Saturday, June 11, 2022

MY LIFE WITHOUT REGRET

By Delilah Jones (aka Doris Gohlke)

Book Review

Born in Germany during the height of World War Two, Doris Gohlke survived the horrors of allied bombing raids, and the complete annihilation of her childhood home, to find success in America as one of the most popular, and most photographed, pin-up models of the 1950s, posing for such acclaimed glamour photographers as Keith Bernard (of Bernard of Hollywood) and Russ Meyer (director of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls). A statuesque brunette with a genuine, infectious smile, dark eyes that could be both playfully innocent or temptingly wicked, and an exotic presence borne from her European background, it is not hard to understand why Gohlke was such an in-demand model for magazines like Modern Man, Satana, Knight, Now, and Adam.

After featuring in over 75 different men’s magazine pictorials (including 25 covers and nearly as many centerfold features), Gohlke would then reinvent herself as burlesque dancer Delilah Jones, performing at nightclubs, strip joints, and casinos throughout the 1960s and 70s, with extended engagements in Hollywood (including at the famous Pink Pussycat), Las Vegas, and Mexico City. Working the clubs alongside such burlesque legends as Candy Barr, Tempest Storm, Tura Satana, Kitten Natividad, and many more, Gohlke also appeared in several films during the sixties, including the cult nudie exploitation movies Not Tonight Henry (1960) and The Touchables (1961). After retiring from the stage in 1980, she spent some time managing the legendary Palomino Club in Las Vegas.



In her recent book, My Life Without Regret, Doris Gohlke presents us with not just a wonderful visual scrapbook of her amazing career, but also delivers a candid oral account of her life story, which is engrossing and never less than fascinating, and at certain points quite harrowing. There isn’t a lot of structure to the narrative of the book, with it coming off more like a free-form, stream-of-consciousness, extended spoken word piece. As stated in the foreword, Gohlke insisted upon this approach for the book, with her words being left exactly as is, save for any grammar or spelling corrections. But it does flow in chronological order, and the style of the narrative does lend a unique tone to the book, and actually serves it quite well, allowing Gohlke’s personality to come through and really guide the reader on their journey into her world. The writing style also makes it a lot more personal and intimate, with the reader feeling at times like they are peeking inside a private diary, where no secrets have been hidden and every experience, good and bad, has contributed to Gohlke's personal strength and appreciation of life.

At over 200 trade paperback pages, My Life Without Regret is heavily illustrated with many wonderful black & white photographs, both candid and professional, taken of Gohlke throughout her life. While it is wonderful to see the photographs of her on stage performing, and those taken by professional photographers for magazine covers and layouts, it is the more spontaneous and candid photos, snapped in cramped backstage dressing rooms and on various vacations and road trips across America, which are the most fascinating, capturing their moments in time with a simple authenticity that makes the era seem so alive and palpable. It provides a remarkable social document for that reason alone, regardless of the subject.


My Life Without Regret is an essential read for anyone interested in the history of American burlesque, or for those who enjoy reading about the more shadowy netherworlds of vintage showbiz (and the colorful characters who populated them). It's a celebration of a life being lived to the full, and as the title implies, lived without regret. You can purchase signed copies of the book, as well as autographed photos of Doris/Delilah, by visiting her online store at the link below. Now a Burlesque Hall of Famer, Doris Gohlke also has a very active Facebook page, where she shares many of her vintage photos, including some from this book (and in color, when available). Although, many of her photos have to be censored for Facebook, which in the book they are not.

Copyright John Harrison 2022



CINEMA OF THE '70s No. 6

The latest issue of CINEMA OF THE '70s has just been published, featuring my cover article on LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)...not the first Bond movie of the 70s, but the one that really reset the character, and the franchise, for that decade. Issue #6 should now be available from Amazon in most countries, looks like some other fab features in this one also, TWO-MINUTE WARNING (1976) is one of my fave underrated 70s thrillers, and Jane Fonda was firing on all cylinders during those years.




Friday, June 3, 2022

TONI BASIL IN "MR. NOVAK"


Continuing my deep dive into the career of Toni Basil, last night I finally got to watch her earliest television appearance, and first known onscreen credited role, in an episode of the one-hour drama series Mr. Novak, which ran for two seasons and sixty episodes on the NBC network between 1963-1965. Created by E. Jack Neuman, Mr. Novak cast the handsome James Franciscus in the title role of John Novak, an idealistic young English teacher making his way through his first year on the job at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles. Co-starring Dean Jagger as Principal Albert Vane (replaced later by Burgess Meredith), Mr. Novak tackled a lot of serious and controversial topics during its run, and is considered one of the first television shows to depict teacher/student relationships in a realistic and meaningful way. The first season of the series received a Peabody Award in 1963 for, amongst other things, “restoring dignity and honor to the popular image of the American schoolteacher”.



Toni Basil’s appearance on Mr. Novak comes in the first season episode “One Way to Say Goodbye”, which first aired on March 17, 1964. Written by Boris Sagal and directed by the great Richard Donner, the episode guest stars Tom Nardini as Tony Sinclair, a troubled – and troublemaking – student of Mr. Novak, who gets into even more trouble when his father berates him after the teacher reports his disruptive behaviour (and even subjects him to the most horrific of parental punishments: the taking away of car privileges).


Playing Tony’s girlfriend, Randy, Basil only has one scene in the episode, which comes about two-thirds of the way through, but it is an important and pivotal moment in the story. As Novak and his date Jenny Peterson (Kathryn Hays) are enjoying an evening coffee in a small cafĂ©, Tony and Randy arrive from out of the rain like a whirlwind. When Tony spots Novak, he begins to taunt him and hurl threats, blaming him for having lost use of the family car, and even making sexual insinuations towards Jenny, suggesting a bit of partner swapping (still a rather taboo topic in 1964 America). Rather than try to placate Tony and diffuse the tension, Randy instead does her best to manipulate him into taking things even further, her wide, playful eyes and the teasing lick of her lips suggesting she enjoys orchestrating mischief and trouble.


Even at this very early stage in her career, you can already see so much strength and unique creativity evident in Basil’s acting techniques, not just in the delivery of her dialogue (where she makes the most of her minimal lines), but also in her facial movements and body language. Toni’s extensive background in dance no doubt influenced some aspects of her on-screen movements and postures, which makes her young character here seem all the more assured. Her Randy is emotionally much stronger and more manipulative, as well as more intelligent, than Tony. Basil imbues Randy with a taunting and teasing toughness, in that classic pulp bad girl way, but she also manages to convey the suggestion of inner doubt and turmoil, and the fear of rejection or being unloved, which is what makes her performance so interesting and effective. 

Copyright John Harrison 2022


Above: Behind the scenes photo of Toni Basil on the set of Mr. Novak.

Buy Official Toni Basil T-Shirts Here!


Buy Shock Cinema #60 With My Toni Basil Interview Here!




Saturday, May 14, 2022

NATALIE PAPAK'S "CHROMESTHESIA"

Checking out Natali Papak's stunning new art exhibition, Chromesthesia, which is running until 21 May at the Alternating Current Art Space at 248 High Street, Windsor. Link for more details below. Absolutely worth checking it out if you are down that way, photos do not do justice to the beautiful colours and textures of the art, and the way it pops and speaks to you in person. A number of pieces have already been sold, not surprisingly, and I was very excited to obtain one of the pieces for myself ("Bloody Eye Scream - My Eyes Are Bleeding"), which I can't wait to put up in the apartment once the exhibition is over.

NATALIE PAPAK'S "CHROMESTHESIA"





MAGNIFICENT CREATURE

Seeing Jack Arnold's classic CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) on the big screen in 3D at ACMI last night was a real treat. The 3D effects were quite stunning at times, and incredibly immersive, much more so than the last time I watched the film in this format, which was via an 8mm print with the old anaglyph 3D glasses with the red and blue lens. The opening moment where the archaeologist uncovers the skeletal claw of a past gillman sticking out from some rocks was particularly effective, and drew audible gasps and wows from the surprisingly large crowd...it felt like the hand was literally going to blanket you! The climactic scene inside the grotto was also stunning, not just for the 3D but for the way in which the big screen space highlighted just how beautiful and moody the production design and lighting of the set was. And of course, the Creature himself looked spectacular in 3D, coming at you dripping wet and gills pulsating.

ACMI are running several more sessions of the film (both 3D and flat) until mid-June, so well worth getting along and checking out. I'm tempted to take in another 3D screening myself!



WE BELONG DEAD!

Enjoying a lunchtime office read of my contributor's copy of the WE BELONG DEAD Anniversary Special, which turned up last week. For this extra-large, glossy special issue, the regular roster of WE BELONG DEAD writers were asked to write about a horror film that is particularly special and important to them. I chose to write about Jeff Lieberman's magnificent, Southern Gothic-infused nature amok horror film, SQUIRM (1976). I'll also be appearing on a panel after the upcoming Cinemaniacs screening of SQUIRM at ACMI in August. I'll be joining Michael Helms, Jarret Gahan, and Adam Ross on the panel, which I believe will be moderated by Lee Gambin. Should be a fun night seeing this movie again on the big screen after so many years!

Anyone interested in ordering the WE BELONG DEAD Anniversary Special, and seeing some more sample pages, can click on the link below. Get in quick, these tend to go very fast!







Saturday, May 7, 2022

"X" MARKS, AND HITS, THE SPOT!

I heard a lot of positive things about Ti West's latest film, X (2022). Not being much of a fan of the filmmaker's previous work, I kept my expectations in check when I sat down to watch it last night. It was pretty good, actually very good at times, with West delivering an excellent balance of homage and original work. Set in 1979, the plot involves a group of young filmmakers heading off to an isolated Texas farmhouse in order to shoot a dirty movie called THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER (sounds like a classic Harry Novak title starring Rene Bond!). Unfortunately for this group of wannabe erotic superstars and serious filmmakers, the elderly couple they have rented the farmhouse from turn out to be quite mad, and bad. X has obvious nods to Tobe Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) and EATEN ALIVE (1976), but you can also see elements of PSYCHO (1970), and a multitude of 80s slashers. Of course, there's also the adult film angle to the story, which gives the movie plenty of opportunity to imbue it with a low-rent BOOGIE NIGHTS edge, as well as reference (and recreate) the look and feel of the XXX movies of that era, when porn was still mostly shot on film and had some semblance of a plot (even a script). But there is also a great "psycho-biddy" element to X, and it even manages to raise some intriguing questions and ideas amongst all the carnage, particularly in relation to the sexual frustrations of the very elderly, something we are not confronted with a whole lot in the movies. Some excellent sound design and editing in the film as well, and the cast are terrific, especially Mia Goth. I heard there was an after-credits sequence to X that teased Ti West's follow-up/prequel, PEARL, which was apparently shot at the same time, but sadly this sequence seems to be missing from the Australian release of the film.






CINEMA OF THE 70s #5: BILLY JACK ATTACK!

Received my contributor's copy of CINEMA OF THE 70s #5 last, in time for a nice weekend read. I have a seven page article in this issue, looking at BILLY JACK series of films. Looks like another terrific effort from publishers Dawn Dabell and Jonathon Dabell, not to mention all the other talented writers involved. Available with a Vanessa Redgrave or Ollie Reed cover, 100 full-colour pages. Check Amazon in your region for ordering details and full list of contents.





Sunday, March 27, 2022

EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY PEOPLE

Seeing ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980) at ACMI last Friday night reminded me of what an emotionally brutal cinematic gut-punch the movie delivers. It also reiterated just how important and essential the big screen experience can be for all genres of film, not just action and effects-laden blockbusters. The sense of spatial vastness which ORDINARY PEOPLE achieves at times, with just one of two of the main characters dwarfed by normal, everyday all-American backdrops, really emphasizes the crushing isolation and helplessness which they feel, and this becomes even more impactful and palpable when watching the movie in a cinema, where the viewers themselves also become overwhelmed by some of its vast emptiness.

But at its core, it is a movie about characters, and you would be hard pressed to find one that has such a perfect, and incredibly potent, cast of actors who are all at the absolute top of their game. Perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising that the calibre of acting is top-notch, with the film being directed by seventies cinematic superstar Robert Redford, but the fact that it was Redford’s directorial debut makes the achievement even more remarkable. Alvin Sargent also deserves a decent share of the credit, for adapting a terrific and tight screenplay from Judith Guest’s 1976 novel of the same name.
So many powerful moments, few get to me more though than the scene where Timothy Hutton and Mary Tyler Moore are talking out in the yard, and Hutton’s character Connie mentions to his mom that a pigeon who once made itself a home in their garage was the closest thing the family ever came to having a pet. It really just shatters any illusion that this family was ever any kind of happy or connected unit, even before the tragedy struck them. The fact that the scene is played, and played so perfectly, buy such a devoted and well-known animal lover and rights activist in Moore, makes it even more amazing.
Excellent intro to the film by Lee Gambin, who discussed several of the themes inherent in the movie, and how they gelled with other cinema from the same era, as well as the representation of the “better brother syndrome” in previous movies (i.e. – movies where young males feel they are living in the shadows of a more-accomplished, or seemingly more-loved, sibling). Some great clips to accompany the examples as well, and was great to hear Lee give some much-needed love to ODE TO BILLY JOE (1976), a film in desperate need of a good Blu-ray release.
As a special surprise, the screening was preceded by a short video intro from Dinah Manhoff, who has a brief but very important part in the film. Was nice to see her sharing some thoughts and memories of the film, she seems like a real sweetheart. Next up for Cinemaniacs is something completely different, and it isn’t Monty Python, but Wes Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), which will be introduced by author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on Friday, April 15th.

Friday, February 11, 2022

SPOTLIGHT ON SCIENCE FICTION

Received my contributor’s copy of this magnificent new book from the UK, published by We Belong Dead and edited by Eric McNaughton and Darrell Buxton Over 400 glossy color pages, beautifully designed with many stunning and rare images, SPOTLIGHT ON SCIENCE-FICTION covers sci-fi cinema throughout the decades, from 1902 (A TRIP TO THE MOON) to 2018 (READY PLAYER ONE). I was thrilled to contribute three essays for this volume, looking at IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958), X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES (1963), and BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970). Nice to see the mighty General Ursus from BENEATH taking the center spot on Paul Garner Monster Art's great cover illustration. Available from the We Belong Website in both soft and hardcover editions, link below. These books usually sell out pretty quick, so get in fast if you want one!

SPOTLIGHT ON SCIENCE FICTION







CINEMANIACS RETURNS!

Nice catch-up with the Cinemaniacs crew at the Arts Centre last weekend, to discuss their line-up for this year. In terms of both film selection and guest speakers/panelists, it is probably their strongest year yet! I'm looking forward to being part of the SQUIRM panel in August, check out the Cinemaniacs page on the ACMI website at the following link:



SOMETHING WEIRD FROM AGFA

A few of my viewings over the last couple of days, all releases from the AGFA/Something Weird collaboration, which has borne some incredible exploitation fruit so far. Bearing a similar feel and aesthetic as what John Waters would later achieve in his earlier films, SHE MOB (1968) is a jaw-dropping, B&W roughie shot in Waco, Texas, about a vicious lesbian girl gang out of prison and on the rampage. THE MONSTER OF CAMP SUNSHINE (1964) is another bizarre B&W oddity, this one shot in New York, where the gardener at a nudist camp drinks water contaminated by lab rat chemicals, turning him deranged and chasing after all the topless sunbathers! The print on this Blu-ray looks better than the film probably did on the day it first played theatres.

Lastly, SMUT WITHOUT SMUT: SATANIC HORROR NIGHT is a “mixtape”, compiling the non-sex highlights from half a dozen grimy, occult-themed XXX films from the early-to-mid seventies. Lots of fun, with some great lines of dialogue (“I’ll eat shit before I renounce Satan!”), and there are lots of old drive-in snack bar and local business commercials included to give it that extra vintage appeal. Beyond simple enjoyment, they are also intriguing artifacts from that particular era of guerrilla porn, and one of the films which they source for the compilation is THE DEVIL INSIDE HER from 1977, which features an occult Satanist character who wanders around the New England woods wearing make-up that is very reminiscent of (and clearly inspired by) Gene Simmons of KISS (in fact, this guy surpasses Gene in some areas, as anyone who has seen Gene's sex tape might understand)! The Blu-ray also contains the option to watch the full, uncut versions of some of the films which they used, including THE DEVIL INSIDER HER.


Monday, December 13, 2021

TONI BASIL: WOWS & WHAMS!

Amazingly, it was 39 years ago last week since Toni Basil hit the number one spot on the American pop charts with her classic signature hit, "Mickey". It was just one of the many accomplishments achieved by this very multi-talented artist. In Australia, the song became a big hit much earlier in the year, hitting top spot in April of 1982 and ending up the sixth-biggest selling single in the country for that year. The music video for the song, with the cheerleaders, is well known, but I also love this performance of it from Toni's 1981 BBC special, which also features dancers Shabba Doo and Spazz Attack. Quicky, creative, and 100% Toni Basil!


Toni has also been appearing as a guest on several prominent podcasts this past week, as she promotes her hot new single, "Wham (Re-Bop-Boom-Bam"), the classic Eddie Durham/Taps Miller swing jazz number which Toni has performed on TV in the past (including a truly sizzling rendition of it on the 1978 JERRY LEWIS TELETHON). Visit the links below to watch and listen to Toni's latest podcast appearances, it is always terrific to hear her speak about the many varied facets of her remarkable career, always lots of fun listening to her on Sid Kroft's Instagram live installments. Her knowledge of dance and choreography are second-to-none.


And don't forget, you can read my five-plus page exclusive interview with Toni in the current issue of the US film magazine SHOCK CINEMA, which is available on newsstands, specialty shops, or via mail-order from the publisher direct. While Toni (still incredibly stylish, beautiful, and energetic) has had a career that encompasses many fields, in SHICK CINEMA the discussion is mostly about her extensive film career, both as an actress, choreographer, and dancer, working on such classics and cult gems as VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS (1965), HEAD (1968), EASY RIDER (1976), MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED (1976), ROCKULA (1990), and ONCE UPON A TIME...IN HOLLYWOOD (2019).

You can also visit Toni's website for more info, clips, and cool swag including an array of great TB t-shirts!

TONI BASIL: OFFICIAL WEBSITE 'SHOCK CINEMA' MAGAZINE


SPOTLIGHT ON SCIENCE FICTION

Final cover by Paul Garner Monster Art for SPOTLIGHT ON SCIENCE FICTION, an upcoming book from WE BELONG DEAD, for which I contributed essays on IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958), X-THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES (1963), and BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970). Now up for pre-order, available in both soft and hardcover editions, and due for publication by Christmas! Clink link below for details. SPOTLIGHT ON SCI-FI: PRE-ORDER LINK

CINEMA OF THE 70s GOES APE!

Happy to receive my contributor's copy of CINEMA OF THE 70's #4 in time for a late-afternoon sunshine read. For this issue, I was thrilled to contribute the ten-page cover feature on the 1970s PLANET OF THE APES films, and the overall APES phenomenon of that decade (taking in the TV live-action and animated shows, comic books, merchandise, and more).

Other 70s cinema covered in this 100-page full-colour issue include THE DEEP (1977), HOOPER (1978), THE BROOD (1979), THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH (1970), BUG (1975), and many more, along with articles on cops in 70s British horror, and what looks to be an excellent piece on the 70s CARRY ON movies, written by David Michael Brown, which I intend to dig into straight away (I have also dug out my CARRY ON DVD box set, as I am sure I will be wanting to revisit some of them afterward).
Available now from Amazon in most countries.