Wednesday, February 19, 2014


The latest issue (#27) of Robin Bougie's Cinema Sewer magazine showed-up earlier in the week, and it's another smashingly fine read! As always, the entire text has been painstakingly hand lettered by Robin, and the new issue contains terrific pieces on the Savoy porn/grindhouse cinema in Vancouver, the VHS industry (with an Australian slant), French filmmaker Max Pecas, an interview with porn director/actor David Christopher, reviews of Jackson County Jail, The Mack, Neon Maniacs, Brothers, Passage Through Pamela J, and lots more. Illustrating its 44 pages are lots of great old original ad mats and Robin Bougie art (cover to the new issue is by Aaron Conley). Also new out is Sleazy Slice #7, Bougie's comic book title which features (some very explicit) adults only stories written and drawn by Robin and various other artists (including John Howard - not the actor or former Australian Prime Minister - and Wes Crum)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


By Stephen R. Bissette
SpiderBaby Graffix & Publications/USA/2013

Anyone who is into horror comics of the 1980s and 90s should be well familiar with the name Stephen R. Bissette. An early graduate of the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, Bissette’s distinctive and often gruesomely lurid art has graced the covers and interiors of such classic and cult comic books as Saga of the Swamp Thing, Gore Shriek, Taboo, House of Mystery and Heavy Metal, as well as some of the great exploitation film fanzines of the 1990s, like European Trash Cinema and Ecco. He is also a passionate and knowledgeble fan of horror and cult cinema, having written extensively on the subjects for publications including Deep Red, Fangoria, Video Watchdog, Film Threat and others.

Initially published in a heavily-truncated form in The Deep Red Horror Handbook (1989), We Are Going to Eat You! is Bissette’s exhaustive study of the cannibal movie genre, tracing its roots from the silent era and the 1930s through to the grindhouse horror films of the 1960s/70s and, of course, the notorious Italian productions of the late-70s/early-80s. While I can certainly understand why the Italian movies from this period (Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Cut and Run, Cannibal Apocalypse, etc.) are often the films that many people instantly associate with the genre, it’s great to see the author take in a much deeper and broader view, covering the mondo documentaries, sci-fi (Soylent Green) and jungle adventure films that touched on cannibal themes (including my all-time favourite movie in that particular genre, Cornel Wilde’s 1966 classic The Naked Prey).

Written in 1989/90, Bissette first published this manuscript in 2003, and is offering it up again in extremely limited quantities, and with virtually no changes to the original design and layout. Atari dot matrix print-out text, canary yellow card cover with a clear acetate overlay. Some of the text is faded, but still readable. But there are a ton of great original ad mats reproduced throughout, and Bissette’s cover design is remarkable (reminiscent of some of his best work for Ecco).

In the introduction to the 2003 version,  the author expresses his desire to see the manuscript one day published as a “real book”. I don’t know if that is still on the cards or not, but while I would certainly love to see a revised and beautifully illustrated edition sitting on the shelf, I think it’s great as it is. I dig the old-school feel to it, it suits the fact that many of the movies featured in it were still only available as grainy VHS dubs at the time it was being put together, and good writing always stands out regardless of the format. The book is a thick 330+ pages, but I found it a breeze to get through in a couple of sittings, such is the ease with which the manuscript flows, with a good balance of information, entertainment and analysis.

Signed copies of We Are Going to Eat You! are available from Stephen Bissette’s website ( and you can read an interview with the man in John Walter Szpunar’s recent mammoth book on classic horror fanzines, Xerox Ferox (Headpress, 2013).

Sunday, February 16, 2014


22 Acacia Avenue.

I can only assume that English horror novelist Shaun Hutson is – or at least, was at some point - a fan of Iron Maiden, since this address is mentioned in the text of his 1982 novel Slugs (as any Maiden fan should know, 22 Acacia Avenue was the name of a song about a prostitute that appeared on the band’s classic Number of the Beast album, released earlier the same year). Slugs is the first Hutson book I have read, and it was certainly an enjoyable pulp yarn in the Guy N. Smith and James Herbert tradition, with an army of slimy super-slugs, ravenous for human flesh, on the rampage through a new estate in the small UK borough of Merton during a particularly hot and humid summer. Fast-paced and gruesome, with the usual smattering of sex to spice it up, the novel conjures up the same sort of revulsion which Jeff Lieberman’s classic 1976 eco-horror film Squirm did when I first saw it. Will definitely be reading more of Hutson’s work in the future. I believe there was a film adaptation of Slugs produced in 1988, which Hutson himself advises people to avoid like the plague on his website, but considering it was directed by Juan Piquer Simón , the man who gave us the notorious 1982 Spanish splatter film Pieces, I want to check it out asap!


Finally got the chance to check-out American Hustle yesterday, in what must be it's final days in local cinemas. I didn't find the story (based on the true events behind the FBI's ABSCAM operation of the late-70s) to be all that intriguing or exciting, but what drew me into the movie were the terrific characterisations and performances, particularly from an Oscar-worthy Amy Adams (she seems much more comfortable here than as Lois Lane), Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner (his huge combed-back bouffant making him look like Snake from The Simpsons) and Jennifer Lawrence (who provides a good deal of the film's humour). Nice to hear a Danny Elfman score that didn't instantly sound like a Danny Elfman score. Worth checking out if you want to enjoy a great ensemble piece set amongst the polyester smoothness of the late-70s. 


While I'm not all that excited about the actual film, it's still great to see a piece of William Castle style promotion come along every now and then. To coincide with the local release of the Australian horror sequel Wolf Creek 2 this week, Roadshow Films has set up an Exhibition of Lost Souls at the Southern Cross train station in Melbourne. 

The experience lasts about five minutes and is designed like two metal shipping containers, which you get led into before having the door locked. Between moments of pitch darkness, you can see bloodstained photos lining the walls, which I'm guessing is a display of all the victims of Mick Taylor, the outback killer featured in the movie (played by John Jarratt). Ambient noises and sound effects build atmosphere as a slideshow starts playing on the ceiling of the container, showing passports of missing backpackers as we hear their voices describing their final moments. The whole thing ends with a bit of shadowy violence and gore happening up on the ceiling projection, before you are led out the back exit and presented with a photo of yourself standing inside the exhibition. 

The Exhibition of Lost Souls will be there in Melbourne until Feb 19. I'm not sure if there are others set-up across the country. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014


1979/USA/Directed by Milton Katselas

Based on a stage play by Mark Medoff (who also penned the screenplay for this cinematic adaptation), When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder is a hard film to categorise. Social commentary, psychological thriller, dark character study, seedy grindhouse exploitation film - all of these are applicable, yet none of them seem wholly suitable. I first stumbled across the film on late-night television in the mid-1980s and was instantly captivated and seduced by it, sparking off a fascination with that only increased with time and multiple viewings (when I didn’t have a VCR, I’d book a media booth at Swinburne University and watch it there with headphones instead of going to class).

Set amongst the grim, depressing surroundings of a small New Mexico border town during the dying days of the 1960s, When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder casts Marjoe Gortner as Teddy, a Vietnam vet who takes out his violent frustrations, and unleashes all of his inner demons, on virtually anyone who crosses his path. Accompanied by his hippy chick girlfriend Cheryl (cult favourite Candy Clark), who is always being driven to her wits’ end by Teddy’s disturbing behaviour, he rips off a quantity of cocaine from two Mexican drug dealers and hightails it back over the border, where he seeks refuge in a greasy roadside diner.

Holed up while he waits for his broken down VW van to be repaired, Teddy decides to amuse himself by torturing - first psychologically, then physically - the inhabitants of the diner: Angel (the plump, naive waitress), Stephen ‘Red’ Ryder (the sour, angry night cook desperate to escape his stifling world), Lyle (the stroke-addled owner of the motel/gas station next to the diner) and Richard and Clarisse Ethridge (the repressed upper middle class couple who are passing through on their way to a concerto).

At first little more than an annoying, insensitive nuisance, Teddy’s behaviour becomes increasingly more mean spirited and violent, until he finally holds his unwitting audience in a grip of sheer terror and pleading for their lives. By the end of the film, however, Teddy emerges almost as some kind of cathartic angel (though this interpretation is certainly open to debate, and there is an element of ambiguity to the ending). Prior to his arrival, all of the characters at the diner are portrayed as either lost, weak or tired souls, all unhappy and yearning for something else but lacking the courage to break out and reach for it. By Teddy breaking down their will and forcing them to face their own frailties and self-truths, they (at least, Angel and Red) ultimately emerge stronger for their ordeal, and ready to face the future with renewed confidence and honesty.

Despite its theatrical elements (the film’s stage origins are certainly reflected here), When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder is full of memorable moments and passages of protracted tension and suspense, with director Milton Katselas (Butterflies are Free, Report to the Commissioner) making great use of the confined diner setting - where the majority of the film takes place - to create an effectively stifling and claustrophobic ambience. (Trivia - Milton Katselas was played by James Franco in Sal, the 2011 biopic of murdered actor Sal Mineo, which Franco also directed).

Without doubt, the strongest element of When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder, and the glue which holds the whole film together, is the galvanising performance of Marjoe Gortner as Teddy. Gortner (who also served as producer on the film) was one of the more interesting exploitation personalities of the 1970s, a former child evangelist and, at age four, the youngest-known ordained minister. After spending his teenage and young adult years living the typical counterculture lifestyle of the day, he returned to the revival tent circuit in the late-sixties, modelling his new flamboyant stage routines on Mick Jagger. In 1972, Gortner and his pioneer preaching ways became the subject of the rivetting, Oscar-winning documentary Marjoe, in which Gortner, supposedly feeling remorse over his manipulation and swindling of vulnerable people in the past, allowed the filmmakers to utilise hidden cameras to expose the oft-suspected truth about evangelism, the tricks and cons used to whip people up and get them to gladly empty their pockets, and the feeling of emptiness he’d have inside him afterwards (though he admits that the guilt faded whenever his wallet grew lighter).

Whether his motives were genuine or not, Gortner used the success and controversy generated by Marjoe (many theatres in the Bible Belt refused to screen it, fearing the outrage it might cause) to launch both an acting and singing career. While his singing career stalled after one album (1972's Bad But Not Evil), Marjoe’s thick shock of curly, dirty-blonde hair, muscular physique and piercing blue eyes, made him a strong and charismatic screen presence, which was put to good use in films like Earthquake (1974), Food of the Gods and Bobby Joe & the Outlaw (both from 1976, and the later being infamous as the film in which TV’s Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, revealed her impressive assets). Gortner was also in the tacky Evel Knieval biopic Viva Knieval! (1977, starring Evel as his Christ-like self) and Luigi Cozzi’s psychedelic Italian space opera Star Crash (1979, also starring David Hasselhoff and Caroline Munro, another famous 1970s glamour gal).

Unfortunately, Marjoe never got another opportunity to display the sort of raw intensity and sheer dominance which he showed in When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder, with his subsequent career confined to roles in mostly low-budget and direct-to-video fare like Mausoleum (1983), Jungle Warriors (1984), American Ninja III: Bloodhunt (1989), and on television shows like Circus of the Stars. His most recent performance was a brief turn (appropriately enough, as a preacher) in Walter Hill’s 1995 western Wild Bill. There can be little doubt that Marjoe utilised many of the tricks of body language, voice projection and eye contact that he employed as a preacher to bring Teddy to life with the depth that he does.      

While it is Gortner who clearly dominates the film, When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder also boasts a very fine supporting cast, including the previously noted Candy Clark (The Man Who Fell to Earth and the 1988 remake of The Blob), Hal Linden (best known as the lead on the long-running sit-com Barney Miller) and a magnificent Lee Grant (familiar to fans of 1970s studio genre films through her work in Airport ‘77, The Swarm and Damien: Omen II). There’s also Pat Hingle (a veteran of several Clint Eastwood films and Commissioner Gordon in the 1990s Batman movies) and Bill McKinney (so good in 1967's She-Freak but best known as the creepy hillbilly who rode poor Ned Beatty into the mud and made him “Squeal like a pig” in 1972's Deliverance). Relative unknowns Stephanie Faracy and Peter Firth hold their own amongst this strong ensemble, and as Angel and Red Ryder respectively have some strong scenes and a great chemistry together.

Filmed in El Paso, cinematographer Jules Brenner really catches the grimy roadside diner ambience, as well as the heat and barren dustiness of the external locations, and a genuine feel of Small Town, USA (Brenner also photographed the 1970s TV mini-series Helter Skelter and Salem's Lot, as well as the classic 1984 horror/comedy The Return of the Living Dead). The film also has a terrific soundtrack featuring cuts by The Doors, Tammy Wynette, B.B. King, Hugo Montenegro and others. Soundtrack licensing issues are supposedly the reason why When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder has never seen release on DVD or Blu-ray. The film did appear on home video in the 1980s in some countries (including a rare release in Australia on the Roadshow label), and DVD-R burns of these VHS releases can be found for sale or in trading circles, but hopefully one day the film will be given the treatment and respect which it deserves. Along with Stanley Kramer’s Bless the Beasts & Children (1971), it’s one of the great unsung - and currently unavailable - pieces of American cinema of the 1970s.

(Note: the above piece was previously published, in a slightly different version, in the Is it...Uncut Special Edition #2, published in the UK in 2003).


Hard copies of the new volume of Crime Factory showed up a few days ago, featuring the latest installment in my 'Hip Pocket Sleaze Files' column, a look at the Pre-Code crime comic books of the 1940s and early-50s, and the effect which the Code had on the genre and the industry in general.

220 pages of corrupt goodness.


Have finished reading Girlvert, Oriana Small’s memoir of her life in porn, where under the name Ashley Blue she performed in hundreds of XXX films, starting in 2002 at the age of 21. Most of Small’s appearances were in extreme ‘gonzo’ and POV titles like Gutter Mouths, Gag Factor, and the popular series of Girlvert films, from which the book derives its name. 

I have to admit this type of porn does nothing for me, apart from having a certain carnival freak show fascination to them. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fascinating and engrossing to read about, and that’s certainly what Small accomplishes with this book. It’s no great literary work, but it’s a engrossing page-turner that’s as compulsive as it is repulsive. Small writes with a matter-of-fact honesty and even a degree of naive innocence which really pulls you into her world of bad relationships, dysfunctional family, drug abuse, STDs, all-night partying and one-day porno film shoots in every location from backwoods trailers (for White Trash Whore ), to a tiny room at the Jolly Roger Motel, to cavernous Hollywood mansions (which are invariably described as dirty, smelly, characterless and usually empty, save for a bed). 

Small also doesn’t shy away from discussing and describing the many extreme things which she has done with, and to, her body in front of the cameras. Some of her descriptions of the sights, sounds, tastes and smells she has had to endure while performing on film will make you gag, and a lot of the men she works and hangs-out with seem pretty vile (of course, this is only Small’s side of the story). Yet despite this, Small remains open and appreciative of the career that garnered her a lot of attention and success within the industry for a few years (like most girls in porn, Oriana Small had to face the reality of being considered old and used-up by the age of 26). 

Certainly not for everyone, Girlvert takes you on a tour through a strange netherworld that seems to exist totally within itself, and brings you out the other side exhausted, horrified, illuminated, and in need of a cold drink and a nice hot bath.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


It takes a certain type of person - and a fair degree of ruthlessness and emotional unattachment - to work and succeed on Wall St and in the stock market. The chaos, stress, greed, exhilaration and deceit of that world is brought to life with a ton of great humour in Martin Scorcsese's adaptation of Jordan Belfort's memoir The Wolf of Wall Street. I didn't find it as debauched as many people have made it out to be (a lifetime devouring scuzzy 70s & 80s exploitation films kinda sets your expectations high when it comes to onscreen perversion) but it was wildly entertaining and involving for the most part, structurally rather similar to Goodfellas. Nice soundtrack selection, impossibly beautiful women and strong performances across the board, but particularly by an almost emaciated-looking Matthew McConaughey, Rob Reiner, and scene-stealer Jonah Hill. A treat to see Joanna Lumley back on the big screen, as well. Scorsese shows once again he still has a lot to say as a filmmaker. It didn't sound to me like there was an excessive overuse of it, but apparently the word 'fuck' is spoken 569 times in The Wolf of Wall Street, the second-most uses of the word in a non-pornographic, English language film (the current record, with a count of 857, belongs to - not surprisingly - the 2005 documentary Fuck).


I passed on seeing Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s 2013 biopic Lovelace at the cinema (I might have made the effort if they did a special screening at the Crazy Horse), but caught up with it on Blu-ray earlier today. It’s an uneven work from the co-directors of The Celluloid Closet and Howl, but I still found a lot to like about it. Amanda Seyfried certainly delivers a strong and pretty brave performance, even if I didn’t buy her as Linda Lovelace most of the time. But she gets very strong support from Peter Sarsgaard as her flakey yet domineering and abusive husband/manager Chuck Traynor, an unrecognisable (and brilliant) Sharon Stone as Linda’s mother, and the great Debi Mazar as Dolly Sharp, Lovelace’s more mature co-star in Deep Throat. In his bright pastel blue suit with flared collars, Chris Noth is also terrific as Anthony Romano, the mob figure who financed the infamous 1972 porn film. 

The film has a strange structure to it, it’s basically divided up as two 45 minute films, each one telling the same story from two different angles - firstly, from the sunny surface perspective, where everything and everyone seems happy and content for the most part, and then from a more intimate and much darker point of view, where all the physical and emotional abuse, as well as Linda's enforced coercion into a life of porn and prostitution, is revealed. In retrospect, it’s an intriguing way to structure the film, and the filmmakers do it quite cleverly and engagingly, but on initial viewing I think the film suffers a little because of it, as I started feeling a little detached from the story twenty minutes into it, thinking the film was just playing it safe by avoiding a lot of the uglier material that the Lovelace story contains. The film takes the viewer up to the point where her 1980 autobiography, Ordeal, is published, culminating in her famous appearance on The Donohue Show.