Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Another 42nd Street Forever DVD just came out, and it's just as good as the last. Over 50 movie trailers from the 70's and 80's of films, most of which, have yet to see proper DVD release. And as last time, you get commentaries loaded with trivia about individual movies. This time AVMANIACS Editor Edwin Samualson is joined by Fangoria's managing editor Michael Gingold. The folks at Synapse films are truly doing a public service. I'm still amazed so many films aren't available on DVD. These guys are too. And though they wouldn't be thrilled if Americathon ever came out, I know I sure would be.

The folks at the now defunct BCI Entertainment were also doing quite the public service as well. Having provided DELUXE reissues of genre obscurities for a few years, it seems the poor economy has hit them so hard they have gone out of business. From Mexican and Spanish horrors to Martial Arts and forgotten B-movies to obscure TV show compilations, I'm hoping someone can pick up the ball where BCI has dropped it. A few of the final releases, which kinda don't even exist, yet somehow showed up anyway, includes the fourth volume of the Drive-In Classics series. As usual it contains 8 1970's drive-in classics for around ten bucks. This one has "The Van" starring Danny Devito, Chain Gang Women (from the director of The Thing with Two Heads!), and the Young Graduates (starring a sexy Bruno Kirby!). The final release I was most excited to see was of obscure (naturally) early 70's enviro-horror film STANLEY. The story of Vietnam vet/Seminole Indian Tim (Chris Robinson from General Hospital)living and raising snakes in the Florida everglades. Tim's being done wrong by some carpetbaggers itching to get ahold of his daddies land and the snakes that live there. Yes, it is Willard with snakes. Done as deluxe as needs to be, this has loads of commentaries and documentaries with and about most of the main people involved in making it. The only person missing is lead bad-guy Alex Rocco, though he's covered with a story about how Stanley opened in theaters the same day as The Godfather and that Alex was in both. You'll all remember him as Moe Greene, who is famously shot in the eye. Or you may remember him as Jo's father on Facts of Life. You'll certainly NOT remember him from George Carlin's 1994 sitcom, The George Carlin Show. Throughout the late 70's/early 80's Stanley showed up here in Chicago on the late show on channel 7 and I seemed to have seen it each time. I remember it so well, though it's not just because I saw it a handful of times in my youth, but because it was one of the few horror films/b-movies Gene Siskel actually reviewed in his column. Ya see, back in junior high, I'd spend hours going through old issues of the Chicago Tribune at the Library looking for movie reviews of films of interest, and Stanley was one of the few. And Gene Siskel even kinda liked it! A two and a half star review isn't a rave, but when it came to "those kind of films", it really stood out. Siskel was most taken with the "death by quicksand" scene, and I concur.
Since Stanley came out, it has taken a lot of grief for showing the apparent mutilation of scores of snakes. It sure looks like understandable outrage once you see the film, BUT according to Star Chris Robinson, he remembers using nothing but rubber snakes or already dead ones for those scenes. It's the story of how they made the live snakes docile that offends me.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

2008. Not just another 2007.

I'm stickin' with DVD's as my favorite things of 2008. My list of music will probably just make me seem old (Lindsey Buckingham) or common place (Ting Tings) or just plain weird (Sixpence None the Richer "Dawn of Grace", Vincent Price "Master of the Macabre"), so, I'm sticking with DVD's.

2008 finally convinced me that everything and anything will eventually be legally ownable, and nothing convinced me more than the appearance of the Complete Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show on DVD. A short-lived Saturday morning show from my childhood, the Hudsons sang Beatle-esque pop in between corny sketches. Featuring a cast that included something that I still find the most amusing aspect of the show, Rod Hull and his Emu. Yes, he's a ventriliquist, but more than that, he was freakin' funny. as opposed to most of the humor on display. As an artifact of a time when garish colors and corny jokes ruled the television airwaves this is a time-capsule. Most viewers not already exposed to this show may (will) grow bored by episode 3 or 4. The uninitiated would be better off watching in small doses. As most of the shows are kinda same-y, yet different. In all honesty, marathon viewing is not recommended for anyone. From what I remember, the Hudson's follow up show Bonkers!, which showed in Chicago after Second City TV (it wasn't SCTV yet) at 12:30AM Sunday mornings, was a much less kid friendly (i.e adult) show that ran it's course even quicker than this show. I guess I'll never say never about that showing up on disc either. I'll report back to you next year if it does.

In 1993 Yugoslavian Director Emir Kusturica was given a huge budget, as much time as he needed (reportedly over a year, during which time he had a nervous breakdown) and a great cast to make a film. Arizona Dream is that film.
A 142 minute surrealistic ballet is what he handed back to Warner Brothers. Understandably, a major studio has no idea how to market such a thing, so they cut 20 minutes and released it straight to video where it was loudly ignored. Well, flash-forward to 2008 and it's still being ignored. Though available for many years, from many countries, with various extra's, 2008 saw a DVD that can finally be played in US DVD players, at a reasonable price. And though it has no extra's, it IS the 142 minute Directors Cut. I was going to list a collection of sights and journey's that this movie takes you through, but I think Roger Ebert put it best in his summation - "Here is a movie containing wonderful sights. Ambulances to the moon. Unsuccessful suicide by bungee cord. Johnny Depp. A dog saving a man from death in the Arctic. Faye Dunaway. Turtles crawling through meatballs. Jerry Lewis. A man who counts fish. Paulina Porizkova. Airplanes that look like they were borrowed from "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines." Michael J. Pollard. Thunderstorms." Yep, that just about sums it up. You'll either love it or hate it, but it will challenge you to take a stand one way or the other like movies rarely do.

Other DVD's I most appreciated seeing the lens of my player:
Talk Talk "Live at Montreux".
The Oh-my-God they finally got it right Ray Harryhausen reissues, particularly The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,
James Cagney chewing right through the celluloid in Man of A Thousand Faces,
And I can't forget A Colbert Christmas. You'll laugh, you'll cry. It truly was "The Greatest Gift of All".

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

'zilla wafers

Since my blog is titled Scraping the Barrel, I figure it's time I dealt with some blatant barrel scraping. And there isn't a better place to start than with the latest Godzilla movies to be released on DVD. Both All Monsters Attack (AKA Godzilla's Revenge - 1969), and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) are pretty much considered the absolute bottom when it comes to a barrel full of Godzilla. Sure, Vs. the Smog Monster and Vs. Megalon are hanging out down there too, but I contend that the only reason these two new releases are relegated to the bottom is strictly word-of-mouth critiques gone out of control. I swear by what I read on the web, folks who hate these movies have never seen them, but because the plot synopsis for both of them read pretty hideously they parrot the company line, or they just want more of the same when it comes to Godzilla movies, and any painting outside the lines is just not what they want in a Godzilla movie. Now, I'm not going to argue that these films are high-art, or even in the top 25% of all Godzilla movies (22 of 'em between 1954-1995!), but opinions are like noses, and since I'm picking mine in public, I think these two fit comfortably in the middle to better of all Godzilla films.
All Monsters Attack has always had the reputation as the worst of all Godzilla movies. I would concede that IF it was a Godzilla movie, it probably is the worst. When in fact Godzilla mostly makes guest appearances in various dream sequences. This film is much less a Godzilla film, but more a deeper study of the effects of industrialization and modernization on Japanese society. The grim city of the film, with it’s smoggy sunsets through billowing smokestacks, is the background for the story of a latchkey kid who apparently suffers from epilepsy. While in his unconscious dreamstate, Godzilla’s son befriends him and helps him sort out his bully problems, as well as deal with his own anger at being abandoned by his parents! Not the most upbeat Godzilla movie, but at least the kid ain’t annoying, or named Kenny. And it has a smokin’ surfin’ soundtrack unlike any other Godzilla film. I swear you can read reviews of this film where the writers absolutely loath the score. I think they are deaf.
As for Terror of Mechagodzilla, it was the last Godzilla film directed by Ishiro Honda, the man who started it all. Forgiving it’s first several minutes of reconstituted monster fights, the remainder of the film is quite unique, though on a really tight budget. Where in the past whether it be alien commanders or military Generals, most of the expository scenes took place in massive underground bunkers or spaceships festooned with blinking lights and giant screen video monitors. This time around, I swear it looks like the alien invaders are planning their world domination from a room rented at the Marriott. Instead of being a distraction though, it's the urban sterility that makes the film much more real-world, here and now, and much less the fantasy unreality of the previous 20 years of Godzilla films. With a major “robot in love with a human” subplot taking center stage for much of it’s running time, the whole film has a melancholy mood unlike any other Godzilla film (except maybe All Monsters Attack). The photography is also stunning at times, and benefits from proper framing this time around, not the barely panned and scanned version that has been junking up the cheap-o video stores for years if not decades. And though this was the first Godzilla with an all new effects team, they handle themselves admirably, with Godzilla no longer battling in barren countryside (the cheapest and easiest of all effects to choreograph and film).
Both of these DVD's are done up in super-deluxe, though reasonably priced editions. Each has commentaries and multiple language options, as well as both US and Japanese release versions of the films themselves. If your collection is barren of all things Godzilla, you certainly shouldn't start with these, but if you have the prerequisite first film, and maybe Vs. Mothra or Ghidorah, the 3-Headed Monster these would be welcome editions.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

While supplies last!

Often times I get confused by what passes for judgement when it comes to what is and isn't available on DVD. And the height of my confusion is reached whenever I get lists of titles which are being cut-out and deleted. Usually we are never given the heads up when things are going to be removed from circulation. One day we go to reorder something, and oh, that item is no longer available. Sometimes it's because a multi-disc gold-plated Leonard Maltin fancy schmancy enhanced version is just around the corner, and "they" would like you to purchase that version. And other times, there is no reason at all, besides the most likely reason being that a bunch of suits had replaced a bunch of other suits, and the new suits deemed these titles unnecessary. "Ya ain't pullin' yer weight kid. Ya gotta go". As luck would have it, this time around we got not only a fine list of titles being deleted, but we actually are "allowed" to purchase (non returnable, of course) these titles. Therefore, while supplies last, if you got a hankering for some fairly prestige DVD titles gettin' the heave-ho, I recommend you get thee to our store ASAP. "How much $$$"and "What titles?" you probably want to know. Prices pretty much stay around $10.00. Not super-cheap, but it doesn't take a Nostradamus to predict many of these titles will be selling on Amazon for waaaay more than that in the near future. As for titles, the list is quite extensive, but in a nutshell, these are all major studio DVD's, many of them deluxe editions. You won't find them at Walgreens, Target or the Jewels. All are Brand New and sealed. No cuts, marks or gashes. Here's a short list. If any of these titles hold any interest for you, please come on by. If you aren't familiar with some of these titles but curious, check out the Zachariah link and look 'em up yourself.
Last Tango in Paris
Myra Breckinridge
Phantom of the Paradise
Fellini's Satyricon
One Million Years BC
Lord Love A Duck
Masque of the Red Death
The King of Comedy
Hour of the Wolf
The Long Goodbye
Night Stalker/Night Strangler
Eating Raoul
Mystery Train
Empire of the Ants/Tentacles
Swamp Thing
Planet of the Vampires
Deranged/Motel Hell
and More More More!!!
While supplies last.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Great DVD or Greatest DVD?

Back when America was pure, before the rise of the VHS tape and the gentrification of the urban landscape, the grindhouse was a staple of the adventurous moviegoers diet. Throughout the 60's and 70's and into the 80's, double, triple and quadruple bills were their daily fare. A 24 hour a day cinematic side-show, most big cities had at least one. A place that showed the detritus of the film industry, the grindhouse was not for the faint of heart. Back when you could gouge out an eyeball, shoot up a saloon, pummel your enemies with nunchuks and throwing stars and still get a PG rating (or GP before 1972). New York, of course, led the grindhouse explosion, and 42nd Street was it's crown jewel. In honor of this distinction, Synapse Films has a series of DVD's called 42nd St. Forever, and volume three just came out. Compiling trailers for 40 some-odd films, each one just keeps raising the bar even higher. This time around, they added the bonus of commentary tracks with Fangoria's Michael Gingold, Chris Poggiali and AVManiacs Editor Edwin Samuelson. The minutia-per-second these guys throw at you is stunning, and guarantees repeated viewing will unearth more bits you missed the first time through. It's amazing what bases these guys can cover during the length of a trailer. And what trailers they are! Laid out thematically, this collection covers most bases of 70's and 80's exploitation film making. Beginning with martial arts and action (failed Chuck Norris' and Bruce Lee clones), onto possession and Satanism, killer cats, dogs, bugs and alligators, roller disco cheerleaders, chain gang prison stewardesses in 3D, pseudo Belushi's and singing truck drivers. Every good bit from these films went into these trailers, and though, in their complete form, most of these films would be an ordeal to sit through, in bite sized pieces I just can't seem to get enough. Add the trivia from the commentary and I'm in heaven! And it's just not trivia, but gossip too. Like how much cocaine was consumed during the making of Convoy? A consensus isn't reached, but all agree, it was a lot. Then there are the bonus TV trailers. Smaller versions of some of the trailers on the main program, they even throw in a Billy Jack and some biker trailers to top off an already full package. I've given this warning before, but get this while you can. Because of legal gray areas, many similar trailer compilations have been pulled off of shelves (Something Weirds long running Dusk to Dawn series comes to mind) and I can't guarantee these things will stick around either. Yeah Synapse, you've created a great (-est?) DVD.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Link o' the day

Well this is quite the product. Gotta love living in the future!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Robot Apocalypse!!!

With all this talk around the store about the coming Robot Apocalypse, we just so happened to get in a DVD with cover art emblazoned "Android Armageddon!". Whoa. A bit of research tells me that "Star Odyssey" is a forgotten bit of low budget late-70's Italian Sci-Fi. With the recent release of Starcrash on DVD, did I have an evenings worth of Italian space trash worthy of a theme party? It even gets a better overall rating on IMDB than Starcrash. Still well under a 5 out of 10, but Starcrash has David Hasselhoff battling space robots! Not to mention a dozen other worthwhile cinematic attributes, the two main ones being lead actress Caroline Munro. How can this be better than Starcrash? Well, I just got done watching Star Odyssey, and I think we're back to Starcrash as our sole theme party flick. How bad can Star Odyssey be? Let's start with the credits that begin "Starring In Alphabetical Order", and then proceeds to throw all knowledge of the alphabet out the window. Okay, let's cut it some slack, because it has been translated from Italian, and maybe before the names were randomly Americanized they HAD BEEN alphabetical. The next hurdle though sinks it for me. This thing has been edited OUT OF ORDER! Seriously, scenes begin in the middle, and the beginnings are placed elsewhere. It devolves into a series of random images with indecipherable dialog almost immediately. Some of those images are intriguing in a wholly unintentional way, and I guess I should point out some of my highlights. First off, whenever the R2D2-like robot serves drinks (which seems to be it's sole purpose) it's human arms have to close the compartments that held the drinks. This leads to some blind groping of it's "chest" which unmistakably looks like it's trying to make it's nipples hard. And it never actually succeeds in closing the compartments! Secondly, what were they thinking with the mustaches? Most of the guy's got 'em, and they are beyond hideous. No two are alike, and every one is groomed into submission. Speaking of submission, being someone with an appreciation for both cinematic dominatrixes AND female scientists, I think to have the scientist dress as a dominatrix is just wrong. I know they were trying to sexify the film a bit, but seriously, she's supposed to be a scientist. Ya' know. Mixing up vials of goo, and looking all sciency. It's just wrong, but what else can you expect from a movie that has the alien invaders pick only black Africans as slaves to bring back to it's home planet, or the WWII footage used to depict the alien's destruction of earths most populated cities? And where do I start with the "Android Armageddon"? There ain't one! The two main robots are IN LOVE! And it's a whiny, needy love that annoys even more 'cause for some reason the male robots voice (whiny as it is) is recorded so much better than any other voice in the film! Which leads us to the ending of the film. Because of the crummy sound and the disorienting nature of the film in general, I submit that there isn't really an ending to this thing. Maybe it came earlier in the film and I missed it, but I think not, and there's no way I'm going to go back and try to decipher it. Maybe you can. And for less than $10.00 you can have this experience as well as a second feature (Prisoners of the Lost Universe) which has to be a step up. From the seconds of it that I watched, it seems like a decent Sci-Fi Channel worthy film. Starring Battlestar Galactica's Richard Hatch, it has a decent amount of positive reviews on IMDB but for my next DVD viewing I have to take a bigger leap forward, and not just a step. Therefore, tonight I will tackle the new re-issue of Ray Harryhausen's classic Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers. It's a double disc with scads of bonus stuff, so it may take a while. All I know is that I'm sure it will help in my recovery from the blunt force trauma that was Star Odyssey.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Do Make Say Think you're an idiot.

Bruce Adams
tim's blog regarding Bradford Cox
Fri Dec 28 00:21:02 2007


since Tim there does not have a contact address on your website, please tell him for me that he is an idiot. in his recent blog regarding Bradford Cox, he states that Mr. Cox made an album with Stars of the Lid this year. this is completely false. Bradford Cox has never had anything to do with Stars of the Lid or their music.


mr. kranky


Bruce Adams
Re: tim's blog regarding Bradford Cox
Fri Dec 28 11:43:41 2007

Really? I'm supposed to tell someone they are an idiot for you? Probably not. I
will forward your email to him though, so in effect you will be telling him
yourself. You really come off sounding like a tool in your email, so I guess you
don't need any help selling records from us. Thats okay by me.


Re: tim's blog regarding Bradford Cox
Fri Dec 28 12:03:24 2007

dictionary definition:
1. an utterly foolish or senseless person.

making things up and posting them on the internet as 'fact'? it may
be harsh, but i think the term 'idiot' applies. sorry if i offended
your sensibilities...

Re: tim's blog regarding Bradford Cox
Fri Dec 28 12:06:34 2007


okay, now i'm an idiot. bruce adams hasn't worked here in ages and
had nothing to do with this message. i originally replied from our
mail server, where i guess his name is still attached to this account.


mr. kranky

Re: tim's blog regarding Bradford Cox
Fri Dec 28 12:30:11 2007

Oh, just go away. I really couldn't care less who it was from. Asking me to pass
along an insult to one of my employees? What a weasly way to insult someone. You
could have asked for an email address, but decided it was best if I told Tim he
was an idiot (for you, of course). And then to quote the dictionary for me?
You've got the time to insult someone (second hand, of course) but no time to
update your email addresses? Seriously, please show these emails to any
uninvolved party, and get some feedback. I sure plan on it.

John Laurie - really me.

Re: tim's blog regarding Bradford Cox
Fri Dec 28 12:39:20 2007


and maybe you should be a little concerned that someone blogging with
your store's name attached could be so wildly wrong about something
that is so easily checked.



Re: tim's blog regarding Bradford Cox
Fri Dec 28 13:14:11 2007

Whoa, five emails later and I get a real name. Not just some goofy-assed
nickname. Shouldn't you be more concerned about...oh, I don't know.
Punctuation? Proper email signatures? Not coming off as a tool to someone who
sell's your product? Pick one. Getting pissy about something someone writes on
their blog? Life's too short. Does the stick up your ass have a stick up it's



Re: tim's blog regarding Bradford Cox
Fri Dec 28 13:16:26 2007

have a nice day

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Has Hell frozen over?

Yow! As of today (October 2, 2007) the legendary Paul Lynde Halloween Special is making it's debut as a legit DVD! Having been broadcast only ONCE back in 1976, the only way you could ever see this were poor quality "for fan's only" copies. Well, this is probably as good as it's going to get, as the S'more Entertainment DVD states that this is from the only complete copy known to exist. Gay television trailblazer Paul Lynde leads us through a classic 70's variety show, only this one is turned up to eleven. Not only featuring THREE complete songs performed by KISS, but full on sketches dedicated to CB radios and truckin' as well as lots and lots of Disco, including the never ending show stopper "Disco Baby", sung and danced by the whole cast. And what a cast it is! Donny and Marie Osmond, Florence Henderson and Betty White, Roz "Pinkie Tuscadero" Kelly (who is only referred to AS Roz "Pinkie Tuscadero" Kelly), ubiquitous 70's short person Billy Barty, and two famous witches, HR Pufnstufs Witchie Poo (Billie Hayes), and the Wizard of Oz's Wicked Witch Margaret Hamilton. And there probably isn't a more iconic 70's gay image as the FREEZE FRAME at the end where sequin disco suited Paul plants a wet one on the Wicked Witch of the West! On top of the main program, there is a plethora of bonus content, including a lengthy interview with Paul's Hollywood Squares co-star Peter Marshall, and some pictures from what looks to be Paul's personal photo album. Though the hard partying Paul Lynde passed away in 1982 at age 55 (with the heart of an 80 year old man!) it's nice to see this legendary slice of 70's surrealist television actually available to anyone who wants it. Get it while it's still only $11.99, as KISS are notorious for controlling everything concerning their performances or images. And since KISS represents at least 25% of this whole show, I gotta figure little fish S'more Entertainment would probably have a hard time paying KISS what they are actually worth. You have been warned, get it NOW.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tales from my crypt

My own story is not much different from many others. As a child I loved horror movies. Since the first time I was given an issue of Famous Monsters magazine at the age of five, monsters became my “thing”. I learned to read at quite an advanced level early in life because of horror movies. Obscure words like Melodrama became signposts for me while dissecting TV Guide, since that was their classification for anything at all monstrous. I was also lucky enough to have parents that always had at least one subscription to a daily newspaper, and Sundays always meant at least two. And though I didn’t wander off of the movie and TV sections very much, I did start my habit of collecting useless ephemera at a very young age. Movie reviews and ads would be clipped out and dated and stuck into whatever latest issue of Famous Monsters I would have. I would grill my parents for any details they could give me about actors that had some connection to my world of horror. It became a kind of Kevin Bacon game whenever I would ask about someone. The Thing with Two Heads starred Ray Milland, who won an Oscar for the Lost Weekend, playing an alcoholic with delirium tremens. Tarantula starred John Agar, who was from Chicago, son of the owner of Agar Meat, married Shirley Temple when she was only seventeen. I seriously had a basic knowledge of stuff ranging from Alchoholism to meat packing to the age requirements to marry well before the age of ten. All thanks to horror movies.
Also before the age of ten came the song American Pie and the movie Tales from the Crypt. They both came together one fateful day in March of 1972 when I not only got my father to take me to the movie, but also to buy me that not yet classic two-sided 45 (which had just been moved to the discounted section of the 45 bin at the local Goldblatts store). That part of the record department became my favorite section, not only because they were cheaper than the songs on the chart (ie easier to talk dad into buying) but they also contained the more obscure or ignored songs that never made the chart in the first place. My introduction to rummaging began there. Onto that plain paper sleeve I scrawled “Tales from the Crypt – Holiday Theatre” to commemorate that day.
And the movie Tales from the Crypt certainly was my introduction into the world of blood splattered, machete wielding violence, and themes that, though adult, I sadly had some personal experience with. I can’t imagine the awkwardness my father must have felt with the scene where the husband says goodnight to his kids just before leaving the house to move in with his mistress. That scene was sandwiched between the maniac Santa, and before the pulsating intestines, and all I can say is that my father was a real trooper. I thank him to this day for sticking it out. This movie became a new obsession. I had to find out how they got the dismembered hand to move. How they created the throbbing heart. And who the heck were these people that acted in it. While most kids my age would have had nightmares for many months, I was impervious to such things. My brother was way more scary than any skull guy riding a motorcycle could ever be. That movie really kicked things into high gear for me. I got the novelization soon after, as well as some original issues of the comic books that the movie was based on. And a few years later, for my eighth grade graduation, my sister (God bless her) got me the original 27” x 41” one-sheet movie poster!
Finally appearing on a no frills DVD in September 2007 (packaged together with 1973’s very similar Vault of Horror) the folks at Fox obviously don’t hold as special a place in their hearts for Tales from the Crypt as I do. When “scene selection” is your only bonus, you’re into “at least it’s available” territory. That really is a shame, since the movie has built up quite the reputation in the ensuing years. Not only for the decent cast (Sir Ralph Richardson, Joan Collins) and performances (Peter Cushing as a heartbroken widow with a bent for mysticism), but for the solid direction of Freddie Francis, the Oscar winning photographer of Glory, as well as numerous David Lynch films. Oh well, at least it’s available.

Monday, July 09, 2007

It's never too hot to watch TV

Okay, listen up. Ya'll remember the "Star in Your Own Music Video" places? Throughout the 80's and into the 90's these places were set up in malls and fairs and such, and they would stick you in front of a blue screen and have you lip-synch to a song. You got to keep the video you made, only to hide it away out of extreme embarrasment. Well, if anyone has one of these, we sure would love to help you share your embarrasment with the world. Heres one right here as a fine example.

Between spells of playing the Darkness on the 360 (Mike Patton voices the Darkness itself!) I've been catching up with some DVD viewing.

Firstly, I'm about half way through the Amazing World of Kreskin DVD box set. For those not in the know, Kreskin is a mentalist that was quite popular in the 70's. Though he claims no paranormal gifts, the stuff he can do is just plain scary. I'll always remember the story my dad told me about how when Kreskin appeared at a club my father worked at, he challenged the club owner to hide his payment somewhere, and if at the end of the night Kreskin couldn't find it, the owner could keep it. Of course, he found it. This box collects 2 discs worth of episodes from his mid-70's TV show. If you get the limited edition version you get a miniature recreation of the Kreskins ESP board-game. Whoohoo! Disc 3 has Kreskin in the present day telling stories of his days hosting his TV show.

Secondly, another childhood memory reared it's ugly head with the recent appearance of "The Ghost Busters" on DVD. Not to be confused with the Movie, this Saturday morning kids show ran but one season, 1975-76. Starring Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker (of F-Troop) and a Gorilla named Tracy, each week the live action comic antics of this trio brought them into contact with all sorts of monsters, vampires and paranormal phenomena. I swear that upon hearing the first notes of the theme song I was immediately able to kinda sorta sing along to it. After 30 f'n years!! I mean, jeez, the thing never got shown in syndication after it went off the air, and it only ran for 15 episodes, but my brain still retained more than just the bare-bones of it. As for the show itself, all I can say is comedy is a subjective thing, and once again I do bring a bit of baggage to this thing, so let's just say the comedy is "simple". The DVD set is anything but simple, though. Besides ALL of the episodes, you get over 20 minutes of interviews with Producer Lou Scheimer and the guy in the gorilla suit Bob Burns. PLUS every script on a DVD-ROM!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Desert Island DVD - THE MANITOU

As a child of the suburbs, a trip to the big city of Chicago was always a rare and big occasion. The IC train (soon to be metra) would take you downtown, but beyond the rare excursion to Marshall Fields for Christmas under the tree, our family wasn't much for trips to Chicago. The city was pretty different back then. Scary and unkempt, downtown Chicago under Daley Sr. could be an ugly place. It's hard to believe, but where now the sidewalks are filled with tourists and white collar workers during the day, and theater -goers at night, back in the 70's drug-dealers, hookers and ne'er-do-wells of all sorts ruled the streets. It was into this urban-jungle that I somehow talked my father into taking me in the summer of 1978.

A chubby kid going through puberty, I pretty much lived in Star Wars T-shirts, and had a pretty deep movie obsession. Having seen pictures and read previews of The Manitou in monster and sci-fi magazines, my God, I just had to see it. It not only had a gooey neck-monster, but also a battle in outer space! I was sold. Especially when, without any effort at all, I found the novelization sitting amongst the small selection of paperbacks at the Jewels. The Manitou there and then became the first novel I would ever read. Heck, it was probably the first book I ever read that wasn't 50% pictures. Having been a best-seller in the wake of "The Exorcist", Graham Mastertons novel was on it's umpteenth printing by the time it found my sweaty hands. Detailed with Native American mysticism and charlatan psychics, The Manitou made the daunting task of reading a pleasure. It also gave me a new outlet to enjoy my obsessions. Books! Those long-feared tools of "learning" could actually be enjoyed. Who knew? To this day, the prolific Mr. Graham Masterton has continued to turn out novels and short stories, many using these same characters.

Back in "the day", many movies used to play only at downtown theaters, never reaching the suburbs for weeks or months, if ever. Not just the "art-house" ones, but nearly every film that was smaller in stature, you had to work to see. People may say bad things about 20 screen mega-theatres, but had those been around back in the 70's I may not have had to drag my father to the Woods Theatre on that sweltering summer day. Rat-infested and run-down, the Woods was an air-conditioned escape for the street people and gang members that owned the streets outside. Finding the theater fairly full, we were properly ignored as we eventually found some usable seats. After this, the only events of note occurred on the screen. Bring on the gooey neck-monster!

From the first scenes "jump out of your seat" Dolby-enhanced screech, to the final battle in another dimension, The Manitou was everything I wanted it to be. Sure, as seen with the eyes of an adult, The Manitou is a bit lacking in a few places, but dammit, there isn't a thing about it I would change. It's a bizarro mix of campy horror and sci-fi, with a Made for TV cast, wonderful cinematography and a fantastic score by Lalo Schifrin. The story of a reborn medicine man in modern San Francisco, The Manitou has enough fantastical ideas to fill half a dozen movies.

One of its most unique ideas being that computers have souls. All too often, science fiction has used sentient computers as benevolent masters which want to enslave us. Even today it's quite "forward thinking" to have computers as our allies. I don't want to over-sell this movie as an exercise in cyberfuture thinking, since at it's heart, it's just a quirky, oddball and eccentric B-movie that is unlike anything you have ever seen.

Sadly, this was Writer/Director William Girdlers final film, since he died in a helicopter accident before The Manitou could be released.

The long in the making DVD had been announced as an extras filled bonus edition, so I was quite surprised to find all you get are two trailers and a pretty underwhelming menu screen. Maybe Anchor Bay will follow the sales of this budget disc, and deem it worthy in the future, but as for now, I am more than grateful to put away my well worn VHS tape.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Search for Prince Michael Har-Meggido

Medinah, Illinois. Home of Temples, Golf Tournaments and Xavier Records.
Whilst brousing the shelves of Medinahs finest resale shop/converted car wash a few weeks ago I stumbled upon a record that I had never seen before.
Now, let me tell you, I have seen countless numbers of records in my life, particularly of the "local" variety. And I consider myself quite the savant when it comes to such things. Beside the fact that I had never seen this before, what intrigued me most was the cover and what mysteries that may be held within it. The title was Fly-Flag-Fly, and it is performed by Prince Michael Har-Meggido and The Archangels. Turning it over only enhanced the mystery. In glorious black and white was a picture of quite the clean-cuttest of young men, holding a sabre. Above him were the song titles, with whom they each are dedicated to, and what style of music they are performed in. For example, "The Man with the Hoe" is dedicated to Miss Dolly Parton, in the "folk ballad" style. The lead off track "Saturday Morning" is dedicated to Teenagers Everywhere, and is a "Classic Blues-Dixieland" style of song. The entire album is dedicated to the Eternal Memory of those lost on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. Another song "Ulysses" is dedicated to Archbishop Makarios, in the Grecian Rock Patriotic Ballad style. Wha? Wha? and double wha?? Boy, I could not wait to hear it. And once I did, it did not let me down. Being the lover of classic American Song-Poems, this record delivered. From the Hava Nagila/Handels Messiah mash up that is "Gloria In Excelsis!" (dedicated to Pope Paul VI, inna Gragorian Rock Chant stylee), to the title track Fly-Flag-Fly's guitars as screaming bombers at Pearl Harbor sound effects, this record is 25 minutes of pure insanity. Well, I had to find out more. Googling the artist only lets me know that Har-Meggido is spelled wrong. It should have been Har-Megiddo, the mountain that Archangle Michael will battle Satan. Therefore, (all you Old Testament nuts are ahead of me on this one) Har-Megiddo=Armageddon. Ahhh...Well, thats all well and good, but as to who did this record, zilch. The sleeve gives a record label as Xavier Records in Medinah. Let's Google that. Hmmm...nuthin'. The record's from 1977. Thats not too long ago. Maybe if I call the phone number listed on the back. 313-529-7571. Well, even in 1977 I knew Medinahs area code wouldn't be 313. They must have meant 312. And since then they became 630 area code, therefore that is the number I tried. Disconnected! So, now I am asking, oh great interweb browsers, does anyone have ANY information on this record or this person (people?). And if anyone wants a copy of this, please ask.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lieberman for President

Back in 1972, a young film-maker named Jeff Lieberman was working at King
Features, editing old Laurel and Hardy films for television, when an opportunity
arose to make his own film. The fine folks at Pepsi were looking for someone to
make an anti-drug film to use in a PR campaign (i.e. caffeine is not a
drug...see, we're against drugs). Unbeknownst to them, the person they hired
would give them back a film that was, at it's core, not only concerned with the
selling of drugs to kids, but is actually an attack on the way businesses market
many bad ideas to kids. Besides the evil drug pushers explaining how easy it is
to get kids to try their new drugs, Lieberman takes on the music business by
showing us how a big record label funds a studio band (led by the 1910 Fruitgum
Company's "Millionaire at 22" Elliot Chirut, composer of Yummy Yummy Yummy and
Simon Says), works at creating their image ("we have to put the first record out
on a small label, so the kids will think they discovered it") and uses the band to sell other bad ideas (nose rings...big ass nose
rings) to the ever impressionable kids. The film is called The Ringer, and it is
included as an extra on the DVD to Jeff Leibermans 1977 feature film Blue Sunshine.

The feature itself is almost just as compelling as the short, though it is hard
to explain the plot without giving too much away, suffice it to say that on the
outside it is also an anti-drug film, but much deeper is a film condemning the
lost opportunities of the 1960's counter-culture, as well as the vacuous 1970's
disco culture. Consequently, as Lieberman states on the commentary track, the
film was shown more times at CBGB's in 1977 than at any actual movie theatres.
The DVD also contains, on a separate disc, the soundtrack by Charles Gross. His
staccato 70's synth work mixes well with the lite jazz and cheesy disco also
featured in the film, making this disc almost as disturbing as the movie it
accompanied. The film itself was transferred from one of the few prints that actually still survives, and has been
cleaned up considerably, as shown on the before and after demo also included as
an extra. Two years before Blue Sunshine, Lieberman made his feature-length
debut with the best killer worm opus ever committed to celluloid. SQUIRM.

Forced by his low-budget to keep the actual on screen worm mayhem to a minimum,
Lieberman, as he cops to on the commentary track, opts to tell the story a' la a
Nancy Drew style mystery. The simple story of a fish-out-of-water New Yorker
(Don Scardino) finding love and killer worms in the deep south never can be told
too many times for me. The film is never boring and DON SCARDINO's performance
is quite endearing. After these two fine films, Lieberman directed only three more
features. 1980's Just Before Dawn (well above average teen slash'em up with amazing photography), 1985's Remote Control (direct to video disaster that the director absolutely hates) and 2004's Satans Little Helper (quite good serio-comic envisioning of video game as portal of Satan). At the end of Squirm, he promises to do either a remake or a sequel, if enough people let him know.