Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Cinema - Jess Franco Gets Me Again

Stupid reporter, left, about to get the treatment from the Countess.

The first thing I noticed about the imaginatively titled
Female Vampire (1973) was the insipid music. (Actually the first thing I noticed was the nekkid lady in the forest. Is that a dark loincloth? No, it's just...her.)

The musical motif re-occurred throughout the picture, driving me almost insane in the process, until I remembered where I had heard it before - in the immortal
Zombie Lake!


Countess Karlstein lives on an island in Spain and is a sexual vampire. It's a little confusing, as she operates in broad daylight and with none of the usual vampire trappings - coffins, Transylvanian dirt, fangs.

She does have the ability to turn herself into a bat, though.

But mostly she has the ability to walk around mostly nekkid and have sex with people, which is shown in fairly graphic detail.

So she backs a farmer against the fence and apparently bites him in a highly personal and sensitive area at a highly personal and sensitive moment in their encounter.

The Countess seduces (and, ergo, kills) the lady reporter who comes to ask her questions while wearing the world's largest white patent leather knee-length platform boots. Did I mention the Countess is a mute? This was not an especially bright reporter.

And the hotel stud. And a couple of whips 'n' chains lesbians. And some guy who wears eye liner, Edwardian shirt cuffs and spends his days on the balcony staring into space.

Meanwhile the director, schlockmeister supreme Jess Franco, plays Dr. Roberts, Nebbish, who is determined to get to the bottom of these weird and savage killings. He eventually makes his way into the Countess' bathroom, where she is writhing around in a tub of what appears to be unformed cherry Jello.

And she just croaks, for no apparent reason at all.

We're talking massive nudification and sexotology here. Solo and group sex with farmers, reporters, poets, mean lesbians, pillows, bedposts, and a bathtub full of alleged blood. One dead mute manservant. One blind idiot who performs a rather clumsy post-mortem. Lots of slobbering. One fat vampire hunter who does nothing. Atrocious dubbing. Theme music from
Zombie Lake. Gratuitous voiceovers from the Countess during shots of the car's hood moving along, with a flying bird hood ornament (the wings flap).

An outstanding, if at times tedious, piece of doo-doo. Three coils.

Further readings from geek academics:

This one is not as dumb as this one

Friday, January 25, 2008

Coffin Joe's Sleep-Inducing "Awakening"

The Coffin Joe series goes seriously astray in 1969's Awakening of the Beast, an incomprehensible film that was somewhat foolishly suppressed by the Brazilian government.

If it makes no sense and is boring as all get out, how can it be subversive?

The idea, as far as I can figure after watching the thing twice, is that Jose Mojica Marins is part of a TV panel discussing the drug problem. We then get taken into the druggie world, with vignettes of assorted kookaboos and wackadoodles doing their various and tedious things.

There's a scene between a young woman and a bunch of male students that is sort of interesting in a clinical way, and Ze do Caixho pops up here and there to question the existence of being.

But the endless color LSD trip sequence completely negates whatever residual Coffin Joe-ness the audience might retain. It's worse than Corman's The Trip, and that's saying something.

I'm surprised some bright young cineaste hasn't tried to compare Awakening of the Beast with Godard's "Hey Lookit Me!" period - One Plus One, for instance.

Alas, this clunker comes with the Coffin Joe casket set so the buyer is stuck with it.

Summary: Some extremely half-hearted breasts. Hippie students. Psychiatrists with syringes. Brazilian folk-rock ("War! Peace! We're all going to die!"). Ultra-tedious LSD trip in color, with some whippings. Gratuitous references to Coffin Joe, to the director, and to Art.

Dumber and longer than The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, my previous benchmark for bad hippie-era CACA.

Half a coil.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Coffin Joe Hits His Evil Stride

The auteur and star, Jose Mojica Marins, on his way to the manicurist

Brazilian loon Jose Mojica Marins avoids the sophomore slump in his second flick, 1966's This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse. Quite possibly the worst film ever shot in an abandoned synagogue, the film should delight arachnophobes and snake chunkers especially.

This Night... opens with the same sequence of the villagers chasing Ze do Caixho (Coffin Joe) to the cemetery, only to find him lying dead with his eyes bugging out in terror. But hey - turns out he wasn't really dead after all.

This time he's running roughshod over a slightly larger town. This town has a sort of a square and a pond and some marshes and stuff. (According to the interview with the director, included in the DVD, Mojica's budget went up about 11 bucks so he was able to shoot a few scenes outside.)

Ze is still obsessed with fathering a son, so he and his creepy fez-wearing deformed assistant set about kidnapping a bunch of girls. To test their mettle he releases a whole herd of big ol' tarantulas into their dormitory. The lady that doesn't freak out he keeps around; the rest go into the snake pit he has conveniently located under the master bedroom.

The girl he's picked happens to be the daughter of the town bigwig, so Ze's got a gang of mercenaries to contend with, led by the village idiot who is in love with the same girl.

Of course, Coffin Joe runs rings around the hired hands, and it takes a skinny black zombie to drag him - literally - to the underworld.

Which is in color!

The Hell sequence, which must run 10 minutes at least, is where This Night... goes from being an above-average but quaint schlocker into sublime CACA territory. Ze wanders around this rather chilly and snowy version of Hades and marvels at the excellent tortures being used on the damned, all the while proclaiming loudly that he believes none of it.

Which is not very convincing when the King of the Underworld is lounging on a nearby throne, surrounded by half-nekkid snake women, laughing his head off.

We have, in addition to Hell: A stampede of tarantulas; tarantulas on pretty girls; tarantulas on pretty girls' bottoms; well-stocked snake pit; corpse-dissolving pool; one axe in head; death by quicksand; gratuitous (and ad-libbed) blasphemy; terrible dentistry; fez-wearing hunchback.

A masterpiece. Four coils.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Coffin Joe - A Pioneer of CACA

Joe gets busy with the blasphemy in an early scene

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul
(1963) is the debut of Brazil"s "Coffin Joe" character - part philosopher, part demented genius, part plain old bad guy with the nastiest fingernails you ever saw. Played by director/auteur/fruitloop Jose Mojica Marins, Coffin Joe is an underground institution in Brazil.

Gravedigger Ze do Caixao is a bully who's got everybody in the little town buffaloed. Not only are they scared of him physically - he attacks anyone who crosses him, quite viciously - but his defiantly blasphemous attitude really gets folks right where they live.

So Ze discovers his wife cannot bear him a son and kills her. Then he tries to rape his best friend's fiancee but she bites him. She dies too, in childbirth, as does the best friend. And so on.

Eventually even the timid villagers get fed up and they track ol' Ze down- to the crypt where, perhaps luckily, the supernatural has already caught up with him.

Bear in mind this was made in a Catholic military dictatorship in 1963, and then consider the following laundry list of CACA-tatiousness: One hand mangling with bottle; one barren wife vs. tarantula; one eye-gouging with nasty long fingernails; one attack with crown of thorns. Also gratuitous bad teeth, long speeches about the futility of life (in general) and religion (in particular), and eating meat on Friday.

With all this going on, I figure At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul would be a good entry for an Easter double feature. A heart-felt three coils.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

NFL Playoffs - Coffin Joe Will Have To Wait

I have three films in the exceptionally weird "Coffin Joe" series to review, but the pro football playoffs must come first.

After hitting three of four against the spread in the first round I promptly evened it up by going 1-3 in the second round, getting only the Giants/Cowboys tilt right.

Today the Patriots - "Team of Destiny" - are giving an even two touchdowns to the San Diegos. New England hasn't covered much this season, mainly because of the inflated spreads oddsmakers wrote to discourage bandwagoneers.

And 14 is a lot in a conference final. But for once I think the Patriots will handle this - I just can't see the banged-up Chargers doing much this afternoon, and one of those New England linebackers is going to tip an ill-advised pass and bammo - off to the races.

So New England minus 14 is the pick.

At Green Bay the Packers are favored by seven. Young Master Manning has an excellent Packer secondary to contend with. On defense the Giants are facing a real Quick-Draw McGraw in Brett Favre, and their decimated secondary will be in trouble if they play man-to-man coverage. In a zone they might make Favre hang on to the ball just a little longer, and increase the chances of a rushed or errant throw. It will be cold. The Giants can run, we've seen that the last two weeks.

I like New York plus the even touchdown.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Avengers - Tougher Than Tough, Cooler Than Cool

I recently plowed through my DVDs of "The Avengers," and came to the reluctant conclusion that while Diana Rigg's Emma Peel remains the sexiest woman in screen history, the episodes starring Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale are better.

Would you mess with this lady?

Patrick Macnee's John Steed begins the series in 1962 as a manipulative, slouch-hatted agent and a definite second fiddle to the rather earnest Dr. Martin King, as played by Jon Rollason. Steed cheerfully puts nitwit chanteuse Venus Smith (Julie Stevens) at considerable risk from assassins and suchlike, and is clearly alarmed by Dr. Gale, who keeps up with her kung fu.

In the 1963 episodes Steed is slightly more likeable and the bowler hat appears. Still, Gale has the brains in the duo - Steed is a cross between James Bond and Bertie Wooster.

Mrs. Gale patiently explaining things to Steed

The plots are believeable - the bad guys are usually corrupt industrialists and recognizable thug archetypes, and while Gale's reasoning gets the pair to the truth, they still have to resort to the rough stuff to wind things up.

You never know when you'll have to untie a gorgeous girl in black leather

By 1964, with Rigg on board, what most fans think of the classic era of The Avengers begins. The villains get more and more ambitious, the plots more far-fetched, and the campiness level is slowly ratcheted up until, by 1967, it's a mod mod mod mod world.

Mrs. Peel's outfit's become more, uh, subtle, as Steed gets tubbier

The years 1965 and 1966 are the best of these. The dynamic between Steed and Emma is one of equals - they divvy up assignments and bail each other out of jams.

And the producers never allowed the pair to become romantically involved, "romantic" meaning "sex." It's a distinction that would be completely lost on the creators of today's wretched television programs, save Chris Carter of "The X-Files," who kept Mulder and Scully in separate rooms, never mind beds.

This little number, from "A Touch of Brimstone," got "The Avengers" banned in Boston

More on The Avengers:

One woman's take

History of the series

Preserve Our Rural Way of Life, Consarnit!

This item from Terry Cowgill's blog got me thinking about land use, Currier & Ives vs. Satellite and Double-Wide, and an idea I had when first exposed to development discussions in the towns of Sharon and Kent.

My notion was to challenge the folks who throw around the phrase "Our rural way of life" to actually put their money where their mouths are and adopt a group of amendments to the zoning regulations that would, in fact, encourage the rural way of life...

As practiced by actual living rural people, that is.

Some proposed regs:

1. A quarter mill off the homeowner's annual tab for any of the following items left out in the yard, up to ten total units: bed springs, vehicles on blocks, white metal appliances, couches, mysterious pieces of machinery. (Homeowner may petition the authorities to include other items not listed here.)

2. An additional quarter mill if any of the above are used to house chickens.

3. Town-supported historic landmark status for anyone who whittles outside his trailer or sagging porch while wearing a union suit.

4. All property taxes are waived for 10 years for anyone willing to legally change his or her name to "Skeeter." (Limit of one Skeeter per family, please.)

5. All persons living in designated historic districts shall employ authentic backwoods gibberish in public conversations. Example: "Them racketfrabbin' Red Sox sure did blow the whangdoodle past Aunt Betsey's ratchetjammer, dagnabbit!"

I'm sure those New York City transplants will get into the spirit of the thing. It will make for great cocktail party conversation material, if nothing else. "Did you see my photos of my 18th century Tuscan kitchen cabinets?" "No, but my neighbor Hiram changed his name to Skeeter for tax purposes."


The bedsprings are tucked away behind the tasteful fence.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

NFL Playoffs - round two

We hit three of four last week, with only the Redskins gagging.

This week the focus is on the differences between the conferences, which is why I like both NFC underdogs and both AFC favorites against their respective spreads.

That would be Seattle plus eight at Green Bay Saturday; New York plus seven and a half at Dallas Sunday; New England minus 13 and a half vs. Jacksonville Saturday; Indianapolis minus nine vs. San Diego Sunday.

Conventional wisdom says Packers QB Brett Favre will get picked for points at least once, kooky gunslinger that he is. I'm thinking the Seahawks moved the ball pretty well last week and will stay inside the line anyway.

Conventional wisdom says the Cowboys' T.O. always comes up with a convenient injury at crunch time; could this be because Mr. O is an obvious neurotic who fronts by being an obnoxious loudmouth? Dallas is vulnerable to the Giant' boring old running game, and Mr. Eli Manning has had two decent games in a row.

Conventional wisdom says that the Colts will be so mad at the Chargers that it won't even be close. I think it's because the Chargers are so inconsistent that this won't be close.

And finally, conventional wisdom says Dr. Evil, who has super-secret powers of clairvoyance, magically knew he would be playing the Jaguars and not the Chargers or Steelers. The fact that the Pats already played the Chargers and Steelers and thus had dossiers on hand, allowing the Doc to focus on Jax, apparently never entered conventional wisdom's pretty little head.


Sea + 8 at GB

NE - 13.5 vs. Jax

Indy -9 vs. SD

NY + 7.5 at Dal

Free Speech pt. 1

Isn't the Internet wonderful? How did we ever get along without this sort of thing?

I Kiss You (blog)

More to follow...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Antipodean Funk

I urge you to check out the blog of my cousin Nancy Sullivan, an anthropologist, author and all-around good egg who plies her trade in Papua-New Guinea, which is a hell of a long way from Scarsdale, N.Y.

As a kid I was always slightly in awe of Nancy, who is seven or eight years older than me. She was a bit of a nut, and dspecialized in ticking off the family elders - a skill I admired.

Anyway, as the blog tells the reader, she's been down there 19 years; her articles and photos are quite astounding.

And I saw her Christmas of 2006, after a gap of at least 10 years, and I am pleased to report she's still a bit of a nut.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Style Report, Jan. 7, 2008: Behold the Ugly Tie

ugly tiedscf6879.JPGdscf6880.JPGdscf6881.JPG

Thrifting is fun not only when a true gem is unearthed and purchased for a pittance. Sometimes an item appears that is so ghastly it must be acquired, if only to be carefully stored and brought out for very special occasions, like human sacrifices.

This beauty was lurking beneath a pile of lesser, moderately distasteful neckties at the Bargain Barn.

Note the serial number, presumably so the artisan can be traced and arrested. Note also the width of the tie's blade as compared to the hand.

I sent it along to a friend, Cyrus H. Snodgrass, headmaster of the Potzrebie Academy for Boys in Torrance, Calif.

He writes:

Dear Sully -

Many heartfelt thanks for the excellent tie. As you can see in the attached photo, the explosions complement the pink and blue polka dots of the pocket square quite nicely. One of the boys promptly had a seizure upon viewing it the first time - a most gratifying reaction.




Potzrebie Academy - Turning Mere Misdemeanants Into Full-Fledged Felons Since 1937

Saturday, January 5, 2008

NFL '07 playoffs - first round

I am sick so I don't have the mental capacity to figure out what the season record was. It was below .500 for the second straight year, I know that much.

Lemme hear ya say "D'oh!"

(Speaking of "D'oh!", I finally saw the Simpsons movie and was struck by the sheer brilliance of one little throwaway bit - Homer holding the pig upside down to get its footprints on the ceiling, while singing "Spider Pig, Spider Pig/ Does whatever a Spider Pig does...")


If you were really going to put money on the pro football playoff games the best way to do it would be the money line, since all but one of these spreads are so miniscule that the picks almost amount to straight up bets anyway.

But I'm sitting here with a head full of yick thinking about Spider Pigs and the notion of explaining the money line for the 11 people who read this stupid blog just doesn't hold much appeal.



Redskins plus 3.5 at Seahawks: Washington hits playoffs with the hot hand.

LATE CORRECTION - Saturday, 4:10 p.m. -- Line shifted to Jaguars minus 2.5 at Steelers: I think the loss of Willie Parker makes Pittsburgh's offense one-dimensional, plus Jax has hot hand (see above). But Pittsburgh plus points in their own building? I'll take it.


Giants plus 3 at Buccaneers: This depends entirely on New York pounding the ball and keeping Tampa's Jeff Garcia off the field. It would also be nice if young Master Manning could avoid lobbing the ball to the opposition.

Chargers minus 9.5 vs. Titans: San Diego coach Norv Turner has a remarkable gift for the FUBAR, but it's hard to imagine Tomlinson not accounting for at least seven of the nine and change.