Monday, February 25, 2008

The Giant Sucking Sound of Jess Franco, Poop Auteur

Jess Franco's Killer Barbys vs. Dracula is an unadulterated piece of doo-doo. It fails on every level: inane rock video, puerile vampire spoof, cure for insomnia.

An exploitation film can and should be many things, among them: Disgusting, tasteless, shocking, revolting, shameless, prurient, bestial, idiotic, and poorly lit.

Once in a while a schlocker is actually pretty good; very occasionally close to brilliant.

But an exploitation film cannot be boring.

And this is.

The only item of note is that hanging around with Jess Franco hasn't done Lina Romay any good, as a look at her in her Transylvanian KGB outfit demonstrates:

Killer Barbys vs. Dracula is the suckiest movie in the entire history of suckinessdom.

Zero coils.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Blacula - That's the Way (Uh-Huh Uh-Huh) We Like It (Uh-Huh Uh-Huh)

Scream Blacula Scream (1973) answers one nagging vampire-related question: if a vampire can't see himself in a mirror, how can he adjust his cape?

Answer: He gets his vampire pal to check it for him.

Pam Grier plays Lisa, whose grandma, the high priestess of a voodoo cult, dies without leaving clear instructions as to who is to keep things running. The hot-headed and impetuous Willis, angry that he has not been chosen, does the obvious thing: he buys a bag of vampire bones (that come with instructions) and performs a ceremony to bring the vampire back to life to do his bidding.

This last bit backfires, as Blacula (aka 18th century African prince Mummatumma) turns Willis into a loudly-dressed, jive-talking vampire assistant.

Blacula, played with as much grace and dignity as humanly possible by the late William Marshall, wants Lisa to exorcise the demon from him so he can go back to his people in Africa. Lisa agrees, but the ceremony is interrupted by the clumsy entrance of Lisa's dumb boyfriend, his equally moronic police lieutenant pal, and a bunch of hapless motorcycle cops, armed with pieces of picket fence that just happened to be lying around.

There is no nekkidity in this film, but lots of early-70s booty-shaking. Exceptionally bad music. (Imagine the possible cheese if a young and struggling KC and the Sunshine Band had been recruited.) Violent lesson in ethnic pride from Blacula to two pimps. The widest lapels in the 20th century. Pretty decent bat-into-Blacula stuff, given the technology of the time and the likely budget for special effects (about $11.38 in today's terms). Good hissing attack vampires in the climax. Special notice for William Marshall's performance, especially when he has the dopey boyfriend by the throat and says "The name is BLACULA!"

Automatic one-coil deduction for no breasts. Another coil off for way too much talking and other vain attempts at writing.


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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hardboiled - Rebus Is a Real 20-Minute Egg

Ken Stott as D.I. John Rebus

The British TV adaptations of Ian Rankin's novels featuring Detective Inspector John Rebus are, as usual, miles above anything American TV puts out.

While the direction employs some of the dumber US tactics - the dollying and tracking camera that moves through the crowded squadroom as minor characters pop into view with just the vital bit of info to move the plot along and vanish just as suddenly, for example - the writing is tight and doesn't spend hours on getting in and out of cars, etc.

Ken Stott as the depressed, alcoholic, chain-smoking, self-hating, lecherous, impulsive and (natch) brilliant detective doesn't look like my idea of Rankin's man. For one thing, if this guy was ever in the SAS, either he went downhill very fast or they relaxed their standards.

But that's a minor quibble. Rebus bullies, blunders and barrels around Edinburgh, with sidekick DS Clark in tow, and eventually gets to the bottom of whatever it is.

The episodes are quick at about 69 minutes per, and waste absolutely no time. They don't get mired in a lot of subplots, either - a frequent failing of American cop shows.

This is Ed McBain with a Scots burr,
Law & Order without the ponderous "ripped from the headlines" shtick. Hard, fast whodunits, with a couple of laughs, a smattering of gore and a bit of violence, all nicely contained in a tidy package.

The series gets a hearty three and a half stars (of four).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Cinema - Count Yorga, L.A.'s Best Vampire

I was so excited by picking the Super Bowl right and getting the chance to vote for Sen. Obama (and thereby stick one in Mrs. Evil's craw*) I forgot to extol the virtues of
Count Yorga, Vampire.

This 1970 film broke new ground. Never before had a VW bus played such a pivotal role in a horror movie. An entire generation of hippies had to blink and say "Darrr?"

The flick opens at a seance, presided over by the Count himself, who sticks out like a sore thumb in his evening dress next to the tweed-jacketed and turtlenecked geeks at the shindig.

The seance itself is a bit of a fizzle, but it suits the Count's purpose just fine - identifying his next batch of victims.

Specifically, Erica, who feels a little wonky after her first en
counter and goes to see the chain-smoking, whiskey-swilling quack, who advises she eat lots of rare steak.

Which she does. Unfortunately, she uses the family cat.

Then there's an immense amount of plot and blah blah blah and walking around Los Angeles until the guys decide to go bust into the vampire's hilltop manor, which doesn't work out too well in general but does finish off the Count.

I remember seeing this as a kid and being scared to death at the VW bus scene. It strikes me as slightly comical now, but what doesn't?

Good oily lounge lizard vampire, correctly dressed. Dumb male leads who deserve everything they get. The briefest hints of nekkidness, cleavage, lesbianism. Chain-smoking medico who wears puke-yellow shirts and therefore deserves everything
he gets. Gratuitous voice-over narration. Bulgarian lackey with the best dentistry then available behind the Iron Curtain. A big piece of cheese. Two coils.

* In case you are wondering about the oblique reference to Sen. Clinton as "Mrs. Evil," consider this:

  • Using numerical values for the alphabet (A=1 and so on to Z = 26), the total for "Hillary", 157, divided by the mystic number 23, results in 6.826. The value for "devil," 52, divides by 23, is 6.872. I, for one, am not going to turn over the leadership of my beloved country to someone whose Mystic Value is a mere .038 away from The Devil.

Style Report - Support the Small Guys

In the weird world of internet clothing forums the word "artisan" gets a lot of play, usually to describe the maker of an item far out of my price range.

I have amassed a considerable wardrobe over the last four or five years. About half came from eBay and thrift shops; the remainder from deals like Lands End or Orvis overstocks, the regular sales at Brooks Brothers and J. Press, and some trading with fellow enthusiasts of The Look Unhappily Known As Trad.

It's been hit-or-miss, especially at the onset of the madness, and had I known more at the time I would have spent less for better things.

But this is why they call it "learning."

Now I am at the point where I do not need another shirt, tie or pair of grey slacks for the next gazillion years, assuming no dramatic weight change. There are a couple of holes in the sport coat and suit collection, but with patience the right pieces will materialize.

So in order to feed the dragon I have adopted a new strategy of adding small items to the collection, perhaps one a month or so; items that come from small outfits, where I have established a personal rapport with the "artisan."

(There has got to be a less snooty way of saying "artisan": Tiemonger; linkslinger; Baron of the Buttondown?)

The idea is to slowly add quality stuff to balance out the mass of RTW/thrifted/used items. And to do so in a manner that does not bust the budget.

I just took delivery of this shirt from Mercer and Sons. They call it "James Bond's favorite tattersall" and now that I have it in my grubby mitts I'm not going to begrudge them the hyperbole.

I have two old Orvis tattersall shirts that together have formed the Holy Grail of tattersalls in my mind - a sturdy cloth, looks good with a sweater and/or tie, and yet wouldn't be out of place with mud and fish guts on it.

The two Orvis shirts, however, fail in the "looks good with a tie" category, their necks being too small. And the current Orvis offerings in sports shirts are designed for a very portly sportsman indeed, with a Large gent apparently checking in at 220 lbs., with a 48-inch chest and arms that hang to China; and the Medium pretty much the same as Mr. Large minus two inches in the chest and an inch in the sleeve.

The Mercers will send you swatches on request. (They'll even send them without a request, once they get your address.) That is how I determined the fabric on the tattersall was about right. The pattern looked good. I already knew the cut was how I prefer it - baggy. (None of your slim-fit fashion geeks staring into space while leaning against a boulder on the Adriatic coastline for me, thanks.)

The big stumbling block was the price tag - $140. More sophisticated people than me ("sophisticated" = "loaded") will laugh politely at my concern, pointing out that $140 for a unique shirt made one at a time by a small company is in fact a bargain, especially as compared to fancy shirtmakers who produce some extraordinary-looking things at colossal prices - shirts I personally wouldn't be caught wearing while dead in a ditch.

But $140 represents a significant chunk of Ye Weekly Check, so I had to think it over.

For about ten seconds.

I wrote out the check, filled out the form, sent it away - and forgot about it. Turnaround on all but the most common items is about six weeks, and sure enough, six weeks later (almost to the day) the UPS man turned up with the modest padded envelope.

I'm writing this while sick. I am not even going to wear this shirt until I am better, that's how much I like it. I am thinking about erecting a temporary shrine to the shirt. A triptych, with the two Orvis shirts flanking the majestic New Tattersall.

Or maybe not.

Also in the mailbag this week were these little cufflinks from Mr. Kent Wang, the croquet-playing maestro of style in Austin, Texas.

Mr. Wang has an odd sense of humor and a great eye for the small flourishes that can make an outfit really come alive. His cufflinks are a particular relief to me, as I dislike great bulbous things hanging off my cuffs.

The pocket squares are first-rate as well, and a little smaller than many manufacturers', which makes for less migration during the course of the day.

And everything from KW is eminently affordable - in this case, $25 shipped. Let's hope he keeps it that way.

My latest non-thrift shop tie purchase was from David Hober, of Sam Hober (named after Samantha, the first-born of the latest crop of Hobers).

My dealings with David go back several years, when I first bought a Thai mudmee pocket square and was immediately impressed. It was unusual without being gimmicky.

Since then we've designed a couple of ties together and maintain a lively correspondence.

Sam Hober used to be based in Denver but they have relocated to Thailand, which means that David can call you on his Internet phone and sound better than someone in the next town.

The tie is the Trad Special #5 (that awful word again). Designed by one of the clothing forum guys, apparently, and David informed me mine was the first off the production line (such as it is).

What I like especially about the more traditional of the Hober ties is they look a great deal like the Brooks ties they are inspired by, but differ in some stylistic detail. A difference too subtle for the average jamoke, but I know it's there.

And once the Hober ties are handled in person the vastly superior workmanship is apparent. And at $75 shipped from the other side of the globe, I don't see the problem, unless you're in a hurry. Turnaround is again about six-eight weeks.

Here I am modeling the Trad Special #5 with the most conservative suit I own. Stodgy, yet effervescent. (!?)

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Super Duper

I am pleased to report that as of Friday morning I had not read or viewed one single scrap of information on the Super Duper.

The two-week layoff between the conference finals and the Super Duper is a disgrace. Where is the point of diminishing returns on pre-game hype? I'd say about two and a half days, or the first story about an assistant coach's crippled daughter - whichever comes first.

Some hype is necessary, even good. But more hype isn't gooder.

It's just hyper.

According to Tim Sullivan of the New York Post, "Teams that average more than 27 points in the regular season are 22-2-1 in the Super Bowl. The Giants average 23.2 points. The Patriots 35.6."

Got that?

Big Tim also points out the Pats have not covered in eons, and if you subtract 23.2 from 35.6 you get 12.4. By an odd coincidence, the opening line today is 12 points.

But I keep remembering the intensity of the Giants in that final regular season matchup, when they had nothing on the line and nobody (well, almost nobody) would have blamed them if they sat their regulars.

So the play for me is New York plus the 12 points. Final score, New England 34-28.

I'm looking forward to this. Maroney zig-zagging and breaking tackles for New England; the Patriot linebackers trying to tip Young Master Manning's throws. New York trying to blast it up the middle and not getting anywhere until about midway through the third quarter, when all of a sudden the holes appear; a death-defying Manning-to-Burress heave that gives the Giants momentum heading into the half.

And that inevitable, evil moment so familiar to the fans of teams that played New England this year - when Brady gets the ball with about three minutes left, two timeouts plus the two-minute warning. You just know they're going to score.


Rather last minute - a young lady friend is coming over, she cares not one whit about the Sooper Dooper but likes my cooking.

So, Bachelor Stir-Fry (Kwik-E version):

Bone and dice chicken breast meat, put in goop consisting of horseradishy mustard, blob of olive oil, blob or two of Paul Newman balsamic stuff left over from summer, some hot peppers from a jar, and blob of honey, let sit in frig.

Grab what veg are at hand, which tonight are a bag of Stop and Shop Ranch Veg, half a bag of S & S pepper strips, regular onion, can of black beans.

Serve on Trader Joe's pasta, as Mom sent me about 50 pounds of various types and I haven't even made a dent in the supply.

It's a two-pot meal - one for the noodles and a big frying pan for everything else. Plus we'll finish the holiday turkey soup if she wants. She's bringing dessert.