Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Weekly Mondo Round-Up: I Know This is a Fiasco Edition

Also known as the hot mess edition. Maybe it's the changing of the seasons, but my attention span is even more fractured than usual, so bear with me here.

Memory is a strange thing. In particular, my memory is a strange thing. Driving around with Chuck the other day, I recognized a now-abandoned storefront as one of the first video rental stores in the area. It's funny that my mind can be foggy on what I did a few days ago, but I can still name and locate the multiple video rental stores in the region like it was yesterday. Given that 98% of them are now just either ghosts of VHS past or new homes to crummy businesses, this is moderately impressive. Of course, a huge part of this was the fact that these stores were a massive part of my childhood. They were my Disneyland, with each row promising all sorts of new worlds, stories and faces. I love the digital age and all of the easy access that comes with it, but it does make me a little sad that there are kids that will never know this joy. That said, no nostalgia here. Nostalgia is always a fallacy and tends to fog up the reality of the past. 

Speaking of nostalgia, I overheard these two girls the other day, talking about how they were “nostalgic” for the 90's. (Keep in mind both were more than likely in their early 20's at the most.) This is so depressing. I'm a pop culture girl in so many ways, but I do wonder if our own culture is basically encouraging this atmosphere of premature longing. It's one thing to be hitting your golden years and laugh wistfully about the time your cousin almost lost an eye in a lawn dart accident. (Heck, scratch the golden years part. That's funny to me now.) But for someone who is just now legally old enough to drink longing for Little Mermaid dolls and “Saved by the Bell?” That's just plain sad. Plus, lawn darts trump Zach Morris every single bloody time and those things were banned by the time I came into this world. Bam.

Another fallacy of looking backwards in our culture is this tendency of saying someone is “the New insert dead hero here.” Case in point, Rolling Stone awhile back called former xoJane and current Vice columnist Cat Marnell “the New Bukowski.” Now I'm actually a fan of Marnell's writing but seriously, the New Bukowski? The only thing those two have in common realistically is that they are writers and the topic of chemical abuse comes up. One was a genius working class poet/prose writer with decades of life and writing experience and the other is still a very much young and talented non-fiction writer from a financially privileged background. Both are good but clearly, if all you get from Bukowski is “uhhh drugs and alcohol” then your eyes are in your pecker.

To wrap things up, nothing soothes the weary soul like music and the Butthole Surfers have been hitting the sweet spot lately for both the hubby and myself. Even better, we just found out that the band is offering a free download of their classic, “official bootleg” Double Live album. If all you know about this band is “Pepper,” then please check out this out. Nobody loves Southern Fried weirdness more than myself and the Butthole Surfers are a classic example of this. Also? Paul Leary is a huge hero of mine. Maybe I can be the New Paul Leary? I jest. 

 You can find Heather Drain also on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr & Google+.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Weekly Mondo Round-Up: The Gorgeous Edition

 My personal film book stash from my teen years.
Sitting in front of my laptop, with my little writing area flanked by masses of DVD's, burning tea candles, an organized chaos of imagery on the wall in front of me and some mid 80's period darkwave playing, I'm reminded of a certain time, just a little over a decade ago. My high school self, typing up a paper of the importance of film as part of my application to the film school at Florida State. I was already accepted to the main University, but was trying desperately to get accepted into their prestigious film school.

It was the strength of that paper that actually got me to the interview process. Family road trip time and I was nervous and rabbity. The interview went horribly, with my admittedly sheltered 17 year old self competing with kids who grew up with access to film and video equipment, as opposed to my very working class, small town background. Even worse, I tried to explain to the group of interviewers, all middle aged white men, of how I was inspired by films like Romero's “Martin” and Von Trier's “Breaking the Waves.” The smuggest looking one in the room actually tried to correct me, stating that the latter film was sexist. Wrap your head around the roundhouse kick of bullshit entailing an older man trying to tell a young lady what he thinks is misogynistic. That's cute but of course my powers of sass and extroversion were fairly hidden at that point because I was still basically a kid.

Long story short, I did not get accepted and I ended up attending (and later dropping out of) a different college. But the weird kismet of life actually worked in my favor. I've been a writer my entire life, with a film book or magazine semi-permanently clutched in my wee, pale hands. But it took the support of some key people in my life, especially my family and good friends Keith & Ben, to basically snap their fingers in front of my face, as if to say “Hey kid, you do this stuff anyways, why not make a career out of it?”

Speaking of writing madness, I have been told that my style of note taking should be photographed, so here you go. Believe it or not, it is very organized, just in my own jigsaw puzzle, stream-of-consciousness sort of way. 

This week I had the total pleasure of not only viewing, but getting to write about Paul Bunnell's incredible “Ghastly Love of Johnny X.” It's a helluva lot of fun, beautifully made and features one atomic cast, including Will Keenan, Reggie Bannister, Creed Bratton, Paul Williams and the late Kevin McCarthy. You can read more of my thoughts on this cool film at Dangerous Minds

For anyone who enjoyed the piece I did a few years ago about Cult Epics impressive two disc set dedicated to Gitane Demone, you will be happy to know that she has a new solo album out, entitled "The Reflecting Shadow!" Gitane is a strong musical force, so this is very exciting. After hearing the single for “The Creep,” it is definitely near the top of the list of music to purchase. 



Sunday, August 4, 2013

Weekly Mondo Round-Up: The Non Stop Whitman's Sampler Mix

The past week has been a veritable carousel of getting assorted article and film writing related activities done and out there. In short, it's been ideal. The biggest, by far, was getting to participate in the the tuber-fantastic William Castle Blogathon, hosted by the fine ladies at both GoreGirl's Dungeon and The Last Drive In. The assortment of different writers and Castle related goodies has been any genre film lover's dream. I would highly recommend checking out all of the entries, especially if you are a fan of the man. Getting to craft both a tribute, as well as delve into his pink-cheeked spy film, “13Frightened Girls!”, was a ton of fun. The man & legend that is William Castle has left a thumbprint on the world of cinema that will never be duplicated and this blogathon gives you plenty of examples why.


More on the not so quiet on the film front, my contribution to the “Underrated Dramas” feature on the fine site, Rupert Pupkin Speaks, went live this week. It was a great challenge, especially since the word “drama” has always made me a little itchy. Everything I love usually does not fit cleanly into any box, especially one as mainstream-respected as “drama.” But doing this list made me think outside of my own box, which is always a healthy thing. So I hope everyone enjoys it and immediately runs out to check out all the titles listed.

Earlier in the week, I appeared on my friend Frank Cotolo's podcast, “Cotolo Chronicles.” Last time around we discussed the living dead and this time around we discussed the living end of character actors. I didn't get to mention all of my favorites and while I think we got hit with the dreaded brain lapse that comes with the territory of live radio, as a whole it was fun. Plus, I got to plug my holy trinity of character actors: Joe Spinell, Rip Torn & Timothy Carey. Start building your altars now, if you haven't already.

One actor I did not get to mention that I desperately wanted to was Anthony James. He maybe a classic example of “Hey! It's that guy.” but once you see his mug, you will never forget him. Such an amazing face with the talent and presence to back it up. The lanky frame, sharp cheek bones, black-as-a-ravens-wing eyes and thin,wide smile—these are all just a few of the awesome things about Anthony James. My favorite James appearances include his turn as the lead villain in the Jay North-Angel Tompkins exploiter, “The Teacher,” the creepy chauffeur in “Burnt Offerings” and, of course, his fabulously sleazy agent in the music video for Poison's “Fallen Angel.” My only beef with that is the girl doesn't realize how good she's got it...nice clothes, great hair and the presence of a real, albeit highly oily man. Some girls...pffft. 

You can also find me on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr & Google+. Enjoy!

Wet Nights on Neon Ground: Bill Milling's ORIENTAL BLUE

The world of fantasy can be a fertile playground to work out our most base and elementary level perceptions of culture. It's not necessarily a bad thing and the lines between stereotypes and fantasy role playing can get fuzzy. Nowhere is this more apparent than in erotica, where the mind can indulge in comic-book level caricatures. The horny cheerleader, the love-starved housewife, the world's luckiest pizza boy, etc etc. They're all there, big-eyed & ready for your lurid Archies-comic-from-the-depraved underworld-of-your-Id action.

One of the oldest of these sexual archetypes and certainly one of the least politically correct, is what I like to call the “erotic mysteries of the East.” For centuries, there have been all sorts of Western stereotypes and assumptions about our friends in Asia. It was looked to be a source of all things mysterious, exotic and dangerous. This was mainly because it was a different culture that people were very poorly educated about. Rumors of geishas' and women in general that were trained in the ancient arts of lovemaking flourished.

By 1975, the year that Bob Milling's film “Oriental Blue” was released, these stereotypes were firmly entrenched in mass entertainment. China dolls and dragon ladies could be found in Hollywood fare, so for it to permeate into a slightly seamier ambiance makes sense. The plot is classic chow mein. Based on the stories of “Lady Fang” by Chiou-Len Huk, which is about as accurate as the cuisine at your local Hong Kong Honky Buffet, “Oriental Blue” centers around Madame Blue (Peonies Jong). Flanked by her stylish slave, Angel (C.J. Laing), she runs a prostitution ring out of her lovely apartment/operation headquarters. (All of which is located underneath a bustling restaurant, the perfect cover since all the dining din masks the assortment of screams and moans emanating from her “training” rooms.)

She is soon visited by Max (the always magnificent Bobby Astyr), a representative of the W.B.A. (World Bordello Association...I cannot make this up). His entrance is wonderful, turning on the charm with a grin and a “Madame Blue...Madame Blue...How do you do?” The man improves everything in his orbit just by being Bobby Astyr. 

Anyways, Max is needing a very specific list of girls. How specific? Well it includes a French girl who likes 2 guys in Tangiers, a beautiful black woman for a client in Munich, etc etc. Knowing of her reputation for “quality personnel”, he has come to Madame. They end up making a very lucrative deal. She naturally eschews paperwork, but seals the deal with Angel and herself. To give him an example of how she will procure all of his required ladies, she shows him her most recent acquisition-a pretty blonde actress (Kim Pope) who ends up getting drugged with Madame Blue's patented “love juice.” This concoction, an ancient herbal mix, is sort of like if Spanish Fly had a bastard child with Molly. Max is initially skeptical, pointing out that aphrodisiacs rarely, if ever, work. But he ends up proven wrong as the transformation from nervous young lady to unbridled wanton begins. Madame joins in the fun, since apparently her vagina has some kind of transformative, hypnotic powers on whoever touches it. Her new client is most pleased and the mission to find the rest of the women requested begins. 

Each loyal henchman does what he is told and in order, snaps up each girl. It's hitch-less until Madame employs her wild card, Brock (Jamie Gillis). Described as the “only one I cannot control,” Brock immediately rebuffs her advances, stating that “my cock is not for sale.”
Nevertheless, he takes the job, with his task being to recruit an innocent girl-next-door type. Serendipity must love Brock, because almost immediately he spots a distressed young lovely (Bree Anthony), weepy, fresh off the turnip truck via Nebraska, recently mugged and all alone in the big city. And “my how big your teeth are,” anyone in their right mind would ask this roguishly handsome man, but not her. In fact, the best part is after he invites her to stay with him for a couple of days, she asks, “How do I know I can trust you?” Brock replies, with a wolfish grin that only Jamie Gillis could pull off, “You don't. I might be a white slaver out to abduct you.” She smiles, laughs and walks off with him. What? Ladies, listen, if a strange man makes “jokes” about him kidnapping you and putting in the white slave sex trade, get the hell away from him. A cute face is just not worth it. 

He takes her back to his pad, located in a spectacularly faded building and gives her some love juice. She only takes a sip, since she immediately starts griping about the taste. But it only takes a sip and Brock has his buddy and fellow Madame Blue henchman, Antonio (Tony Richards) come in to help sauce her up. It works and interestingly enough, no Madame Blue for this scene. Turns out Brock has become sweet on the lady and decides to keep her for himself. This angers Madame to no end, so in retaliation, she threatens Antonio's life if Brock does not hand the girl over. He relents but hatches a plan involving a double cross that could turn deadly.

“Oriental Blue” is a hot and cold film. The heat lies within the absolutely gorgeous cinematography and lighting. There are scenes here that are near Radley Metzger level of cinematic eye candy. The camera work is solid and fluid, not to mention the composition. There's one close-up of Brock's face, his eyes dark with murky emotion, lips pursed thoughtfully around a cigarette, that is nothing short of exquisite. Taken out of context, it could belong in any art film. The music, hodge-podged from assorted libraries, ranges from eerie to cheery, but all underscore their respective scenes fairly well.

Some of the actors are great, with Gillis and Astyr being the standouts. Bobby's clearly having a lot of fun with his role, as if he is on just how ridiculous the story really is. Gillis plays it straight, giving a performance that is better than a film that implements “love juice” really deserves. Laing and Alan Marlow (playing Conrad, one of Madame's right hand men) are memorable, despite being given very little to do.

Speaking of acting, Jong does not really leave a very sinister imprint as Madame Blue. She is enthusiastic, though, and at least tries, so points for that. At least they cast a woman of color and not just throwing some heavy eyeliner and a cheongsam dress on a white actress. Bree Anthony, who is so gorgeous, is a little grating as Brock's potential true love/kidnap victim. To the extent that is hard to buy that a guy like Brock, whom at one point is described as a mean-hearted bastard, would risk so much for this whiny voiced Midwest cutie. I kept hoping that he would put his finger to her mouth and go “Shhhhhhh.”

The plot's obviously goony, though one thing I will give this film is that there is interracial sex all over the place, including one scene with a really striking woman from Jamaica (?), all of which is played like consenting adults having a good time. As hideous as it is, it was not that long ago where interracial was viewed at best as kinky and at worst, a move that would hurt your career. (Marilyn Chambers was the exception, but how many actresses started off which as much fame and clout as her? Not many.) It's funny because reading the synopsis of “Oriental Blue,” you might be expecting one racist, rapey hoe-down of a film. Mercifully, it's not really either. It's just one visually luscious, silly comic-strip level piece of erotica. 

Bless Vinegar Syndrome & Distribpix (two companies always out for my heart) for releasing this film, especially with such love and care. Even better, it's available on a double bill with the Kung-Fu sex oddity., “Vixens of Kung Fu.” (Keep an eye out for a review of that one later.)