Monday, November 17, 2014


    ‘Sex, Drugs and Ronald Reagan!’ 

    Great Sunday afternoon reading in Weird Love #2, which reprints some of the more controversial and outrageous stories from vintage romance comic books, predominately from the 1950's, Highlights of issue 2 include 1953's ‘Yes, I Was an Escort Girl’ and the jaw-dropping ‘Too Fat for Love’ from 1950. The groovy counter-culture era is also represented in 1972's ‘Mini Must Go!’, and there’s a Ronald Reagan ‘Dream Beau of the Month’ profile taken fro...m the pages of Sweethearts #111 (May 1952). I never read romance comics as a kid (like most boys, I was all about superheroes, horror, sci-fi, crime and war), but as an adult I can appreciate not just some of the lovely art but the sheer sensationalism and luridness of many of their stories. More than any other comic book genre, it seems the romance titles of the 1940s/50s came closest to reflecting the same skewered and wholly unrealistic window into (then) contemporary modern mores and values as the classic social guidance and classroom education films did at the time.


    Issue 10 of Monster! arrived this week, and is a meaty 100+ page Halloween special. My contributions to this issue include an article on Don Post masks and a review of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). Also included in this bumper crop of creepy goodness are reviews of a couple of classic Joe D'Amato sleazefests (Anthrophagus and Absurd), Antonio Margheriti's Castle of Blood, and 1970s genre telemovies (The Norliss Tapes, The Night Stalker and its sequel The Night Strangler). Articles run the gamut from Hammer’s Cornwall horrors (The Reptile and The Plague of the Zombies) to Steve Fenton's continued coverage of ferocious cinematic felines (focusing on Far East productions here) and Stephen Bissette's terrific and well-researched look at ghost and horror comic books of the early 1960's (especially appealing to me since he mentions one of my favorite cover artists, the amazing L. B. Cole). Co-Editor Tim Paxton also continues his expansive coverage of Indian horror cinema (a genre I really need to explore in depth at some point).
    All this for only $5 and a bit of change! What monster lover can afford to be without it? Available from Amazon...


    Decided to revisit William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) in the wee hours this past Sunday morning. As much as I loved aspects of Killer Joe (2011), I still think this is Friedkin's last truly great film (to date), as well as being one of the classic crime thrillers of 1980s American cinema, and a film that seems to perfectly capture the essence of L.A.'s seedy underbelly during that decade. Reagan's America and the extremes of excess and desperation which its economy spawned are so well reflected in the film, and William Peterson makes a charismatic and engrossing, yet reckless and unlikeable, Secret Service anti-hero. In one of his earliest roles, the future CSI star really delivers a performance full of cocksure arrogance, and I'm glad Friedkin left the film's original bleak ending intact (at the request of producers, he did film a happier ending, which would have robbed the film of much of its satisfaction and kick. The happy ending is included on the DVD as a special feature). Willem Dafoe also shines here as the main villain, a charismatic, complex and brooding artist who moonlights as an expert counterfeiter. Supporting roles by Dean Stockwell, John Turturro and late action/exploitation star Steve James add weight to the story, and it seemed an inspired choice to have 80's new wave pop group Wang Chung (Dance Hall Days) compose and perform the soundtrack. The film looks beautiful as well, and is wonderfully edited (particularly during the counterfeiting sequence and a white-knuckle car chase into oncoming traffic). I've never read the novel by Gerald Petievich which the film is based on, but I must remember to hunt it down someday.