Wednesday, December 21, 2022

NEW WORK ANNOUCED!

Excited to announce I will be providing the booklet essays for these two upcoming Blu-ray sets from Umbrella Entertainment, due out in February 2023 and now up for pre-order.

UMBRELLA PRE-ORDER LINK







New WE BELONG DEAD featuring Carnival Horror!

Received my contributor's copy of the new WE BELONG DEAD (#32) from the UK today. 88 glossy full-colour pages, including my nine-page article on circus, carnival and amusement park horror/exploitation cinema (taking in such films as FREAKS, CARNIVAL OF SOULS, SHE-FREAK, Steckler's INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES, FUNHOUSE, and more). Looks like lots of other good stuff that I am looking forward to getting into over a cup of hot tea later tonight, especially anticipating the pieces on THE NIGHT STALKER, Robert Bloch's cinematic chillers, the interview with Judy Matheson by Simon J. Ballard, and a look at Clint Eastwood's genre contributions by Ian Taylor (a timely article for me, since I have been on a bit of a Clint kick of late).

Congrats to all the WBD team for another superb effort, and a top first-up job for new editor, Darrell Buxton. See link below for ordering info.







CHOPPED MEAT is Here!

Just in time for Christmas! Santa delivered my contributor's copy of CHOPPED MEAT, the massive new full-colour tome from editors Darrell Buxton and Eric McNaughton. I was thrilled to contribute a number of essays to this book, and proud to be included alongside many other fine writers in the finished product, which looks stunning. Covering British horror cinema of the 1970s, including British co-productions filmed outside of the country, the films I have written about for this book are: HANDS OF THE RIPPER (1971), FRENZY (1972), THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY (1972), HOUSE OF WHIPCORD (1974), FRIGHTMARE (1974), TINOTERA (1977), and ALIEN (1979).

I believe the hardcover edition of CHOPPED MEAT is already sold out, so get in quick if you want to snag one of the remaining softcover editions. Link below.








Monday, October 10, 2022

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT

 


WEREWOLF BY NIGHT (2022).

This new 50-minute television special is the best thing I have seen from Marvel in a long time. It's directed by composer Michael Giacchino, who recently provided the superb score for THE BATMAN, and he proves himself to be a genuine talent behind the camera (he also provides the excellent soundtrack here). It's presented for the most part in black & white, to help invoke a classic 1930s Universal monster movie feel, which is terrific and it certainly works, though it's something of an interesting choice given the source material. Since the comic it was based on first debuted in 1972, I would have thought a seventies aesthetic may have been more appropriate. But it certainly impresses as it is, and it comes closer to genuine horror for Marvel than what many thought Sam Rami would deliver with his Dr. Strange movie. The cinematography by Zoe White, and clever use of shadows, is often stunning, and I loved that the werewolf design looked inspired by a mixture of classic Lon Chaney with Henry Hull. It's gory, scary, and lots of fun, with some genuine warmth and humour. A perfect Halloween treat that, at less than an hour, doesn't wear out its welcome.




Monday, September 12, 2022

CINEMA OF THE 80s DEBUTS!


With six issues of their excellent CINEMA OF THE '70s magazine under their belts, publishing dynamic duo Dawn and Jonathon Dabell have branched out into the next logical direction with the brand spanking new CINEMA OF THE '80s. The first 100-page full-colour issue is now out, featuring my seven-page look at FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary). Elsewhere, this debut also takes in Jonathan's cover piece on the Arnie CONAN movies, Darren Linder delves into MANHUNTER, Ian Taylor covers WHO DARES WIN, Rachel Bellwoar examines BROADCAST NEWS, Simon J. Ballard takes a RETURN TO OZ, and David Michael Brown provides an overview of 80s De Palma. There's LOTS more, as well, including pieces on DEATH WISH II, FITZCARRALDO, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, Woody Allen in the 80s, and Dawn's interview with writer/director Steve De Jarnatt (CHERRY 2000, MIRACLE MILE). Check Amazon for a listing of complete contents and ordering details.


A LAST KISS TO REMEMBER


I didn't take a lot of photos at the final KISS concert in Melbourne last month (August 23), mainly because I like to just enjoy the show , and also because my phone camera is just not good enough to take decent pics at an event like this. But had to snap a few shots of course. While Rod Laver Arena was only about two-thirds filled leading up to showtime, in the last 15 minutes or so the people streamed in and the place became jam-packed, which was pretty remarkable considering it was the band's third show in four days here, and was on a cold Melbourne work/school night. A fitting full-house send-off for the band in their 22nd (and supposedly, last ever) Melbourne concert since 1980. The audience ranged from kids as young as six and seven to people in their 60s and even 70s, many in make-up, of course. I was sitting up in the stands on Gene's side. Close enough to feel the warmth of the flames and explosions, but far enough away from the speakers to not need earplugs.

The show itself was terrific, probably the best performance I have seen by this particular line-up of the band (though I know they employ a bit of electronic aural assistance these days). Yes it is not the originals, and there will always be contention about Gene and Paul having other people carry on the personas established by Ace and Peter, but I have long gotten over that. I have the records, the videos, and the memories if I want to appreciate the young, original KISS, or any of the subsequent incarnations. I loved last night's performance simply because it was KISS doing what KISS does best: delivering a loud, bombastic, spectacular live show, PT Barnum with a driving, hard rock beat. Technically, this is probably KISS' most impressive stage show to date, the colourful laser effects that filled the stage and arena at times were very cool, and I loved the giant statues of the band members that flanked the stage, two on each side (they are inflatable but made to look carved from stone, and each one gets bathed in that member's signature colour through the show).

If you are in other states and are still on the fence about going, I would not hesitate to say go check it out, or you will be missing out on one hell of a rock show. There is a simple, primal and enduring joy to KISS. When that curtain drops and the band members descend from the ceiling amidst a mini D-Day barrage of explosions, flames, rockets, and blinding lights, the opening chords to "Detroit Rock City" filling the arena, you can't help but just smile and just get totally swept up by it. True to their style, KISS are saying goodbye with a big BANG! fired from their mighty Love Guns.







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.