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.

Dark Greetings, Mutants!

Looking forward to meeting many of you downtown for a special weekend. Can't wait to discuss horror, pop culture, cooking , sports and whatever. .

Happy Belated Valentines Day, y'all! This edition of Claudia's blog is dedicated to love and women. Plus a look at Roger Corman's career and a film comparison of Anna Biller's The Love Witch versus George Romero's Season of the Witch aka Hungry Wives aka Jack's Wife.

Let's begin with a bit of romance...or how I fell in love with Claudia Jennings.

It was easy to do. After viewing several of her films I became fascinated her aura as a B movie Queen. This led to further research (which ended up being a biography) from which I found the young Mary Elizabeth ( Mimi) Chesterton. A bright, outgoing child, one whose mother pushed her into stage performing at the age of 6. 

Then came a disjointed period of time when the young Mimi and her family moved to six different states before ending up in Evanston, Illinois. This must have been fate, or determinism at work, as Chicago was home to Playboy Enterprises at the time. 

But my fondness for Claudia had less to do with her physical loveliness than her vulnerability and humanity. Highly intelligent, and sensitive, Mimi adjusted to the sometimes brutal realities of teen-age life. She found a way to fit in with "the in-crowd" as one former beau put it. He said this in a derogatory manner but it seemed very much a defense mechanism on her part. She excelled at academics, was a member of the cheerleading squad and joined the drama club. Instead of withering under the pressure of being the new girl in school, she blossomed and aggressively fought to fit in. 

 

Her high school years, were a time of discovery for Mimi, as they are for many. But she developed some wonderful traits, which lasted her entire life. A sincere fondness for animals of all kinds and a love of children were typical of the inner core of her personality.  Mimi did suffer abuse during these turbulent years, which makes her ultimate arrival as a sweet personality even more wondrous. In short time , Mimi would move on to Playboy where she was reborn as Claudia Jennings. But the marvelous individual that Mimi Chesterton was, still existed inside the glitz and glamour of Hugh Hefner's contrived fantasy world. 

My Dark Rom/Com for February

Dogs Don't Wear Pants- 2019

Directed by JP Valkeapaa

Starring- Pekka Strang, Krista Kosonen, Illona Huhta

Cinematography-Pietari Peltola

Music by Michal Nejtek

If Ingmar Bergman and Gaspar Noe' had a love child in cinema form it might look something like this film. Saturated with Scandinavian melancholy, meditations about loneliness and loss, all fused with a technicolor synthetic pop culture incorporating self-abuse and mutilation. 

Juha (Pekka Srang), a talented surgeon, is emotionally barren, the pain still lingering seven years after his wife's tragic drowning accident. He is struggling to raise their young teen daughter , Elli (Illona Huhta), and the everyday pressure is beginning to grind his internal gears to the breaking point.

After Elli convinces Juha to take her to a tattoo parlor for a tongue piercing (as a way for enhancing oral sex) he wanders around the shop, not wanting to witness the spectacle. Odd for a surgeon but o.k., could happen.

Juha literally stumble on the basement "dungeon" where he watches a gorgeous dominatrix, Mona (Krista Kosonen), do her thing with a client. Liberated and aroused by the spectacle he initiates a sub/dom relationship with her.

He finds that through various forms of torture and humiliation (asphyxiation seems to be the most cathartic) the sting, misery and emptiness of his life can start to heal.  When being choked and bagged, he has visions of his wife's drowning, which I suppose is a breakthrough for him. Mona also provides him with a "safe-word". A large handheld ball dropped in a metal bucket means playtime is over. 

As Juha delves deeper into the world of BDSM his professional and family life are put at risk. He decides random self-mutilation would be a dandy idea as well. Doc also attempts to kiss Mona on one occasion, breaking the wall between dominatrix and client, so severely that she gives him a first class bitch slap as a reward.

Valkeapapa carefully treads the line between despair and hope, even throwing in a few sardonic moments to lighten the mood. By the end of the film, we see a definite change in the characters. Ellie takes her tongue piercing out and chucks it in the trash. This signal a truce between daughter and dad, even as the unstoppable forces of puberty are raging through her. Juha accepts his new life as the newest member of the BDSM society, Finnish Chapter. He proudly wears his skimpy black leather and chain outfit to an after hours techno-music club that Mona frequents. She walks in and their eyes meet. In an unhappy world of pain, loss and regret, this is as happy an ending we can hope for.

Technically, the film is exquisite, with crisp direction, superior editing and intense cinematography. The acting is incredible with Kosonen and Strang carrying the film on their shoulders. This is an intense film, not for the youngins, but more satisfying than 90% of the junk out there now. One last word, there are subtitles but no English dubbed versions as of yet.

The Love Witch (2016) and Season of the Witch (1972)

Two feminist films, from different generations and two directors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Love Witch has never gotten the praise it deserves. Although somewhat derivative from the films of the 1970s, it is a rich spectacle, full of humor and infused with a vivid color palate. Directed by Anna Biller with sardonic humor and wit, it shows two sides of the feminist movement, one being the original that sought political and social reform through a liberal agenda and the other, a more radical strain, seeking to overthrow the patriarchy and toxic masculinity. 

 

The protagonist of The Love Witch, Elaine (brilliantly played by Samantha Robinson) is determined to find the perfect man to love her completely. Her love potions and spells entice men into her arms, but leave them weak and helpless. Thus, she is attracted to strong handsome men but repulsed by their unconditional love which has, in effect, made them regress to infancy. 

There is a lot of nudity and suggestive dress in the film, risking criticism of objectifying women. However Elaine is so supremely confident and comfortable in her role, it is difficult to see her as a victim at any point in the film, with the exception of one scene. And that is when the townspeople are whipped into a frenzy over their hatred of Wiccans, and attempt to gangrape and murder Elaine. 

By the end of the movie, we see her, seated next to her ideal man, who she has just stabbed to death. Elaine has retreated into a fantasy world, one where little girls grow up to be princesses and marry a handsome prince, riding off on a white horse to live happily ever after. I imagine Ms. Biller is telling us that even witches have a hard time levelling the playing field and breaking the glass ceiling, at least the one overhanging their beds. 

The film has a dream-like quality to it- colors are more vivid than natural and the interior shots have a neo-Victorian quality to them. A Renaissance fair seems to sprout out of nowhere during a bucolic horse-riding scene when Elaine and her ideal man are traipsing through the woods.

Elaine herself with bright red lips and fingernails, garish blue eye shadow, represents the uncomfortable position of the whore/Madonna complex that women are put in. If they are too eager for sex or have engaged in pre-marital sex, a woman is considered damaged goods. Then, if the woman is virginal, the man interprets this as an invitation for sexual adventure. Either way, the woman is caught up in man's lust, with no attention paid to her wants and needs. 

Romero's film takes a similar approach, only the protagonist turns to witchcraft as a means for survival not primarily sexual conquest, although that is a happy benefit. Joan (Jan White) is a bored, lonely wife, approaching middle age and vexed by an abusive husband and rebellious teen-aged daughter. Her bourgeois friends are cocooned in their little worlds of card playing and day drinking which Joan feels increasingly alienated from. She finds two methods of relief- joining a coven of witches and starting an affair with the much younger boyfriend of her daughter. He calls her "Mrs. Robinson" and she refers to him as "kid." Its actually pretty charming in the context of the film.

One remarkable thing about The Love Witch is how much Ms. Biller pays tribute to Romero's film. The witches' ceremonies are identical and Joan has almost the same make-up palette as Elaine, although a bit less vibrant. Given the cost of color filmmaking in 1972 as opposed to 2016, that is not surprising. 

Season of the Witch has much less nudity and simulated sex than The Love Witch. Apparently, severe cuts were made in the original print, some of which have never been located. A shame because I have no doubt Romero's vision must have been outstanding. I've seen most of his films, yet I have to admit that there is something special about Season of the Witch. Unusually subtle for what we've come to expect from the Father of the Modern Zombie film, the dialogue and acting are nuanced, therefore ringing true for the characters. I think Romero, probably more than any other male director of the exploitation age, captured the essence of feminism in this taught tale of terror. I would recommend watching Romero's film first then view Ms. Biller's work. Fabulous movies from fabulous directors.

The Incomparable Roger Corman

I never cease to sing the praises of Mr. Corman. A true gentleman, in every sense of the word, he is an artist, a craftsman and a visionary leader in the world of cinema. With an eye for talent, he helped mentor some of the greatest legends in cinema history. 

Roger was born in Michigan and graduated from Stanford University. He began his film career at 20th Century Fox working in the mailroom but worked his way up to story reader, where he recommended the script for what became The Gunfighter starring Gregory Peck.

It wasn't long before Corman started directing and producing his own films. He developed the Corman system of economic filmmaking. Using the same set and shooting back to back films, Corman started to churn out an increasing number successful low budget films. 

Corman produced or directed a number of genre films early in his career, with Westerns and Science Fiction becoming his specialties. During this period he also made many gangster films, including two that gave Charles Bronson and Jack Nicholson their first roles. 

Roger was now becoming a legend in Hollywood for streamlined shooting schedules. His 1960 hit, Little Shop of Horrors took only two days to film, unheard of these days. 

The list of stars, directors, cinematographers and screenwriters is too long to list. Nic Roeg was his camera man on The Masque of the Red Death. He financed Peter Bogdanovich's first film, Targets. He created the biker film craze with his movie, The Wild Angels

This grandmaster of the low budget exploitation film ( his words not mine!) will be 95 in April and shows no sign of slowing down. We wish him all the best in the future and may God continue to bless him and his family. Every fan of cinema owes him a huge debt of gratitude.

Movie Review

Color Out of Space-2019-

Directed by Richard Stanley

Starring- Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madison Arthur, Julian Hilliard, Elliot Knight, Tommy Chong, Brendan Meyer

HP Lovecraft is notoriously difficult to translate to the modern screen. Richard Stanley makes a noble effort to bring The Colour Out of Space to the big screen. This is actually the second attempt to film this short story- Die, Monster, Die with Boris Karloff and Nick Adams made in 1965 took liberties with the story but kept true to the framework of the original work.

 

Stanley, with the benefit of 21st century SFX, does create an awesome visual treat for fans of cosmic horror. He also blends a unique take on the original short story, by making the spectacle a ghoulish family film, full of all the horrors of a typical American dysfunctional unit. 

 

Alas, the visuals and imaginings are let down by some of the cast. One has to wonder what Stanley was thinking when he cast Nic Cage in the lead role. One review I read lauded his performance as successfully toned down compared to some of his recent performances. I would disagree. It took a while, but when Hurricane Nic finally arrives, it drains the tension and horror from the film. Cage pivots from pathetic, to desperate, to rage and and unintentional comedy, all unconvincingly. 

 

Tommy Chong is also miscast as the mysterious squatter living on Cage's farmlands. Lacking the edge of Tom Waits as hermit Bob in The Dead Don't Die, Chong keeps his stoner persona from the 60s and it doesn't work in a film filled with mystical horror and tension. 

 

The rest of the cast stands out and do outstanding work. I'm amazed how juvenile and young actors can handle true horror and transgressive material these days. Joely Richardson bravely holds her own as Cage's long suffering spouse.

Nic Cage plays a city transplant trying to scratch out a living in extra-rural Massachusetts. One night, a meteor the size of a pot-bellied stove comes barreling down in the middle of the dense woods, trickling steams and bleating Alpacas, right onto Nic's farm. Everyone is weirded out, especially the youngest sibling, Jack Gardiner who seems to be the most sensitive to the strange powers of the space rock. The family is under a fair amount of stress to begin with with Nic, trying to raise alpacas for fun and profit, a wife (Richardson) who is a cancer survivor, a son who is a stoner and a teenage daughter that is practicing witchcraft. No spoiler here, but the presence of an extraterrestrial organism that infects mind and body isn't likely to add stability.

A stranger, and hunk, Ward Phillips (played by Elliot Knight) wanders in to this unhappy place to do a survey for a new dam. He seems  to be the only one unaffected by the madness, but at the same time, he seems impotent to do anything about the threat. Soon, the situation becomes stranger and stranger with odd vegetation, colorful unearthly lights and mutated alpacas. 

Shortcomings aside, Color Out Space does a lot of things well. In particular, a scene where one of the characters gets a brief glimpse of the home planet of the meteor is stunning. The combination of Grand Guignol, body horror, the influence of The Thing and excellent sound makes this a enjoyable watch for horror and Lovecraft fans. Apparently Stanley has plans to make a trilogy of HP films, the next slated to be The Dunwich Horror. I can't say this is the best adaption of a Lovecraft tale- The Mouth of Madness gets my vote- but where else can you see Nic Cage go ape shit in a cosmic horror film.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Fashioned Apple Cobbler

I was blessed to receive an authentic, made in America, Lodge Cast Iron skillet for my birthday. I've been keeping it busy all summer with desserts, cornbread and even savory items. For Fall, nothing beats an apple dessert, its aromas filling the house, promising the taste of Autumn and the advent of Halloween!

If you don't own a Lodge skillet the instructions are the same for any well-made, single forged, cast iron cookware. Enjoy!

 

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 cups peeled, sliced apples-any good variety for cooking will do-Macintosh, Braeburn, Honeycrisp or combination will do.

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg

1 tablespoon of cornstarch

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk

1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Vanilla bean ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving, optional

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the brown sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, spices and the apples in a bowl. Place the butter in the cast iron pan and place in the oven.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and transfer to the preheated oven to melt. 

  2. Meanwhile, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Stir in the milk, 1 cup sugar, the lemon juice, zest and vanilla to combine. . Remove the hot skillet with the melted butter from the oven and add the apple mixture. Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and pour batter over the apples. Bake until brown and the batter has risen up and around the fruit, about 30 minutes. 

  3. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly. Serve with vanilla bean ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

                                 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. 

 

Cul-de-Sac-1966

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 roleDorléac, 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.

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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.

Ingredients

  • 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

 

Instructions

  • 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!

IngIngredients

  • 1 cup cornmeal

  • 1 cup flour

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 4 tsp baking powder

  • 1 egg

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1/4 cup corn or vegetable oil

Instructions

  • 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

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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

                  H.P.LOVECRAFT WORKS

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

6.Re-Animator-1985

7. Dagon-2001

8.The haunted palace-1963

9. the curse-1987

10. The Dunwich horror-1970

                                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                         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  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

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  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

5.The Producers

6. Kind Hearts and Coronets

7.ModernTimes

8.Monty Python and the Holy Grail

9. Raising Arizona  

10. Clerks

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 1970s

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.

featured recipes

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. 

INGREDIENTS

    • 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

PREPARATION

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. Add cilantro, parsley, and mint; process until well combined but slightly textured.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all marinade ingredients.

  2. Mix until well combined and seasonings dissolved into liquid.

  3. Place meat in ziploc bag; pour marinade over.

  4. Marinate for 1-2 hours, turning occasionally.

  5. Grill meat according to desired doneness.

  6. Serve Chermoula on the side.

 

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   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. 

 

For any inquiries, please email us @ericjonathan@claudiajenningsbyerickarell.com

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