Friday 29 May 2020

Mo Movies 33

If you're an old school cult movie fan, you know into  El Topo (1970), Pink Flamingos (1972), Rocky Horror (1975), Eraserhead (1977)Night Of The Living Dead (1968), Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) etc. and haven't refreshed over the last ten or twenty years you might not know of the rising cult film Runaway Nightmare (1982) reviewed below.

A whole new set of cult-y movies are lining up to take over from the old tired midnight movie cannon. Things like The Astrologer* (1975)Samurai Cop (1997), Ringu (1998), Office Space (1999), Audition (1999), Battle Royale (2000), Baise-Moi (2000),  Chopper (2000), American Psycho (2000), Ichi The Killer (2001), Donnie Darko (2001), Oldboy (2003), The Room (2003), Shaun Of The Dead (2004), Jennifer's Body (2009), Mother (2009), Robo-Geisha (2009), District 9 (2009), Birdemic (2010), Killer Joe (2011), Attack The Block (2011), Spring Breakers (2012), American Mary (2012), It Follows (2014), Inherent Vice (2014) et al. are the more recently made films entering into this zone. Whether or not their cult status will hold is another question.

*This was thought to be lost until recently.

When Donnie Darko first appeared on cinema screens it was an instant cult movie a bit like Panos Cosmatos' 2018 gem Mandy. Over the years I've noticed interest wane a bit in Donnie Darko but in the last couple of years the cult has come back strong. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004) and Napolean Dynamite (2004) seemed destined for cult movie immortality but they have both faded from view. Were they too successful at the time or even trying to be cult movies? I really do think in Jared Hess's case with Napolean Dynamite he was just trying way too hard to invent a cult movie. Directors don't make cult films the public do. 

There are certain characteristics that come in handy for a movie to become cult-y especially if it was a flop either at the box office or critically and even better if it was both. Something being just a bit off or askew about the film that makes it imperfect for audiences at the time of release is also a good trait for your future cult movie to have. Sometimes you need your film to become cherished after people, maybe even the next generation, rediscover then re-watch it once a particular amount of time has gone by. Re-watchability is the key ingredient for a movie to become cult. Time will tell if inept films like The Room, Superfights and Birdemic will remain revered items or just fleeting curiosities. Movies such as Attack The Block, Battle Royale, American Psycho, Audition and Ichi The Killer only seem to be gaining in cult-y momentum. It will be interesting to see if the public's attention will stay on South Korean movies or shift away due to a backlash after commercial success or if something else comes along to usurp the collective imagination. Mike Judge, Paul Thomas Anderson, Karyn Kusama and Edgar Wright seem to be the directors de-jour of the last twenty years for young cult audiences as they not only have a film mentioned in the above list but others waiting in the cult-movie wings ie. Idiocracy (2006), The Master (2012), The Invitation (2015) and Scott Pilgrm (2010). Watch this space. 

Cruising (1980), Maniac (1980), Cannibal Holocaust (1980), Possession (1981), An American Werewolf In London (1981), Evil Dead (1981), Puberty Blues (1981), Basket Case (1982), The Beastmaster (1982), Going Down (1983), Sleepaway Camp (1983), Chained Heat (1983), Repo Man (1984), Blood Simple (1984), This Is Spinal Tap (1984), Razorback (1984), Better Off Dead (1985), Re-Animator (1985), Dogs In Space (1986), Night Of The Creeps (1986), Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer (1986), Big Trouble In Little China (1986), Withnail & I (1987), Bad Taste (1987), Ghosts Of The Civil Dead (1988), Akira (1988), Spoorloos (1988), Heathers (1989), Parents (1989), Do The Right Thing (1989), The Killer (1989) etc. remain the 80s cult movie staples along with pretty much anything else made in the 80s by John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, David Lynch, Joe Dante, Andy Sidaris and even apparently now ugh! John Hughes.

Actually you rarely hear the mention of John Woo or Spinal Tap these days so those pictures may be drifting away from cult zones like other old 80s cult favourites The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980), Forbidden Zone (1980), Little Darlings (1980), Eating Raoul (1982), Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982), The Outsiders (1983), Peter Greenaway, Wim Wenders, Brazil (1985), Subway (1985), Mona Lisa (1986) and Barfly (1987) have. These films will remain near and dear to particular Gen X film lovers but they don't seem to be translating to younger tastes. I mean I doubt my 22 year old niece has even heard of Peter Greenaway or The Gods Must Be Crazy but she has seen The Room, Donnie Darko, Shaun Of The Dead and It Follows.

John Carpenter
's The Thing (1982) has become the 80s Vertigo (1958). It was considered a disaster critically and at the box office at the time of release, has built up a rabid cult following over the years, has been re-assessed and is now considered one of the best films ever made. Correct!

People are still digging up the weird and wild from the 80s for your viewing pleasure though. The cult builders like Drafthouse, Vinegar Syndrome, Film Twitter, Shout Factory, Twilight Time, general movie-goers, film-makers and self-appointed guru tastemakers are staking a claim for some less well known 80s movies to take over. Night Of The Comet (1984) and Stallone in Cobra (1986) seems to have rapidly risen up the cult movie charts in the last ten to fifteen years along with a few others like Night Of The Juggler (1980), Mystics In Bali (1981), New York Ripper (1982), Liquid Sky (1982), Grease 2 (1982), Vice Squad (1982), The King Of Comedy (1983), Siege (1983), Yor: The Hunter Of The Future (1983), 10 To Midnight (1983), Walking The Edge (1983/5), Death Wish 3 (1985), After Hours (1985), Naked Vengeance (1985), Lifeforce (1985), My Chauffeur (1986), White Of The Eye (1986), Deadly Prey (1987), Nekromantik (1987), Near Dark (1987), The Gate (1987), Hard Ticket To Hawaii (1987), Overboard (1987), Lady Terminator (1988), Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988), The Karen Carpenter Story (1989), How To Get Ahead In Advertising (1989) and Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989). Hmm perhaps I'll discuss what's going on with shot on video classics, 80s kids/teen movies plus cult films from the 90s next time.


Runaway Nightmare (1982) 
Mike Cartel is the one & done director behind this cult movie. A couple of worm farming dudes Ralph (Mike Cartel) & Jason (Al Valetta) discover a lady who has been buried alive. The worm wrangling duo are then kidnapped by a criminal desert dwelling cult of women. The worm farmers are initiated into the cult for use of their muscle but then find themselves embroiled in a heist against the mob, violence, sex, time-bombs, witchy goings on and more. Vinegar Syndrome, the Blu-ray company, restored and issued a Blu-ray of this recently so that might give you some idea of what kind of flick this is. Runaway Nightmare will have your jaw dropping several times. Whether that's a good thing or not probably depends upon you. If you're up for a WTF? plot with strange acting and odd dialogue that feels like it was directed by John Waters' long lost cousin from Death Valley you are going to love it otherwise move along nothing to see here. I think this was one of the first ever movies to be released straight to video ensuring it inevitable cult status. Runaway Nightmare feels like an exploitation movie that doesn't know what exactly it's exploiting. Perhaps I'll call it Worm Farming-sploitation. Late Night Movie of The Week.

Battles Without Honour and Humanity aka Tarnished Code of Yakuza (1973)
A Yakuza film that apparently changed the face of the Yakuza genre although five years earlier there was Outlaw: Gangster VIP (1968) followed by several sequels so perhaps this is an overstatement created by retro marketing spin doctoring. Even this film's director Kinj Fukasaku made the masterpiece Street Mobster, a modern tale of yakuza life, the previous year. If you don't know, the yakuza is the Japanese mafia. So this film right here is considered to be The Japanese Godfather. It certainly has many parallels with that film but this isn't some kind of copycat deal. These stories are based upon Kōzō Minō's (an imprisoned member of the Yakuza at the time) manuscript that were novelised by journalist Kōichi Iiboshi. The tales here are of real life events in Japan's mob underworld post WW2. Battles Without... is a stellar gangster picture with all the accoutrements prison, corruption, parole, brutal violence, initiation into the mob, cop murder, yakuza codes gone awry, utter chaos, drugs, murder, hierarchy, betrayal, nihilism, the bleakness of futility and more murder. I am very excited as there are another four films in this series.

The Street Fighter (1974)
More 70s action from Japan via the legendary Toei Studio. Sonny Chiba as Terry Tsurugi karate kicks and karate chops his way through a whole lot of corrupt business people and Yakuza to try and protect oil fortune heiress Sarai (Doris Nakajima). This is quite possibly the first Japanese martial arts flick I've ever seen and I think it was exactly the right place to start as this is karate gold. Look out for spectacular scenes where Terry castrates a rapist with his bare hands and rips out the vocal chords of assassin Junjo Shickenbaru (Milton Ishibashi). This is a whole lotta bloody bare knuckled gory fun. Late Night Movie Of The Week.

Dead & Buried (1981)
This is a nifty lil' horror gem. Halfway through you might think "Oh I've seen it all before" but hold your horses as it's well worth waiting until the very end for the pay off. I recommend you go into this flick with as little knowledge as possible about the plot. It's weird, spooky and set by the seaside. Can you go wrong with that combo? Nope, Gary Sherman of Death Line (1972) and Vice Squad (1982) fame directs.

Come Drink with Me (1966)
More top chop socky from the Shaw Bros Studio. Set during the Ming Dynasty this wuxia movie stars Cheng Pei Pei as Golden Swallow and Yueh Hua as Drunken Cat. This duo have to battle their way through an evil monastery where Golden Swallow's brother is being kept hostage. Will this duo survive the violent antics of Liao Kung (Yeung Chi-hing) and the brilliantly named Jade Faced Tiger (Chan Hung-lit)? Or will evil prevail? Things get complicated when it emerges that Drunken Cat has mixed feeling about fighting Liao Kung. There are grey areas in classic good versus evil tales. Late Night Movie Of The Week.  

Alleycat Rock: Female Boss aka Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss (1970)
Top lil el cheapo lady biker exploitation flick from Japan's Nikkatsu Studio. The Japanese (mis)understand pop culture and pop art on a whole other level to anybody else. This movie beats Roger Corman at his own game! This stars my new favourite actor Meiko Kaji plus pop star Akiko Wada. We get the works in this pop art pile up. There's girl gangs, right wing nationalists, rebel motorbike clubs, fake delinquents getting wasted, villains in a dune buggy, a fixed boxing match, implied lesbianism, bloody knife violence, gangsters, a psychedelic rock nightclub, general disillusion, a crazy car chase through the streets of Tokyo, eye catching fashion, guns, love and more. The car chase which is two dudes in a dune buggy chasing the bad arse Ako (Akiko Wada) on her motorbike throughout the Shinjuku district of Tokyo is worth the price of admission alone. The cinematography from Muneo Ueda is gloriously berserk. You've never seen some of these angles before. Yasuharu Hasebe's direction is wild with surprising splashes of colour. If that all sounds good to you then you need to see Alleycat Rock: Female Boss. Late Night Movie Of The Week.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
I missed this blockbuster at the time, just never got around to it. A Maori foster child Ricky (Julian Dennison) gets one last chance with a strange rural couple otherwise he's off to Juvey. Events unfold unexpectedly so Ricky and Uncle Hector (Sam Neil) end up on the run from the law. As the cops close in on the unlikely pair of outlaws they end up deep in the bush. All sorts of comic antics and misunderstandings take place in this charming adventure-drama. Kids love it because it's got kids doing bad things and it's essentially a kids' film. Hunt For The Wilderpeople became the highest grossing film in New Zealand's history. Director, writer, producer Taika Waititi is on a hell of a winning streak even winning an Oscar this year for 2019's JoJo Rabbit. Oh and it's got New Zealand's funniest man Murray from Flight Of The Conchords in a small role.

Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo aka Alleycat Rock: Wild Jumbo (1970)
This is the second film in the Alley/Stray Cat Rock series. This one isn't about bikers or violent urban girl gangs but it's nihilistic as fuck despite its mostly bucolic setting. This is not in any way a continuation of Female Boss although many of the same actors appear here but they are totally different characters, other people. Wild Jumbo is a mix up of an existential road movie, a beach flick and a heist film with a bit of revenge chucked in. A directionless delinquent gang are tipped off as to the whereabouts of a load of cash by Asako (Bunjaku Han). Asako is an independently wealthy mistress of a cult leader but she wants revenge upon the new religion. The gang, which includes C-ko (Meiko Kaji) and a bunch of dudes, arm themselves with some old rusty WWII weaponry and map out a foolproof plan to earn 30 million Yen. This is a weird movie with the heist really only coming into play in the last twenty minutes. Wild Jumbo is directed by Toshiya Fujita (Lady Snowblood) so it doesn't quite have the insane audacity of the director/cinematographer combo of Hasebe/Ueda but there are occasionally some pretty cool stylistic flourishes especially the underwater work, freeze frames, sped up footage, negative film and most bizarrely the usage of a speech bubble.

Return Of The Street Fighter aka Blood Of The Dragon (1974) 
Sensational action packed sequel martial arts/revenge/yakuza mega mix with more ocular violence than a Giallo film. Sonny Chiba is back as Terry Tsurugi and he's in fine bare knuckled karate form. This must be seen for several great scenes including Terry's jailbreak, the eye-popping karate headkick and a WTF? moment you will not believe so long as you've seen the original Street Fighter (1974). This is pure pop culture entertainment!

Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter aka Alleycat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970)
A title that seems to have got lost in translation but would have suited the international exploitation market so what the heck I suppose. There is attempted sex trafficking and there is human hunting but there's not really sex hunting anyway... Hasebe is back in the director's chair for the third film in The Alley Cat/Stray Cat Rock series. This is the most perplexing of The Alleycat Rock series so far with its social issues and narratively it's the least cohesive. The girl gang The Alleycats hang out with the boy gang The Eagles but there is a rift and they soon become rivals. The Eagles have gone full fascistic and racist. Mako (Meiko Kaji) meets and becomes fond of Kazuma (Rikiya Yasuoka) who is a half breed Afro-Japanese. This is not going to be cool with Baron (Tatsuya Fuji) the leader of The Eagles who has previously been in a chaste relationship with Mako. However that's not all. He is angry as his sister was supposedly raped by a half breed Afro-Japanese man. A purge of mixed race men from their town is ordered by the Eagles. What will become of all this turmoil?

Cheap Thrills (2014)
This should have been called Demented Cheap Thrills. A dude Craig (Pat Healy) is in a bar, he's down on his luck and his downward spiral continues when he meets a wealthy psychopathic couple. These coked up arseholes dare him to play silly little drinking games but eventually their dares escalate to acts far too extreme for normal humans to even contemplate. Whether or not this film is supposed to make you think about what lengths you would go to for money or just an excuse to make a brutally violent movie is a bit of a moot point as it's all pretty unconvincing. That might just be me though because I just couldn't help thinking that's Pat Healy the nice chap I heard talking on a podcast once but here he is doing actoring. Well worth a look if you like extremely despicable people doing intensely horrible things. I know that sounds great and it's actually a really good premise. I wanted to like it more but...

Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (2009)
Not a bad little primer on American horror movies. But if you've seen things like Eli Roth's 7 part season History Of Horror (2018) or the 3 part A History of Horror With Mark Gatiss (2010) you really don't need to see this. Nightmares... however was made previous to those two documentaries. We get a lot of male (not one woman) talking heads as they go through a hundred years of American and some Canadian horror movies. I guess the Canadian flag is red and white so they can technically get away with this. Joe Dante is always eloquent and interesting while Mick Garris is just eloquent. This documentary is narrated by the man with a golden voice Lance Henriksen. It also includes interviews with legends Roger Corman, George A Romero, Larry Cohen, John Carpenter and a bunch of less noteworthy movie people.

The best bit was a great piece of editing which contained a bunch of sex and slashings from the Friday The 13th films. That 3 minute sequence on its own would be a visual essay masterpiece.

Anyway an hour and a half is not enough time to cover everything so many great horror films get overlooked ie. Let's Scare Jessica To Death (1971), Messiah Of Evil (1973), Black Christmas (1974), I Spit On Your Grave (1978),  Maniac (1980), The Changeling (1980), The Hitcher (1986), Night Of The Creeps (1986) etc.

There was definitely no room for horrific pictures that are in other genres like The Wizard Of Oz (1939), The Honeymoon Killers (1970),  Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971), Deliverance (1972), The Silent Partner (1978), The Temple Of Doom (1984), Return To Oz (1985) Labyrinth (1986), Requiem For A Dream (2000), Passion Of The Christ (2004), anything concerning The Holocaust or nuclear war etc. This, I've just realised is the perfect topic to make to a documentary about. Actually it's two different topics. The first doc would be called Non horror Movies That Scared The Shit Out Of You When You Were a Kid or just Horrifying Kids Movies. It would be fascinating and so crowd pleasing. I recall Snow White and Sleeping Beauty being scary when I was really small as well as being haunted by TV shows Doctor Who and Catweazle. Actually I can't believe about ten documentaries haven't already been made on this topic, its such an obvious and winning formula. The other doc would be Non Horror Movies That Are Actually Horror Movies. This is a good topic too if not quite as delicious or psychologically charged as the first.

Jesus Camp (2007)
I think this was supposed to upset me, freak me out and make me become an extreme regressive lefty but I got caught up in the whole Jesus juice vibe. The trance-y hysteria these evangelical Pentecostal Christians whip up amongst middle America's kids here is electrifying and palpable. I think I got a little hypnotised. I can equate it to when I was looking into the darkish web and 4chan type of stuff that I was going to write a book about (Angela Nagle beat me to the punch with the excellent Kill All Normies). I spent so long engaging in that dark underbelly it began to rub off on me somewhat. I mean I understand the sick sense of humour of the seediest liberal baiters on the planet as it's infectious. It made me feel sick though that I knew of the song Remove Kebab which was played on the car stereo of the killer responsible for the NZ Mosque massacre. When I was younger the same thing happened when I delved into extreme left politics for a skeptical investigative look. I couldn't help but get some of it on me. I always know deep down I'm a moderate and issue by issue based politically because that's what being a critical thinker is about. In Jesus Camp I'm well aware of the nefariousness of America's moral majority and how it's fucking with everybody's (left of the far right) head.

In this film intellectually you can see the horrible anxiety inducing brainwashing of young minds that is quite possibly child abuse. These fanatics want their children to be vehemently against abortion and to believe that their so called Christian (theologically they are way more old testament rather than gospel based) way is the only right way. At one stage one of the evangelical adults lets it be known that she wants these children to be as intense as children brought up under extreme Islam ie. be willing to die/commit suicide in the name of God at a young age.

This film makes you understand why musical artists like Swans and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds integrate performative aspects and language from evangelical fire & brimstone sermons into their acts because it has such power and passion. It's deliciously intoxicating. I mean Bad Seeds concerts have now actually become spiritual events and I fucking love it.

The film-makers here I think accidentally caught on celluloid the exhilarating momentum these charlatans for Jesus can summon. If they didn't intercut it with snippets of Mike Papantonio's moderate Christian and politically secular radio show this may well have been seen as a very dangerous film that easily could have been misconstrued as an evangelical propaganda film. I'm guessing the film-makers didn't want to inflame Christians into becoming soldiers for God. I reckon they probably wanted the opposite of this scenario to occur.   

Sister Street Fighter (1974)
Five star entertainment! More Japanese karate on film. This is fuckin ace. I know next to nothing about Japanese martial arts movies, except for the two previously mentioned in this post, but I feel like I just might have watched the best one. This is ladies night and the charismatic Sue Shiomi stars as the bad-arse Tina Long. We get blood spurting action fun as Tina fights her way through an army of enemies who have an array of martial art disciplines. Sister Street Fighter includes poison darts, karate fights on dangerous bridges, dungeons, a strip club, a bed of spikes, Sonny Chiba, phoney heroin addiction, broken necks and much more. Late Night Movie Of The Week.       

Theory Of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents (2015)
If you're a fan of The Residents you probably don't need to be told how fabulous they are and you've probably seen most of this footage before. If you are new to them this probably isn't a great place to start either as it's not like a chronological recount of their career. It kinda goes through the very early pre-history and history of the band then a lot of recent tour stuff. It fails to mention that this incredible group had one of the best winning streaks in the history of (un) rock LPs. Between 1974 and 1980 they released these LPs respectively: Meet The Residents, Third Reich 'N' Roll, Fingerprince, Duck Stab, Not Available, Eskimo & Commercial Album. That's seven absolute classics in a row. Some people include the next two records  Mark Of The Mole (81) & The Tune Of Two Cities (82) in that run as well. So that is a rarified position to be in. I can't name many bands with an undeniable run of records like that

During the following 40 years they've had peaks and valleys and an extreme nadir in the 90s. They have been more known for their cutting edge multi-media concert extravaganzas than their albums. In the new millennium they have come back strong ever since 2005's Animal Lover LP however. The Bunny Boy, Lonely Teenager, Mushroom, Talking Light, The Wonder Of Weird, Shadowland, Ghost Of Hope etc. have been some of their late career highs. Apart from all that they've had some wonderful singles, EPs, films, concerts, videos and collaborations. Of course that might all might mean nothing to you as they are most definitely an acquired taste. If you don't know who they are you might have seen their pictures as they gained notoriety in the 70s & 80s for being the anonymous band with giant eyeball heads with a penchant for tuxedos. This was all before Kiss, TISM, Slipknot & Insane Clown Posse. Check out their Third Reich 'N' Roll or Commercial Album LPs and the Satisfaction 7" single then you'll know where you stand with The Residents.

Back to the documentary it's more about the myth making and concept art side of the band which is a bit gimmicky and tired now plus I feel like it has all been covered before in other films, dvds, articles, books and videos. Luckily The Residents have the music to back it up. As they have been anonymous throughout their career it's hard to track how many original members are still left. I think a couple of integral members have recently passed away... but who knows?   

The Visitor (1979)
One of those video shop movies. I must have seen the cover a hundred times but never thought to watch it. Ten years ago I discovered the terrific soundtrack by Franco Micalizzi but I still never thought to watch the film. The Visitor is ubiquitous across pop culture media but still I never bothered with this cult movie. Finally scrolling through tubi I came across it one night while I was severely affected by pain killers. The Visitor finally arrived in my life at the perfect time. For a start check out this for a cast John Huston, Mel Ferrer, Shelley Winters, Glenn Ford, Lance Henriksen, Sam Peckinpah, Franco Nero and even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. What the fuck is going on here then? This must be one of the original sci-fi horror mega-mix pastiche movies before the more recent James Wan and Leigh Whannell type of mega-mix things. This movie mega-mix extravaganza chucks everything in including The Bad Seed, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The Birds, The Omen, The Exorcist, The Kitchen Sink and a whole lot more to make one of the most enjoyable and batshit crazy movies ever. Funnily enough with all its influences right there in front of you it makes for a one hell of a unique experience. Directed by Michael J. Paradise who I believe was Fellini's sidekick. Late Night Movie Of The Week.

Wednesday 20 May 2020

The Chameleons - View From A Hill

Shoegaze Began Here - Part I

The Chameleons - View From A Hill (1983)
I was going to do do a whole thing with 7 or 8 different bands and their legacy on shoegaze/dreampop but once I get The Chameleons on the stereo I'm stuck for days. This tune from 1983 is magnificent! Its contemporaneous with the likes of The Church, Cleaners From Venus, The Blue Orchids, The Cocteau Twins, Durutti Column, The Sound etc. The only thing is hardly anyone knows who The Chameleons are. For those who don't know: They formed in Manchester circa 1981 and I guess they were in the realm of dark yet uplifting post-punk and neo-psychedelia. The three LPs from their original 1981-87 era are all excellent. They even signed to Geffen for the Strange Times (1986) LP but broke up a year later. Interestingly Clive Davis signed the The Church to Arista around the same time David Geffen signed The Chameleons. There must have been something in the air. Anyway this song View From A Hill is from the debut Chameleons album Script Of The Bridge (1983) and is one of my nominations for my upcoming proto-shoegaze post.

The Chameleons - Silence, Sea & Sky (1985)
Maybe I need to start a Dreampop Began Here segment as well. This tune is totally Blue Velvet/Twin Peaks Angelo Badalamenti except it's a year before Blue Velvet and four years before Twin Peaks. You expect Julee Cruise to come in at any minute. Anyhow Silence, Sea & Sky was composed on a Solina which is an ARP string synth. Brilliant stuff.

The Chameleons - Caution
Now lets just get down to the rock! As I said I get stuck on The Chameleons so it might be a couple of weeks before anything else crosses my eardrums. Here's a mammoth and mighty tune from their third LP Strange Times (1986). This is how majestic and intense I always thought Echo & The Bunnymen should have been but they were disappointing poseurs. It didn't matter though because we had The Chameleons.

The Chameleons - Soul In Isolation (1986)
I'm surprised this didn't become the COVID19 anthem. Anyway it was interesting to read in the comments that guitarist Dave Fielding wrote this tune even before the first album Script Of The Bridge (1983) was recorded. It's another dark intense epic. Sometimes they reach a Husker Dü like fever pitch except amongst the claustrophobia there is space for respite until you realise that is dread filled too. Classic.

The Chameleons - Second Skin (1983)
Oh man I've got it bad now I can't stop. The Chameleons are so so fucking good. This song might just be their most satisfying and best. It's got such a wonderful soaring 80s melody and those lyrics... "I dedicate this melody to you... No wonder I feel like I'm floating on air" fit perfectly. Second Skin is a song about great songs that make you feel elated that is a great song that makes you feel elated. What a fucking conceptual triumph! The duel guitar interplay, that insistent mystic rhythm and the round and back again backing vocals fuse together for a swirly trip where you feel like you're "walking on air". Second Skin is just so delicious, delightful & euphoric. I just noticed this tune has had over a million youtube views so perhaps some people are finally catching on to the delectable greatness of The Chameleons. Maybe the mysterious youtube recommendations algorithm has weaved its magic once again (?). For a band that never cracked the top 40 anywhere in the world that's impressive. A true cult band! "This is the stuff dreams are made of."

The Chameleons - Perfume Garden (1985)
Another fine tune with an ecstatic buzz.

When Interpol first came out I was hearing them on the radio all the time and kept thinking "Oh Chameleons must have reformed I'll have to find that cd next time I'm in a record shop." A week or two later my mate brought around some cd burns and one of them was that first Interpol album. So I was shocked and a little disappointed. For a Chameleons tribute band though Interpol did alright. I must admit I never heard any of their following records. I always thought Interpol were what you would have wanted your ultimate high school band to sound like: The Chameleons as your blueprint then chuck in bit of Television, some Died Pretty, a splash of The Sound, add a slice of The Church, a dash of The Smiths with a twist of Joy Division.

Thursday 14 May 2020


Original - Leftfield (1995) 
There's been a bit of chatter over at Energy Flash about the cross pollination of shoegaze, ambient and techno in the 90s and beyond due to the imminent reissue of the self-titled LP from The Primitive Painter. They were a German duo I'd never heard of until a fortnight ago. Their one and only LP was released in 1994. They had a love for house and 80s indie-pop and noise-pop. Anyway Simon posted a bunch of "SHOEGAZETRONICA" the other day including a FSOL remix of Curve. It put me in mind of the above track which features vocals from Curve's Toni Halliday. I loved it at the time but it's not as exciting as I remember. In fact it kinda feels as dull as say Groove Armada. Am I right?

The Primitive Painter were duo Roman Flügel and Jörn Elling Wuttke better known as their techno aliases Acid Jesus then they became the chartbusting Alter Ego from 94 onwards. The Primitive Painter LP was somewhere in-between. This album got lost in the 90s glut but has gone on to become a cult record. Original copies (only 500 pressed) now go for crazy money on the internet and I can see why, that above tune Hope is exquisite.

Anyway I ended up writing a whole thing on Curve over at Energy Flash which is funny considering I only ever had their first three EPs. I do however find failed major label pop stars who then change their style in a second, third or fourth chance at success/fame fascinating. I've touched on this before but whatever. People I can think of who fit in this category off the top of my head are Guy Chadwick, Matthew Sweet, Alanis Morissette, Robin Thicke and of course the two ladies mentioned below Toni Halliday and Shirley Manson. There must be stacks more people in this category though. Some groups who went on to be glam bands had second chances. Mud were a psych-pop band originally and Sweet were maybe some kinda pub blues band. Once in the hands of the right songwriters and/or producers these musicians get reinvented. A book on this kind of thing would be fascinating. Below is what I wrote in Simon's comments box.

The mark Curve have left on music history is via who they influenced ie. Garbage who sometimes sound uncannily like Curve except Garbage were million selling alt-pop titans. Both groups though were kind of phoney manufactured groups chasing alternative trends (nothing wrong with that The Sex Pistols were a boy band). Other parallels include second chances for both front women, well actually for Shirley Manson it was her third bite of the cherry. She had been in 80s/90s band Goodbye Mr McKenzie then Angelfish who were a record company manufactured vehicle for Manson. One of the Garbage dudes saw her on MTV and that was that.

Toni Halliday had several bites of the cherry too. She was in group State Of Play with members of Eurythmics live band. They did an LP in 1986 which nobody cared for. More Eurythmics connections continue here as Toni was then signed to Dave Stewart's label (Anxious Records) for a solo LP that failed to make an impact on anybody despite engineering and production from Flood and Alan Moulder. Toni then formed Curve with State Of Play/Eurythmics bass player Dean Garcia and their wild card was Alan Moulder on production, mixing, engineering and sometimes guitar duties. Curve were also signed to Anxious Records during their most successful period 1991 to 1993 where they did catch some chart action in the UK. They had 5 UK top 40 singles and the first two LPs went to 11 & 23 respectively.

Blindfold - Curve (1991)
Curve's first single Blindfold took MBV's Soon template and made it less good in an aim for chart domination.

Coast Is Clear - Curve (1991)
I do however recall thinking their 2nd single Coast Is Clear was undeniable despite how derivative/generic it was ie. Nirvana's Smells like Teen Spirit. You can hear where Garbage took some inspiration with regard to melody, gloomy vocal tone & petulant lyrical content right here. I've enjoyed listening to this one again.

Frozen - Curve (1991)
er...another one cut from the same cloth. I quite like this one too. I must admit I never followed them past the initial run of EPs and I guess The Frozen EP is their peak. EPs were where it was at for shoegazers. Imagine if Slowdive's Just For A Day or Ride's Nowhere where cut down to just the four or five essential tunes that hadn't appeared on any previous releases?

Want More Need Less - Curve (2001)
Didn't know about this one until today. Kevin Shields plays on two tracks on Curve's 2001 comeback LP Gift. If you took the vocals off this, it would sound like a Loveless (1991) outtake. Perhaps it should have been titled "Want Less Need Less". This might have been a strange experience for Shields as Curve had cribbed most of their ideas from him or maybe he was just flattered. Flattery gets you everywhere. Toni Halliday is married to legendary Glider/Tremelo/Loveless engineer Alan Moulder so I guess they would have probably all known each other.

Vow - Garbage (1995)
I fucking loved this when it first came out. It still sounds damn fine. I always thought this was somewhere between peak psych Beatles (Tomorrow Never Knows/I Am The Walrus), MBV via Curve with classic grungy riffage, pop hooks and production. They never topped this did they?

Shoegazetronica Began Here Part I.
Instrumental B - My Bloody Valentine (1988)
The near mythical tune that came free on a 7" with the initial pressings of the vinyl version of Isn't Anything (1988). I bought the cd so I thought I'd missed this forever until that great compilation EPs 1988-91 surfaced in 2012. That breakbeat mixed with Kevin Sheilds' eerie fx make this track so much more as it also predates Aphex Twin, Seefeel, Boards Of Canada, Hauntology etc.

Shoegazetronica Began Here Part II.
Blue Bell Knoll - Cocteau Twins (1988)
From the 2 minute 20 mark to the end of the opening title track of the Blue Bell Knoll LP The Cocteau Twins set down a template for funky drumming amongst gusts of guitar bliss. This slice of music of just over a minute is a concise blueprint for what was to become shoegaze and a jump off point for Shoegazetronica. Other tracks and sections of tunes on Blue Bell Knoll reiterate this vibe especially Carolyn's Fingers & A Kissed Out Red Floatboat.

Shoegazetronica Began Here Part III.
A Love From Outer Space - AR Kane (1989)
This just opened up a whole other expansive universe of sound along with several other tunes from the LP "I" (1989). You can hear the seedling of Saint Etienne here. In the youtube comments of the video clip version somebody calls it R&Bgaze.

Spirea Rising - Spirea X (1991)
Anyone remember this? I thought they were gonna be great and push the boat out on the whole rhythmic dubby shoegaze thing but it turned out this was the only half decent tune they did. I still really like this particularly that bass. An LP of tunes in this style would have been awesome. We had to wait a year or two for Seefeel then a year or two more for Bowery Electric's Beat LP.

Semtex - Third Eye Foundation (1996) 
Then there was this guy Matt Elliot who took it all to a less idyllic place although there is some kind of bliss in its nihilistic abyss. 

Sleep - Third Eye Foundation (1996)
The stories were circling in the mid 90s that Kevin Shields was making a jungle inspired My Bloody Valentine record but Third Eye Foundation beat him to the punch. This is still quite a rush and a blueprint for a genre that never happened.

Untitled/Get Out #3 - Pita (1999)
Does this track somehow fit amongst the whole shoegazetronica? For me it does! Untitled #3 from Pita's Get Out album is kind of like a Slowdive instrumental put through a virus ridden laptop. This is like a distant cousin to My Bloody Valentine's To Here Knows When. It's all about the euphoric amorphous noise and the spires of splintering sound reaching for the heavens. Rejoice in this crackin track. [Added Entry 16/5/20]

Soon - My Bloody Valentine (1990)
For reference's sake here's a little tune that was slightly innovative and influential.

Friday 1 May 2020

Mo Movies May

Escape From New York (1981)
I was always indifferent to this film. I thought it was alright but didn't understand everyone's devotion to it, perhaps because I didn't see it when I was 10. I guess I've had a lil' change of heart. For a start the cast is absolutely stellar Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Isaac Hayes, Adrienne Barbeau, Harry Dean Stanton, Donald Pleasance, Ernest Borgnine, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers etc. Most movies from 1980/81 are still 70s movies and this is no exception as it's all about lost illusions in the USA after Vietnam, Kent State and Watergate. Set way in the future of 1997 when America's crime rate has sky rocketed by 400%. Manhattan Island is now an a maximum security prison where anarchy rules. Terrorists have stranded the US president (Donald Pleasance) on the Island. Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) a former special forces soldier is given a chance to have his prison sentence pardoned if he can rescue the president within 24 hours otherwise the apocalypse awaits. The movie now gets extra gravitas as there is a scene where Snake lands his plane on top of the World Trade Centre. Escape From New York is a bit of good ole dystopian action fun from back in the day when it wasn't reality. Snake Plissken's disillusion and utter nihilism is what it's all about. Plus his name is Snake Plissken.

Female Prisoner Scorpion: 701's Grudge Song (1973)
I was not expecting much from the fourth and final flick of The Female Prisoner Scorpion series as it was not directed by Shunya Itō who did such a splendid job on the first three. Then I read that Grudge Song's director Yasuharau Hasebe had been Seijun Suzuki's apprentice for eight years. He had also directed Meiko Kaji previously in Alleycat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970) & Alleycat Rock: Machine Animal (1970) where he was instrumental in making her the star of these films, not just the supporting actress that she had been in the first two flicks in the Alleycat/Straycat Rock series. So my hopes were raised and I was very excited as this was obviously a devoted and sympathetic director for Kaji. Disappointed I was not.

This might be the strangest film of the series and that's saying something. It feels the most OTT and sadistic. Nobody can top Shunya Itō's art of film and stylistic flourishes but Hasebe gives it a good crack in the final couple of scenes. The film stock colour palate in those scenes is crazy. In the opening minutes of the film the cops find Nami Matsushima (Meiko Kaji) capture her and then she escapes. Nami is rescued by Teru Kudo (Masakazu Tamura). This is a dangerous game though as she opens up emotionally to a man for the first time since the first film in the series. They have a hideout in a car wreck yard. It's not long before the duo are dobbed in to the authorities though. Kudo is captured again and again. Soon enough the insanely violent police beat a confession out of him as to the whereabouts of Nami. She is once again betrayed and is sent to prison. Is Nami going to get out of her death sentence and exact some groovy vengeance? Or is she doomed this time? While the scores were very good if quite minimal in the previous three films, this fabulous score is more ubiquitous with its heavy synth-fuzz-psych and suspenseful soundz. The best thing about 2020 so far for me has been discovering this series of films and properly discovering and fully appreciating Meiko Kaji (I'd seen 1970's Blind Woman's Curse a few years ago...). In 701's Grudge Song I think Kaji gets one entire sentence but her range of strong silent type acting is pushed to exquisite levels in this series finale. How she can convey so much meaning and emotion with one eye, while the other eye is covered with her hair, is astounding and a mystery to me.

Meiko Kaji is totally mesmerising.

Il Gatto Nove Code aka Cat o Nine tails (1971)
Dario Argento's second directing gig and it's another Giallo. Cookie (Karl Maldon) a blind man is out walking with Lori (Cinzia De Carolis) his little niece one night when he overhears a nefarious conversation from a parked car. He soon finds himself embroiled in espionage and murder. He is all too willing to become the archetypal Giallo amateur sleuth. He teams up with fellow amateur sleuth Carlo (James Franciscus) a newspaper journalist to try and figure out what all this murder malarky is all about. We get to see many shots from the murderer's point of view and close ups of hers/his/their eyeballs. We get Blow Up (1966) homages, decapitated heads, several Hitchcock references, groovy chic apartments, rooftop bars, strangulations, pipe smoking, barber shop shaves, Euro pop star Catherine Spaak's wig, death, a car chase, 70s wallpaper, a gay bar, telephones, murder, blind cooking, incest, many spiral staircases, graveyards and a peak era Ennio Morricone score. One of the more upsetting scenes is when Cookie puts his just cooked pan of bacon and eggs straight under the tap in the sink because he has sleuthing to do, what a god damn waste! The convoluted plot contains many red herrings and some absolutely hilarious mumbo jumbo science. Everyone is chasing the breakthrough formula which reveals if you have the criminal gene or not but they all keep getting murdered in the process. Just who do those murderous eyes belong to?

The Flying Guillotine (1975)
Netflix & Amazon Prime have both just added a motherload of Kung Fu Movies. My first pick was this top chop socky flick that is more about a decapitating frisbee than kung fu choreography. The titular weapon is based on an ancient Chinese design. You chuck it like a frisbee at your intended victims head. When it lands on their head a net drops down and as the blades reach their neck you yank the metal chain & voilà decapitation. You can then retrieve the head which is neatly collected in your little net. Ma Teng (Kuan Tai Chen) the emperor's number one assassin becomes disillusioned with the ethics of his job and goes AWOL. The tyrant emperor wants Ma Teng dead for being a traitor. Let the violent antics begin. This is a whole lotta head rolling fun. Late night movie of the week.

The 36th Chamber Shaolin (1978)
I can't believe I've never watched this movie or its sequel before today considering the debut albums from Wu Tang Clan and Ol' Dirty Bastard (RIP) are two of my favourite hip hop recordings of all time. Liu Yude (Gordon Liu) is a rebel who wants to learn how to fight from the Shaolin monks so he can exact revenge upon the tyrannical Manchu government who have killed some of his friends and family. He is initially dismissed by the monks but they eventually give him a go. Liu Yude changes his name to San Te as he goes through many trials and tribulations while he trains to become awesome at kung-fu. San Te takes six years to quickly becomes an outstanding student (?!). Will San Te be able fulfil his dream with an uprising of vengeance against the Manchu government or will it all go pair shaped? Top Chop-Socky.

Flying Guillotine 2 aka Palace Carnage (1978) 
Not as good as the first instalment but it's still fairly entertaining. There's just an insufficient amount of guillotine action and decapitation. The action does pick up towards the end though. The tyrannical emperor Yung Cheng (Feng Ku) demands that the guillotines be modified and this is the film's main problem. The guillotine becomes just too overly complicated and cumbersome. Nah Lan (Szu Shih) is hired by the Emperor to train a gang of lady assassins but where do her true allegiances lie? There will be blood, heroes and villains.

10 Rillington Place (1971)
Well this is truly grim. I'd only ever vaguely heard about this film and that there was a recent BBC series remake starring Tim Roth, I think. So I took a punt. I mean how can you lose with a cast that includes John Hurt, Richard Attenborough and Judy Gleeson directed by the legendary Richard Fleischer. If you thought fucked up stories of grisly murder were only for current Netflix docu-series think again. This is an horrific and gruesome true story from London in the mid-20th century. That's not a spoiler by the way as we learn within the first minute of the film that John Christie (Richard Attenborough) is a cold blooded killer. The skint Tim (John Hurt) and Beryl Evans (Judy Gleeson) move into a flat above John & Ethel (Pat Heywood) Christie at 10 Rillington Place with their new born baby Geraldine. The Evans family become entangled in John Christie's dark and depraved world when Beryl reveals to him that she is pregnant. A Brilliant creepy vibe of morbid inevitability is created right from the get go that doesn't let up until the very end. The pacing, acting and execution here are all right on the money. This is one blood curdling and tragic tale that needs to be seen to be believed. Is this considered a classic? because it is one!

Fright Night (1985)
I totally missed this in the 80s so it was the first time I'd watched this cult vampire movie. It's certainly was not what I was expecting. The tone for a start was all over the shop. I was not expecting any sort of quirky comedy or such American cheesy 80s-ness so it took me a while to adjust. The second half is definitely better ie. I loved it when the vampire slaying began. There were some spectacular practical visual effects in these battles and death scenes that made it all worthwhile. A couple of blokes move next door to teenager Charley Brewster's (William Ragsdale) family home in suburbia. Charley thinks they might be Vampires but nobody believes him. Having not seen this when I was 13 (this was totally made for my demographic at the time), I don't think I'm going to become attached to this movie at any stage. I get that people who saw it as a teenager would have a big nostalgia for it. This is why you constantly see it being rated highly by horror enthusiasts in their 40s. I wonder if today's kids would dig it? Fright Night must have been a big influence on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. For nostalgists and Horror historians.

The True History Of The Kelly Gang (2019)
Intense biopic drama. I'm not a very good Australian. All I know about the Ned Kelly is that he was a smelly drunk bearded hipster who was a murderous thug. He was probably a bit thick too as he was captured by the coppers for killing other Johnny Hoppers. He was hanged at Melbourne Gaol where he uttered his final words "Such Is Life". That's all I know. I've never read one of the hundreds of books on his life and I didn't do Bushranger Studies for my HSC (Year 12). I saw the Ned Kelly film with Mick Jagger when I was small and recall thinking it was a terrible picture with an even more terrible lead actor. So I don't know what's true and what isn't in this flick. Were the Kelly Gang cross dressers? Was Ned bi-sexual? Was he ever sober? Did he ever hang out in the snow? Was he ever clean shaven? This was a pretty good, watchable and fantastical epic. George MacKay the dude from 1917 (2019) plays Ned Kelly and he has a magnetic screen presence, you cannot take your eyes off him. He is a bona fide old school movie star just like Rusty Crowe who is fabulous as elder bushranger Harry Power. Special mentions must go to Essie Davis as Ned's mum and Nicholas Hoult as Constable Fitzpatrick for their brilliant performances...oh and it co-stars Nick Cave's son as Ned's brother.

The Master of The Flying Guillotine aka The One Armed Boxer vs. The Flying Guillotine (1976)
So after watching the above Flying Guillotine movies Mr Tarantino turns up on the Pure Cinema Podcast talking about Kung Fu movies. He states that Master Of The Flying Guillotine is the only flying guillotine film worth watching. He is wrong of course. The guillotine here is a much more compact version of the one in The Flying Guillotine (1975) but it's just not used efficiently or sufficiently during this flick. There are only a few decapitations which was disappointing however if you can get past that fact this is a brilliant Chop Socky movie. For starters the soundtrack is pure fucking gold. It's a Krautrock fest featuring Neu, Kraftwerk & Tangerine Dream. Neu on a 70s kung fu soundtrack!? This is the best use of Krautrock since Can's great tune Mother Sky was featured in Jerzy Skolimowski's film Deep End (1970). The One Armed Boxer (Jimmy Wang Yu) runs a kung fu school and is invited to a martial arts tournament. The competition features an incredible array of duels spotlighting different styles of martial arts which have to be seen to bee believed. The Indian fighter for instance has crazy go go gadget extendible arms, one dude stands on the tips of knives etc. Fung Sheng Wu Chi (Kang Chin) turns up at the event to assassinate The One Armed Boxer. Let the battle begin and what a sensational set piece the rest of this picture is. This film's title should always be known by its alternative name as it makes much more sense ie. the perfectly apt The One Armed Boxer vs. The Flying Guillotine.

One Armed Swordsman (1967)
This film apparently revolutionised Hong Kong cinema. It was the blockbuster of its day breaking box office records across Asia. This is fucking epic, action packed and suspenseful. The direction (Chang Cheh), set pieces and overall visual aesthetic are stunning. Jimmy Wang Yu stars as the titular character. While this is bloody swordplay at its finest it's also about romance, revenge, honour, existentialism etc. The One Armed Swordsman Fang Kang was orphaned when his father sacrificed himself to save his master teacher Qi Ru Feng (Tien Feng) at The Golden Sword Kung Fu School. In gratitude for this heroic feat Feng brought up Kang. Even though Fang Kang's arm was chopped off by Feng's belligerent daughter Qi Pei-er (Pan Ying-zi) he still one day returns to the school to defend his master from a rival gang of nihilistic swordsmen. This posse have been tinkering away at designing innovative new weapons to counter masterful swordsmanship and have thus become superior assassins. Will the One Armed Swordsman be able to overcome The Long Armed Devil (Yeung Chi-hing) and his disciples of evil? On the soundtrack front there's a tune that sounds like a cross between freakbeat, Ennio Morricone and the Velvet Underground that was very cool. This chop-socky classic lives up to its reputation.

Return Of The One Armed Swordsman (1969)
Bloody sword fights! Once we get past the talky exposition at the beginning  of this sequel the splendiferous action really picks up momentum that rarely lets up until the climax. The Eight Demon Swordsmen challenge The One Armed Swordsman Fang Kang (Jimmy Wang Yu) and all surrounding rival kung fu schools to join in a duelling competition and they will not take no for an answer from anybody. This ain't gonna be no martial arts tournament. It's a nefarious invitation to a blood bath for all of the eight demon school's rivals. The inventiveness of weapons, stunts and sword fights here are next level and this was made in 1969! Director Chang Cheh really ramps this flick up to full tilt compared to the original. These big, bold & bloody battles are astonishing. Wrap your eyeballs & ears around this movie from the legendary Shaw Brothers studio. 

Creature With The Blue Hand (1967)
It's been said many times before that the German/Danish Krimi films were a precursor to the Giallo movies and who am I to disagree because this Edgar Wallace story had me flashing back to a 'batshit crazy' Giallo Slaughter Hotel (1971). Both films not only have Klaus Kinski in a main role but they are both set in mansions with Knight and weapon artefacts. Both flicks have asylums and sexy shenanigans although this isn't anywhere near as sexually graphic as Slaughter Hotel which sometimes goes by the title Asylum Erotica. Mainly though both films have a killer on the loose and bodies piling up. Creature With The Blue Hand also has proto-slasher stylings such as a body count, a disguised murderer, many shots taken from the killer's point of view and the killer's weapon is a hand of knives (Hello Freddy Krueger). Dave (Klaus Kinski) escapes from an asylum and returns to his family mansion to prove he is not an insane killer. Dave quickly takes on the identity of his identical twin bother Richard (Klaus Kinski) who seems to be missing. An absurdly convoluted plot develops in the labyrinthine mansion with many a red herring not unlike a giallo film once again. Special mention must got to the suspenseful Euro-crime-funk score which will have your toes tapping. While this may not be a great (it's alright) film it has to be seen to put into context its influence on the evolution of several sub-genres of horror movies.