Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Ghastly Ones Aren't Kidding




Andy Milligan's 1968 costume-gore schlockathonfest The Ghastly Ones is so bad it's...bad.

Just plain bad.

The sets are dimly lit. The sound is muddy. The gore is unconvincing. The dialogue is stilted. The actors are wooden.

And the gazongas are completely uninspired - not what you want for an exploitation movie whose premise is that the three couples must spend the night in "sexual harmony" in the old house on the lonely island before they get the money.

Something Weird usually unearths some good CACA but this ain't it. It took a hardened viewer four separate attempts to get through this turkey.

No coils. Avoid.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

NFL '07 - Staggering to the Finish

Last week was dreadful.

That's all I have to say at this moment.

Tonight the Patriots will cover 14 points as they make mincemeat of the Giants. Never mind Brady and Moss - it's the New England secondary that will shut down the New York passing game.

Only Eli Manning won't figure that out until they've scored twice on interceptions.


Sunday morning...

I was dead wrong about the score and mostly wrong about Manning and the New England secondary - until Hobbs picked off the lad in the fourth quarter, which led to the Death Blow.

That was the best pro game I've seen in a while. And how about that unprecedented act of generosity on the part of the NFL, allowing those of us without the NFL Network to see the game?

(Call your cable company...call your cable company... )

Right. Here are the scenarios for games that mean something:

Car -3 at TB: Bucs began resting players last week vs. San Francisco.

NO -2 at Chi: Saints blew it last week but have a teensy-weensy chance of sliding into the playoffs, so they must win.

SF +10 at Cle: Browns are in with a Tennessee loss. Win or lose here doesn't matter, and Niners have been stubborn lately.

Was -9 vs. Dal: Figure Cowboys resting people and win-and-in for Redskins and this is an easy pick.

Min +3 at Den: Vikes have very slim hope for playoffs.

SD - 8.5 at Oak: With win Chargers avoid Patriots until final round of playoffs, assuming they get that far.

Pit - 3.5 at Bal: Steelers could get that #3 spot if the Chargers lose.

Ind +6 vs. Ten: Win-and-in for Titans, Indy's all set...but I still have a problem passing up the Colts as home underdogs.

The rest:

GB +4 vs. Det: Nothing on the line, but again, hard to pass up a good team at home plus points.

KC +6.5 at NYJ: Loser gets a better draft pick, and needs it.

Phi -8 vs. Buf

Mia + 2.5 vs. Cin

Jax - 6.5 at Hou: Jags are in at #5, but I'm thinking they'll play this like a tuneup, not a gimme...

Atl -1 vs. Sea: ...as opposed to this one, where the Seahawks are going to relax.

AZ -6 vs. StL: From the "somebody has to win this" file; Cards would finish with .500 record.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

NFL '07 - Week 16

(Sunday morning update)

Hmm - already down 0-2 for the week. Talk about stumbling to the finish line...

Which is exactly what's going to happen to the Giants today in Buffalo. They are going to gag, and get shoved around by New England next week, and have to back into the playoffs. Buf + 2.5 vs. NYG.

NYJ + 8.5 at Ten: Jets hang in these games, you have to give them that.

Cle -2.5 at Cin

GB -8.5 at Chi

Ind -7 vs. Hou

Det -4.5 vs. KC

Mia +22 at NE

Oak +13 at Jax

NO -3 vs. Phi

Min - 6.5 vs. Was

AZ -10 vs. Atl

Bal +11 at Sea

TB - 5.5 at SF

SD - 8.5 vs. Den

Saturday, December 22, 2007

An Abrupt Shift

The other day I posted a diatribe in which I made some extremely rude remarks about people I know well. The remarks were based on my complete misinterpretation of a situation. Had I simply walked down the hall and asked a couple of questions the entire thing could have been cleared up in five minutes.

So I offer this apology, in this space.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

NFL '07 - Week 16

By golly. It seems as if it was only yesterday when the pro football season started. The Jets were still in the league, and everything was possible.

Now Michael Vick's in the can, Everybody Hates Belichek and the Steelers can't buy a win.

Which leads me to tonight's contest, thankfully restricted to the 187 homes that receive the NFL Network. Nothing much to choose from here, as St. Louis is a 7.5 point home 'dog against Pittsburgh. The Steelers' offensive production has been so uneven that I am hesitant to lay this amount - so I won't. Rams plus seven and a half.

Saturday Dallas is another road favorite, giving 10.5 at Carolina. The Panthers are 2-5 against the spread (according to the excellent gambling section of USA Today); however, the Panthers will still be clawing for a barely possible playoff spot.

But Dallas has even greater incentives - to ensure home field for the playoffs, and to ease Jessica Simpson's mind about poor Tony. So I'll take Dallas and lay the points.

8-8 last week; season 97-104-6

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rooting for Dirty Laundry

The Mitchell report, released last week, told us pretty much what we'd suspected all along - that a lot of players used steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in the last 15 years or so, the owners knew about it, and nobody did much of anything until Barry Bonds became a made-to-order fall guy.

But for me it's the last straw.

Rooting for the laundry, as Jerry Seinfeld said? Sure, that's what I've been doing, with less and less real interest each year.

After all, when a fan needs a working knowledge of contract law to follow the migrations of talent, it's fair to state that the Baseball Experience has lost some of its innocence. Am I rooting for laundry or an agent?

I certainly don't feel much kinship with fellow fans. It's more like the camaraderie inspired by being part of the same massive class-action lawsuit.

I am part of a tribe that used to root for the New York Mets, and now pulls for a corporation to make good personnel moves and hefty profits. "Hey, didja see the quarterly report?!" has replaced the excitement when a homegrown prospect makes the jump from AA to the bigs.

Following major league baseball is a lifelong habit, and it's dying hard. I won't even try to break it off cleanly; I'll listen on the radio during the summer and check the box scores.

But the Mitchell report makes it clear to me that the people who get rich off this game have nothing but contempt for the suckers who make it all possible.

Why this has taken so long is a tribute to my own nostalgic delusions and willingness to absorb endless indignities on the way to a World Series.

But no more. I will not expend one smidgen of emotion on my favorite gang of sullen multi-millionaires.

Unless, of course, the Mets get hot in September.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Cinema - Night of Bloody Horror, or The Film Major Dad Hopes You'll Never Rent





Night of Bloody Horror (1969) is a relentlessly rotten flick that proves once again that the most dangerous thing a young woman with a beehive hairdo can say to a supposed homicidal maniac is "Boy, you're touchy."

Gerald McRaney, an actual real actor who makes a living, and who starred in the relentlessly rotten TV series "Major Dad," plays Wesley, a skinny dork with a bad temper, a history of mental instability and no pugilistic skills.

Wes lives with his weird mother and farts around in the back yard when he isn't having psychedelic migraines and getting his caboose kicked in saloons.

When his lady friends keep turning up in bloody chunks suspicion naturally falls on Wes. It's not fair, but since Vietnam, what is?

The "action" takes the viewer from a dimly-lit bar to a dimly-lit police station, to dimly-lit house and dimly-lit apartment, with a detour to a dimly-lit beach.

The whole thing is, as the boys at Cahiers du Cinema used to say during the Golden Age of film criticism, "excitingly underexposed."

The cops don't arrest Wes, for no apparent reason. They also don't have southern accents, despite being in New Orleans. Nor do they have the New Orleans accent A.J. Liebling described in The Earl of Louisiana:

"There is a New Orleans city accent . . . associated with downtown New Orleans, particularly with the German and Irish Third Ward, that is hard to distinguish from the accent of Hoboken, Jersey City, and Astoria, Long Island, where the Al Smith inflection, extinct in Manhattan, has taken refuge. The reason, as you might expect, is that the same stocks that brought the accent to Manhattan imposed it on New Orleans."

No, these cops just sound like ordinary shlubs, and while this lack of verisimilitude would kill lesser films, "Night of Bloody Horror" survives, in part because of some excellent axe work, in part due to the psychedelic freakout scenes, and mostly because of the splendid bar scene featuring a band called "The Bored."

You have to rent this flick just to hear The Bored and witness the authentic bad Sixties dancing.

Two and a half breasts. One hand chopping. One axe in female chest. One death by long needle in confessional. Genuinely bad dancing. The excruciating music of The Bored. "Major Dad" before he gained 200 pounds and took acting lessons. Stuffed corpses. Gratuitous psychiatry. Gratuitous sideburns. Gratuitous Fu Manchu moustache on the drummer for the Bored. Fat psychiatrist in gaudy dressing gown. New Orleans cops with flat-as-a-crepe accents. Lame psychedelic special effects. Cinematographer with optic nerve damage. Short at 89 minutes.

Two and a half coils.


The Cinema - The Doll Squad Has Jiggle, Kung-Fu, but No Gazongas

As this blog ripens I will be adding brief reviews of largely-overlooked films - the sort of thing that used to be available only to people wearing raincoats, if you get my drift, but may now be obtained on DVD for viewing at home.

Which takes a lot of the fun out of the exploitation film experience, incidentally. These movies are really best viewed in a dingy theater with sticky floors, or at a drive-in. Alas, the post-modern world has no room for such old-fashioned venues.

The Doll Squad (1974) is a tame little flick from Ted V. Mikels, director of the immortal Astro-Zombies (1970). This has some of the same Magic-Marker-on-celluloid special effects, and a whole lot of jiggling (but, alas, bikini-clad) hooters, and one legitimate beast in the person of William Bagdad as "Joseph," who looks like a Cincinnati hot dog vendor on a Sterno binge.

dollsquad.jpg

More...
A secret agent goes nuts, rents an island off Venezuela, and hatches a diabolical plot to release bubonic plague, carried by extra-smart rats, unless the world meets his demands. But since he only communicates his demands to one U.S. Senator and one spy agency type, via a static-y transmission to the TV set in the senator's office and by carrier pigeon, the world does not meet his demands.

Never mind. The computer says Sabrina Kincaid and the Doll Squad are the only ones who can stop the fiend.

There are a few lively moments as Sabrina flounces from a naugahyde booth in a steakhouse to a naugahyde booth in a strip joint, putting the squad together and foiling would-be killers, but after that we have endless running around in jumpsuits and destroying the World's Stupidest Army. And without redeeming nekkidness this is tedious.

Summary: Many breasts, two of them almost naked (damn pasties); many shapely behinds, all clad; one greasy treacherous junkie; one greasy treacherous weirdo; one extraordinarily inept assassin, who first gets the cigarette lighter/flame thrower in face treatment (while seated in a naugahyde booth) and later gets the knife in eye (in the parking lot); really bad kung fu; lame villain in tight pants. One and half coils, mostly for the villain's Tom Jones impersonation and regrettable habit of putting his Chelsea boots on the coffee table, and for William Bagdad's fine slinking around the amusement park.

The film was supposedly the inspiration for "Charlie's Angels." And why not?

Better bets from this director : Astro Zombies and The Corpse Grinders.




NFL '07 - Week 15

Last week's lame 6-10 showing dropped the season to 89-96; add two more to the loss column as both early picks this week floundered.

NO -4 vs. AZ

TB -12.5 vs. Atl

Mia + 3.5 vs. Bal: The Dolphins have to win sometime. Don't they?

Buf + 5.5 at Cle: If the Browns are going to make any noise in the post-season it needs to start here and now. But I think the combination of rotten weather, Buffalo's running game and the sputtering Browns offense (not to mention the indifferent defense) make this one an Upset Special.

GB - 7.5 at StL: I don't like this line at all; terrible Rams still have a way of tightening the score late in games. Still, the disparity between the clubs is just too great.

Pit - 3.5 vs. Jax: Steelers rebound after humiliation last week.

NE -21 vs. NYJ: Hoo-boy, this should be ugly. Snow, video cams, general hatred. Is there a good parolee to operate the snow plow?

Sea -7 at Car

Ten - 3.5 at KC

Oak + 10.5 vs. Ind

SD -10 vs. Det

Dal -10 vs. Phi: Today's marquee matchup, but Eagles are slowly spinning out of control while Cowboys are just getting into their stride.

Was + 4.5 at NYG: Giants are the better team, but they have a remarkable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and this spread is just fat enough to take the underdogs.

Min -10 vs. Chi: Been a while since the Vikes were favored this much over Da Bears. Thirty years, maybe? (Monday night)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Family Schlock

bubba-ho-tep.jpg

Bruce Campbell as Elvis Presley and Ossie Davis as John F. Kennedy in Bubba-Ho-Tep. If you show this film to the family it could lead into an interesting and highly educational discussion of these American icons.

A recent email reads, "Patrick, please take me off your mailing list. Please."

And Ken in Amenia, N.Y. asks, "Hey, are there any drill-bit killer flicks appropriate for family viewing?"

Ken, do you see that van down the street? The one with all the aerials? They're going to answer your question.

But Ken got me thinking - are there enough trashy films available to give everybody a laugh and not get too deep into your typical "half-naked killer nun armed with large power tools defeats forces of Satan at exclusive haunted prep school" scenario?

Of course there are. I give you:

  • The entire Aztec Mummy series. These are all harmless fun - hell, the first three are practically the same movie - although the one with the lady wrestlers is dearest to my heart. All ages.
  • Any Hammer Films production of a Dracula script with Christopher Lee. These aren't any more violent than an episode of "Hot Teenage Witches and Their Vampire Boyfriends Stopping Evil With Their Exposed Midriffs and Rippling Abs, Respectively." And a great deal spookier, and with just enough decolletage from the various village maids and touring English gentlewomen to interest a 13 year old boy (and, by default, 90 percent of the adult male heterosexual population). I'd say 12 and up.
  • Bubba-Ho-Tep. How Elvis and JFK defeat an ancient - and nasty - Egyptian mummy in an East Texas nursing home. Some mild bathroom humor and a couple of creepy moments. 12 and up.
  • And this bargain DVD should really grace every home's collection: Roger Corman's Creature Movies vol. I , with three pieces of entertaining dreck from the early 1960s: The Creature From the Haunted Sea, The Beast from the Haunted Cave, and the best of the bunch, The Wasp Woman (which is not about Sharon, but could be about Greenwich). All ages.

Roger Corman's The Wasp Woman: "Okay, honey! You go ahead and run for PTO president! I'll make the Belgian waffles!"

NFL '07 - Week 15: The Early Games...of Zero Interest to Anybody Except Gamblers

Back in rotten form last week with a depressing 6-10.

This week the league geniuses offer the public not one but two meaningless games early in the week: Denver (minus one) at Houston tonight and Cincinnati (minus eight) at San Francisco Saturday.

The Broncos and Texans are technically still in the playoff hunt; the combined rosters of the Bengals and Niners can't even spell "playoff."

That the league insists on making these games showcase events means - to me - that deep down they know that a significant part of the viewing audience has money on the games.

And thus I would take the two favorites and lay the points.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Cinema - If Only JFK Had Lived Peter Lawford Wouldn't Have Been Forced To MakeThis Film




Angels' Brigade (1979) is a real Pure-D piece of dreck that features several character actors at the end of their careers and at least as many breasts. All are fully-clad - character actors and breasts - which is a mixed blessing.

The movie, directed by Greydon Clark, also illustrates the good common sense of the old saying: "Never thrust anything that comes from a man with two last names."

The plot runs like this: After a schoolboy gets roughed up by the winner of the World's Most Obvious Drug Dealer award, his teacher decides to take action and rid the school of the scourge of illegal drugs.

So she forms a working group of concerned parents, teachers, community leaders and law enforcement officials and...

Nope. Sorry. What she does is recruit a disco singer from Las Vegas who in turn knows a whole bunch of other women who just happen to look good in jumpsuits. They buy a van and a motorcycle, steal a bunch of guns and ammo from Jim Backus and his merry band of right-wing nuts, and take it to the drug baron (Peter Lawford) and his evil Number One (Jack Palance).

Along the way they encounter Alan Hale, Pat Buttram and Arthur Godfrey (as himself).



Jack Palance: Take it easy, honey - that's my truss!



Massive jiggling. Kung fu. Peter Lawford committing modern art. Jack Palance eaten by dog. Black lady with a veritable ziggurat of hair. One of the worst songs ever recorded, "Shine Your Love." Gratuitous white people in Vegas audience clapping on the wrong beat to "Shine Your Love."

We're talking Non-Sequitur City.

One coil.






Sunday, December 9, 2007

NFL '07 - Week 14

The dog-ass Redskins up and won their game Thursday so we begin the week with one in the loss column.

The picks:

NYG +3 at Phi

Cle -3 at NYJ - The Titans - er, Jets - have been in the games recently, but I don't see them defending well against the run today.

Jax - 10.5 vs. Car: I've been getting creamed picking the Panthers and I finally figured out why. They're not very good.

Dal - 10.5 vs. Det

Mia +7 at Buf: Notice that the abbreviation for Miami is the same as "Missing in Action?" Anyway, the 'Fins have been staying in games too.

Oak +10.5 at GB

Pit +10.5 at NE: Two close calls against vastly inferior teams in the last two weeks make me think that a much better club stands a good chance of keeping this within the 10 and a half.

Ten even vs. SD: Marginally better numbers plus home field plus greater urgency equals Titans.

StL +7 at Cin

TB -3 at Hou

Sea -7 vs. AZ

Min - 8.5 at SF

KC + 6.5 at Den

Bal +9 vs. Ind

NO -3.5 vs. Atl (Monday night)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

NFL '07 - Week 14 (early game)

Last week's 10-6 got the season mark against the spread nearer the plimsoll mark, to 83-86-8.

This week, after observing the Washington meltdown vs. Buffalo, I look to the Chicago Bears (+3) to ice the Redskins for good at SnyderLand Field.

And after watching Ricky Williams last about 20 seconds in his return in the Jets-Miami "When Worlds Collide" game, I am manfully refraining from trotting out the immortal "Haiku for Ricky Williams." It would amount to kicking a stoner when he's down.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

In Praise of Schlock, or Why Does an Adult Sit in the Dark Watching Movies About Cross-Eyed Gorillas and Hopping Chinese Vampires?

It wasn't until college that I became interested in the B movie. As a teenager my pals and I had haunted the art houses of Washington, D.C. and watched anything that held the promise of nudity, or films that had a reputation as favorites of the "Let's drop a couple of tabs, smoke a joint and smuggle in a bottle of Bacardi 151" set.

So we saw things like 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen at the Uptown on Connecticut Avenue, or Wild Strawberries, or midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Key Theater on Wisconsin Avenue.

But in college, majoring in cinema and English, the life-changing event came my sophomore year when the Denison University Film Society brought us Night of the Living Dead, which I saw with my buddy Steve Lander.

I had never seen anything like it. The deadpan, flat, documentary tone of the film, the relentlessly grey imagery, and those damn zombies that just kept coming - we were climbing out of our seats.

After graduation someone bought me a copy of Calvin Trillin's "American Stories," a collection of New Yorker pieces which included an account of the rise and fall of Joe Bob Briggs, drive-in movie columnist for the then Dallas Times-Herald.

Trillin's narrative was so funny I immediately tracked down "Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In," a collection of the actual reviews that eventually got the Briggs character into trouble.

And if reading about Joe Bob (in real life, a journalist named John Bloom) was amusing, the stuff published in a major American newspaper was unbelieveable.

I was especially taken by the Briggs method of summing up a film: "Two breasts. One beast. Three gallons blood. Heads roll. Two and a half stars. Joe Bob says check it out."

The next thing was to rent all the movies mentioned in "Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In," a process that took years and involved many unfortunate detours. I have now seen hundreds of low-budget films, and most of them are in fact quite awful in every way.

But some are so dreadful they transcend their limitations and become extremely peculiar works of note - in particular a group of films made in the 1980s and early 1990s, before digitized special effects ruined movies with the video-game kung fu moves and the "Oh cool, the whole room is moving around again" Crouching Matrix shtook.

I am talking about films such as Basket Case, The Evil Dead, and Frankenhooker. These movies are disgusting, full of prurient interest, and have no redeeming social value whatsoever. They are also funny and well-crafted.

And there are more of these than you'd think. My researches took me to the works of Ed Wood, which are uniformly hard to take without serious chemical stimulation, and then to the catalog of another Grade Z master, Herschell Gordon Lewis, who was much more capable than Wood. (See Lewis' The Wizard of Gore and 2,000 Maniacs!)

The "Aztec Mummy" series, three of them all featuring the same World's Longest Ancient Aztec Karaoke/Human Sacrifice scene (the fourth is the one with the lady wrestlers) are fabulously bizarre.

A video company called "Something Weird" puts out a fine line of two- and three-fers of forgotten exploitation fare, which is where I found (for example) the cross-eyed giant gorilla flick The Mighty Gorga paired with an Ed Wood-written sexploitation quickie, One Million AC/DC.

There have also been a handful of newer films that venture into the exploitation realm, most notably 2003's Bubba Ho-Tep and 2004's zombie send-up Shaun of the Dead: good schlock with a bit of a budget that makes the schlock less, well, schlocky.

And the idiotic Borat movie really is pure exploitation - of everyone involved, from the drunk college kids who are suing to people like me who plunked down their eight smackers and sat through that nekkid wrestling scene.

I just watched a restored version of Fritz Lang's M, a film that was banned, denounced and almost ruined the careers of the director and of star Peter Lorre, who had to go, first to England and then to Hollywood to escape the thing (and the Nazis).

At the time, M was pure schlock, and not seen as even remotely amusing. (Of course, life in Germany in 1931 wasn't a barrel of laughs, generally speaking.) Today, it's a classic film, and takes some subtle digs at cops, bureaucracy, and mob mentality in addition to being the first example of the "serial killer terrifies city and is caught with some fancy forensic work" scenario seen almost every night on "Law & Order" or "CSI" reruns.

So will Zombie Lake be the star attraction of a scholarly retrospective in 20 years? Probably not - but it's nice to think about it.


Style Report 12-4-07

The proto-simians who employ me have decided our second shift crew needs to be moving around all shift, inside and out. This will last until nobody answers the phone, at which point we will be instructed to never ever leave the instrument unattended.

I have decided to treat this as an opportunity to lose a few pounds and test out some layering ideas that have been percolating in my head.

The tweed sack jacket - not a Harris, but similar heft - came from eBay; shown here with a Brooks Brothers pink oxford cloth buttondown and a thrifted wool tie, Lands End cotton sweater vest, cotton pocket square from J. Press and a scarf that was donated to Space Camp by a local chiropractor.

Olive non-iron chinos from LL Bean, argyles from Joy of Socks and the Alden Pursuit Shoe form the bottom half, and a Timex Easy Reader on a strap from Central Watch complete the whole shtook.

I also had a Irish wool cap and gloves for the outside portions of my tedious but busy evening.

Parts of the ensemble could be jettisoned as necessary; I was also wearing long johns and silk sock liners, so I was perhaps a little toastier than usual.

But I was glad of the extra stuff when doing the rounds outside, at 22 degrees and a lovely, bone-chilling wind that came straight from the Arctic Circle, with brief stopovers in Saskatchewan and Buffalo.








Sunday, December 2, 2007

NFL '07 - Week 13

Well, even with Thursday's loss in the 10-point Dallas win over Green Bay, I remain sanguine.

Why? Because even at 73-81-8, I'd still be in the running if I wrote for the New York Post, where none of the alleged experts are over .500.

And because I don't bet on the games, anyway.

*****

I am up early Sunday morning, after working the swing shift, because I am a highly dedicated professional sportswriter-type.

I meant to get up.

But that doesn't excuse my nitwit neighbor, who snores like a buffalo with sleep apnea, and does so right through her radio-alarm.

And I hear all this, clear as a bell, right through the wall.

I've tried pounding on the wall. I've tried knocking on the door, but she won't answer. I've tried the property managers, but they would rather complain about my occasional enjoyment of a cigar.

So I guess it's earplugs and meditation. Silent meditation, you rat bastardette.


*****


On with the week:

NYG - 1.5 at Chi: I think Tom Coughlin has one last dose of good Catholic guilt left in the tank, and he'll pull it out here.

NYJ + 1.5 at Mia: Jets at Dolphins, or When Worlds Collide.

Cle +1 at AZ: In general I think the middle-tier AFC team on the rise is far better than the middle-tier NFC team at home any day.

Jax + 6.5 at Ind: The Colts just get by teams they should annihilate, and they always have trouble with the Jaguars.

NE -20 at Bal: All the offenses have been studying the Philly game plan against the Pats from last week, but what they should be waiting for is this week's tape, which will reveal how New England adjusts after a relatively poor showing (Monday night).

The rest:

StL -3 vs. Atl

Buf +6 at Was

Min -4 vs. Det

Ten -3.5 vs. Hou

SD -6 at KC

Phi -3 vs. Sea

Car -3 vs. SF

NO - 3.5 vs. TB

Den - 3.5 at Oak

Pit -7 vs. Cin



Friday, November 30, 2007

Style Report 11-29-07







The deal was this: I had a headache the size of Oklahoma after spending the better part of two shifts in Space Camp's medications room - an airless, hot closet filled with slowly-baking medications.

Vitamins, in particular, have a pungency to them. And bottle after bottle, in said airless hot closet, produces an Instant Retch Reflex (or IRR) in the poor shnook who must go in there to supervise the self-administered medications.

So I felt lousy and was in no mood to try any creativity. This is where the Formula comes in handy.

It doesn't get much more basic than a navy blazer and grey trousers. Add a banker's (or candy) stripe shirt with a buttondown collar, an Argyle & Sutherland regimental tie (also known as "The Guy Tie" because everybody's got one - except me, with seven), and a pair of old Haig and Lloyd brown wingtips, and it's out the door, ready to go.

The pocket square is more than most men will go for, but they are integral part of anything I do so I barely notice them. (It's a Drake's square, by the way, bought on the cheap from the folks at Sierra Trading Post.)

Blazer, shirt and tie are all Brooks Brothers and all eBayed or thrifted. The trousers are medium grey worsted wool, lined to the knee, flat fronted and cuffed, and are made by Jos. A. Bank (via eBay, again).

The socks came from the Overstocks section of the Lands End website.

You can't really see the trout fly design on the tie clip. I used it to keep the tie out of the way when med-slinging.

Putting the look together took about three minutes. It's Trad by the Numbers, and I am unapologetic about it. Formal enough to look professional, or go out to eat; informal enough to shuck the jacket, roll up the sleeves and get busy with the vitamins.

Total cost? Maybe $150 - call it 10 percent of retail. Factor in hours spent rummaging around church sales and foraging on eBay, and it's still a pretty good deal.

Selah.





Thursday, November 29, 2007

NFL '07 - When Greedheads Collide

Tonight the 10-1 Dallas Cowboys host the 10-1 Green Bay Packers in what might well turn out to be the most entertaining game of the regular season - and most fans won't see it.

The game is on the NFL Network, which reaches 37 households.

Okay, maybe a few more than that, but the league and the cable companies - most notably Time Warner and Comcast - can't agree on a deal.

You'd think they'd split the difference, since everybody's already making more money than God in this racket, but no.

The NFL Network will ultimately make it to your cable system, and you will pay for it, one way or another.

The Cowboys are favored by a touchdown; I am inclined to take it and the Packers. I keep remembering those errant long snaps from the Dallas center - one hit QB Romo in the head when he wasn't looking, and two others sailed right over his head.

And this feels like Round One of the eventual NFC title match anyway. So Green Bay plus seven tonight, heard locally on WFAN (660 AM).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

NFL '07 - Week 12

billbelichick.jpg

New England's Bill Belichek modeling the official NFL "Homeless Shelter" line of sportswear. The Patriots are giving 23 points to Philadelphia today.


Three for three on Thursday, and here's the rest of the story:

Den +2 at Chi

Ten -2 at Cin

Buf + 7.5 at Jax

KC - 5.5 vs. Oak

Cle -3 vs. Hou

Sea -3 at StL

Min +7 at NYG

NO -3 at Car

TB -3 vs. Was

AZ - 10.5 vs. SF

SD - 9.5 vs. Bal

NE -23 vs. Philly (McNabb out for Eagles)

Mia +16 at Pit

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thrift Shop Specials, or How To Look Like a Moneyed WASP For Pennies On the Dollar




Thanksgiving evening. The mission: Dress appropriately for work, a task that involves looking professional, yet a bit frivolous, in keeping with the holiday. The shift at Space Camp will involve a lot of walking around, going in and outside... and enduring whatever fresh hells that can be conjured up by a crew of 50-odd unhappy souls spending the holiday in rehab.

The solution - The Standard Navy Blazer and Grey Pants.

But with a few twists. First of all, the Brooks Bros. blazer is an old model, and a 3/2 sack cut. That means the jacket has no darts - those ugly-ass seams in the jacket front - and the top button is rolled under the lapel and has no real function.

I found the jacket at the Goodwill in Torrington, Conn. - $3.50, and required no alteration.

The tie is from the Lands End overstocks section - great source of good quality neckwear at a very reasonable price.

The suede Allen Edmonds Hancocks add a touch of informality to the whole thing, as do the pocket square and argyle socks. The AEs came from eBay seller Grapevinehill for about $100; the square from Sierra Trading Post and the socks from the Brooks outlet in Lee, Mass.

The trousers are from LL Bean and a bit of an experiment - at full retail they wouldn't cut it, but for $60 or so it was worth a shot. I didn't order them cuffed as LLB tends toward the miserly inch and half.

The Orvis watch - the "Snows of Kiliminjaro" model - has a strap from Central Watch, and the J. Press oxford cloth buttondown, with the flap pocket, was obtained from an Ask Andy About Clothes.com member whose office went biz casual, to his dismay and my great benefit.

Total cost of everything: $200 or so. At retail, easily $1000.

The Cinema - "I Eat Your Skin" : Misleading Title, Excellent Fashion

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(It's okay - he's with the calypso band)
Two exciting facts about 'I Eat Your Skin":
  • There is no skin-eating in the film.
  • Auteur Del Tenney was from Connecticut and once made a good film, 1964's The Curse of the Living Corpse, which had real writing, a real script, a real editor, and real actors, including Roy Scheider in his screen debut.
"I Eat Your Skin," also made in 1964, wasn't released until 1971 as the second half of a drive-in double bill with "I Drink Your Blood," a hippie-biker rabies epic.
It had been sitting on the shelf under the title Voodoo Blood Bath, but the distributor liked the "Last Supper" imagery on the twin bill poster. ("I Eat Your Flesh" would have been better, but it was taken.)
Novelist Tom Harris writes smutty best-sellers and spends his time poolside at the Fountainbleau in Miami, reading aloud from his works to a crowd of bikini-clad housewives. His agent, a clenched-jawed WASP named Fairchild, hatches a scheme to go to this island where a scientist is working on a cure for everything and, oh yeah, there are supposed be eighteen kinds of poisonous snakes and zombies on this island.
So they go because a pudgy bald guy in a Dacron suit is chasing Tom (with malice aforethought) for horsing around with his wife. So what the hey?
During this opening sequence it is apparent that director Tenney has achieved something remarkable: this is the first American film made for domestic release where the words don't match the lips. At all.
It's as if it was dubbed into Korean and dubbed back from the Italian translation of the Korean by a crew from Portugal.
This results in happy accidents such as the pudgy bald man shaking his fist and yelling "I getting you am son of beech!"
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(No touch football?!)
OK - there's a whole lot of plot which I won't bore you with. It's sufficient to relate that the zombies are real, the voodoo priest wishes to sacrifice the blonde, the scientist is fairly evil, the other guy is completely evil, the good guys escape, and the island blows up.
The zombie transformation scenes are entertaining in a primitive fashion; their eyes bug out through the caked-on makeup, making them look like trout that have been lightly coated in corn meal and fried. (If you don't believe me try it.)
The voodoo dancing is pretty good but ultimately tedious, as is the sight of Tom with no shirt.
The clenched-jawed WASP looks like what you'd get if you stirred the genes of Robert F. Kennedy and William F. Buckley together and told the result you were outlawing touch football and madras pants.
As a period piece, I Eat Your Skin is mildly amusing. One decapitation. One extended blast of voodoo dancing. Girls in bikinis. Man in Dacron suit shoved in pool. Bad prose read aloud to girls in bikinis prior to man in Dacron suit getting shoved in pool. Exploding zombie. WASP climbing a cliff in loafers. Mad scientist. Snakes. Code Yellow ethnocentrism - enough to be noticeable, but not egregious enough to be funny. Short.
Two coils.
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The Cinema - "King of the Zombies" : Interesting Historical Document ...and Major Piece of Caca

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King of the Zombies (1941) is a low-budget thriller with a threadbare plot about an evil German scientist on a Caribbean island with a whole mess of zombies at his disposal and a habit of kidnapping admirals.

Intelligence officer Bill, pilot Mac, and Bill's manservant Jeff fly off to investigate the admiral's disappearance, and get fooled into a crash landing 0n the doc's island.

The only reason to watch this is for the performance of Mantan Moreland, a vaudeville actor probably most widely known as Charlie Chan's chauffeur.

Here he transcends the condescending "scaredy Negro" stereotype and injects humor and dignity into the unflattering role. (I suspect he ad-libbed some of it, and the director was savvy enough to let it ride.)

So when he spots the old cook/voodoo priestess he asks the pretty young maid, "Who's that? Methuselah?"

And hypnotized by the evil doctor into thinking he is a zombie, he marches stiffly over to the others. "Move over, boys - I'm one of the gang now."


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("Hup-two-three-four...Zombies, halt!")


The Jeff character, despite all the bug-eyed buffoonery expected of the role, is the only good guy who has any clue as to what's happening on the island at all. (Bill is too busy trying to make time with the inevitable young lady and Mac keeps sustaining head injuries.)

So King of the Zombies is an interesting historical piece.

It is also a piece of doo-doo, with nonsensical plot; some decent zombie action of the medium-fast, mostly- coordinated voodoo zombie type; a ludicrous voodoo ceremony; and lots of one-liners from Moreland.

And as such it deserves a solid two and a half coil rating.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

NFL '07 - Thanksgiving Day (Week 12)

Another so-so week last time out at 7-6-2. Today the play is on all three favorites: Green Bay -3.5 at Detroit (Packers are 8-1-1 against the spread this season); Dallas - 14.5 vs. the New York Jets (yes, the Jets upset the Steelers last week, but the Cowboys are several notches above Pittsburgh); Indianapolis - 12.5 at Atlanta.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Cinema - The Wrestling Women vs. The Aztec Mummy Is Better Than Citizen Kane

The Wrestling Women vs. The Aztec Mummy (1964) is quite possibly the best film ever made. It answers two questions that have always bothered large segments of humanity:

1) Can bad guys really run around on ancient Aztec pyramids in those pointy little shoes without tripping?

2) Can women in tight sweaters and Capri pants really save the world from an Ancient Evil?

More...

In this fine film by the immortal Rene Cardona and recut and dubbed by the equally deathless K. Gordon Murray (director of Cell Block Girls and producer of Shanty Tramp and Santa's Magic Kingdom) , the Wrestling Women get on the trail of some thugs in the pay of the evil Black Dragon who have swiped the sacred Aztec breastplate. The chase goes hither and yon, with many fine wrestling sequences, some of them between the actors' lips and the dubbed dialogue.

After an enormous amount of plot and the introduction of the "Purloined Letter" theory of hidden camera placement (i.e. if you're going to spy on someone with a hidden camera just shove it in the bookcase), the breathtaking chase takes us to the Aztec pyramid, which has steps, unlike the Egyptian kind. (See, you get some archaeology with this picture too.)

And soon enough we get the answers to those questions.

The Aztec Mummy is worth the price of admission alone. He makes a heartbreaking "waaargh" sound that really makes you wonder what it's like to be locked for centuries in an airless room guarding a princess' remains when all of a sudden bad guys in ill-fitting suits and pointy shoes, and female wrestlers in tight sweaters and missile-silo brassieres come barging in, stirring up the dust and generally making nuisances of themselves.

To sum up: Bad dialogue, worse dubbing. Female wrestlers. Asian female wrestlers. Comic book villains. Unconvincing, wailing mummy. Short neckties and peak lapels. Gratuitous driving back and forth to the ancient pyramid. Capri pants. Girls in tights. The parts that aren't bizarre are idiotic. Short.

Better than Citizen Kane and a damn sight cheaper to buy, too. Plus the version I have is a two-fer, with Doctor of Doom, which is, if anything, worse.

A heartfelt four coil rating.



(Click here to read a highly academic article that requires 1000 words to reach the same conclusion)




Sunday, November 18, 2007

NFL '07 - It's a Dog-Eat-Dog World, and I'm Wearing Milk Bone Underwear

I need a big week or five. Bad. Last year was my first in 16 years of doing this with a losing record. It's coming down to pride and the ability to look convincing in an Italian suit.

Such as:

What the bush you lookin' at?

Gaining a game or two per week isn't cutting it; last week's dicey 7-6-1 showing pushed the deficit back a little bit, to 63-74-8, but at this rate I won't hit the .500 mark by season's end.

So let us hope that this is a gargantuan breakout Sunday of epic colossal mega-ness.


Det +3 vs. NYG: I'm sorry, but I don't know what the oddsmakers are thinking about here. The NY pass rush might give Detroit QB Jon Kitna some problems, but come on - there's nothing that makes the 6-3 Giants better than the 6-3 Lions, especially in Detroit. And after watching the bad basics from last week - the play clock comes to mind - I'm even less bullish on the Giants.

NE - 16.5 at Buf: I get burned every time by these collegiate spreads. The Bills are a decent team. They are not going to beat the Patriots. They are not going to be close to the Patriots, who might trail 7-3 at the end of the first quarter. But by the end of events Sunday night the Pats will move one step closer to the undefeated mark and post another double-digit win (with the first digit being a two).

Pit - 10 at NYJ: Kellen Clemens looks fairly good, which is very nice for the future but won't help against relentless Steeler defense.

The rest:

NO + 1.5 at Hou

GB -10 vs. Car

Jax -3 vs. SD

KC +15 at Indy

Oak +5 at Min

Cle -3 at Bal

Atl +3 vs. TB

AZ +3.5 at Cin

Mia +10 at Phi

StL -3 at SF

Sea -6 vs. Chi

Was + 11.5 at Dal

Ten +2 at Den


Awkward Insertion of Commercial Dept.

You might be wondering "Gee. I wonder who makes that fine, sophisticated-looking Eyetalian suit Sully's wearing in that crappy photo?"

And the answer is: Corneliani, an Italian house that makes some pretty good RTW suits and jackets if you like that sort of thing - three-button front, high gorge (none of your three-roll-two sack stuff here); aggressive shoulders and darting, narrow waist, ventless. Slightly out of character are the pleated trousers - those guys like the straight legs usually.

This one I found thrifting and it has less shoulder padding than others I've seen. It happens to be a good fit for my Brooks Brothers frame.

Corneliani makes garments for Ralph of Long Island, among others, and can be found in your higher-end, snooty-type department stores.

By the way, that's a Sam Hober tie I had made up in the colors of the World's Most Annoying Baseball Team, the New York Mets.



The Cinema - That Old "Black Magic" Is Horrible and Features Rice Sex

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In Black Magic (1975), Xu Nuo, a cool, hip construction worker, is the not-so-obscure object of the evil, sneaky and skanky widow Luo Yin's desire.


Matter of fact, Luo Yin, who looks like a barracuda with a squint, is so darn horny she has to go hire the evil sorcerer who lives in the nasty forest, second hut on the right, past the snake pit and the rotting corpses, to cook up a love potion.

And as we find out, his love potions aren't all that different from his death potions.

This wizard guy has some terrific moves, and induces not just Luo Yin but some other lovelorn lady to part with some breast milk, in two separate scenes.

So if that's your bag, this is your flick.

The sorcerer also uses ordinary cooked rice as a sort of sex toy. Really.

So Xu Nuo is completely under the spell, but the greedy wizard keeps coming back for more money. Plus there's this other doofus who has a major thing for the widow, and while she's trying to dose Xu Nuo, the doofus, who's also been to see the wizard, doses her. They make the Sign of the Little Cardboard Container With the Metal Handle all night long, but when she wakes up the spell has worn off and it's Sayonara City for the doofus.

There's a whole lot of plot that gets nowhere until finally Xu Nuo's fiancee, Quming (played by the redundantly-named Li-Li Li) hires the Good Wizard, who looks like Wilfred Brimley with a squint.

This wizard rustles up a protective beam from heaven and presto! No more evil warlock.

This piece of chop socky is sadly lacking in kung fu, but hooters abound, and the bit with the rice was worth the $2 rental fee. The soundtrack sounds like it was recorded on a cassette player in a bathroom, and the entire mess is filmed in what the producers, the notorious Shaw Brothers, grandly call "Shaw Scope" - a narrow band of mise-en-scene that translates into roughly one-third the usable screen of a standard television.

Summary: Lactation (twice). Creative use of grains. Snakes. Gratuitous swinging cats in leisure suits. Gratuitous swinging chicks in bell bottoms and scarves. Subtitles don't match dubbed dialog. One dissolving wizard. One Beam of Protection. One Chinese Wilfred Brimley. Appalling. Utterly worthless. Three coils.



The Cinema - Instant Caca

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Every so often a film comes along that is so transcendently cheese-ridden it vaults over lesser rivals and achieves instant all-time CACA Award status. Die You Zombie Bastards (2005) is such a film.

The hero, Red Toole, is a cannibal who, along with his wife Violet, eats hippies. When she is kidnapped by Baron Nefarious, who has a lab on Hell Island from which he plans to use his Zombotron to turn all humanity into his personal zombie army, Red must act.

He embarks on a quest which takes him to Pittsburgh, Sweden, and other exotic locales.

Along the way he encounters a fat old rockabilly singer, Super Inga the Nippleless Swedish Barmaid, the horrifying legend of Bermudan monster Coconut Head Face Man, Ninjas, Angry Dog Men, lovely topless Swedish farmgirls, and other perils typical of life as a super hero in the post-9/11 world.

And zombies - green, completely unconvincing zombies.

The movie careens along, bouncing from non-sequitur to absurdity like me trying to find the bathroom at 3 a.m. on any night between 1989 and New Year's Eve, 2000.

Unlike most films of this ilk (i.e. cheap), it is mostly shot on film, so it doesn't have the videotaped look.

DYZB is so stupid, in fact, that all I can do is mention the approximately 36 breasts; the nekkid fish scientists; the repeated and highly unsubtle penis imagery; the Jamaican guy in the bathtub; Pittsburgh; and Hasil Adkins, the rockabilly singer.

If you're a moron, this is your flick. Four honest-to-God coils.

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The Cinema - Shiny Boots of Cheez Whiz: "Venus In Furs" is True Torture




Jess Franco's Venus in Furs (1969) is quite possibly the Worst Film Ever Made.

Regular readers of this blog know that my standards are quite high for bad cinema. I have seen hundreds of rotten flicks, and this piece of Pure-D doo-doo shoots straight to the top of the short list.

Based on an incomprehensible novelette by famous Kraut weirdo Leopold von Sacher Masoch (also the inspiration for a great song by The Velvet Underground), this film is told almost entirely in voice-over, flashback narration. This might be artistic, evoking memories of classic noir cinema like Double Indemnity, or it could be because that the actors don't have to learn any dialogue and the editor doesn't have to synch it up.

(I'm inclined to go with the latter.)

The narrator, a bad trumpet player named Jimmy, finds the nude corpse of the lovely and mysterious Wanda on the beach in Istanbul, where he has buried his horn in the sand.

You with me?

Wanda hangs out with the jet set, meaning Klaus Kinski and a couple of other fruit loops, who get ol' Wanda into some kind of sado-masochistic whip/lesbo dungeon orgy deal that ends when Klaus stabs her and gets blood all over his face.

This scene was apparently shot in the dark with old, partially exposed film, and has the punch of a 40 year old filmstrip on the presidency of William McKinley.

Then it's off to Rio, where Jimmy gets his act together a bit and hangs with Rita, a singer who performs on her back. Really.

But Wanda keeps popping up. Is she dead? Is she a figment of Jimmy's tortured imagination? Is that Manfred Mann playing piano?

The answers: Yes.






(These people are evil, but we're not sure why. They could also be dead.)



Here's a sample of the deathless narration:

She was beautiful, even though she was dead. It's like there was a connection between us.

and

Time is like the ocean - you can't hang on to it.

Uh-huh.

Franco chews up immense amounts of screen time with scenes of the jazz group playing a godawful brand of cocktail lounge music and stock footage of happy people in ethnic costumes dancing in the streets of Rio. Or is it Istanbul?

Ye gods, this movie stinks.

Summary: Eight breasts, two of them allegedly dead. Dungeon. Whipping. Statue groping. Sex with feathers from a pillow. Bad dinner jacket with notch lapels. Gratuitous slow motion. Lens smeared with Vaseline for sex scenes. Toe sucking. Low-grade pseudo-vampirism. Klaus Kinski making his eyes bug out.

Half a coil for this turkey.



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The Cinema - Big Christopher Lee Loses Fangs, Dons Kilt in The Wicker Man

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Lord Summerisle doing his darnedest to make sure next year's harvest is bountiful

Robin Hardy's 1973 weirdfest The Wicker Man has pretty much everything you'd want in a movie, what with pagan cults, public fornication, creepy gravediggers, Christopher Lee in a kilt, and Britt Eklund's behind.

An English police sergeant is sent to the obscure private island of Summerisle to investigate a report of a missing child. He gets zippo cooperation from the natives, except for the landlord's daughter Willow, who tempts him with a nekkid pagan dance. Alas, he is too darn Christian to hop out of his pajamas and take advantage of the situation, preferring to clench his jaw instead.

Gradually he figures out that the islanders have abandoned Christianity for a form of animism - a setup conceived of and perpetuated by the Lords Summerisle, including the current one, played by Christopher Lee in one of his fine non-fanged roles.

Another Hammer Films alum, Ingrid Pitt, plays the evil librarian, but keeps her clothes on.

Sgt. Howie eventually finds the girl he's looking for, before the islanders sacrifice her in a muddleheaded attempt to increase the harvest, but the joke ends up being on him.

The movie is full of musical interludes, and normally I'd be utilizing the fast-forward feature of the DVD player.

But technology failed; the clicker went phut, and I had to experience the full film.

And it's a good thing, too, because all these singing children dancing around the Maypole and half-clad nymphs doing the Hokey Pokey over an open fire in the island's mini-Stonehenge truly make this a horror film.


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This is not working out quite the way Sgt. Howie planned


Eight breasts. One landlord's daughter dancing nekkid. The fine - no, unparalleled - architecture of Britt Eklund's rear end. Christopher Lee with his hair flying all over the place. Beach orgy. Toad sucking, for medicinal purposes. Gratutious Olde Englysshe folk songs given sinister pagan import. Constipated British policeman. Actual plot, competent writing, better than competent acting, and general air of professionalism.

An exploitation movie you could show in an art house. Or in your house.

A hearty four coils.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Style Report 11-15-07




Just because I feel like govno is no reason not to maintain some semblance of style while waiting for the next explosion.

Here, then, is my first post in what I expect to be a series of incredibly irritating, narcissistic ramblings:

(In the manner of Mad magazine, ca. 1970)

See the man.
The man is not feeling well.
Everything he eats comes back out in a hurry.
Every trip to the little room on the man's right is an adventure.
The man feels like he is on a TV game show.
Will it be Door Number One, or Door Number Two?
It is just like a TV game show, except there is no prize.
The man, though unwell, still finds time to make this post.
The man is sick - in more ways than he realizes.

New heavy-duty Irish wool cardigan from eBay, and eBayed Allen Edmonds "Lawrence" loafers ( a discontinued model) that have zoomed to the top of my personal charts for fit. Also an old Orvis tattersall shirt and knockaround cords from Sierra Trading Post.

Note how this is really just a way of getting all these brand names and links into a post in the undoubtedly futile hope that one day this dopey blog thing will actually generate some cash.