Friday, July 23, 2021


Nothing like a bit of early, hungry KISS to get you up and moving on a chilly Friday morning. This recent fan film was put together by Andrew Sgambati and is terrific. It utilizes vintage live footage of the band from Cobo Hall 1976, with narration provided by the late Alison Steele, taken from both a 1976 radio interview and 1977 TV interview she did with the band. The whole thing is presented in the style of a classic 1970s late-night rock music special, complete with vintage TV ads from the era to give it an authentic feel. KISS need to hire Sgambati, his work is better than many official KISS releases (check out the links to his other KISS documentaries on You Tube and Vimeo, his GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH in particular is excellent).

Wednesday, July 21, 2021


Received my contributor's copy of CINEMA OF THE 70s #3 today, featuring my six-page article on one of my absolute favourite movies from that (or any other) decade, Stanley Kramer's BLESS THE BEASTS & CHILDREN (1971). Other movies covered in this issue include NOSFERATU (1979) , SUPERMAN (1978), THE NIGHT PORTER (1974), WATERSHIP DOWN (1978), Bava's RABID DOGS (1974), Hal Ashby, CUT-THROATS NINE (1972), Screwball Comedies, and many more. Also includes a nice tribute to George Segal, including a back cover photo of him from ROLLERCOASTER (1977). Available now from Amazon in most countries.


Thursday morning lockdown movie. Haven't seen this 1986 Sidney Lumet thriller since its original VHS release. My opinion of the film remains basically the same as it did on that initial watch. It was clearly designed as a showcase for the maturing Jane Fonda, and on that level it succeeds admirably. Fonda is superb, and has a compelling physical screen presence, playing a once-promising Hollywood actress who never quite made it, and is now past her prime and permanently lost in a haze of booze and one night stands. When she wakes up next to the murdered body of a controversial sleaze photographer, with no memory of how he ended up dead, she seeks help from an ex-cop (Jeff Bridges) to determine if she is indeed the killer, or the victim of a set-up. Fonda does enjoy sinking her teeth into the scenery at times, but in a way this falls in line with her character, and her character's profession.

The premise of the film is certainly a familiar one, and sadly the screenplay does little new with it. One of my biggest gripes with the film when I first watched it was the denouement and revelation, and it still strikes me as disappointing and lazy (won't spoil it here for those who have not yet seen it). There's very little genuine chemistry between Fonda and Bridges, though Raul Julia is great to watch as usual (playing the former husband of Fonda's character).
Apart from Fonda's performance (which earned her an Oscar nomination), one of the best things about THE MORNING AFTER is seeing all of the lovely L.A. location footage, in particular the beautiful pink Art Deco apartment block on Sweetzer Ave, which Fonda's character lives in.

Monday, July 12, 2021


My review of the 2019 documentary film I WANT MY MTV, just released on DVD in Australia, has been posted over at FilmInk for anyone interested. Well worth a watch! Click on the link below to read the review. I WANT MY MTV Review
John Landis directs Michael Jackson in "Thriller"


I was truly gutted to hear of the sudden and very unexpected passing of Adam Lee over the weekend. A local legend on the film collecting scene, Adam's knowledge (and collection of) vintage Australian VHS tapes was second to none, as was his overall knowledge of, and passion for, genre cinema. Euro soundtracks were another big love of his.

I first met Adam back in the mid-90s, when I was publishing REEL WILD CINEMA! and he was publishing SPASMO. I published one of Adam's first pieces of writing, a look at Joe D'Amato's sleaze epic BEYOND THE DARKNESS, in an issue of REEL WILD CINEMA!, and thought it was one of the best things to ever grace its pages, even though Adam himself was still a little uncertain of his writing. In more recent years, it was always nice to catch up with him at a film fair or VHS swap meet, he was always smiling, always friendly, oftentimes he would sling me a few free old paperbacks that he had picked up that he thought I might like, or pass on one of the amazing custom CD soundtracks he would press.

To say I am saddened and in a state of shock is an understatement. Adam and I had just been talking about some of his upcoming projects, which sounded very exciting. He was really starting to get into doing some terrific work, with his excellent VIDEOMANIA zine and massive AUSTRALIAN VIDEO GUIDE, which he was currently in the process of updating and expanding. They will likely remain essential works for many years to come.

Much sympathy to Adam's partner Sarah, and all of his family and friends. Gone much too soon, but was loved and made his mark. Recently, I had written an introduction for the planned update of his AUSTRALIAN VIDEO GUIDE, which he had been working feverishly on. I have decided to now publish the intro that I wrote below, in tribute and memory to Adam.

By John Harrison

One of the benefits of being an eager young film buff in the mid-seventies was getting to live through several different shifts in the landscape of home movie viewing. For those lucky enough not to be so old, the seventies were a much tougher time to see movies, even more so in Australia, where your choice was limited to what was showing at the cinema or drive-ins, or what any of the few commercial television stations would choose to air. Don’t get me wrong, television could still be pretty great back then, Ivan Hutchinson’s Midday Movie on Channel 7, and the all-night triple-movie marathons that screened almost every night on Channel 9, gave me a film education that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

For people who wanted the luxury of reliving a favourite film whenever the mood struck, the 1960s and 70s did offer the Super 8 home movie digest reels, which would usually edit a feature down to a short highlights reel and could be often purchased in both sound and silent, not to mention B&W or colour versions, depending on one’s budget. It should be noted that the vintage paperback film tie-in was also something of a precursor to VHS. It provided a way for a fan to relive a favourite film, and of course the often spectacular and frequently lurid paperback cover art lured you in just like those wonderfully gaudy VHS covers would a decade later. Film soundtracks were yet another way to bring the cinematic experience home for you to enjoy at leisure (and some companies would even release special narrated soundtracks, retelling the film’s story).

When home video started to really penetrate into the suburbs of Melbourne around 1982, it was considered something of a status symbol to have one of those big clunky top-loaders perched on top of your TV set. Much like colour television when it was first introduced in Australia in 1975, not everyone could afford to jump straight onto the home video bandwagon. But it took a foothold and started expanding exponentially, and by 1984 if you didn’t yet have a VHS (or Beta) player to call your own, you at least had one or two friends who did.

I was still a student at that time, having just started a tertiary orientation program at CIT (Caulfield Institute of Technology, now part of Monash), and the meagre study allowance given to me by the government was not going to let me afford the luxury of a home video set-up. I was also the youngest of five kids and the only one still living at home, so my parents were not going to fork out the expense for a new entertainment system when there was barely no family left at home to enjoy it. Thankfully though, I did have a classmate named Andrew who was two years older than me, we became fast friends and I soon discovered that his parents had retired and lashed-out on a VHS player to help keep them entertained. They also loved to gamble, and with gambling still illegal in Victoria at the time, they would take a trip across the border pretty much every second weekend, in order to play the pokies in New South Wales.

Andrew’s house in Bentleigh quickly became my second home, whenever his parents disappeared for the weekend I would head over there and we would go and prowl all the local mum & dad video stores, scooping up anything we could find that had a lurid title or box cover, then retreat back to his house for marathon VHS sessions, almost always fuelled by beer, bongs and burgers (with the occasional pizza). These were great days, before books like The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film and Incredibly Strange Films had been published, so most of the films we rented were blind choices, there was no reference works to consult regarding them (America, of course, had a lot of fanzines like The Splatter Times and Sleazoid Express, but they were next to impossible to find in Australia at the time). It was during this period that I became acquainted with so many notorious films for the first time: I Spit on Your Grave (1978), Cannibal Apocalypse (1980), Night of the Zombies (1980), Basket Case (1982), and of course the infamous Bloodsucking Freaks (1976), which left our collective jaws agape. 

There were also the favourites that I had already seen at the cinema, but which now became regular re-watches on home video. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Squirm (1976) were two of these. Not to mention films that I had already been aware of but was too young to see when they played the local cinemas and drive-ins, movies like I Drink Your Blood (1971) and Massacre at Central High (1976), both of which became personal favourites once I had the chance to finally see them.

The library at CIT also had several small media/conference rooms that by this stage had a TV and VHS player set-up in each one. It was mostly used for when teachers wanted to show us educational videos or movies (I remember our psychology teacher screening Themroc (1973), as well as a trippy old 70s animated short on Carl Jung and his theories on the stages of life). Occasionally, a few of us would book one of the media rooms for a couple of hours, on the pretext of study, and sit in there and watch videos we had rented. I first got to see The Evil Dead (1982) this way, and when each of us had to give a lecture as part of our psychology course, I chose to talk about the effects of horror films on the psyche, and made the whole class sit through a screening of the (thankfully cut, in retrospect) local Video Classics release of Maniac (1980). My talk was aimed at exploring the ways in which “fun” horror movies, like The Evil Dead and the Friday the 13th series, affected us differently that the more sleazy and grimy, depressing films like Maniac and I Spit on Your Grave. I don’t know how successful I was, but I did get a pretty good grade and I’m sure the rest of the class were thankful for the chance to kick back for a couple of hours. 

In many ways, things did change quite a bit when I finally did get my own VHS player a couple of years later (sold to me for $100 by a relative who had upgraded). My film viewing became more solitary, as I was now able to watch what I wanted when I wanted, and had more of a chance to actually study the films and branch out towards other genres. I was still studying but had also landed a part-time job at St. Kilda Video, which was located on the corners of Acland and Barkly Streets (where the Big Mouth CafĂ© now stands). It was a dream job, though the small shop (which had first opened in 1982) was already starting to feel the financial pressure of the big chain stores that were popping up in the area. But I was getting paid (though not much) for watching movies in the shop all day and being able to take home whatever I wanted that hadn’t been rented out by the time I closed shop. St. Kilda Video became yet another form of film school for me, and I stayed there until the place finally succumbed in late-1988. I had no idea the place was even closing, I turned up for my Friday night shift as usual only to find the owners (an accountant and his wife) and the manager (a great, and sadly late, true pom named Colin) boxing up the videos and tearing down the shelving.

In retrospect, I wish I had thought to ask if I could take home some of the promo stuff that was stored out back and in drawers, but I was in too much shock to even think of it. I was only a casual worker so I had no severance pay coming to me, though the owner did at least pay me for that last shift that I was supposed to do, and also told me I could take home any five videos from the shop. It was better than nothing. The five I chose: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blood Feast (1962), Massacre at Central High, When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder (1979) and the uncut release of The Toxic Avenger (1984). I still have, and treasure, all of them except for The Toxic Avenger, which I stupidly left behind at the house of girl I was trying to impress. 

The nineties quickly arrived and by then pretty much every home in Australia had a VHS player, if not two or more. More and more product became available, and the direct-to-video format helped keep the shelves packed. It was still a great time, but the home video revolution had become much more homogenised and corporate in the space of just ten years. Sadly, a lot of the smaller, independent mavericks were pushed out of the business, and then VHS itself would become a virtually obsolete home entertainment format ten years later, while the rise in streaming services and the affordability of DVD and Blu-rays would push the video stores off the map altogether.

It’s sad that it’s over, but the memories remain entrenched, and it was a wild and fun ride while it lasted.



Saturday, July 3, 2021


Last night's viewing. A pretty good 2015 documentary by Colin Hanks which looks at the foundations, success and ultimate downfall of Tower Records, the iconic American record store chain which was founded in Sacramento in 1960 and eventually spread across the US and several foreign markets, before the death of physical media and rise of the internet and file-sharing sites led the company into bankruptcy 45 years later. It's a familiar story shared by many other large music and video retailers in the past 15 years, but ALL THINGS MUST PASS manages to draw the viewer in thanks to engaging anecdotes from the curious assortment of people who operated the business, as well as the great collection of old photographs, archival film footage (including a young Elton John going on one of his regular Tower Records sprees) and radio ads (including one by John Lennon), and just the simple nostalgia of documenting a retail ritual that has become virtually obsolete but was a vital part of the discovery and obtainment of music for many fans over many decades.

I can still recall my first visit to Tower Records, at the Hollywood store on the Sunset Strip in 1981. It was like a mecca and far beyond anything I had seen at any Brash's of Coles record bar back home. Among the LPs I bought on that first visit were: the soundtracks to FLASH GORDON, THE AWAKENING and THE SHINING, a couple of KISS albums I only had on dubbed cassette at that time (HOTTER THAN HELL and DRESSED TO KILL), and a vinyl recording of the original WAR OF THE WORLDS Orson Welles radio broadcast.