Saturday, March 25, 2006

Here's one for you Giallo-gobblin' Taboo-Tokin' Eddie Campbell fans!

Thanks to David Gregory (and Keith S. Dias) at the Los-Angeles-based DVD firm Blue Underground, a fat package arrived this week containing many delights -- prominent among them one of three of Blue Underground's latest releases, Flavio Mogherini's previously-unreleased-in-North-America giallo The Pyjama Girl Case (1977). I'm aching to screen this, though I've seen the film once before (via a blurry dub from an foreign video release, provided by a friend back in the 1990s).

It is, in short, writer/director Mogherini's extrapolation on the infamous 1932 (or '34, depending on which of Eddie's two stories you read first) Australian "pyjama girl murder" case which my old cartoonist amigo Eddie Campbell adapted to comics as "The Pyjama Girl" (published in Taboo 1 back in '88) and "The Pyjama Girl's Big Night Out" (in Taboo 2 in '89). The case history is a fascinating, complex, and ghoulish one, which Eddie illuminated to perfection in his companion narratives, which revolved around the indelibly sad image of the pyjama girl's unidentified body on public display in a vat of formalin solution at Sydney University until the 1940s. I won't give away anything more, save to say Eddie's initial piece was one of the formative contributions to Taboo, and by Eddie's own reckoning, co-editor John Totleben and I were the first US publisher to purchase his work for publication (though due to Taboo long gestation period, Fantagraphics beat us to the punch as the first US publisher to publish Eddie's work).

Flavio Mogherini's giallo is light years away from Eddie's adaptations of the case, featuring Ray Milland as the retired detective who steeps himself in the mystery of the young woman's identity and death; Mel Ferrer, Dalila Di Lazzaro (vet of Dario Argento's Phenomena/Creepers and fave Paul Morrissey's Flesh for Frankenstein/Andy Warhol's Frankenstein), Howard Ross, Michele Placido, Ramiro Oliveros and Rod Mullinar co-star. It'll be nice to finally see, given Blue Underground's always-stellar transfers, Carlo Carlini's cinematography with crystal-clarity (and in a proper widescreen transfer of its original 1977 screen ratio), and hear Riz Ortolani's score with equal or better audio clarity. Ortolani, natch, scored countless glorious classics like Mondo Cane, Africa Addio, Cannibal Holocaust, etc. -- well, OK, those are among his most depraved works (and his loveliest scores), so I'm eager to see and hear Pyjama Girl Case in its current restored form.

Why am I yammering on so about this? Well, Taboo, Campbell, and Bissette fans and completists, you need this DVD for your collection. December 12th of 2005, David Gregory at Blue Underground got in touch with me seeking info on the fabled Taboo strips (didn't know they were "fabled," didya?) and contact with Eddie Campbell, both of which I provided post haste. The end result: Eddie Campbell's two "Pyjama Girl" strips are reprinted complete in the DVD's packaging as a nifty little b&w booklet, adorned with a b&w repro of my original Taboo 1 cover painting (featuring my son Dan, deux, in his comics debut as a model, if you will) and my original Taboo intro to Eddie's first "Pyjama Girl" story, all reprinted with permission of both Eddie and I.

Thus, the legacy of Taboo continues to spill into the 21st Century...

Blue Underground is among my favorite of all DVD labels, and it was a bit of a puzzle when David asked if there were any of their DVDs I wanted or needed: I have purchased almost their entire line, from the moment their first release debuted. I urge you, one and all, to check out their online catalogue at
  • Blue Underground.
  • I can heartily recommend each and every one of their releases, if only for the exquisite care BU takes with every project: the most complete, uncut prints available anywhere in the world, the best transfers possible, the most complete extras, and the perfect packaging, each and every time.

    Thanks, David, for caring, contacting, and following through -- including the comp copies. It's an honor to be a little part of just one Blue Underground release.


    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Good grief, that Pyjama Girl movie was on the TV here (Australia) a couple of weeks ago - I had no idea it was such a sought after film! Have to admit I mainly watched it for the odd novelty of seeing a film set in Sydney where everyone's talking Italian (I'm easily amused, it seems)

    Blogger SRBissette said...

    Good to hear!

    Hey, if WAKE IN FRIGHT (released in the US as OUTBACK, and looooooong out of any kind of circulation, never on video) EVER pops up on Australian TV, PLEASE tape a copy! I'm dying to see it (along with other Aussie classics like JEDDA, THE CHANT OF JIMMY BLACKSMITH, etc.). I'm aching to see WAKE IN FRIGHT in any form sometime in the future.

    It's been hard as hell to catch even some of the key Australian films stateside, though every now and again a 'lost' curio like the venerable UK children's matinee staple A BUSH CHRISTMAS (recently released domestically on DVD by MGM) unexpectedly surfaces -- I've been an attentive hounddog in this life-long search, prompted (I admit somewhat red-facedly) by my childhood affection for SKIPPY, THE BUSH KANGAROO and teenager reading of D.H. Lawrence's KANGAROO (I know, I know -- far too many wallabies). The real addiction point was seeing WALKABOUT while still a high school student; I was already addicted to Roeg's films after PERFORMANCE tore the top of my skull open for life, but WALKABOUT absolutely fixated my love of Australian cinema in all forms and genres. This has led me to some classics I never would have seen otherwise, from MAD DOG MORGAN and TRACKER & countless others. Horror film fans and feminists alike remain completely oblivious to Ann Turner's exquisitely disturbing CELIA (1988; on US video as CELIA: CHILD OF TERROR), which extrapolates a child's personal apocalypse spiraling out of the (real) late 1950s Australian ban on pet rabbits -- it's a real gem, a precursor of sorts to Peter Jackson's HEAVENLY CREATURES (the conflation of Celia's monster-populated fantasy life with her increasingly oppressive adolescence culminates in a horrific tragedy) I most heartily recommended to one and all.

    FYI, I just scored an eye-popping Chips Rafferty one-sheet poster for the US release of Rafferty's WALK INTO PARADISE -- which was released stateside as WALK INTO HELL, and stands along with the RKO 1939 gem FIVE CAME BACK as a (far more benevolent) precursor to Ruggero Deodato's savage one-two punch THE LAST SURVIVOR and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST.

    Blogger SRBissette said...

    I meant "from MAD DOG MORGAN to TRACKER" -- oops!

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Steve, have you got an email address?

    (can't see one on your site anywhere)

    Blogger SRBissette said...

    My email comes in at - happy to hear from ya!


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