Sunday, May 18, 2014


I’d never even heard of this 2011 film until I read Stephen Bissette’s recent write-up of it in the second issue of Monster! Stephen’s enthusiastic (and extensive) piece got me curious enough to track down a copy of the film down and give it a go. 

Written and directed by Fred M. Andrews, Creature apparently has the dubious distinction of having the lowest-grossing ever opening weekend for a film appearing on over 1500 screens. While the cinema may not have been the right place for the movie to find an audience, it worked quite well as a late late Saturday night DVD, just what I needed to wash the grime and seediness of William Friedkin’s Cruising off of me (see previous post). 

Set in the Louisiana Bayou, Creature is an old-fashioned pulpy monster movie at heart, and built on a thoroughly cliched premise - a bunch of kids on a road trip decide to go off the beaten track in order to investigate the local legend of Lockjaw, a half-man/half-alligator who prowls the bayou. Andrews dresses up his basic idea with enough gore, lesbian sex, incest and Southern Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style inbreeding and family craziness to make it all luridly entertaining. There’s some really twisted and sick themes and images on display at times, and the titular creature is a pretty cool looking creation that seems at least partly inspired by the comic book character Swamp Thing (I’m beginning to see why Stephen liked it so much!).

Flawed, but still worth checking out if you are a die-hard monster movie fan, and especially if you enjoy that special steamy sub-genre of bayou exploitation cinema...


Well done to Fangoria scribe Lee Gambin and his Cinemaniacs crew for their screening of Cruising at the Back Lot cinema last night. A terrific venue - good screen, comfy seats and a nice ambience. The prefect place for cult film screenings!

Cruising is just as uncompromising today as it was 34 years ago, and was a pretty brave and risky choice for both director William Friedkin and star Al Pacino. Definitely one of the great New York movies, though also one of the toughest to watch. Classic soundtrack featuring Germs, Rough Trade, Willy DeVille, the Cripples and more, and I loved seeing Don Scardino (the male lead from one of my favourite horror films, 1976's Squirm) turn up as Pacino's neighbour. And Pacino's Amyl Nitrate fuelled dance is a sight to behold...

After the film ended last night, we were treated to an interesting screening of some short, silent footage of gay rights groups protesting the filming of Cruising in the streets of New York City, over which Lee delivered a talk on some of his favourite depictions of gay killers (and gay victims) in genre films over the years. It's the little extras like this (not to mention the give-aways they always have) that help make the Cinemaniacs screenings a genuine treat for the Melbourne film lover. Looking forward to their upcoming Friday the 13th marathon and screening of Walter Hill's The Warriors (1979).

Friday, May 16, 2014


Checked out an IMAX 3D screening of the new Godzilla movie last Thursday night…my initial spoiler-free impressions follow:

Godzilla, and his world and characters that populate it, have an intrinsic connection to Japanese culture, not to mention a particularly dark time in 20th Century history (the original 1954 Godzilla was a clear allegory for the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during the last days of World War II). As a result, I think any attempt by another country to present their take on Godzilla is bound to feel somewhat less genuine, or not quite “the real thing”…just as it would if Japan tried to make a Batman or Friday the 13th film. 

This new Godzilla is certainly miles above Roland Emmerich’s embarrassing attempt to Americanize the character back in 1998. Director Gareth Edwards has clearly taken his cue from the Steven Spielberg school of classic blockbuster movie-making, using films like JAws (even one of the main characters is named Brody), Close Encounters of the Third Kind and (naturally) Jurassic Park as his templates. While Edwards is to be commended for wanting to take his time and establish character, the problem is that his characters are, for the most part, not worth investing too much time or emotion in. They aren’t awful characters, just rather bland and uninvolving. But at least they aren’t the annoying cardboard cut-outs that populated Emmerich’s film. 

Then again, character depth and development in a Godzilla film is something that should be considered a bonus rather than a pre-requisite. These movies are all about the stomp and the spectacle, and in this regard I think Edwards has pulled-off some pretty stunning set-pieces. A lot of critics have found fault with the film’s sparse sprinkling of action during its first two acts, and while it would have been nice to see a bit more of actual Godzilla action, I found its more relaxed pace to be a nice change in an age when blockbusters are expected to start with a big CGI razzle dazzle and never let-up. And I really liked the way they handled the Godzilla ‘character’, drawing on various past incarnations to create a nice balance of monster and hero. I really liked the design as well - a slight revamp but unmistakably Godzilla. The enormous prehistoric (and nuclear-fed) MUTOs - Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms - look rather generic and unremarkable in comparison, though they do come across as genuinely threatening in a couple of scenes.

While it didn’t quite live up to the promise shown by its terrific and highly-effective trailers, I still found Godzilla to be a pretty entertaining and satisfying attempt to do a classic monster movie, and has a rousing final act that certainly looked pretty grand up there on the giant IMAX screen. 

Received a free Godzilla IMAX poster upon entry as well...always nice to see a bit of old-fashioned promotion going on.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


It's fair to say that Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) would be nowhere near the film it is were it not for the illustrations and designs which Giger put together for it (which included the adult alien, the facehugger, chestburster, derelict spaceship/pilot and more). His designs mesmerised me as a 15 year-old, seeing them in the pages of magazines like Cinefantastique and Starlog around the time ALIEN was released, and I quickly went on to learn more about him after buying Giger's Alien, as well as the making-of book (The Book of Alien). Giger's work was beautiful yet ugly, horrifying yet sexual, disturbing yet endlessly fascinating. And the man himself, with his pale skin, grey locks, black clothes and often draped in a full length black leather coat, was almost as transfixing and interesting as his work.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Enjoying an evening coffee (from a suitably naughty cup) while I peruse my article on tragic 70's porn starlet Rene Bond in Pink Factory, the newly published one-shot special from the people behind Crime Factory magazine. Received my hard copies of Pink Factory today and it looks fabulous, the layout designers did a top job and I am very pleased with how my piece turned out. Devoted to the depiction of sex and erotica in various media (cinema, fiction, pulps, comic books, etc.), Pink Factory titillates, educates, engages and occasionally disturbs and horrifies, and features some great pieces of writing from Cameron Ashley, Andrew Nette, Michelle Alexander, Liam Jose and more.

Ordering details here:

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Every time I watch Joseph Green’s The Brain that Wouldn't Die, I remain amazed at just what a lurid and demented little gem it is for 1962 (not to mention for 1959, when the film was actually lensed before sitting on the shelf for a few years). It’s a perfect combination of outrageous low-budget horror and sexploitation roughie - the seedy ambience that pervades throughout is as thick as pea soup. Virginia Leith delivers a terrific performance, considering she is limited to being just a head sitting in a tray of chemicals for most of the running time. There’s also a giant monster in a cupboard and a surprising amount of blood and gore on display. A lot of the film’s sleazier highlights - including a catfight amongst strippers in a low-rent strip joint, star Jason Evers checking out asses in tight dresses as they strut down the street (accompanied by wailing jazz), and a visit to an Irving Klaw-esque pin-up photo studio, were cut from subsequent television prints for years. The first time I ever saw it was on local late-night television in the early-90's, in what turned out to be a pristine uncut print. The European cut of the film featured some snippets of nudity, which is included as a bonus feature on the film's DVD release (on an MGM sci-fi four pack).

Saturday, May 3, 2014

MS. 45

Sat down and watched Drafthouse Films’ recent Blu-ray release of Abel Ferrara’s Ms.45 (aka Angel of Vengeance, 1981) last night. Haven’t watched this film since the mid-90's so it was great going in reasonably fresh as I had forgotten just how effective and shocking a couple of the scenes were (the killing of the sleazy photographer came as particularly jarring, even though I knew what was going to happen, I had forgotten how sudden and stunning it was).

I’ve never read as much into this film as a lot of other people have over the years since its original limited release (where it was given a mostly negative reception). To me, Ms.45 is a pure exploitation film in the best, violent 42nd St grindhouse tradition, which is why I immediately turned over the reversible cover in the Blu-ray so that it reflects the movie’s original lurid poster art. But it’s one exploitation film which also harbours some genuine arthouse sensibilities, and ideas and themes which, if not explored deeply in the actual film, at least give cause for viewers to think and debate. Of course, much of its arthouse veneer comes purely from the presence of the stunning (and tragic) ZoĆ« Tamerlis in the lead role as Thana, a mute and shy young New York garment district seamstress who undergoes a stunning physical, psychological and behavioural transformation after being raped twice in one day. Tamerlis' exotic, European looks and sense of chic style which she adapts as the film progresses, really bring a level of class to the film - she clashes boldly with the drab griminess of the rest of the film, and James Lemmo’s camera lens loves her. Tamerlis is much more than just visually arresting, though. The range of emotions and inner turmoil which she is able to convey without uttering a sound is impressive. It simply wouldn’t be the film it is without her, as much as it wouldn’t be the same film without Ferrara in the director’s chair.

As close as Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973) and I Spit on Your Grave (1978) come, Ms.45 remains the most important and well-constructed of the rape and revenge films of the 1970's and 80's, and Drafthouse have done a great job with this BR release. There is a softness to much of the 1080p hi-def image, probably a result of the original film stock, and in this case it actually helps preserve the seediness of the movie (an element which is so important to its effectiveness). The sound is great as well - the gunshots are loud and Joe Delia’s soundtrack alternately wails terror and pulsates with sleazy New York dance. Special features include the original trailer, a couple of short docos on star Tamerlis (who would die in Paris of drug-related heart failure at the age of only 37),interviews with composer Joe Delia, production designer Jack McIntyre and director Ferrara (charismatic with his thick Bronx accent and use of phrases like "Dig It!"). The 30 page booklet contains some of Tamerlis’ writing and essays on the film by Kier-La Janisse and Brad Stevens.

Definitely one of the Blu-rays of the year so far...