Saturday, 26 December 2015

INBETWEENERS











































I watch a lot of cartoons. The crappier they are, the more I like them. One of the things I most look out for are the transitional drawings that appear for a split second before something or someone else is superimposed upon them, or for a moment just after something happens: the landscapes and interiors and backdrops to the action. Some are pleasingly abstract, others almost surreal. They are art without a subject, a void waiting to be filled - usually with inanity. For what it's worth, these come from the 1970/71 Hanna-Barbera series, Josie and the Pussycats.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

BROKEN MINDS BRING BAD LUCK

















SUSPIRIA, d. Dario Argento (1977)
Suspiria is a ghost train of a film. It also looks gorgeous, even when it’s showing us extremely ugly things. The plot can be summarised in one short line ('woman discovers witches'), but the pleasure of the film is in its atmosphere and its design and it’s full on, balls out, bonkers bombast, a surreal nightmare in Technicolor with a deafening soundtrack. It’s the sort of film where a young woman frantically crawls through a tiny window to escape a killer, only to fall into a room full of razor wire. It’s a wonder, and a hell of a ride.     

Thursday, 10 December 2015

THE PRIZE, AND KNOWING WHERE THE REAL THING LIES


As you may know, I’m from Essex. It’s a big place, a multi-faceted area that is largely rural, but also sits on the right hand of London, making big parts of the county a sort of avalanche into a black hole, if such a thing could exist. Forget all the tired new and tired old signifiers: Ford cars, blond highlights, white stilettos, decorated vaginas, inarticulate cretins with big white teeth. These clich├ęs simply do not reflect the diverse social and cultural landscape of Essex.
That said, the people of this wondrous county have always loved a slice of soul music and, when I was growing up there in the 80s, it seemed to blare from every house, from every pub, from every car, from every transistor radio. This wasn’t rough and ready soul with a growl or a choke in its voice, but the smooth soul stuff, the sort of music that accompanies heavy petting in a darkened room. I never liked it much, but what can you do? If you live in Slovakia, you’d better learn to polka.
As a boy, I used to attend a club called The Embassy Suite which claimed to ‘put the beat in your feet’ with a constant barrage of Benson, Vandross, Pendergrass and British born rubbish like Shakatak and Level 42.  The music was formulaic, very professional, and very bland. But there were girls there, and there was Shalamar, a US band who had a period of British superstardom following the release of their superb album Friends in early 1982.
The record is choc-full of hits, but my favourite has always been I Can Make You Feel Good. You just can’t go far wrong with a great song performed by talented people in knee length boots. It’s brilliantly produced and has no rough edges, yet it isn’t bland or anodyne. The lyrics are considered and complex, and don’t reference getting down on the floor or making sweet love. Instead, it’s about someone offering to pick up the pieces, an offer of love and long-term loyalty in a world of wolves. It’s hopeful, and joyful, and sincere. It sounds like they mean it, and that makes it a real soul record, not just a facsimile.
It is a song that reconnects me to a long gone time and place, and temporarily charges me with the energy and optimism of youth. And, yes, that makes me feel good, really good.   

Sunday, 6 December 2015

INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES OF THE DAY














A small selection of some of the many lovely subtitles from the bizarre Convent Of The Holy Beast

Friday, 4 December 2015

SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS

















CONVENT OF THE HOLY BEAST, d. Noribumi Suzuki (1974)


A young woman goes Nun-derecover© at a creepy convent to find the people who murdered her mother and put her up for adoption. She uncovers the usual lesbianism, hoarding of pornography, sausage stealing, topless whippings, punishment by rose and non-stop masturbation, but also a horrible secret about her own birth and the hypocrisy of those supposedly serving God. 

I would call it sleazy and dirty, because it is, but it's not disgusting and filthy, so I can justify enjoying it.

Friday, 27 November 2015

THE BLACK MAN IN THE COSMOS





















SPACE IS THE PLACE, d. John Coney (1974) 

I could never really love anyone who doesn’t think Sun Ra is cool. I don’t mean that you have to have all his records, or be able to present a short documentary on him. You might even think that some of his music is atonal skronk, or a bit daft. But to watch the middle aged, slightly tubby Sun Ra, in his ornamental Egyptian headdress, his hands a blur, transported by the joyful noise (or terrible racket) he’s making, and not think ‘that’s cool’? Nah, we’re not destined to be best friends. 

Ra grew up in hard times and in a hard place. He was an outsider all his life. To survive, he constructed a story about himself that placed him in a better, kinder world, a world where he was just visiting, bringing a message of love and friendship and equality. In this story it didn’t matter that he was black, or gay (or however he identified, if he even did), or a dreamer: he came from Saturn, they were all like that there. 

Space Is The Place is an uneven attempt to blend some of Ra’s philosophy and otherworldly charm with elements of a Blaxploitation narrative. The resulting film fluctuates between boring and brilliant, but Ra and his band shine throughout like stars. Hearing Sonny talk, fluently, eloquently, utterly immersed in his 'role', is a wonderful experience. I was reminded that, in 1971, he gave a series of talks at Berkeley University. The subject? ‘The Black Man in the Cosmos’. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

COFFY CREAMS

























COFFY, d. Jack Hill (1973)


There is no-one better at revenge than Pam Grier. She uses her intelligence and charm and prodigious physical gifts to full effect in the pursuit of shooting villains in the head, in the groin, anywhere villains don’t like to be shot, which is pretty much everywhere.

In Coffy, Pam is targeting the sort of low life scum who put her sister in an early grave, the pimps and pushers of the world, mostly men – men who think Coffy is there to be fucked when, in fact, she’s actually there to fuck them. And she gets away with it, too, not exactly unscathed but certainly unpunished, a recurring feature of Blaxploitation, where the official forces of law and order as administered by ‘The Man’ don’t really apply.

Friday, 13 November 2015

DRAXPLOITATION

























TOMB OF DRACULA, d. Akinori Nagaoka / Minoru Okazaki (1980)


A weird, wordy hybrid of Marvel and Manga, here Dracula is a rather pathetic, mustachioed, rat faced creature who has been reluctantly living the vampire life since Satan bestowed it upon him 400 years ago. Over the course of ninety minutes he kills about a dozen people, gets married, has a son, loses his powers, eats a cheese burger and goes back to Transylvania to look up an old flame, all the while being pursued by cross bow wielding kung fu vampire hunters and the wrathful agents of God himself, including Dracula's dead son.   

Monday, 9 November 2015

THANKS, FRINK - FRANKS

























GLASGOW, FIVE MINUTES AGO 


An irradiated monster stalks these islands. Nobody knows what it wants, but it's got something to do with children. This week it's in Scotland, but it's also been spotted in Orford, Weymouth and Porton Down. You can shoot at it all you want, it won't make any difference.

Friday, 6 November 2015

EARTH GIRLS AREN'T EASY



I am clearly not the Rich White Ladies target audience, but, nevertheless, their music says something to me, mainly that I know nothing about contemporary mores or, indeed, about 21st century life in general. 

Actually, my reaction to them is complex. They make me feel foolish, because I live in their world and I know hardly anything about it, but they also make me feel optimistic about my short term chances: I mean, I definitely like this track, so I must sort of get it, even if I don't really get it. So perhaps there's hope for me. 

I may not be at the sharp end, but I'm not yet so blunt that I don't recognise that 'babies can't read / robots can't bleed' is a great pop line, and, when you think about it, virtually impossible to argue with.

Monday, 2 November 2015

THE FEAR OF THE YEAR IS HERE























DR. BLACK AND MR. HYDE, d. William Crain (1976)


So hastily put together that they didn’t ever bother to think up a proper pun for the title (surely 'Doctor Blackyll’ would have sufficed?), this shocker stars Bernie Casey, a charismatic and powerful presence from a number of films of this era, including the amazing 'The Man Who Fell To Earth'. It all goes pretty much as you would expect, but much, much slower. 

Its main pleasure is the five minutes of plot (an altruistic Doctor* tries to cure cirrhosis of the liver but instead concocts a serum that turns him into an albino psychopath with super strength), and the finale in which the Doctors brutish icing sugar dusted alter ego is shot comprehensively to death by the authorities as he tries to climb one of the Watts Towers: mad black science meets ghetto folk art.

* He works at the 'Watts Free Clinic and Thrift Shop'.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

ANNOUNCEMENT / APOLOGY




















On 3rd March, 2015 I stated that I would bring more Blaxploitation and Vampires to this Blog. There have been some vampires, but very little on the genre that ruled the world for a few feverish years. I have failed you. So, there will be lots of posts about Blaxploitation this month, because I like it and I promised. Also, some vampires. 

Or, as in Scream, Blacula, Scream, a bit of both.