Monday, September 24, 2007

Christina of Sweden

Swedish model and movie star Christina Lindberg made two movies in Japan: Sex and Fury, which is out on R1 DVD from Panik House; and the less well known Poruno no joô: Nippon sex ryokô - literally, The Pornstar Travels Around Japan. When I hung out with her and Klubb Super 8 in Hollywood, Christina told me the story of how these films happened. She was on the plane home from the Cannes festival after promoting one of her earlier movies, and happened to be seated next to a Japanese business man. They started talking, and it turned out he was in the movie business! Christina gave him his card, and a few weeks later a representative from Toei called up and offered her to come to Japan and make movies! Toei wanted to give Christina - or Kurisuchina Rindobaagu as she became known in Japan - a five-year contract, but she was already on her way out of the business by then. She ended up making two movies in Japan, worked with female action star Reiko Ike, and had a fabulous time! Christina loved Japan, and wants to return some day. She still has a lot of clippings at home from Japanese magazines. She remembered that during one promotion tour, a wall-size portrait of her was painted on a building in fashionable Ginza! I can't compete with that, but here is the Japanese poster for Poruno no joô: Nippon sex ryokô...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hot Snow, Dirty Fingers and a Trip to Hell

The title of what is probably Sweden's first drug thriller, Hot Snow, refers of course to cocaine, which must have been a fairly exotic substance in 1968. The film is an unusual combination of sleaze and glamor, and feels more continental than just about any other Swedish film of the period. The cast is prime Swedesploitation: brilliant drama actor Ernst-Hugo Järegård as the evil drug lord, spitting out his lines in inimitable fashion; Sven-Bertil Taube, son of Sweden's national poet Evert Taube, as the race-car-driving playboy; and Norweigan import Grynet Molvig as the fashion interest. Well-known Swedish writer Sandro Key-Åberg shared the writing duties with director Torbjörn Axelman, who would later go on to work with Lee Hazelwood. The review on this Swedish insert heralds it as "Sweden's first real gangster movie"!

Arne Mattsson went from almost single-handedly creating the image of Swedish sin in the 1950s with One Summer of Happiness, to popular thrillers (e.g. Mannequin in Red), to increasingly exploitative fare in the 1960s and 70s. Dirty Fingers is a rock-hard drug thriller with torture, sex, murder and a gangster who wears a set of razor sharp knives on his glove - an inspiration for Freddy Kruger perhaps? According to the Swedish insert, it was even "an international smash hit"!

Finally, the whole reason for starting this thread in the first place. I am proud to present in my opinion one of the best and most unusual Swedish posters of all time - artist Olle Frankzén's one-sheet design for The Trip - re-named Trip to Hell by distributors Corona Film! This poster was part of the Swedish National Museum's exhibition of Swedish film posters in 1983. A great, stylized image that captures the feel of "psychedelic color" perfectly...

And very finally, no poster available but here's a plug for the best Swedish drug move of recent years: Brorsan Såsett, a no-budget epic from the little town of Stenungsund on the Swedish West coast. Created by two film-fanatics in their own spare time it is a surprisingly successful drug-drenched love story. There are rough edges but the warmth and humor of the story shines through. If you speak Swedish you should check out an excerpt here - one of the funniest drug trips on film in recent memory!

That's it for the drugs for now - but at some point I'll dig out a few Italian examples, including an amazing 2-sheet for The Trip.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Good Times on Drugs

Unlike Bill Hicks I'm not too keen on drugs in real life, but I've sure seen enough drug movies to be something of an expert in theory. The mother of them all is still Reefer Madness, the 1936 call to arms against the threat of marijuana - the evil weed that is making youngsters go insane, have sex, kill each other, and play the piano really fast. I can also recommend the very entertaining musical adaptation of this "true" story, Reefer Madness the Movie Musical, which adds finger poppin' tunes, showstopping dance numbers, intentional humor and lots of gore to the mix. Here's a genuine 1950's poster for a typical marijuana scare flick, Narcotics Story. "Scene after scalding scene" of "sordid depravity" - sounds great!

And it seems they had the same killer weed problems in Mexico! Apparently, the Lujuria de Marihuana made youngsters go sex and violence crazy in Acapulco - and isn't that the spitting image of Robert Mitchum smoking bottom left, fitting as he was arrested for holding in 1948? Thanks to Peter M at NSFGE this has now been identified as an alternative title for 1968's Esclava del deseo - Slave of Desire - from prolific director/producer Emilio Gómez Muriel, the man behind such classics as Neutron Battles the Karate Assassins (a title I hope to find a reason to return to).

On to the harder stuff - our friend Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. The Trip is the quintessential drug movie, and it presents a surprisingly balanced view of LSD for a sensational 1960's AIP production. It is a well known fact that super-straight producer/director Roger Corman took a real trip to "research" the topic - now that's dedication. With a stellar exploitation cast including Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, a classic Jack Nicholson script, and genuinely psychedelic colors, The Trip still holds up well today. In fact, Nicholson became something of a drug script expert; he also wrote The Monkees' totally far out Head. Here's the classy US one-sheet.

But that's not all! Check back tomorrow for the Swedish drug connection...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

R.I.P., you Delirious Crimson Executioner, you!

Muscleman Mickey Hargitay, who died a year ago this week, was perhaps most know for being married to 60's sexpot Jayne Mansfield - twice. He was played by none less than Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Jayne Mansfield Story - but he had a considerably more interesting acting career than the future governor of California.

Hargitay worked with some of the world's exploitation and horror greats. Renato Polselli was not one of Italy's most prolific directors, but his movies remain among the most enjoyably insane pieces of trash ever committed to celluloid. In Delirium, Hargitay plays the movie world's least believable psychiatrist, who just happens to be the psychotic killer he pretends to be chasing! The movie is truly worthy its name and was so unhinged it was re-cut to appear as the deranged flashback of a war veteran - making it even more of a mess! Here is the Italian locandina.

But Hargitay's most iconic role was in Bloody Pit of Horror, directed by Massimo Pupillo. The exceedingly well-oiled former bodybuilder is beyond camp (not to mention distinctly homoerotic) as he runs around his old castle in a pair of tight red trousers and a mask, bellowing endlessly how he is "THE CRIMSON EXECUTIONER!" and picking off the large group of cover girls who just happened to stop by - how convenient. I'm happy to own the original release locandina, when the film was supposedly based on the writings of De Sade... yeah, right!

Finally, I'm happy to note Hargitay's talents made it to Sweden too. Delirium and Bloody Pit of Horror would not have had a chance with the men with the scissors, but Lady Frankenstein lost only about a minute (including "the pillow murder", according to the censor records). Shown here is the Swedish insert poster, probably based on Italian artwork, and the distinctly different US one-sheet...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wayback Machine, Part 3: ZEDER takes a trip

In the third (and final for now) part of this series, we go on the road to the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film... Original post date: April 6, 2004.

How me and ZEDER went to the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film

Sometimes life throws you a weird one. A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from BIFFF, the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Films, enquiring when I would send the 35mm print of ZEDER they would be showing in their retrospective this weekend. What print??? Turns out some wires had been crossed and I never got informed they wanted it. I regretfully informed them that there was no way for me to ship it now and thought that was the end of the story.

Two hours later they called and told me they had booked me plane tickets and a hotel room, and could I please bring the print in person? Having recently wreaked havoc on my personal and professional life by going to the Sitges festival, and considering I was just back from a business trip to Stockholm and would be in Amsterdam the next week, not to mention that the physical strain of lugging a 20 kilo film halfway across Europe would probably finally push my broken back over the edge and put me in hospital, this would be an extremely stupid thing to do.

Of course I said yes.

I got up early the next morning, and me and ZEDER checked in to the 6.40 flight to Brussels. It was somewhat surreal to see Pupi Avati's classic of under-stated Italian horror appear on the luggage belt in Brussels...

At the airport I was picked up by a guest host and received a royal treatment! A room was ready on the 19th floor of the festival hotel, I was taken to lunch, fed drink tickets, socialized with festival staff, and generally had a great time. Special thanks goes to Dirk van Extergem, the retrospective programmer who has put together some truly excellent series over the years and was my main contact (he wasn't responsible for the booking mistake though!)

The BIFFF festival is really the most friendly and laid-back festival I have been to, very different in style from e.g. Sitges. It is much smaller in that there are only 2 cinemas, and all premieres are at the main auditorium. Basically you can sit back and watch the whole festival from the same chair! Yet there are about 80 films shown, including many European and international premieres.

BIFFF is well-known for its additional acitvities - it's more than a film festival. The Vampire's Ball closing party is legendary and there are also art shows, costume contests, etc. But the most bizarre and amazing event is the Body Painting contest!

Here, artists spend some 4 hours painting models in the most imaginative styles, and then there is a parade on the main stage. The jury this year was presided over by film director Stuart Gordon - for lots of more bodypainting pics go to my BIFFF 2004 photo gallery!

I only stayed over night, but I did manage to see three movies. The festival is well-known for its noisy and ironic audience, and during the all-night horror events there's even crowd-rafting - people floating over the crowd in rubber rafts! Fortunately, the audience can also concentrate and show respect to films that deserve it. First up was THE TESSERACT, the most recent gangster drama from the brothers Pang, and it is a good and stylish film, though a bit heavy on the digital effects. THE IMMORTAL was truly unique: directed by comic book artist Enki Bilal, it is a strange mix of 3D-animated characters and real actors. It really looks exactly like one of Bilal's comics come to life! The story and acting had troubles, but the films was still a very interesting experience. Finally, ALEXANDRA'S PROJECT is a low-key domestic drama between a man and his wife, who has just left him but leaves behind a video tape of herself. Some very funny and surprising moment makes it worth seeking out.

Exhausted, I crashed at 2 in the morning (Dirk wanted to take me to the Cotton Club, the festival bar, but I just couldn't do it). The following day, I watched some of the Costume Contest, had lunch with Dirk, shopped a little, and went to the airport. The driver was yet another of those characters that make BIFFF so unique: a die-hard collector of Batman memorabilia, who always carried with him a sketch book signed by lots of famous comic artists (Bilal had just done a drawing in it)!

All in all, despite being a wreck the week after, I'm happy I did it, and I found my ultra-short visit to the BIFFF festival (despite the rowdy audience) a very good experience.

PS: The screening of ZEDER went without a hitch!

September 2007 postscript: I haven't been to BIFFF again, but I'd love to return, and even though Sitges has the edge size-wise, BIFFF has more parties and bodypainting! Speaking of which, here are a few more pics:

For even more pictures from BIFFF 2004, visit my photo gallery!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Wayback Machine, Part 2: At Home with Mike and Lisa

Continuing the series of posts rescued from the Mobius Home Video Forum, here is a little reportage from one of my visits to Mike Vraney, founder of Something Weird Video, and Lisa Petrucci, kick-ass kutie artist extraordinaire. Original post date November 5, 2003.

At home with SOMETHING WEIRD's Mike Vraney - full-color photo reportage!

I've had the privilege of knowing Mike Vraney of Seattle's Something Weird Video for several years know, ever since he visited Sweden in 1999 for the SOMETHING WEIRD 2000 tour. With him were the legendary David Friedman, full of stories about the old days of exploitation cinema (he calls Mike his "illegitimate son"!) and Vraney's life partner, "kick-ass kutie" artist and SW art director Lisa Petrucci.

After that, I've had the opportunity to visit Mike and Lisa in Seattle a few times, most recently this October. We first went to Towers to get DVD's. Mike wanted BLACK SCORPION but it wasn't out yet, so he got THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) instead - "The best movie ever made!" according to Mike. At the house, we watched a dupe of the director's cut of EQUINOX (apparently also "The best movie ever made!") and checked out Mike's gigantic DVD collection. Lisa cooked dinner and we watched some amazing Mexican 60's fantasy films, including the incredibly weird SHIP OF MONSTERS (again, "The best movie ever made!" - this time I agree!)

When driving along with Mike, after a visit to a Burgermaster drive-in restaurant (great burgers - too bad the waitresses don't have roller skates anymore!) the topic of Mobius came up. Mike does not use a computer, but he does get print-outs from Mobius discussions sometimes, and has a good laugh at them! I said that Mobius readers would be interested in knowing a little more about how he lives and works. Since Mike is notoriously camera shy, I was very surprised to hear him go: "Hey - let's do it! You can take some photos! Let's make it totally staged and fake!"

So here we have it, Mike Vraney at his desk, working on the latest SW release (or is it?!)

The Vraney-Petrucci family home is an amazing place, full of collectors items from the American culture that SW is devoted to preserving - posters, board games, books and comics, dolls and every other imaginable object. Mike has his own house adjacent to the family home, filled to bursting with even more stuff! Here are some highlights...

Parts of the Something Weird archives:

A miniscule part of one of Mike's particular collecting passions, board games:

Mike's favorite movie (Criterion special edition NOT forthcoming!):

Mike's video equipment ("Are you gonna post that so people can laugh about my outdated equipment?")

And Mike and Lisa in front of a great Spook Show poster:

Finally, I should mention that what gets Mike REALLY going right now is the punk band DEK - Mike is their manager, and the members (including Mike's son Mark) are all between 14 and 16 years old! They really kick ass - I saw a live tape. Mike used to manage punk bands before the SW era, and with his experience and the kids energy, don't be surprised if they are the biggest punk band in America in a few years...

Read the original post and responses here (courtesy of Wayback Machine).

September 9, 2007 postscript: I still hook up with Mike and Lisa occasionally - check my Chiller photos on Flickr - but it's been a while since I visited them in Seattle. The Something Weird DVD business seems to be doing well and Lisa's art career is really taking off lately. DEK have grown a little and their third album is available for download. I couldn't find the photo used in the original post so I picked the cute Wattatata cover art by Lisa instead.

The "Criterion special edition not forthcoming" quip about EQUINOX is because at the time, Criterion had acquired the film as part of a package from producer Jack Harris - but nobody would have believed they were actually going to release this goofy no-budget film! But in fact, against all odds a Criterion special edition did appear in 2006.

Finally, due to the response at Mobius, I posted an additional picture of Mike proudly showcasing his very first Something Weird video release!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Wayback Machine, Part 1: Evil Dead in the Attic

This weekend, instead of writing new stuff I will rescue a couple of my old posts from the Mobius Home Video Forum that were lost in a systems crash. First up, a trip to my attic and its lurking fears in a post from September 3, 2002!

The true aspect ratio of EVIL DEAD --- or --- "There's a print in my attic!"

Some time ago, in response to a Mobius discussion on if Sam Raimi's classic EVIL DEAD was shot and shown "hard-matted" or "open matte", I promised to go to the bottom of things - by physically examining the 35 mm print of said film that happens to reside in my attic! It turned out that I did not have a reason to go up and poke about in the attic until last weekend (and believe me, this is not something you do if you don't have to). So, here in words and pictures, is the full story of what happened THAT... FATEFUL... NIGHT! [cue thunderclaps and maniac laughs!]

So prepare yourselves for the terrible sight...

... awful, isn't it! Here are roughly 30-40 feature films, only cult items, both 16 and 35 mm, some of which are not and may never be on DVD or video. It may look pretty awful but film is sturdy and although the boxes are ragged, the content is usually fine. To give you an idea of what's in there, straight ahead I can see a 35 mm print of LEGEND OF THE EIGHT SAMURAI with Sonny Chiba; a couple of GODZILLA on beautiful 16 mm; a bunch of trailers and, uh, that's probably some STREETFIGHTER movies, again with Sonny Chiba. A veritable Japanes pile! To the left lurks SHOGUN ASSASSIN in a nice 16 mm print (must have escaped from that other pile!) plus several Jackie Chan features on 35 mm including ARMOUR OF GOD II, CRIME STORY and SNAKE IN THE EAGLE'S SHADOW. Of the less Asian variety we have Fulci's ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS in 35 mm scope, nice prints of cult classics ANGUISH and ZEDER (aka REVENGE OF THE DEAD); there's Warhol/Morrisey/Margheriti's DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN (not 3D, unfortunately) and several Bava goodies on 16 mm including BLACK SABBATH, BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (uncut, natch) and HATCHET FOR THE HONEMOON. For the more obscure Euro-horrorists among you, there are some neat rarities on 16 mm: DEMONS OF THE DEAD aka ALL THE COLORS OF DARKNESS, and a complete print of the classic WHO COULD KILL A CHILD. There's not much in the way of North American films as you've noted, but at least Bigelow's NEAR DARK made it in there somehow.

But that's not why we're here! At the very bottom (of course) we find a copy of EVIL DEAD, here shown with its brother EVIL DEAD II (yeah, I've got that too, so sue me...)

Securely back in the comfort of our home, we open the box with tremling hands...

Yep, it's THAT film all right!

And here we have it! From the opening of reel 4 of this vintage theatrical print of EVIL DEAD, we can see Ash poking around at a graveyard IN GLORIOUS OPEN MATTE! The whole frame is revealed, with no hard matting evident, just as we all suspected. Case closed, my friends! Now excuse me, but I have some tidying up to do...

Read the original post and response on Mobius Home Video Forum (archived by the Wayback Machine)

September 2007 Postscript: I don't have any of those film prints in the attic anymore - a nice man came around one day and loaded them into a car, a metric ton or so of celluloid, much to the joy of my girlfriend... But watch this blog for a Wayback story of what happened to one of the prints, coming soon!