Tuesday, April 18, 2006

More Ketchup, All Kinds and Kolors, Floppy Boots Stomp Down, Public Domain Terrors, Bush Era Horrors, Rummy's Circle of Hell, and So Much More...

* Man, I am sick to death of dealing with spam. The insidious fuckers creep through every filter eventually, and begin needlessly eating -- up -- time...

* The amazing Tim Lucas sent me the following Captain Beefheart link some time ago, and I've been meaning to share it here forever. I'm a huge Don Van Vliet/Beefheart fan, looooove to draw to that thumpin' akimbo music and microphone-bursting voice, and urge you all to check out
  • The Beefheart/Magic Band DVD link
  • Thanks, Tim! "Floppy Boots Stomp Down to the Ground..."

    * A 'bump' of sorts from the comments board: fusing the living dead and public domain, Jolly John Carroll sent us this info back in March, but who checks the comment boards after the primary day passes? Thanks, John!. See, there's
  • a new site for downloading public domain movies
  • you should check out, if, unlike this sorry Vermontian hillbilly, you indeed have high-speed internet access. Here's the March 8th press release John was passing along to us all, which I've now elevated to page one status:

    "Video Entertainment Internet: Dr. Jekyll, Bruce Lee and Notre Dame's hunchback are all finding new shelf space on a start-up's site.

    Last week, Veoh Networks began offering free downloads of cult classics, including kung fu flicks such as "Ninja Death 1," John Wayne movies like "The Lucky Texan" and black-and-white horrors such as "The Brain That Wouldn't Die."

    Thanks to the proliferation of broadband Internet access, video downloads have become increasingly popular. Blockbuster.com and Netflix have been facing off in the retail space. File-sharing sites also attract movie buffs, though the legality of such
    downloads remains iffy. Other start-ups, such as Brightcove.com, are testing the waters. And on the smaller screen, downloads for Apple Computer's video iPod are gaining an audience.

    But finding old movies--legally, systematically and at no cost--isn't always easy. They've begun to pop up on sites like Entertainment Magazine and Public Domain Torrents. Veoh's founders started their site last year mainly for people to post home movies. But they soon realized people had a desire to track down old Hollywood flicks and classic videos.

    The cult classics posted on the site have all fallen out of copyright, either because of their age or because of owners who failed to protect them.

    Anyone can upload films to the site; both posting and viewing is free. Veoh plans to make money through advertising and commissions on pay-to-download selections.

    So far, about 90 movies are available on Veoh's cult classics page. And who would see these flicks if they weren't on the Internet?

    "Nobody," Veoh CEO Dmitry Shapiro said. "Just collectors who were fortunate enough to have access to the movies. Once in a while somebody would have a viewing in some old theater, or they'd get on the TV in the middle of the night. But for the most part they just disappeared."

    Now, though, they're in plain sight. An obscure 1942 werewolf movie called "The Mad Monster," for example, already had 80 viewers only 24 hours after upload by a horror enthusiast.

    Watching the silent, John Barrymore version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is a journey back in time. In the 1920 classic--later eclipsed by a remake for which Fredric March won the best-actor Oscar--Jekyll tinkers in his lab, surrounded by smoking test tubes and accompanied by horrific organ music. Title cards carry quotes such as "Damn it, I don't like it! You're tampering with the supernatural!"

    Less salt, sugar and fat So why are today's viewers, who are used to overwhelming special effects and flawless computer animation, attracted to silent movies with stiff, spasmodic monsters? Shapiro thinks the interest stems from a discontent with much of today's production, which he labels "junk food."

    "It's got a lot of salt, a lot of sugar and a lot of fat, which is used to make up for bad story lines,..." he said. "Back in the old days, they didn't make junk food, because they didn't have special effects to rely on. So a lot of the stuff that was made then has great story lines and interesting acting--and there is obviously a sense of nostalgia."

    The most popular video on the channel so far is "Bruce Lee the Invincible" with more than 250 downloads in just a few days. The acting is exaggerated, the dialogue minimal and the lip-synching nonexistent. But that doesn't stop the Dragon from making mashed
    potatoes out of its enemies.

    "It's a boy thing," Shapiro said regarding the film's instant popularity. "I remember watching kung fu movies with my dad. I didn't notice the bad dubbing and the silly story lines. Boys have their adrenaline and testosterone going. They like movies about
    chivalry and fighting."

    But Shapiro's personal favorite is "Reefer Madness," a 1938 propaganda film aimed at marijuana: "A violent narcotic--an unspeakable scourge--the real public enemy No. 1!" "Reefer Madness" was created to deter America's youth from using the drug. "Knowing what we know now, a lot of people think today that it is a comedy," Shapiro said.

    Shapiro's vision when starting San Diego-based Veoh was broader than reviving old black-and-whites. To him, the site and others like it represent a democratic revolution, letting anyone with a computer, video camera and Internet connection bring their vision to the world. In addition to the cult classics page, Veoh has pages specifically dedicated to skateboards, cars and music.

    "Video is the most incredible medium for communication. It's not just for entertainment; it can be education, politics, used by causes and charities," said Shapiro, who also founded peer-to-peer security company Akonix Systems in 2000. "We believe this is as
    profound an invention as the World Wide Web, which democratized print broadcasting."

    To avoid distribution of copyrighted material, Veoh approves all the movies placed on the site.

    Originally from Russia, Shapiro grew up in an environment where all media, including television, was government controlled. "There was really nothing to watch. I remember having three channels: Two of them were propaganda, and one was irrelevant to me," he said.

    As a 10-year-old, he had watched only a few hours of television altogether. Moving as a youngster to the United States, he obviously found more choices but still saw them as limited by the preferences of television broadcasters.

    "Therefore we get to see very little of the world," Shapiro said. "That inspired me to look for alternatives."...


    Well, check it out, you lucky folks. I'll just stew in my video and DVD collection instead.

    * The astounding Mark Martin sent me the following link, which fans of horror, Hostel, and those of you attuned to the wedding of society/politics and pop culture will find worth a look:
  • The Wrath of Eli Roth: Liberal Lightning Rod?
  • The problem here is both Roth (young fella that he is) and the neocon (or, more correctly, "Anti-Liberal Media") blogger/site are being far too simplistic: the kinds of horror films we're seeing have definitely been impacted by the social and political reality. As I've written here before, I associate two specific threads of the post-2000 (that's pretty much the 21st Century thus far) genre landscape quite specifically with the George W. Bush era we're trapped in: the below-the-radar 'amnesia/trauma' subgenre (Memento being the sterling example, but we also have Session 9, Frailty, Memento, Spider, The Mechanist, The i Inside, Magdalena’s Brain, Head Trauma, etc.) reflecting the willful national unconsciousness/obliviousness to our cultural guilt/culpability, and the 'torture' cycle, very much in vogue just now (spearheaded by the most definitely Bush era fusion of Christian horror and ultragore, The Passion (of the Christ), which knocked the parameters of the pre-Passion R rating out of the ballpark, opening the floodgates for comparatively low-key psychological explorations like The Jacket, V for Vendetta, etc. and the increasingly explicit abuses of an international array of horrors: Saw I and II, Hostel, Sin City, Wolf Creek, High Tension, just to name three, and remakes like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, etc.). These quite obviously reflecting the zeitgeist & dread associated with the terrifying realities of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and 'extraordinary rendition' policies.

    In a soon-to-be-published review of The Jacket, I wrote about the 'trauma/amnesia' films:

    "In these intricate, Chinese-puzzle construct films, traumatized individuals struggle with the consequences of forgotten (or, in some cases, hidden or even adopted) events, meaningfully inverting the previous era of ‘buried memory’ child abuse case histories, scandals, books, and films, the ‘trauma amnesia’ films stigmatize the sufferer (in Cronenberg’s Spider, the ‘inner child’ is the most insidious self-deceiver of all). In this psychological no-man’s-land, no perceived reality can be taken at face value. No one is who they seem to be, enigmatic information and disinformation is treacherously interwoven, essential fragmentary clues are clouded by misperception, father figures are inherently dangerous, reality is treacherously malleable and mercurial, and the deepest betrayal of all lies within the protagonist’s own past. Inevitably, as buried memories manifest clearly, apparent victim/protagonist is shown to be (or have been) the victimizer, responsible for crimes they cannot continue to live with (or without). Repressed memories harbor irrevocable sins: their amnesia is symptomatic of desperate attempts to skirt the consequences of their own actions, to sustain unsustainable denial.

    These vicarious, personalized, implosive apocalypses are resonant metaphors for the collective cultural amnesia and attendant denial that accommodates so many transparent hypocrisies of this Administration’s policies, and, by proxy, our own culpability as a nation and a people. Even the national projection of ‘enemy’ status onto uninvolved nations (e.g, the completely false association of Saddam Hussein and Iraq with 9/11, a link the Administration and President Bush himself have since refuted, though they nurtured that association) is central to these films, as projection of foe onto friend and dualistic confusions of identity permeate the subgenre (in The Jacket, the latter extends to the protagonist and projected anima: Jack/Jackie).

    Denial is the black heart of the entire subgenre...."


    The torture cycle I needn't go into further -- do I? It seems so fucking obvious, from The Passion to Hostel, right down to the iconography of the poster and ad art -- what these films functionally are reflecting and doing -- and again, the transitional audience identification with both victims and victimizers (and the emotional inversion therein) is transparent. This is how these genres, how the pop culture, works.

    Together, these threads represent a distinctive shift in the genre that is most definitely of its time and place, specifically the Bush Presidency and its global policies. I recall how vividly Frailty summed up my own dread of the Bush era when I first saw it on the big screen, right down to its righteous demon-killing Texan lawman with his ever-supportive wife by his side: a terrifying caricature of Bush himself, as he no doubt sees himself.

    Still, easy to see how these nuances are lost, reduced as they are to reflexive sound bytes devoid of context, and the inability of anyone in the broad 'media' (specifically those subscribing to the lie of "liberal media" -- please, The Daily Show is the only widely viewed liberal programming in the country, and it's a Comedy Central outpost!) to even attempt to engage in meaningful debate of any substance.

    Eli Roth has a point, but isn't articulate enough to make it -- though his own pair of features are prime examples of the very expression of the times he's referring to. Hostel neatly distills the xenophobia of Roth's post-9/11 generation to its essence, and that's the power and value of that film (for those who can stomach the mayhem).

    * My vote for most absolutely chilling, bone-scraping Bush era horror flicks: the cycle of "God's Chosen Man" DVDs dedicated to this President.

    Of the handful out there that are generally available through mainstream distribution venues, I particularly savored Calvin Skaggs/David Van Taylor/Ali Pomeroy's With God on Our Side: George W. Bush and the Rise of the Religious Right (2005, Lumiere Productions/Channel 4/
  • First Run Features),
  • a British documentary which provided balance of sorts for "An Alternative Program to Fahrenheit 9/11" (so it said on its packaging masthead), Ted & Audrey Beckett/Charles E. Sellier's George W. Bush: Faith in the White House (2004,
  • Goodtimes DVD).
  • The latter is pretty amazing, "A Grizzly Adams Production" from the good folks who've given us (are you ready for this?) he LIfe and Times of Grizzly Adams (movie and TV series), The Mysterious Monsters, In Search of Noah's Ark, The Amazing World of Psychic Phenomenon, Guardian of the Wilderness, The Lincoln Conspiracy, Beyond and Back, Donner Pass: The Road to Survival, In Search of Historic Jesus, The Capture of Grizzly Adams, Encounter With Disaster, The Bermuda Triangle, Beyond Death's Door, Hangar 18, The Incredible DIscovery of Noah's Ark, Ancient Secrets of the Bible and many others. Sellier, formerly Charles E. Sellier, Jr., was also the man behind (as director, mind you!) Snowballing, Silent Night Deadly Night (the beloved Santa Claus psycho/splatter movie that had its TV advertising banned in Boston, and was subsequently pulled from theatrical distribution altogether, until video resurrected it), The Annihilators (all 1984-85), and my personal fave of Sellier's works (as producer), The Boogens (1982). Hell, if the folks behind Sunn Classic Pictures, Inc./Schick Sunn Classics, innovators of some of the most lunatic (and religious) family-oriented roadshow drive-in/nabe/grindhouse ballyhoo of the '70s and '80s, support ol' George W., well, shucks, I should, too.

    The most wrenching of all amid this genre is Brian Trenchard-Smith/Lionel Chetwynd's TV movie DC 9/11: Time of Crisis (2005, Showtime), which is best viewed back-to-back with episodes of Matt Parker & Trey Stone's That's My Bush! sitcom, since both star Timothy Bottoms as you-know-who. This one is the dramatized portrait of Bush's heroic fortitude in the immediate wake of 9/11, a marvelously entertaining flight of fancy in light of all we know now went on behind the scenes (and so much more we don't know). In stiff competition with Sellier's stellar filmography, it's worth noting that UK director Trenchard-Smith is the man who made his mark helming the maladroit Aussie dystopian bloodfest Turkey Shoot (US title: Escape 2000, 1982), which was a pretty lunkheaded flick but one could argue now it's a prescient masterpiece anticipating US foreign policy of hte 21st Century. Still, I have fonder memories of the filmmaker's other works, like The Marty Feldman Show, Dead-End Drive In, Night of the Demons 2, Leprachaun 3 & 4 and the Christian apocalyptic sequel, Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 (2001), which some might cite as the point the filmmmaker "crossed over," forgetting, natch, he also helmed the TV series Five Mile Creek waaaaaay back in '83. UK Writer Lionel Chetwynd is a bit closer to the material, with TV movies like Kissinger and Nixon and Doomsday Gun, Falling From the Sky: Flight 174, The Siege at Ruby Ridge, etc., along with TV religious epics like Moses, Jacob and Joseph to his credit. Really, you won't believe what you're seeing if you give over 127 minutes of your life to DC 9/11: Time of Crisis. "Based on Real Life Accounts" hasn't been so risible a claim since Return of the Living Dead.

    So there -- two Brit-made productions (a documentary and docudrama) to balance the scales. Fair and balanced, that's Myrant.

    For those of you with high-speed internet access (sigh), Alan Doane David suggest you check out
  • this 9/11 doc,
  • which he calls "...absolutely devastating stuff and too serious to label under conspiracy. Take the time to watch it and share it with your friends." I checked it out at a friend's computer, not only because of lack of high-speed access at home, but so that there'd be no evidence in my computer of ever having watched it. So, better yet, don't share it with your friends -- go to their house a download/stream it.

    If you're needing some stirring antitoxins to add to the mix, check out Alan Peterson's FahrenHYPE 9/11 (2004, Trinity Home Entertainment; no website provided) and Larry Elder's Michael & Me (2004, Genius Entertainment/Non-Fiction Films; no website provided), which had me in stitches of all kinds, though I must say seeing Ron Silver in FahrenHYPE 9/11 outstripping his outrageous speech at the Republican National Convention last election topped anything Ann Coulter, Dick Morris, Zell Miller etc. had to say in the same film. Wheeee-yew.

    And these people really believe Michael Moore is over the top?

    Go ahead, tell me the horror flicks haven't gotten scarier since Bush mounted the throne (sounds like a scatalogical sexual position, eh?).

    * Hey, speaking of torture, how could you miss any of this? The Jaw-Dropping Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is on the defensive in the news, natch, on
  • culpability for torture,

  • why old soldiers won't just fade away,
  • and last but not least,
  • "Lawyer says Rumseld 'messed up' Guantanamo trials."
  • The latter, by Jane Sutton for Yahoo News, is particularly illuminating: "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his appointees set rules that violate President George W. Bush's order to hold fair trials for prisoners charged with terrorism in the Guantanamo tribunals, a military defense lawyer said on Friday. "We can't help it that the secretary of defense and his delegees (sic) have messed this thing up, but they have," military lawyer Army Maj. Tom Fleener told the presiding officer at one of the hearings. "If the rules don't provide for a full and fair trial, then they violate the president's order."...Tribunal rules set by the Pentagon require the defendants to have U.S. military lawyers who are authorized to see secret evidence that the accused may not be allowed to view. Pentagon officials have refused to allow self-representation, which Fleener called a fundamental right in nearly every court on Earth."

    Except, of course, the No-Longer-United-States-of-Bush-Amerika.

    "...Fleener said [his defendent Ali Hamza al] Bahlul cannot get a fair trial unless the rules change. "As the world looks at this system, it's going to have no legitimacy whatsoever," he said."

    How can the faithful & devout Christians of this nation continue to support this criminal Administration? I can only see it as an extension of the 'holy war' both extremist religious factions seems dead set upon fomenting; nothing else makes rational or irrational sense any longer.

    No wonder our horror movies are becoming so malicious.

    We know what we're doing, on some primal level, and we fear the inevitable consequences.

    5 Comments:

    Blogger Marty said...

    Steve,

    Super blog today. I've actually printed up your comments re: the two post-'00 threads/cycles of horror flicks (and I certainly appreciate the inclusion of Mag's Brain, though it's MagdAlena with an 'a'!) and distributed them to like-minded/interested folks around here.

    And your comments re: FRAILTY echo very similar reactions I had to the flick.

    Hey... Alex from Heretic said you two were going to chat. Is he thinking up picking up HEAD TRAUMA? Love the synergy, man. You gonna do the artwork?

    4/18/2006  
    Blogger Marky Mark said...

    I'm pretty sure the glut of cute CGI critters is a reflection of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Climb up out of the mud and breathe the air. Love is all around.

    4/18/2006  
    Blogger Tim Lucas said...

    Stephen, the last two lines of today's blog crystallized for me something I've been feeling about this whole SAW/HOSTEL trend in today's horror. I immediately copied it to my folder of candidates for future VW epigrams, where your wisdom now resides with that of everybody from Albert Camus to Frank Zappa.

    4/18/2006  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Gmail handles spam better than any other email client.

    I'll send you another invite if you wish.

    -Andrew D.

    4/18/2006  
    Blogger SRBissette said...

    * Oops, sorry about the title misspelling, Marty -- will correct that at home. YES to Heretic; will follow up with you via email.

    * Mark, the key transition betwixt today's blog topic (suggested by you, mind you) and the CGI happy critters realm is, of course, HAPPY TREE FRIENDS. And that, my friend, is about the chainsawing of the Age of Aquarius, which I experienced firsthand and will one day write about.

    * I am humbled, Tim -- thanks! Your placing me alongside Zappa in your lineup just made my day. Camus is no piker, either, but Zappa -- "The W is the White, the P is the Porter, the Lemon is the Lemon, the J is the Joooo-ooo-oos..."

    * Andrew, thanks, I may take you up on that this time. I'm just so wary of switching addresses on email until after I've got high-speed, due to the enormous effort associated with the transition period -- but thanks!

    4/18/2006  

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