Friday, July 25, 2008

First Look: VIDEO WATCHDOG #142

Our next issue is now at the printer and it's, of all things, a Tim Lucas triple-header. I wrote the feature article on the classic cult television series THE PRISONER (in which I propose a new viewing sequence of the 17 episodes); the text for a co-feature photo gallery of mostly never-before-seen color images of Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr. and Peter Lorre from the classic ROUTE 66 episode "Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing" (courtesy of the Bob Burns Collection); and also the "DVD Spotlight" review of the Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee classic THE SKULL.

There's also a wealth of material in the issue I didn't write, and I invite you to savor your anticipation by reading all about it (and sampling a few pages) here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Double Life of Two Sisters

Irène Jacob in THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VÉRONIQUE -- nice double bill material for people unafraid to swim in the deep end.

The editors of SIGHT & SOUND have very generously chosen to offer this month's cover story -- in which 52 different critics suggest "double bill" ideas, based either in reality or fantasy -- free online as a downloadable pdf file. It's a very interesting piece and I was among the critics asked to participate; I chose to write about the genuine 1962 double bill of Georges Franju's THE HORROR CHAMBER OF DR. FAUSTUS (English-dubbed version of EYES WITHOUT A FACE) and George Breakston & Kenneth Crane's THE MANSTER, which I discuss as a kind of ground zero in terms of the fusion of art and sleaze.

However, while checking Jeremy Richey's Moon in the Gutter blog last week, I found that he had posted a series of "Images From the Greatest Films of the Decade" from Kim Ji-woon's Korean horror film A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (a fitting selection, I think) -- and it gave me an unbidden notion of what a terrific double bill it would make with Krzysztof Kieslowski's THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VÉRONIQUE. I immediately regretted my reality-rooted choice and wished that I had proposed this more creative pairing.

I wish I could go into more detail here, but time won't allow it. We start a new issue next week and I'm behind schedule, reviewing one or two movies a day and reviewing them in the time I have left.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wonderfest Photos by Joe Busam

My friend Joe Busam had a birthday yesterday and, princely fellow that he is, he gave me a present: a disc of the photos he took at this past weekend's Wonderfest, and his permission to use them here.

First series of photos: Let's call this THE FALL AND RISE OF THE RO-MAN EMPIRE.

This year's "Doctor Gangrene" show at Wonderfest was devoted to the campy ape-in-a-diver's-helmet opus ROBOT MONSTER. Bob Burns brought the actual helmet used in the 1953 space oddity and agreed to don it in a new portrayal of the legendary space invader, Ro-Man. Uh-oh, the helmet's antennae needs repair and the show is tonight! Nashville-based artist Ethan Black was summoned to Gary Prange's Old Dark Club House to put things right!

Success! Ethan celebrates a victorious reattachment by trying the legendary movie prop on for size!

Then everybody in the room got into the act, starting with Joe Busam...

... and then Monster Kid of the Year, Michael Schlesinger...

... and, of course, the host with the most, Gary Prange...

... and finally, Larry Thomas, who gave a real Ro-Man Holiday performance!

Bob Burns had to come down to the Old Dark Club House and knock some heads together, but he finally got Ro-Man's helmet back in time for the evening performance. He later told me that he couldn't see or hear a thing when he was wearing the helmet, but the audience went ape anyway.

Here's a shot that Joe took of this year's assembled Rondo Award winners. That's Rondo founder David Colton at the lectern on the right, and next to him, going right to left, are Frank Dietz (Best Artist); Michael Schlesinger (Monster Kid of the Year); the legendary Bernie Wrightson (Monster Kid Hall of Fame); Tim Lucas (Best Book and Best Writer... they said); Professor Emcee Square (Mark Menold), who accepted the Best Fan Event award for the Monroeville Mall Zombie Walk, which he organized; the lovely Penny Dreadful and her loopy sidekick Garou (Best Horror Hosts); Son of Ghoul; the Frankenstein monster (Tim Herron); and the original Jason from FRIDAY THE 13th, Ari Lehman (accepting for this year's Best Magazine choice, RUE MORGUE). Hall of Fame inductees Cortlandt Hull and Dennis Vincent of the Witch's Dungeon were also present but couldn't attend due to food poisoning! They were honored the following night at the Cook-out on Clavius banquet.

It's an Old Dark Club House tradition to get the elite few admitted into this dark domain in front of a camera for a group photo. I must admit I didn't get everyone's name, but going more or less left to right, I can identify: Larry Thomas, Chris Herzog, Harry Hatter, Lisa Herzog, Tim & Donna Lucas, Linda "Nurse Moan-eek" Wylie, Mike Schlesinger, Gary Prange, ? in suit and tie, Carrie Galloway, Donnie Waddell, Mike Parks, Danya Linehan, ? in front holding the decanter and signed ashtray, ? sitting next to Joe Busam, Joe Busam, Ethan Black and Dave Conover. This picture was taken by Frank Dietz, who's missing from the picture.

It is also an Old Dark Club House tradition to have everyone make a scary face for the camera. Frank Dietz -- now a movie star, incidentally -- can be found in the position previously occupied by Joe. I love the way Mike and Danya, standing on the right way in the back, look literally fused at the neck into a single two-headed being.
And finally, in the you-hadda-be-there department, here's a priceless still from one of Donnie Waddell's funniest performances:

Is somebody there?
Why do you keep ringing my phone? Don't you know it's after eleven?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wonderfest! Sushi! And the Moon!

Just back from an appropriately wonderful weekend at Wonderfest in Louisville, Kentucky, where Donna and I got to spend time talking, laughing, drinking and eating with our extended family of friends. Pictures may follow, once I see what they look like.

On Friday night, our annual SushiFest in Bardstown confirmed once again that Sapporo serves the best sushi anywhere in our ever-expanding range of experience. SushiFest has grown from six to eight to sixteen participants in its three-night history. Along for the experience this year, along with founding member Linda "Nurse Moan-eek" Wylie, were Bob and Kathy Burns and also Frank Dietz, who said that he eats sushi regularly in Los Angeles and couldn't believe that he had to come to Louisville to find the best. (We especially recommend the VIP, No Name, Volcano and Godzilla rolls. They even serve a White Castle roll, but it should not be confused with the celebrated little square hamburger.)

The 2007 Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards ceremony took place on Saturday night, co-hosted by founder David Colton and Nurse Moan-eek, and I picked up the Best Book and Best Writer awards, this time improvising my acceptance speeches; my Best Book speech was inadequate but passable, and I think I stumbled through the Best Writer speech miserably, feeling a little embarrassed by its seeming redundancy in light of the Best Book award, but some were complimentary. Anyway, the moment is over and it's best not to dwell on such things. The highlight of the presentation was without a doubt Michael Schlesinger's induction as Monster Kid of the Year, introduced by Raymond Castile as Coffin Joe, Jr. -- his maniacal Portuguese incantations and hilarious mangling of "Mee-kay-eeel Skla-essh-ink-kair"'s name softly translated by a docile cloaked idolator. As Monster Kid Mike said later, "I was supposed to follow THAT?" But he managed to, and it was cool to see my old friend's efforts recognized and applauded.

Dr. Gangrene's post-Rondos show on Saturday night was a blast, built around a screening of ROBOT MONSTER and featuring Bob Burns in a live, run-amuck-through-the-audience appearance as Ro-Man (wearing in the original helmet). The Exotic Ones rocked the house with before and after the show performances of such hits as "It's the Mummy," "The Green Slime" and (dedicated to Monkees fan Donna Lucas) "Circle Sky." I had a great time getting to know some of the band members better this year.

The guests of honor at the show were Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, the stars of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (which I include on my list of 10 favorite films), and I surprised myself by not approaching them all weekend. They seemed like very friendly and approachable gentlemen, but aside from a reciprocated nod from across a crowded dealer's room... no. While checking out, I had one last chance with Mr. Dullea and again let the opportunity pass, prompting me to look inside for the reason why. That's when I realized I was subconsciously protecting my sense of the film itself. I've listened to their audio commentary about the film and know that both men are splendid vocal representatives of the picture and its legacy, but I didn't want my future viewings of a film I consider a profound work of art to be complicated by meeting and becoming familiar with the real people behind the roles they were playing.

Banquet night at Wonderfest has become an almost comically accursed cock-up. They tried to straighten things out this year by hosting a simpler sort of buffet -- a "Cook-out on Clavius" with burgers and dogs, but the buffet turned out to be almost anti-gravitationally arrayed: plates were stacked at the wrong end of the queue, so everyone had to start loading up their plates with dessert, then the potato salad and baked beans, then burgers and brats, and finally the buns. It made for a lot of mess and plate juggling. If Wonderfest was hosting the Miss Nude Universe Pageant at one of their banquets, they'd find a way to cover up the contestants. So, come next banquet night, I'm stealing my friends away to discover some of the other culinary haunts Bardstown has to offer.

Finally, for those who come here expecting some kind of commentary on video, here's a link to my review of Kino's HOUDINI - THE MOVIE STAR, published also in this month's issue of SIGHT & SOUND.