local legend has it that an ancient vampire is trapped underneath.
Two local boys Eugene (Jack Rowan) and William (Fa Fee) delight in taking tourists out there and giving them a fright. The premise being that the trapped vampire, Abhartach, was really the inspiration for Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, not Vlad Tepes as is commonly believed. The local pub is even named Stoker's.
The narrative is set in motion when Eugene's dad and boss Francie (Nigel O'Neill) is given a job to bulldoze the cairn to make way for new development on the land. The plucky construction crew is made up of Claire (Louisa Hough) and SP (Michael Hough) a goofy but lovable drinking pal of Eugene.
When William dies in a tragic accident and bleeds on top of the cairn, the plot really cranks up, with the story pivoting into unexpected territory. For one, this vampire isn't your traditional familiar monster who needs to play by certain rules. Sunlight can't harm him and blood comes to him through a weird process of osmosis.
Speaking of blood, the gore and violence levels are downplayed in favor of comedy and production design. The dialogue is crisp however American ears may need to adjust to the speed of the thick Northern Ireland brogue.
The film is streaming on Shudder and is highly recommended as a fine change of pace from the vast pool of vampire features. And it is refreshing to see Claire stand up and fight just as fiercely as the men. As Joe Bob would say "check it out."
TV Streaming Review
The Good Place
I rarely, if ever, praise anything shown on network TV. Most sit-coms leave me depressed about the future and springing for the remote. However, one night I had about 30 minutes to kill and decided to watch an episode of The Good Place. After 30 minutes I was hooked and proceed to binge watch all four seasons in the space of four days.
Michael Schur, creator of Parks and Recreation, struck gold with this series, which truly defies an easy description. Just the most existential program since the BBC's The Prisoner, The Good Place combined science fiction, horror, pathos and philosophy, all covered in a delicious syrup of comic brilliance.
What set apart The Good Place was the phenomenal job its ensemble cast in creating believable functioning characters. I should single out the three female leads, Kristen Bell (Eleanor), Janet (D'arcy Carden) and Jameela Jamil (Tahani) as being wonderful. Ms. Carden in particular shows the most versatility in her role as a cyborg/humanoid walking compendium of the all the world's knowledge. Bell, who has mainly played goody two-shoe types, turns in a nuanced performance as a damaged woman who matures into a confident, intelligent human being.
The male performers are led by Ted Danson (Michael). His performance as the demon who torments the four humans then becomes their ally, is jaw-dropping. I never was a fan of Mr.Danson's but his turn in the show is nothing less than amazing.
Manny Jacinto (Jason) has the thankless role of a failed Jacksonville hoodlum, dancer and DJ. He is the constant butt of some cruel jokes and his stupidity sometimes goes beyond what one could believe. Then again...
William Jackson Harper (Chidi) handles a difficult role with aplomb, veering from a super intelligent Professor of Philosophy to a bumbling indecisive milquetoast and finally a very believable romantic partner for Eleanor.
Yes the show has its flaws. There are sections where it bogs down ( especially when four new humans are introduced a experiments) and it is racist, homophobic and misogynistic in parts. But the show wins tons of points for taking on issues not dealt with on regular television. Where can you find a program that humorously and seriously addresses questions on the afterlife, moral behavior, human relations, the role of technology in modern society, liberal versus conservative values and the whole nature of judgment.
Add an impressive number of cameos from other stars (Maya Rudolf, Lisa Kudrow) and you have a great viewing experience. Personally, since I'm a gorehound and horror is my main squeeze, scenes of physical torture and splatter would have been nice. But those are sprinkled in, albeit lightly. The special effects are also clever and the pop culture references are used to hysterical advantage.
All things considered, The Good Place had me laughing out loud in segments and actually made me think in others. Which is my definition of entertainment. The Good Place is available on Netflix.
One Minute Film Reviews
The House That Jack Built- 2018- Directed by Lars Von Trier
I looked forward to watching this film being a die-hard gore fan and one who appreciates good filmmaking. Unfortunately, the movie falls short by almost every measure. Matt Dillon, an architect who happens to be a serial killer, is the mask Von Trier wears, in an ill-disguised effort to explain himself and his art. By turns preachy, verbose and violent, we are taken on a journey to hell, as if the previous two hours weren't bad enough. Although visuals are impressive, pacing and the attempts to get inside the killer's head are stagnant. Rate me disappointed and confused about what all the hoopla was about.
Birds of Prey, And the Fabulous Emancipation of, etc...,etc...-2020-
I didn't expect much out of this spin-off from Suicide Squad, because, frankly that movie was lame and overrated, if such a thing were possible. Despite some amusing moments Ella Jay Basco as an adolescent thief, the film depends on elaborate yet boring fight sequences and the charms of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. And yes, yet another movie where Commonwealth actors such as Ewan McGregor and Robbie are forced to use horrible Gotham ( New York) accents, fake as a politician's smile and shrill as a train whistle. Robbie's voice and non-stop mugging are so distracting that I day-dreamed of having one of the bad guys jam a ball-gag in her mouth.
I know the characters are supposed to be, well, characters, but gosh, so were Batman and the Joker in the Dark Night but they played it straight so to speak, for the benefit of the film. I guess the producers and director threw up their hands and surrendered.
Written and directed by Roman Polanski (yes I know, boo hiss) after Repulsion and before Fearless Vampire Killers, this odd little film is a cross between Tom Stoppard and Alice in Wonderland. Its mix of genres keeps the viewer mind twisted around careening from a gangster film to sex romp and perverse British humor. The cast is extraordinary featuring Donald Pleasence, Françoise Dorléac, Lionel Stander, Jack MacGowran, Iain Quarrier, Geoffrey Sumner, Renée Houston, William Franklyn and Jacqueline Bissett in her second film role. Dorléac, Catherine Deneuve's older sister had a promising career cut short when she died in a fiery crash on the way to catch a plane.
The cinematography, like all of Polanski's early films, is stark, contrasts between water, land, light, shadow and the banal with beauty. The movie is often overlooked, sandwiched between two of Polanski's most notable films, but is worth the watch, for nothing else than the brilliant performances by Pleasance, Stander and Dorléac.
Brunswick Stew- The South's One Pot Picnic
There are several schools of thought on where this staple of Southern summer celebrations originated. Virginians claim it for their own while Georgia is probably the correct birthplace. The spicy stew most likely descended from the burgoos of Kentucky, a spicy stew that used squirrel as its primary protein.
Well, squirrel meat is not that easy to come by so most modern recipes use a combination of slow cooked pork and chicken. Add onions, tomatoes, corn, bbq sauce and some hot sauce and you've got yourself a meal.
Variations include adding potatoes, lima beans and more meats, but this basic recipe will yield a fine dish suitable for your next barbecue.
4 Tablespoon butter
3 cloves garlic,, minced
1 large yellow onion,, finely chopped
1 (15 oz) can fire roasted tomatoes (undrained)
4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce, (I used Sweet Baby Ray's)
2 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pounds smoked pulled pork, (or chicken)
8 oz. frozen or fresh corn
Salt and pepper, to taste
Hot Sauce to taste
Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the garlic and onions and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, chicken stock, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire, brown sugar, cayenne, smoked pork, lima beans, corn and salt and pepper.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Of course you can't serve Brunswick Stew with corn muffins so here's a fool-proof recipe. Not too sweet, not dry, but just right!
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
1/4 cup corn or vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Add cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder to a large bowl and whisk to break up any clumps.
Combine egg, milk, and oil in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.
Pour batter into a greased muffin tin, filling each cup about halfway. Bake for 13-17 minutes or until toothpick stuck in the center comes out mostly clean. Don't overbake!
Serve warm with butter and a drizzle of honey, or as a side for chili.
Noted film critic and author David Thomson contrived one of the most bizarre uses of Claudia’s name. Mr. Thomson is widely r
The Renaissance of Horror on Streaming and the Small Screen
When does a fad become a fashion? Horror has been churning up momentum for quite a while. Movies which big time studios and, smaller producers such as Lionsgate and Blumhouse not to mention indie films, horror has been raking in receipts at the box office. But TV had been lagging behind because of censorship issues, except on cable. Some shows such as Tales From the Darkside kept non-cable subscribers tuned in but the sea change came with The Walking Dead. This gory, scary and pretty exploitation laden program benefited from great SFX , excellent acting and for many years, great stories.
The next generation of TV terror came by way of American Horror Story, an uneven but welcome addition to the genre.
However, the dawn of streaming services brought horror into our living rooms and PCs. An entire service, Shudder, is horror based and offers a array of films not generally available, except for those who wished to purchase the DVDs. Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Netflix also offer high quality transfers of older films , many of them in HD.
But I want to focus on two examples to show that the genre has staying power and has broadened its audience.
What We Do in the Shadows went from a cult classic to a TV series, now in its second season. Plans for a third season have just been announced. The program attracts a variety of viewers, fans of the original movie of course, but many people who have never seen the film are flocking to series. Men and women embrace the show as the characters, though monsters, are quite flawed and in many ways, lovable.
The other phenomenon is on Shudder, The Last Drive-In, hosted by Joe Bob Briggs and Darcy the Mail Girl. Joe Bob (born John Irving Bloom) has done just about everything. A noted author, newspaper columnist, movie critic, actor and host of now his third television show. His character is an unrepentant Texas redneck. He guzzles Lone Star beer while sharing background information on the films The Last Drive-In are showing. He has worked many now famous shticks into his routine as the "Drive-In Totals" and the tendency to say "now back to the movie" then speak for a few more minutes.
His observations are on point, his sense of humor flawless. It's also obvious Joe Bob has a love of the genre and the people who produce, direct and act in it. His guests have included Barbara Crampton, Lloyd Kaufman, Tom Savini and many others.
Darcy the Mailgirl complements Joe Bob with her imaginative cosplay outfits, all handmade. She is also a serious fan of the genre in addition to professional wrestling, video games and comic books. As witty as she is attractive, Darcy and Joe Bob have a wonderful rapport on camera. As a team, they enhance the experience of movie watching not detract from it.
The show's popularity is reflected by the fact Shudder's live streaming server has crashed on occasion because of the sheer volume of users tuning in.
Let us hope that the trend in cult, horror and the weird continue in all media. Recently, Creepshow has appeared as a new episodic TV show and shows great promise. In the meantime, I'll be a faithful viewer of What We Do in the Shadows and The Last Drive-In.
The BEST SCREEN ADAPTATIONS OF
THE NOVELLAS AND WORKS BY hOWARD pHILLIPS lOVECRAFT HAVE ALWAYS PROVIDED FERTILE GROUND FOR FILM ADAPTATIONS. iT MAY COME AS A SURPRISE THAT QUITE A FEW ATTEMPTS WERE MADE IN THE 1960'S BUT BECAUSE OF LOW-BUDGETS AND LIMITED sfx CAPABILITIES THE FILMS, THOUGH WELL MADE DID NOT PROVIDE A FULL COSMIC HORROR PUNCH.
mANY FILM VERSIONS OF LOVECRAFT'S WORKS TOOK GREAT LIBERTIES WITH HIS ORIGINAL STORIES. tHE WRITER'S GREAT THEMES WERE COSMIC HORROR, MANKIND'S INABILITY TO COPE WITH HIS RELATIVELY WORTHLESS PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE, MISCEGENATION AND DREAD OF THE UNKNOWN.MOST MODERN TREATMENTS OF HIS STORIES HAVE INCORPORATED EXTREME BODY HORROR AND GORE TO PROPEL THE NARRATIVES, MUCH TO THE DELIGHT OF TODAY'S AUDIENCES.
i DON'T FEEL A 100% FAITHFUL ADAPTATION OF ONE OF LOVECRAFT's stories is necessary, as long as the film is well produced such as director stuart gordon's long list of horror hits.
with said, here are my personal favorites, in no particular order
1. The Resurrected-1991
2. The Whisperer in the darkness-2011
3. From Beyond-1986
4. In the Mouth of madness-1994
5.Necronomicon- Book of the Dead-1993
8.The haunted palace-1963
9. the curse-1987
10. The Dunwich horror-1970
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.
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.
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 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.
Many of you are aware of my biography of Claudia, inspired by what I thought was unfair treatment of her memory.
Most of you are probably unaware of my novel, Mimi, my first published work. I tried to throw everything in to this very adult, paranormal, quirky, funny, tragic story of two lovers. The most important elements (besides seeing if I could write realistic sex scenes) were character development and dialogue. I think I succeeded. Mimi is sold just about everywhere and is also available on Kindle.
My Favorite 103 Films of All-time
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)
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 Comedies ou Should Watch Immediately- Trust me, you'll feel better.
Comedies come in many styles-slapstick, goofy, sophisticated,and everything in between. They are often levened with a bit of tension or even horror but keep their comic blood flowing. Silent or modern these are the films that keep us young at heart and hopeful when life is just too grim to stand. These days comedies are the most valuable commodity we have so spend a few hours with these pearls of brilliance. Many of these have a musical component which I find irresistable
Note- All of these are the original films
1.What's Up Tiger Lilly
2. Duck Soup
3. Sons of the Desert
4. Never Give a Sucker An Even Break
6. Kind Hearts and Coronets
8.Monty Python and the Holy Grail
9. Raising Arizona
My Current Top 100 Films in Cinema History
The 100 Most Influential Horror Movies of All Time
The influence a particular movie has in its genre can be determined in many ways. Did it bring something fresh as a concept, feature new and inventive cinematography, create enduring tropes, etc...The films on my list check off many of these boxes but some are more notorious than groundbreaking.
The seventies were in my humble opinion, the most influential decade for horror in the history of the genre. The intensity, violence and sheer bravado of these films still stand out almost 50 years forward . Acting, SFX and direction from the respectable cinema found their way into a genre that would have seemed unimaginable in prior years.
Halloween-1978- John Carpenter made the seminal slasher film for all time and composed the unforgettable score. Despite sequels, re-imaginings, remakes and other hybrids of the original film, good, bad and mediocre, the original film still stands head and shoulders above all movies of its kind. You can keep Jason, Freddy and the rest.
Eraserhead-1976- Made for a mere $10,000 by David Lynch, this nightmarish film established the director as a force to be reckoned with . Bizarre images, dream logic, body horror and an innovative sound design hold the wisp of a narrative together.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre-1974-directed by soon to be legendary film maker Tobe Hooper, this transgressive, shocking statement on fears and divides in the American social strata is one of the slasher films ever made. Although considered ultra-violent, the actual terror is suggested rather than shown in graphic detail.
The Exorcist-1973- William Friedkin's masterful film was the most honored horror film by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences until The Silence of the Lambs and the Shape of Water. It started a sub-genre of the Devil versus us regular folks which continues to this day. There were films about Satanism prior to this but the tale of possession captured the public's imagination. People thronged to theaters to see green vomit, head spinning, graphic masturbation with a crucifix, all initiated by a pre-pubescent girl. Holy shit, indeed.
Jaws- 1975- Stephen Spielberg's film of natural terrors scared people out of the ocean for a few summers. Few thought that a movie featuring a giant fish biting back at mankind's intrusion into its environment would be successful. Were they wrong. A grand cast, excellent photography and pretty good practical efx, set the cinema scene for every manner of earthly creature to revolt.
Don't Look Now-1970- Nic Roeg's giallo masterpiece feature a very hot and realistic sex scene, a graphic murder or two, and an eerie atmosphere worthy of Bava or Argento. The photography and editing are pristine, as one would expect from a Roeg film. The spectacle is imbued with death and tragedy and can be read as the human inability to escape fate.
Dawn of the Dead-1978- George Romero's follow up to Night of the Living Dead is still the standard in splatter operas. Tom Savini was given full license in executing the SFX and the eye popping gore and violence was phenomenal. Where NOTLD was a contemplation on the effects of the Viet Nam War on domestic society, DOTD was a swipe at American consumerism . The film works as a horror film and as social commentary.
Suspiria- 1977- Never has the delirium of violence been better represented than Argento's classic giallo. Equally stylish and violent, the color palate seems chosen from an LSD trip and the film is enhanced by the Goblins' thumping musical score.
Carrie-1976- Brian De Palma's masterful interpretation of Stephen King's novel made both men icons in the world of horror. Nominated for an Academy Award, a talented cast brought the this story of mental telepathy to the forefront of terror films. It also started the genre of "mind over matter" stories that hasn't abated over the years.
The Last House on the Left- 1972- Wes Craven's remake of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring, gave new energy to the Rape/Revenge genre. Depressing, violent and heartless, the film helped launch the careers of Craven and producer Sean Cunningham (Friday the 13th). If you find the movie disturbing, keep in mind the original concept had more deviant sex and graphic violence.
Flat Iron Steaks with Chermoula
Summer cooking calls for bold flavors to perk up heat jaded appetites. Chermoula is an ideal condiment that goes with just about anything. It can be used as a salad dressing for chilled, cooked vegetables and legumes, a marinade for meats and fish and finally a sauce for finished proteins.
This recipe calls for using it as part of the marinade and a finishing sauce. Flat Iron steaks are cut from the shoulder of the cow, along the blade. An unlikely location for a tender portion, flat irons are a decent value and have a great mouth feel and flavor.
3/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4–1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup (packed) cilantro leaves with tender stems
1 cup (packed) parsley leaves with tender stems
1/2 cup (packed) mint leaves
- Toast coriander and cumin seeds in a dry small skillet, tossing occasionally, until very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Let cool, then lightly crush with a spice grinder.
Purée toasted seeds, garlic, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, paprika, salt, and red pepper flakes in a blender until spices are ground and mixture is very smooth.
Add cilantro, parsley, and mint; process until well combined but slightly textured.
4-5 flat iron steaks
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup Chermoula
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 TB sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Combine all marinade ingredients.
Mix until well combined and seasonings dissolved into liquid.
Place meat in ziploc bag; pour marinade over.
Marinate for 1-2 hours, turning occasionally.
Grill meat according to desired doneness.
Serve Chermoula on the side.
Cla The Sinful Dwarf-1974
s Director- Vidal Raski
Writers- Harlan Asquith, William Mayo
Starring-Anne Sparrow, Tony Eades,Clara Keller and Torben as the Dwarf
Did Somebody Order Danish?
Denmark is generally recognized as one of the more passive of the group of passive nations known as the Nordic States. Excellent baked goods, superb butter, Hans Christian Andersen, you know, the whole schmear. Who would have thought that in the sinful 1970s Denmark produced some impressive pornographic films. Then The Sinful Dwarf came along. This beauty combines sexploitation with a "roughie" sensibility borrowed from the bowels of porn to give the viewer a bath of decadent sleaze.
At the heart of the story is Olaf (the Dwarf) and his dear old mum, who run a boarding house which is a front for a white slavery, prostitution, heroin smuggling and all kinds of nastiness.
The movie opens with Olaf luring a young girl (her pigtails suggest she's a teen but her body confesses the lady is at least 25) to the house, where he knocks her unconscious with his cane and strips her. The poor thing is then made a junkie and forced to service gentlemen callers.
A recently married couple has the misfortunate to rent a room at , as Popeye would say it "a house of ill-re-pukes". They settle in where their love-making is watched by the very horny and voyeuristic little person. One day Olaf makes his move. The little sprite clubs the husband senseless, violates the wife with his handy cane then rapes her.
Torben makes a frightening presence with a maniacal grin and a distorted face that would give munchkins nightmares for weeks. And no, it's not an adolescent Jack Black in the title role. His mother, an alcoholic former cabaret singer, entertains by doing Carmen Miranda and Marlene Dietrich numbers in costume- actually quite effective given the budget of the film.
The film perfectly captures the sleazy atmosphere. In the room where the women lay stoned and used on dirty mattresses, you can almost smell the sweat and sex oozing from the screen.
In a universe where Dwarf sexploitation rarely lives up to its promise, this movie delivers and then some. If you appreciate beautiful women in peril, sex, drug use, abuse, mechanical animals and nudity, take a bite of this Scandinavian smorgasbord of sleaze.