Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Blood's Thicker than Plot
At least George Hilton wasn't in it...

Whoo, boy!

I still haven't gotten One Damned Day at Dawn (though I'm betting Fred over at Luminous) won't let me down, but I did get my other Spaghetti Western in the mail, Mille Dollari sul Nero (aka. Blood at Sundown).

To be honest, I wasn't really in the mood to watch anything, but I owed a guy on eBay a feedback for this thing so I fired it up. An hour and forty minutes later, I was ready to tell him that his product was fine. I did, however, have some different feelings about the movie.

Ahh the danger of buying stuff blind.

We'll head this off with the title that' s on the DVD box. I always think that's fair.

Blood at Sundown (Mille Dollari sul Nero, 1966, d. Alberto Cardone)

The Story (near as I can figure): Johnny Liston returns after a 12 year jail sentence for a murder he didn't commit only to find his brother Sartana in control of the town, Johnny's girlfriend, and an army of outlaws. Sartana's brutality with the locals doesn't sit well with Johnny who begins a crusade to get the townsfolk to overthrow his brother.

The Review: Where to begin?

Well, at roughly an hour and forty minutes, this was a pretty long spaghetti. Usually only the most operatic stories (most of those being directed by the genre masters) run over an hour and a half. Now this one did, and yet the story never seemed to get thicker than a piece of paper. Seriously, it's only because I've seen enough of these things that I could just string it along for myself. Otherwise, this one belongs well in the realm of head scratchers.

And yet, unlike most movies like that, it's somehow watchable. I just don't know why...

Now, Anthony Steffen (nee Antonio De Teffe), who plays Johnny Liston, has often been accused, at least in his Spaghetti Western career, of doing a bad Clint Eastwoon impression. It's easy to see. Steffen squints a lot. He has a similar hard angular face with about the same amount of stubble. And he's a fairly tall and slender fella. In this one, he seems to do a fair job in not just being a knockoff, but then any "performance" he might have given was generally ruined by the terrible English dialogue that was dubbed in for him (and all the characters for that matter). Still, all in all, not a wholly unlikeable hero....well, we'll get back to that.

If Steffen is doing his best Clint, then Gianni Garko, who plays Sartana, has to be doing his best Klaus Kinski. Garko spends the whole movie wild-eyed with furrowed brow, and is rarely anything less than crazed for a moment. Now of course, Garko is perhaps most famous for his role as a different Sartana in the popular Giuliano Carnimeo western series. I imagine that in much the same way as any movie with Franco Nero became a Django movie, Garko became Sartana with this movie's English dub. Anyhow, this moodswinging psychopath is almost the absolute antithesis of the too calm and cool Sartana that Garko made famous. (Of course the only one I didn't like was the one with Hilton as Sartana. Quel surprise...)

Now, as individual characters, Johnny and Sartana stand up ok. They've each got at least one dimension, and are almost bordering on a second. But most of the plot revolves around their being brothers, and the one element they keep returning to is how they won't kill one another because they're brothers. Nothing, however, is really done to cement the relationship between them. They never act overly brotherly to one another. At the very least, if I came home and found my woman married to my brother, and my brother killing everyone in my hometown...and the fact that it's kinda obvious that Sartana committed the murder that got Johnny sent up in the first place...I'd probably have to take him out. But....

There is the mother character. Now it's established that part of why they won't just blow each other away is their mother. Now she pretends not care for Johnny, but she obviously does which we're shown in little hints. She does support Sartana because of his strength and power, but doesn't seem to exactly love him. Now she seems loony enough on her own, but eventually she recognizes Sartana's insanity and turns against him. This results in her existence as a roadblock between the brothers being eliminated, and the inevitable showdown is underway. Like so many things in the story, the mother appears to have a backstory that's never explored (we're never sure why she has such a huge chip on her shoulder against the town), and she's just not around enough to explain anymore as to why the brothers won't go after each other because of her.

The movie also has an array of subplots that again aren't explored. Johnny's tie to his girlfriend who is now Sartana's wife is never really explored. Jerry, Johnny's mute assistant, has a side story of sorts, but we learn the details too late...and they don't seem to make any sense. Oh...right, and it's never explained who this guy was that Johnny was accused of killing...and why so much of the story seems to revolve around it in one way or another.

Now the copy I got in the mail wasn't the clearest, but you could tell that the movie looked well shot. At the same time, though, particularly in fight scenes, there are all these strange close up jumpcuts. Many of the shots were well composed and quite moody. Of particular note is the dolly shot of the boy's mother stalking through the bullet strewn streets to stop Sartana's bloody rampage on the town. In fact the movie has a disjointed string of atmospheric moments, interesting aspects, or cool scenes. There just isn't anything to hold all of it together. Which results in an ending...that just have to see it all to understand...

Very high on the WTF factor.

I would say that it was like watching a train wreck...but it worked better than most movies that seem like that. It was just another one of those where you just wish that it could have all come together better. With what it has going for it, you just wish it could've been a solid cohesive movie: a gothic tale of two brothers torn between their blood and their mutual hatred held off by a witchly matriarch. Beautiful...or at least it could've been.

Certainly the gothic angle was played up better in Margheriti's And God Said to Cain (1970) or in the Steffen vehicle The Stranger's Gundown (aka Django the Bastard, 1969).

Not the worst I've seen by any means...but man...I just wanted it to work...


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Weather as reflected in mood

Ok, so this one's gonna be a li'l more personal than most.

This morning, Los Angeles was hit by something ressembling a massive rainstorm. Not quite a tsunami, but enough to eff up an already well-effed up city. It's been the kind of day that you hope they'll cancel school...but you're just not that lucky.

What's funny is that it seems like this stuff is just following me around, and to be honest it just kinda feels like I feel lately.

A few years ago, I started what was going to be my first novel. For a long time it did hold the record for the longest thing I had written. Then I managed to start and finish a handful of screenplays, and more recently have started and am nearly finished with what probably will be my first novel. Though I can't really stand it the few times I've reread it, I still contemplate finishing it. (If that makes any sense...)

Anyhow, the point was that that's what it was all about: the connection between the weather and my main character. It's just that there was no way to keep the whole concept from coming off cartoony. I didn't want it to seem too much like a guy with a raincloud literally over his head.

That's...ummm, whatyacallit....stoopid.

Nevertheless, like so many things in life, sometimes that's just how it feels. Like when you're really annoyed or in a bad mood but you're trying not to be, and all these little annoyances keep cropping up all day all at once. Stuff like your pencil breaking, the heel falling off your shoe, a tire going flat, etc. I'm not talking about the times when you're in a bad or depressed mood and you're enjoying it (face it, we've all had those). I mean when your tired of being in a bad mood or you're really looking for a reason to be happy, and you just can't make it.

That's kind of where I am.

When I drove from LA to central Texas for X-mas, it began to snow on me just outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Snow. Southern New Mexico. Snow. The desert. Well, ok, it's not like all sand like-the-Sahara-desert desert, but it's close enough. It continued that way from Las Cruces through to the other side of El Paso, TX. I mean, it was beautiful. The contrast and all. But it was strange....though oddly fitting.

The whole time I was in Texas it was twenty degrees or below.

When I left, it got a whole lot warmer, but by the time I reached LA the rain was settling in. Yesterday, it sprinkled some. Last night came the gully washer. (Gully washer...that's from being in Texas. Frog Strangler is another favorite.) This morning, I guess the freeways and whatnot were all flooded out. LA is not known for having a good drainage system.

All of this somehow ties in to the heavy denim shirt I'm wearing today. It's a Wrangler shirt. Black. Has silver and black snap buttons. I wouldn't call it waterproof but it dried off pretty quick once I got to work. It's a real cowboy shirt.

What the hell am I doing wearing a black cowboy shirt?

I'm originally from Texas. Though I love the state (and I do), though I think it's responsible for my gentlemanly behavior and my can-do attitude, and though my family and my roots are there, I've sort of done everything in my power to run away from the cultural marks of it.

For instance, I've always shied away from country music. For the first eight years of my life, I heard almost nothing but country music. It took years before I could even really be in the same room with it, and then a few more before I could actually listen to it. Even now, the only stuff I can really take are the classics: Hank Sr., Patsy Cline, Willie, Johnny, and Merle to name a few. I absolutely can't do any of the hillbilly/redneck celebration music, and I sure can't listen to any of that modern country pop. About the only direct offshoot from country that I do like is rockabilly (or in some cases psychobilly).

In terms of fashion, I've always gone down a fairly conservatively casual line. Some people of course can pull off a southwestern or cowboy look and still be cool. Some people just look like hicks. Some people are hicks. I don't want to look like a hick, but something in this shirt called to me.

Now, already once today, I've been told that this is a cool shirt. Now, that's good.

I still can't reach in and figure out what pushed me to want it in the first place. With the bad mood I've been in nearly all year and all the bad weather that's accompanied it, I'm not sure why I'd make an out there choice like buying this Wrangler brand cowboy shirt. I guess it just makes some sort of sense. I've been wanting a change in order to improve my mood, and maybe this is a subconscious part of that change coming to fruition.

It's black. The shirt. And the sky is...well, dark.

It goes together.

I'm giving up before I get too far behind.


Monday, December 27, 2004

What was that? Oh...Sorry, I Forgot.
It's all about being neglectful

If you study human behavior long enough, you'll realize that there are certain behaviors are undeniable. Now of course, you can never generalize about people as a whole. After all, that's that nasty stereotyping stuff people are always telling you about (though much of that is rooted in the way your mind processes information). Any human reaction can be the result of thousands of factors over time and space coming together. Still, there are those things that you know...notice.

I don't remember if I ever went into my rant about communism and anarchy in here. It's possible I might have glazed over it before (like I'm about to do), or I might have gone full blown nuts on it at some point. I'm not sure. So here goes: There are many basic reasons why it won't work, at least not on a global scale. With communism, all it takes is one person to not go along or cheat a little bit or establish some sort of power structure outside the system, and the whole thing comes tumbling down.

Anarchy is a little different. Anarchy is rooted in self-rule, right? You make you're decisions, you set up your own rules to follow, you think entirely for yourself. So essentially, if there were only a few hundred people on earth, and they never encountered each other...then it would work...maybe. But why?

That sort of self rule requires you to think for yourself.

How many of you (show of hands) know someone who refuses, more or less, to think for themselves? To make their own decisions? How many would rather just have someone tell them what to do, where to go, etc.?

Man...that's a lot of hands.

It's how things work.

If everyone in ancient Macedonia had been a born leader, well, let's just say that Alexander the Great wouldn't have been all that impressive. And of course, had they all set out to conquer the known world at the same time, I'm not sure we'd even be here now. Although, it's something of the problem with so many things today: "Too many chefs in the kitchen."

Now that I sound all high-falutin', I must confess that that isn't what I wanted to talk about at all...but in a weird way, it's connected.

Why is it that in any relationship, in this case friends, why is it always incumbent on one person to really hold up the communication?


Like, if you don't write or call or set up the dinner or whatever doesn't get done.

Months could go by before you hear from that person or persons (and sometimes it's everyone you know practically and you've got to be the social coordinator with all of them).

The real test is to just not contact any of them...and see what happens.

The problem is that once it's been established as a pattern, it's more or less impossible to break.

I just wish I knew why that is.

If you wake up to realize that's how things are sometimes. It can be a sore surprise. If you do get tired of being the system operator, it can be a lonely place. And people can get well...neglectful.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A Bunch of Jive Suckas
I didn't know what else to call it...

Unfortunately, no more Demofilo Fidani for today, if you'd like you can all raise a fist and exclaim: a) "Damn you, U.S. Postal Service!" or b) "Thank you, U.S. Postal Service!" It all depends on how you feel. Go with what feels natural.

So moving along.

What I'm wanting to understand here lately is why I'm occasionally being accused of being bitter. Well, granted if you read this, you might think I'm already hella bitter. Not true. Not true in the least. It's kind of one of those things in a comic book: sure, there can be a lot of anger or rage in there, but I keep it in check.

It's not even when I'm ranting that this comes up either.

Usually it's when I'm being calm, collected, thoughtful...and above all HONEST.

Granted, usually in these conversations it's all about opinion. Now hopefully some of that opinion is backed up by knowledge, fact, and experience. I try to stay as far away from left field as possible but sometimes one simply can't help. On average though, it's very level playing field speak.

Oh, another important detail: most every time, my side is without emotion or burning passion.

Let's face it: There never any sense in arguing with a person who is on a high horse, foaming at the mouth, or just plain hellbent on believing something however asinine it is. They aren't going to listen because frankly they don't want to hear. With some of these folks you can't even broach these subjects without them going from calm to rabid animals in a split second. In some cases it could be anything, not merely the commonplace issues of religion or politics.

Then there's the who hear what you're saying but will just bend over backwards to try and refute or defend their position. When the walls begin to crumble, they usually revert to most common method of arguing: bringing in total irrelevancies. Ex.: "Whoa, did someone do this to you? You sound really bitter."

Hmmmm. The last time this happened, I had someone who backed me up by saying I sounded anything but bitter.

I love the fact that people who are pro-anything these days are nearly as bad as everyone who is anti-anything. The most hilarious part is that no one is willing to discuss anything. Both sides will not abide anything that doesn't absolutely agree with whatever they are for or against. If someone in the middle brings up something that is a either pro to an anti or anti to a pro, they are immediately dismissed or the defensive walls come up on high.

(Of course the other thing people like this will often bring up is "You're not looking at the big picture." Well, big is a relative term. Personally I try to look at things globally and historically. Though the word "global" gets thrown around a lot these days, many folks are more and more isolationist to their immediate world though they'd like to force their view upon the world.)

I'm sure part of my problem, and one of the reasons I get labelled "bitter" when I'm just trying to be realistic or honest is because I'm a white male. White males have of course been placed into this group where either all idiotic or bitter or both...well, and any of a laundry list of other adjectives. The one phrase I refuse to use in this instance in terms of the looking down upon of white males is "reverse racism." How f*cking much more stupid can you get than "reverse racism"? Ummm, golly gee, there's no such thing: Racism is Racism no matter who it's directed at. I've been to quite a few parts of the country and dealt with lots of folks and I'm here to tell you: white males ain't the only racists out there by a damn long shot.

Now as a white male in this day and age I'm more subject to my next issue than most other folks, but it still gets around. Going back to my "pro-" and "anti-" groups ideology of "we're absolutely 110% right" (110% is another favorite stupid cliche.), if you say anything negative, with harmful intent or not, about any minority group, homosexual, or woman....--**POOF!!!** are immediately the most racist, homophobic mysoginist on earth. Unless you're with friendly's...then you're just bitter.

Even treated with humor these days, you can walk a real thin line between being ok, and being pure evil (whether you are pure evil or not). Perhaps the worst example is the reaction against Bill Cosby for his remarks at the NAACP. Now I won't say how much I agree or disagree with him...cause let's face it, you're all waiting with baited breath to see if I'll say something really stupid or offensive...but, here's one of America's most beloved icons being lambasted for speaking his honest opinion. Considering who it is, I'm willing to bet he gave it a lot of thought before he said it too. I don't think of the Cos as a hothead.

Another favorite was The Onion article on a Gay Pride parade that set back gay rights fifteen years. It was something that the more middle of the road gays I've met and talked to about gay issues have agreed with: "Middle America won't be won over by @$$less chaps." On the flipside though, I've found the whole gay marriage debate ridiculous. No one on the conservate or religious side wants to acknowledge that gays and lesbians aren't going anywhere. If they were here before Christ and they're still here 2,ooo years later...hmmm...shouldn't that be a hint and a half that they won't magically disappear. More importantly, one of the primary complaints, about gays in particular, is their promiscuity....but, you want to stop them from trying to make a formal bond as life partners to one another? Oh. Gee. That makes a whole lot of sense.

The funny thing is I'm supposed to be bitter right? But it takes me all of a nanosecond to objectively step outside of all of it and look at the issue with different eyes. Hopefully honest and fair eyes. Eyes that people in the issue can't seem to try on.

Now, women's issues (as I've all too briefly dealt with a dab of race issues, and a touch of homosexual issues), I don't have the time nor the energy to get into. At least when it comes to confronting these issues, I've got a larger brotherhood: all men. Trust me too, I get the "bitter" thing from this group more than any other. But I don't hate women or generally have any major beer with them. I think their greatest hurdle is trying to find a common thread that speaks for half of the world's population.

One thing, I'd like to leave you with as I walk away from here: TV fathers.

TV by and large is a reflection of the status quo of America. At one time Ward Cleaver and Fred MacMurray were the almost sagelike gods of the household. I'm not saying all fathers are, but that was their representation. Then came the generation of Al Bundy and Tim Allen. Suddenly, all fathers on TV are raving idiots. I think the 80's Cosby show was one of the last fair representation of fathers. So my question is: what happened? Aren't there men out there who a little smarter and better human beings than their idiotic TV counterparts? And why is that no longer strongly represented?

Then again, TV has never been a benchmark of raising the bar. It's goal is the lowest common denominator. Hasnt' that ever made you wonder where were headed as much as TV has become such a huge part of so many people's lives?

Cheers. Probably won't see you until after X-mas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

One Name: Miles Deem, (Ok, Two) aka. Demofilo Fidani
Just when you thought the budget couldn't get any lower... (yeah, it's spaghetti stuff...but it's gonna get artsy)

I was going to save this up, having just come back to my li'l corner of heaven here, but I then I couldn't think of what I was saving it up for.

Oh that's right, it's because it wasn't how I wanted to introduce him.

See I ordered a movie with the unbelievable title of Quel maledetto giorno d'inverno...Django e Sartana all'ultimo. (I'll let that sink in...and if you really wanna know what it're gonna have to go translate it yourself.) Unfortunately, though the box had that title and the disc inside had that title, when I popped it into the old DVD player what I got was Arrivano Django e Sartana...è la fine. An honest mistake. Could've happened to anyone.

Thing is, it all works out in the end, as both of these movies were created by the highly questionable and oddly fascinating Demofilo Fidani who, though he had many aliases, is somewhat more commonly known as Miles Deem. At least that was how I met him...well, the video store kind of way.

Back in the day when I couldn't find any known spaghetti westerns in a video store (beyond Leone) to save my life, I discovered that those cheap cheap cheap video companies would occasionally release them under a veritable tableaux of titles. Part of the trick was knowing the anglicized pseudonyms for the Italian directors and international stars. One of the first I found, which I never watched, was a Fistful of Death (aka. Giù la testa... hombre, 1971). Despite the listing of director 'Miles Deem' I never doubted for a moment what it was.

Thing was, in those days, though the internet existed, many specialty sites for movies were still often fledgling at best. Yes kids, once upon a time, the Internet Movie Database ( was not the massive digital tome it is today. (Then again, they still don't have all my credits listed.) Nor was there the plethora of B-movie review sites that dot the digital landscape. Now that I think about it, I'm not even sure where I did eventually find "Miles'" real name (it might have been in Thomas Weisser's The Good, The Bad, and The Violent: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Filmography of 558 Eurowesterns and Their Personnel a book I could only find at the University of Texas Grad Library).

In any event, when I finally did come across the information I had so desperately been searching for (that's what we call poetic license, I probably periodically forgot while I was searching for those last couple of Jodorowsky's I hadn't seen or something like 'em), I found out that Fidani could be my kind of guy. Spaghetti Westerns were often anything but big budget. Most of that came from the creative instincts of the director, and an art department that could make a whole lot out of nothing. Add to that meager amount a sweeping Morricone or Bacalov score, and you started to have something. Fidani, however, was amazingly enough was a low budget filmmaker in a largely low budget genre. Well, let's just say....maybe....he got creative.

Unfortunately, so far, Sartana and Django's Showdown in the West (1970. Ok, I translated one for you) is the only Fidani I've gotten to see, but I have the feeling...I'm gonna watch 'em all. Now if any of you have seen one of his movies you may be asking yourself, "Good God man! Why?!" Well, I'll tell you.

First of all, it isn't just some geeked out obsession to see every Spaghetti Western, no matter how much I give that appearance. No, from everything I've read, Fidani seems to have one of those elusive "bad" movie qualities that I'm drawn to like a moth to flames. Lemme explain:

Now when you watch a Hitchcock or a Fellini or a Bergman, etc., you know who you're watching without fail. It's a stamp. When it's really great, you can make no mistake about the author and often anyone else is merely doing something "in the style of..." (but you'll never mistake it for the real thing). Style, setting, genre, certain actors all point to who it is. Sometimes it's more artsy, like a David Lynch, and sometimes it's more or a feeling or atmosphere, like a Stanley Kubrick.

Am I saying that Fidani belongs on this pantheon? No. But lemme continue:

On the flipside from the classic directors listed above are the low budget, from B to Z movies. There are generally three things that distinguish these movies or give them life beyond what you would think. The first is a well-crafted or memorable story told on a shoestring, and sometimes memorable because it had no money. The second are the movies that are just so far out there that they can be ahead of their time, drug-addled, extra creepy, have giant rubber monsters, or all of the above it. Even years later, people still tel you that they have to be seen to be believed. The third is the directorial stamp...but not in the good way necessarily above. I call it the Ed Wood effect (not because Ed is a favorite of mine, just that he's one of the better known).

There's no way not to know an Ed Wood movie when you see it. It isn't just that it's bad, or even that it's so bad. There's just something to it that screams "Ed!" Similarily, you know a Russ Meyer movie when you see one, and it isn't just that all the actresses have big boobs either. Russ's movies have a style and a feel to them. It's unmistakable (but the boobs are certainly a clue). Just like Doris Wishman: It's not all the naked girls that give it away as much as Doris's odd affection for jumpcuts and pointless shots of people's feet.

Are these movies bad? Well, yeah. Most are terrible. (Russ is probably the best as a director, and of course being a cameraman, his movies are well shot.) Nevertheless, they often feature such a signature style and often creative zeal for filmmaking that they can't merely be brushed aside.

From what little I've seen and most of what I've read, Fidani fits that description. They're terrible Spaghetti Westerns, but that doesn't mean there isn't something to them. For instance, in Showdown in the West, why does one gang consisting of all joe average white guy cowboys all go after Sartana and a gang consisting of all Mexican bandidos go after Django (I might have that backwards), even though they're all in the same gang. Then they recruit more gangs to help them: the white guys get more white guys, and the bandidos get more bandidos. Why the even split? It's just weird. Then the final showdown between Sartana and Black Burt Keller is a pretty well shot and choreographed fight scene...until you realize, where the hell is Django? He was fighting alongside Sartana all the way in....until he disappears just before the shootout.

That was the funny thing about it: a scene would go by and you don't think anything...then it ends, and you can't help but go, "Huh?"

Part of it seemed haphazard. Some of it seemed unintentional (unintentional in the sense of having no idea what he was doing). Then some of it seemed intentional, but was completely inexplicable.

Now, I've come across some material on Fidani on-line that the browser translated really badly, but it mentioned something about his being a medium and involved in some otherworldly studies. Assuming I'm reading that right, it would explain the somewhat oddly mystical quality of the piece. In some ways you could see these movies (or at least Showdown) as a poor man's El Topo...umm...with little or none of the depth. Better yet, it's like someone was filming a sort of dream sequence and a western was happening in front of it.

I'm still trying to figure out the weird but pointless Peckinpah-like scenes of people dying violent deaths in slow motion. It's not a stylistic choice throughout the film, it just happens a lot at the end...with faceless characters...It's like a high school level painting where a kid seems to have promise and good ideas but just doesn't have the conceptual or technical facilities to carry it off. And I guess he never did exactly cultivate those skills, but that didn't stop him from making quite a few more films.

The point ultimately is that I'll have to at least see the rest of his westerns to put a complete image together. This is just one I pulled off of one. Imagine the kind of goofy garbage I can generate if I've seen them all. Ultimately the allure is: what made these guys work? why did they do what they did? why was it so bad? could it have been better? is it at leas interesting?

Tough to tell. Tough to tell.

Spooky. Very spooky.

Ok. I've dilly-dallied for way too long. I'm out.


Monday, December 20, 2004

"Animals are Beasts, But Men....are Monsters..."
For the first time in too long...I'm talking movies...

It's been a stretch but I think I've got a second to say something. I was gonna continue kevitching about the holidays, but you know what? It's pointless. If you've got your holiday cheer, great. If you see it for the careless insanity that is, great. I've just had a crappy year in some ways...and this ain't helpin'.

But, let's talk cinema shall we?

I finally saw something I really enjoyed. For those of you who've read this garbage for some time, it'll come as no surprise. For those of you just joining us...well, sink or'll pick it up as you go along.

So, I've yet to get to see Alex De La Iglesia's tribute to the spaghetti western, 800 Balas, but I have caught Jan Kounen's adaptation of Moebius's western comic, Blueberry.

Blueberry (2004, d. Jan Kounen)

Plot: Marshal Mike Blueberry's been harboring some strong inner demons since an accident in his youth, but when mystical shootist Wally Blount emerges from a cabal attempting to get gold off of Indian land, Blueberry will have to face his own demons as well as those in the next world.

Review: I'm having a tough time figuring out where to start on this one.

For one thing, this movie has casting going for it. I've got this thing agains pretty boys in action movies, and I'll tell you Vincent Cassel doesn't fall in that category by a long shot. Cassel has a distinctive look. You know him when you see him, and you're not going to mistake him for anyone else. Added bonus...the guy can act (I recommend Kassovitz's La Haine or Gans' Le Pacte Des Loups.) Second up is Blueberry's nemeis, Wally played by Michael Madsen. Madsen to me is like Lee Van Cleef: sure he's almost always typecast as a villain...but he's just so damned good at it. Juliette Lewis, whom I've never felt one way or the other towards, put in a fairly strong performance as the love interest. Round it off with quality character actors like Colm Meany, Geoffrey Lewis, and Ernest Borgnine and you're set to go. However, this film also features a very different role for Eddie Izzard who's quite enjoyable as the double-crossing gold-hungering Prussian prospector. My only disappointment was Djimon Honsou...not because he was bad, but that we lose him far too quickly. I like Djimon's screen presence a lot, so I just wanted more.

The story rolls in an out like a dream or a series of memories. Like a good spaghetti western, it's got that moment you don't get to see and that'll be strung out until the last reel. All of this leads up to our confrontation on the astral plane. The film holds a very Native American philosophy at it's heart, and a primitive ideology that what happens in this life can continue to haunt us in the next. The traditional western shootout is instead traded for a metaphorical battle. Blueberry has to defeat Wally, but just shooting him won't stop the damage he can still bring about as part of a greater spiritual evil.

Kounen does make an interesting choice in having the camera almost constantly moving. It's fluid and smooth work, not handheld make-you-puke-after-an-hour cinema verite style. In any event, I felt it worked far more than in a handful of other movies that were shot that way. Also of course, it was great way of illustrating the dream-like nature of the story. Furthermore, it fed into the alsmost seamless transition to the CGI worlds that were created for the film. This movie featured CG the way I like CG. It's part of the story. It can have the wow of a special effect, but isn't constantly screaming "LOOK! We're being COOL!" The CG world's in this film have both an incredibly organic feel as well as finding reference in Native American artwork. Though the ending did run a little long, for me at least, it didn't disappoint.

(WARNING: If you're watching this alone in the middle of the night, you do risk the chance of bringing on that way spaced out feeling that 2001: A Space Odyssey induces.)

Now if that's enough to get you to rush out and see this movie, I should warn you: Columbia Home Video in their infinite wisdom released this in the U.S. under the title Renegade. I've yet to figure out what if anything it has to do with this movie. Why not just call it Western? At least that has something to do with the movie in a way.

Alright. I've done my duty. It's been a while, but it felt good.

Depending on what's in my mailbox today...there could be some spaghetti tomorrow.

I'm out.


Monday, December 13, 2004

The End to Another Great Day
The occasional value of unemployment reconsidered...

It's official. Today, I got a little bit older...and I started working again.

So I started blogging again. At least I'm going to try.

I've also figured out that most likely, my new job will eliminate my going home for the holidays. And no, I'm not a Santa's elf in some mall or something....In fact, wipe all trace of the phrase "holiday help" from your minds. I couldn't do it if I wanted to.

The truth is, I could never work in any real capacity in the service industry. Let's face it, if I were hawking java, the urine content of my coffee would be off the chart.

Then again, be honest: You may think that the people serving you in restaurants, bars, shops or what have you are rude, but have you really ever stepped back and looked at the other customers around you?

I spent years working in music stores, and after initially having to climb over the hurdle of how universally bad most people's taste is, I then had to work my around everything from common stupidity to belligerent rudeness. Working a X-mas was no exception. In fact it might be overdone to say it, but the more X-mas spirit gets in the air, the greater the @$$hole factor goes up worldwide.

Some might say: Well, why is that?

Simple: X-mas doesn't mean anything that it used to or that it was supposed to.

I won't even bother saying it's commercialized (other than the fact that I inadvertently said just that), because honestly, what holiday isn't? Valentine's Day used to mean getting some flowers, some chocolate, and a touching card. Now it's all ads for jumbo sized jewelry and camcorders and crap. Stuff you don't need. Stuff that doesn't mean anything.

In that respect, I'm not sorry to be missing X-mas.

But it's a thought I'll have to finish later.


Monday, November 22, 2004

I Ain't Dead, Just Awful Sleepy
To my adoring public...assuming there is or was one:

Anyone still listening/reading?

After my stint on Team America (anyone see it? I've seen more puppet sex than you did.), I've not felt much like delving onto this thing. But I'm starting to feel like coming back to it....just not yet. C'mon it's Thanksgiving. I gotta hang with the folks.

When I get back however: more comics, more spaghettis, and more of that b.s. that you must love. Again I assume...but hey you read it, not me.

So whattya think? Welcome me back with open arms? Or at least wait until I make good on my promise right?

Good for you. It's good to have expectations.

Let's see if I can live up to them.


Thursday, October 07, 2004

"By the way Tommy, your mom is woof-dog ugly."
Guardian of the Universe...and really annoying kids in short-shorts....

Nothing yesterday because of that pesky work thing. Speaking of which, as my job is nearly over and my movie opens next week, my posts might get a tad spotty. Fair warning is all.

That doesn't mean however that I'm gonna stop watching silly sh!t in the meantime. I'm already watching it now, and it's the note I feel I should go out on.

Though I did watch Branded to Kill (1967, d. Seijun Suzuki) and it definitely qualifies as silly crazy, I've already seen it a dozen times. If you haven't, then get to it. Many of you may watch and go, "Huh, what the f*ck was he talking about? That sucked." The rest will be tuned in and from the opening frames, will give me a hearty, "Awwwww, yeah!"

The other day was a trip back to my childhood and the land of late afternoon, late night, post-Saturday morning cartoons, Sunday morning UHF fare. This mostly consisted of sci-fi, fantasy, martial arts, old horror, and superhero movies that were amazing when you were a kid and at best hilariously bad as an adult. Many of these movies were made in Italy. The kung fu ones were from China. And some were badly dubbed Japanese films. If it wasn't the one and only Big "G" it was the other Big "G" starring in:

Gamera Vs. Guiron
(aka. Attack of the Monsters [Huh?], 1969, d. Noriaki Yuasa)

The Story: Akio and Tom are kidnapped by a UFO and whisked away to a world that's been destroyed by Gamera's enemy, the Gaos. The last survivors of the planet, a pair of space chicks, plan to kill the boys, and use the ship to return to Earth. When Gamera arrives to save the boys, the space chicks unleash their pet monster Guiron on him. (I'm sorry that was so long. The only other way to sum it up was Giant space turtle fights giant knife-faced lizard on barren planet for stupid kids. Wait a minute...that is better.)

The Review: Whoa boy. First of all, if you didn't grow up with Gamera, Godzilla or any other giant monster movies (Rodan, Mothra, etc.), you're probably just not going to get this one. Trust me.

Let's put it this way: 2001, A Space Odyssey hit the big screen in 1968, the year before this movie. It's special effects, for the time, are still breathtaking and certainly beautiful. By comparison, most of Gamera almost looks like it could've been made by some high school students and a good arts and crafts class.

The buddy of mine who watched it with me mentioned that a friend of his liked these movies more than the Gamera flicks of the 90's because Gamera's eyes moved. As we watched the movie and watched Gamera's eyes moving, we started asking the big question: "What the f*ck is he supposed to be looking all around at?" Once they started moving, you had to wonder if and when they would ever stop.

Does that mean we didn't enjoy the movie: Hell, no!

It just means that if you've never seen one, there's decent likelihood that YOU won't.

We were having the time of our lives.

Moving on.

The movie's main draw of course is Guiron, the evil monster. Ignoring the fact, again, that he's obviously a man crawling on his hands and knees, one has to marvel at the design. Godzilla's obvioulsy a sort of dragon and dinosaur combo. Gamera's a giant turtle of sorts. Mothra...nevermind. Gaos, Gamera's primary enemy, is sort of a birdy bat-dragon. My point is that you can tell what they evolved from. Not so with Guiron. What creature in nature has a giant knife blade portruding from his head...or for that matter what animal shoots ninja throwing stars? Any hands? (If you should like to witness Gurion's majesty, look here:

Personally, other than being relentlessly comical, Guiron doesn't do much for me. I love the space chicks. They have that 60's eye-makeup look. They have pointy eyebrows. They wear 60's space outfits with short capes (awwwww, yeah). Their helmets have twin antennas. They eat brains.....wait...WHAT?!? Yeah I don't get it either, and the bad english dub we watched didn't offer much in explanation (I have a feeling that the Japanese doesn't either). They're supposed to be from a highly advanced scientific race, yet their theory on absorbing someone's knowledge from eating their brain seems awfully....I don't know....Aztec?

Still, doesn't mean they're not awesome.

I can watch them. I can watch Gamera. I can handle Guiron. What I can't stand is the d@mn kids in these old movies. I'm just gonna put that out there. For one thing, they carry that childlike innocent "they see things adults ignore" thing to a ridiculous extreme. My question is: Well, if they're so smart why do they always have to have a giant monster save their @$$es? Shucks, maybe they're not all bad. The dubbing doesn't do them any favors. (I do want to know why Tommy is always kissing Akio's @$$ throughout the movie by constantly telling him how much smarter he is.)

So anyhow. No matter what it sounds like above, I recommend that you watch this movie. Watch it with other like minded individuals. For God's sake don't attempt to force it on anyone. And as I always say, "Lighten up." The movie isn't going to cure cancer, but it'll be a lot of fun if you let it be. This all assuming you have seen any of this kind of stuff before as I said. If not, but you still want to witness the glory, try one of the newer Gamera movies from the 90's.

Just remember, if it's giant monsters that you want, make sure that it's Japanese! (English dubbing optional...but if you're looking for's the way to go.)


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Flexing a Weird Muscle
Oh, where to begin...?

Not much time for play today, so we're going to jump right in.

Now as a kid, I wouldn't have thought that there was anything weird about this movie at all. I simply would have thought, 'Cool!', and gotten my He-Man figures while it played in the background. As an adult, I look at it the same way I see anything Ed Wood-like. In other words, I watch it with a hearty "What were they thinking?!?" ringing between my ears. As in, who came up with this premise?

With that I bring you:

Hercules Against the Moon Men (1964, d. Giancomo Gentilomo)

The Story: Hercules is asked to help the citizens of Samar where the young are ritually sacrificed to mysterious monsters in the mountain; however, Herc discovers that Samar's queen is in league with the monsters who are in fact from OUTER SPACE!!! (or something like any event, they're not from our moon from what I gathered...but they're from A moon.)

The Review: By '64 peplum (Italian-made sword and sandal movies post Ben Hur [ie. Hercules movies]) were giving out, and the door was opening for spaghetti westerns (you knew they would be in here somewhere right?). Just like the spaghetti's and virtually every other genre began to fade out, they started to get more and more outlandish and often bizarre. After all, you always started out with the single hero movies, then single hero vs. super villain, then two heroes together in the same movie vs. one or more super-villain/s, and then you were running out of places to go. Herc, Samson, and Maciste had already fought every mythological beast, army, god, and sorcerer. So who was left? That's right: The Mysterious Moon Men.

Steve Reeves is probably the man who will forever be remembered as Hercules, but the movies continued long after he left. Alan Steel (née Sergio Ciani), who had been Reeves' stunt double, took up the short skirted toga and the beard for this outing. Truth is, he's not bad. He's not Reeves, but he's not bad. First and foremost, unlike later modern body-building action movie types, Steel manages to throw himself into the role without the self-consciousness that tends to go one of two ways: 1) "I look so stupid, what am I doing embarassing myself like this?", or 2) "I'm so badass, and I'm on my way to superstardom." Steel is onscreen to get a job done and he throws around armored soldiers, killer apes, and styrofoam moon men like he was born to do it.

The rest of this cast puts in a genuinely satisfactory effort, and our queen is both beautiful enough and evil enough. The monsters only work in their way because the movie's old. First up is the wild ape-thing with the tusks that Herc fights in the underground caves: weak, but fun. The Moon Men...well, they look like styrofoam carved blocks that move like a stone version of a Romero-movie zombie. It's tough to believe they could ever really catch up to someone much less kill them. On the other hand, they're just old enough, and they act just funny enough to be totally entertaining. The leader of the Moon Men almost seems like a pretty good bad guy. He sports this weird skull-like alien mask which covers his whole head and is cool until you can see his lips moving underneath it.

The most hilarious part is that I actually tried to get the nicest looking copy I could find which turned out to be the Something Weird Video release. It's the only widescreen copy, and it turned out to be quite a nice transfer. In a way, that almost ruined the experience though (don't get me wrong, I still say it's the one to buy). Also on the disk is The Witch's Curse, another strongman flick, and that transfer looks like a video copy from a UHF channel in the 80's. Just like badly dubbed martial arts/Godzilla flicks and Italian space operas, I expect them to look washed out, high contrast, grainy, and just generally bad. When you see something as it was probably originally presented it somehow loses some of it's initial charm, but on the other hand, if it's good enough, it picks up a new life.

This one actually managed to do this.

Again, this is more of my thirst for fun cinema that doesn't have to mean anything, and sure as hell doesn't even try for realism. In fact, a lot of time, the best parts of these movies occur when they actually pull off a really cool shot or special effect. It doesn't always happen, but when it does it's great. Many times, these movies also have more genuine and earnest performances despite the silliness than any number of modern day big budget blockbusters. So grab Hercules Against the Moon Men, grab a snack, grab your significant other, curl up, and don't be or expect everything to be so damned serious all the time.


Monday, October 04, 2004

"I Could Feel This Cool..."
If you're gonna kill 'em onscreen, make if colorful...

Now, don't get me wrong, Takashi Miike is colorful. He is. It's just that it strays into garish. Well, garish, bloody, and nightmarish. Nonetheless, you can't say that he isn't colorful. The locations. The costumes. The language. All of it quite colorful...just more in grime and blood tones.

For a purer vision of color with a similar sense of over-the-topness and a similar spread of violence, you can stay in the same country. You only have to turn the hands of time back a few years. In the 1960's, Japan was no stranger to splashing the screen with high doses of colorful wackiness. When you look back, it's hard to figure out how all these other movies got by, and visionaries like Seijun Suzuki kept getting fired....well, ok, he took it too far too fast, but he warmed an auidience for one of his protegés.

Oh, what the hell am I talking about...let's move along to:

The Black Tight Killers (1966, d. Yasuharu Hasebe)

The Story: When a photojournalist chases after his kidnapped girlfriend, he finds himself in a web of intrigue between corrupt military officers, gangsters, the police, and a group of go-go dancing female ninjas.

The Review: There's a reason these days that I almost have to watch movies like this. It isn't that I'm all into nostalgia or kitsch or just plain being retro. I'm not. Let's face it though, I saw most of the major movies that I grew up with in the 80's. Those movies represent, to me, the end of movies for fun, movies merely for entertainment, movies for movies' sake. In isn't to ignore their important social functions, but once upon a time telling a story was all it was about. Now it's all about having realism and themes and "art", but all mixed up in a corporate/advertising profit-driven franchise star system. Movies are expensive. Movies do have to make money. But, frankly, they've gotten way too big for their britches and forgotten what they were meant for in the first place.

At least that's what I think.

Slowly I've worked my way back through the 70's, and covered a healthy dose of that ground. (The funniest part being that the last generation to make great movies for movies' sake were also the one's responsible for the art meets franchise blockbuster market of today.) The 70's are of course largely covered in darkness and decadence. That's not all bad, but sit through enough and you almost have to welcome the loud and colorful 60's. At least I did.

That's not to say there's not a grim side to The Black Tight Killers, just that it isn't mired in it. Anyone film-savvy person watching could instantly place the film as following the James Bond craze. It's by no means a knock-off of any sort, but it's got all the adventure, chases, wacky weapons, and beautiful girls of those films.

Hasebe directs with flair, and keeps the movie moving along at a quick clip. Showing an abilitity rarely seen these days, Hasebe keeps the movie moving hand-in-hand delivering story and action as needed without totally tired predictability. Too many movies today get mired in the too much story before too much action followed by too much story formula. Another bizarre facet of modern movies is their ever apparent need to absolutely attempt to flesh out every character onscreen to the nth degree. The funny is that modern movies don't spend enough time with any character to make them interesting, and they've forgotten that a distinctive face and good acting goes a long way to livening up a lesser character more than a pretty face does.

Yes, half the movie's allure belongs to the title heroines/villainesses. These movies truck in a sensuality that keeps the movie engaging far more than the modern Andy Sidaris straight-to-video Playmate filled movie does because you're watching and enjoying the movie and not just waiting for the girls to get naked. Five girls in black leather and tights has promise all by itself, but when they weild blinding chewing gum, tape measure swords, and razor sharp 45 vinyl records, they're just awesome. I mentioned the part about Go-Go dancing too right. There's somethign crazy about Go-Go, and I've been fascinated since Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. (R.I.P. Russ, I loved your work.)

Anyhow, the point is this is the pretty lean and mean movieworld cinema that I love. It's the fantasy. It's the kind of world you wish you could jump into. It's the kind of world that doesn't exist, but that does in a way only because it's onscreen. It's that idea of bigger-than-life. I may love Clerks, but that doesn't mean that I want all my movies to be about working class schmoes...after all, I am one, I know that life already. I want the movie about the guy who uses the ancient wooden (!?!) canon to shoot down an attacking helicopter. That was this movie.

At the same time, you can never walk into these movies expecting the greatest cinematic experience ever...just be open to having a good time.


Friday, October 01, 2004

"Thank you, Alfie."
I lit the fuse, and sure enough...Sartana arrived!

Have you ever had that book or movie that you were dying to finish, but no matter what you did, you couldn't find time for it? I am actually experiencing that as I sit here typing this. Well, it was two movies and a book. I'm feeling a sharp sense of relief just for having gotten one of the movies out of the way. Unfortunately, no matter how much time I have to myself this weekend, I doubt I could get the book squared away...and I'd really like to.

Ahhh..such is life.

My desire for spaghetti westerns has begun to wane as I've managed to acquire so many over the last few months. After all, in the past year, I went from having the Dollars trilogy and a few odds and ends to having a collection of 40+ films. And I ain't like the members of the Wu-Tang clan with the kung fu flicks, I love spaghettis a lot but I have plenty of other stuff I want to crazy Japanese movies from the 60's.

So I'll likely tone back on those for a while and watch some different stuff...but it's not like I'll pass up a deal if I see one.

Last night, of course, I managed to finish one of my two latest (though the other one isn't the one I'm dying to see, that one's a 60's Japanese movie). And today, I'm gonna talk about it. Did you expect any less?

Light the Fuse....Sartana is Coming! (1971, d. Giuliano Carnimeo)

The Story: In a deal turned deadly, a bag of gold and a bag of counterfeit dollars goes missing, and Sartana arrives to sort out who killed who and where the loot went.

The Review: Sartana stands as one of the most fun and iconic characters in spaghetti history. Cut from similar avenging angel cloth as Blondie (Clint Eastwood) from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. He's always in the right place at the right time, his plans go off without a hitch, and he's all but invincible. He still has to figure things out, and if you're really lucky, you might get a punch in. So he's not the total Superman, but he's fascinating in that larger than life fashion.

Unlike Django, who had scores of unofficial sequels and many of those starring everyone but original star Franco Nero, Sartana's five appearances were actually helmed by the same director (Carnimeo) and four out of five featured Gianni Garko in the title role. (The odd one out was It's Sartana...Sell Your Pistols and Buy Your Coffins which starred (yech) George Hilton as the gunslinger.) That isn't to say that a movie or two didn't suddenly feature a character who happened to be named Sartan, just that there were a whole lot less of them. The funniest part was that two of those unnofficials were actually about Django and Sartana in the same flick. Anyhow, Sartana's five movies actually show a coherency almost unheard of in spaghettis. (After all, both original Ringo movies starred Giuliano Gemma and were directed by Duccio Tessari but one had little to nothing to do with the other. Go figure.)

Oh, so enough with the history lesson already.

While this movie might move too slow for fans of Post-Bruckheimer actioner, I found this flick to contain a fantastic balance between mystery solving and action sequences. The story actually had some pretty strong twists and turns, and kept the fun on as the viewer and Sartana are all having to find the mastermind within three different groups of villains. With the exception of the James Bond-style organ shootout in the street at the conclusion, the action was sharp and deadly. Most of that had to do with Garko as Sartana.

Gianni Garko contoured handsome face with light eyes and broad handlebar moustache carries a hard but humored look. He's got that perfect long and lean gunfighter frame and moves with, yes the incredibly clichéed but true, cat-like grace. His almost supernatural ability to disappear and reappear, coupled with his ability to avoid nearly every attack seem more comic book than real-life; however, in the movie world, the actor that looks convinced of his unbelievable abilities can do wonders in convincing you that he can.

As I mentioned, Sartana with all his otherworldliness does function as an avenging angel archetype. Perhaps the primary difference here is that he's the devil in angel's clothing. For all intents and purposes, rather than act as a representative for good, Sartana spends the length of the movie in the company of real scum. Thing is, Sartana's mere presence there assures the audience that everyone gets what they deserve in the end. While it's obviously an idealistic message (and one that's largely faded from recent cinema

The plot functions pretty well, and does a good job juggling the ultimate blame between a handful strong characters. If it fails anywhere, it's merely because the action is so much fun and well executed that one's mind can start to wander waiting for the next shootout. In all, it functions in much the same capacity as good page-turning pulp story. That just means that it's all about the pistols, loot, and beautiful women, and if it happens to rise above that, more power to it. This Sartana entry meets the three criteria, and does manage to rise above.

The copy I watched was yet another clean letterboxed version with good sound which is always so painfully rewarding after so many years of bad video dubs of these movies. I guess even though the digital age has been used to already print so much crap on disk, at least every once in a while some real good comes out of it too. The movie once again made some use out of locations other than the same five desert and mountain vistas that I've spotted time and time again in any number of spaghettis.

Ok, I confess, this is only the second Sartana movie I've seen, the other being the (yech!) George Hilton one. I did, however, receive at the same time as Light the Fuse... a copy of Have a Good Funeral, Amigos....Sartana is Paying! That means, I've only got two more to see.

Of course I have to see the one knock-off if only for the title: One Damned Day at Dawn....Django meets Sartana!


Thursday, September 30, 2004

A Friendly Neighborhood.
I actually don't have much to say

The first major Spider-Man villain was The Chameleon who showed up in Spidey's 1st issue. He's has a smooth featureless white mask for a face, and no one knows what he looks like underneath. He can of course disguise himself as just about anyone. He uses that to commit crimes. That's the Chameleon.

The second major villain was in the 2nd issue, The Vulture. He's a creepy, predatory bird-faced old man in a green suit with wings. He flies. It was some formulat that gave him the power to fly. In fact many of Spidey's earliest and most prominent villains were scientifically astute. The Vulture was never that impressive, but he did manage to hand Spidey his own @$$ a number of times.

The third issue featured a character that all the world is now familiar with, Doctor Octopus. Slightly shorter, certainly dumpier, and a whole lot geekier than Alfred Molina, Doctor Octopus was a great villain. He was a man of science who followed that Mad Scientist credo that his immense intelligent should lead him to fame, riches, and power. The great thing about Doc Ock is that he's a terribly week looking villain for the most part, but was always immensely powerful and dangerous.

Fourth villain up for a fourth issue was The Sandman who due to being exposed to nuclear reaction found his body at first fused with sand and later reformed of it. Though he normally maintained a fully human appearance, he could mold himself to any of a number of shapes or slip away through cracks where he would reform elsewhere. Again, though not of science, he was the result of science gone wrong, another common feature of Spidey villains. The Sandman is extremely strong and difficult to fight because of his continually shifting form, so Spider-man always had to come up with creative ways of stopping him. Also, The Sandman had some of the coolest drawn hair in comic's history.

Fifth was Doctor Doom. Fantastic Four cross-over villain. I'm not talking about the Fan Four.

Peter Parker's buddy Doctor Curt Connors was trying to use reptilian regeneration science to build himself an arm for one he'd lost in the sixth issue. Problem was, he got back his arm, but the Lizard genes took him over and turned him into a monster, The Lizard! What always made for great conflict was that The Lizard was vicious, but Pete never liked the fact that he had to beat his friend's @$$ in order to subdue him.

Seven saw The Vulture come back, and Eight had Spidey fighting some no-name, The Living Brain. Nine, however, had Electro, one of my favorite villains if only for his looks. Donning a green suit streaked with gold lightning bolts, and one of the kookiest lightning bolt pattern mask of all time, Electro took to the life of crime. I don't remember his origin exactly, but two quarters and a jelly sandwich say it had something to do with him being struck directly or indirectly by lightning.

Issue Ten had the largely laughable villain mob, The Enforcers. Though they appeared many times over the years, I wouldn't call them major villains. The big dumb guy, Ox, was kinda fun.
Eleven and Twelve were a two-parter with Doc Ock.

Issue Thirteen featured another favorite of mine, the fish bowl headed, Mysterio! Mysterio was an unidentified specialist in illusions and special effects. His issues were always surreal and bizarre fun. I'm still undecided on whether it was cool or a letdown that every time Spider-Man found Mysterio behind all the bullsh!t that he usually beat his @$$ in nothing flat.

Back to science gone awry was Issue Fourteen's landmark creation, The Green Goblin. It wouldn't be for another 25 issues (2 years) before we would discover that the orginal (and best) Goblin was the father of Pete's best friend Harry Osborne. The Green Goblin was every great villain rolled up into one: super strong, stocking a full arsenal of strange deadly weapons, able to fly on a dangerous rocket glider, and being totally deranged. Petty crime to world domination, the Goblin tried it all as long as it was Evil. Truly great stuff. Several other folks (including Harry) would become the Goblin over the years, but no one beat Norman Osborne for hilarious lunacy and true evil.

By that time in his year and three issue lifespang, Spider-Man attracted the attention of one of his other ultra-classic villains, Kraven the Hunter. Kraven was a typical figure with the dark Joe Stalin features that were the trademark of every Russian villain from Boris Badanov on up. However Kraven's greatest thrill, the big hunt, gave his costume a little more flair than the standard dark had and coat of the Cold War killer with it's Lion's head vest, the belt of claws and the leopard skin pants. Late in his career, Kraven's character was given great treatment when his obsessions and manias for capturing and killing Spider-man finally led to his suicide following all his failures. Unfortunately, I understand like the original Green Goblin who also died a great death, the original Kraven's been brought back to life.

Issue Sixteen had Daredevil and Spidey duke it out under the mechanations of one of the lamest villains ever The Ringmaster. If not for Double-D (that's Daredevil), I would've likely pretended issue sixteen didn't exist, and just skipped to the Green Goblin in #17, or the return of The Sandman in #18 and #19.

One could argue that I've left out a figure who was always something of a major villain to Spider-Man all along, newspaper man, J. Jonah Jameson. Well, Jonah was responsible for many a plot against Spidey, but perhaps none more so than Issue #20. Jonah hired a thug to undergo an experiment that would give him super strength and graft a large robotic tail onto his back. What would be the more logical creation to stop a man-sized spider than The Scorpion? The Scorpion's got both a coolness and lameness to him. In the right hands, he rocked and socked.

#21 had fun but minor insect-themed villain The Beetle, who I actually liked better with the weird and lame suction cups on his hands. Still, the Beetle's big time compared to The Clown and The Master of Menace in #22 (they might be lamer than the Ringmaster, but I've never read the issue). The Green Goblin was back in #23, and then I don't know what the hell is going on in #'s 24 or 25 before the Goblin would sweep up again in #'s 26 and 27. #28 saw the first appearance of the Molten Man who showed up another time or two. #29's another Scorpion appearance, but #30's a total mystery (maybe it's the return of The Clown and The Master's of Menace but they were too ashamed to give them another cover).

I'm stopping there. I don't know what I was doing in the first place. The Kingpin, who would be more of a major Daredevil villain, shows up 20 issues later in #50. In #46 was one of my other favorites, though a minor villain, who had a wonderfully bizarre costume, The Shocker. Sure some major villains would show up many years later, but in the first four years, Spider-Man had pretty much establish bad guys whose @$$es he would be beating for the next 40 years.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mad Props Materials Account
You're guess about the title is as good as mine...

Somewhere in here it's very possible that I mentioned one of my favorite Kids in the Hall sketches, which I believe was called "Geralds." In it, Bruce and Mark (I'm assuming you know who I'm talking about, and if not, don't worry about it.) play a pair of lawyers who are meeting to discuss the proposals drawn up by their respective clients. Within moments, you realize that one of them represents a guy and the other a girl who are merely dating. However, it becomes apparent that nearly every phase of their relationship is debated over like the points in a business merger.

Perhaps needless to say, but it's a fantastic piece of comedy.

It's also, for this day-and-age, a high concept piece. Of course you may say that that's redundant after calling it classic. Well, Monty Python's café full of Vikings chanting "spam" is classic, but it's hardly high concept. (Though not to piss off any rabid geeks out there, I'm not saying that Python wasn't by-an-large high concept....but they were also frequently silly.)

Imagine, if life was really like that. Or even if it weren't lawyers, what if it was just some sort of mediator or moderator? Wouldn't that be incredible and/or ridiculous?

Everything broken down. Everything scheduled. Every move pre-negotiated.

Now, I think some people today are just driven enough or lazy enough to actually enjoy the sound of something like that. You meet, and immediately afterward some dating period paperwork is signed like a lease. Then every date is settled beforehand. Then when the lease is up, you could option to re-lease or perhaps upgrade.

You wouldn't really have to make any of the decisions. If it wasn't working you just wait for the lease to be up, or you force a break. If you don't want to have sex, then you just put that clause in the contract before the date. And so on. And so on.

I seriously think I know people who could dig on something like that.

Ultimately, while it sounds interesting, I don't think it would work in any traditional sense. If there's one thing I've read that keeps couples together, it's the mutual working together to make it work.

Think about it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Pétite Parlance of the Time
Good Lord, I wrote an post comparing myself to a Charlton Heston movie...

I'm certain that if you've read my little ditties for any amount of time, then a rant should come as little or no surprise right. Does the pope where a funny hat? I'm afraid that he does ladies and gentleman. So let's get ranting shall we?

I took a handful of psychology classes on my own initiative in college. I took a few communications classes that were related to psychology in college. I also, have had an active enough interest in the subject to read up on it periodically. Similarily, I've dabbled in sociology. I'm not ready for a private therapy practice, but I guess I get by.

The reason I bring it up is simply that having a few basics down in psychology and sociology (history, linguistics, and anthropology are pretty good too for this) helps give you an understanding of why people do some of the stupid stuff they do it, and sometimes why they can't necessarily help it. Stereotypes are a good for instance. They get started because it's the brain's way of classifying categories of information. The example that was always used was how difficult life would be if you had to learn what a door was each and everytime you encountered one. Unfortunately, not every category is good and/or not every entry put into it is positive. This, of course, leads to everything from ethnic jokes to the Ku Klux Klan. Usually, the only way to break it down is to expose people to a wider variety of entries into said category to spread out the positives and the negatives.

That's pretty basic. It ignores other prejudices that people have despite their exposure. Nonetheless it goes a long way to explain where moronic stuff like racism gets started.

The reason I gave that example is because it also comes pretty close to what I was going to start ranting about today. Part of the reason I want to rant about it is because I've yet to see a satisfactory explanation of it. What the hell is the deal with Small Talk? That's what I really want to know.

Actually I need to amend that: What the hell is the deal with Small Talk with people you've known forever and a day or who you talk to on a regular basis?

Granted I don't like the stuff much to begin with, but at least with a total stranger, I get it.

Honestly, have you ever had someone ask you about the weather...and you just wanted to smack them for asking? Ok, if you live in a weather challenged environment, then perhaps it's relevant. It might actually be interesting if the weather is really extreme or unusual. Otherwise, who really cares? I mean that. For instance, I live in Southern California. Anyone want to take a guess to what my weather is like? If you guessed sunny and about seventy-something degrees, then you'd be right on. What about tomorrow? (Pause) Did you say the same thing? Bingo.

Do you see where I'm not real interested in weather related questions?

On the other hand, I've seen it snow twice in Houston, Texas. That's weather worth commenting on only because it's extremely uncommon. Other than that Houston is hot and muggy almost all the time.

Now, "How are you?" is a relevant question when dealing with someone who's being you are concerned with. I mean that very sincerely. It's a simple and direct way of inquiring into another's well-being. Unfortunately, because our health and being are similar to Southern California weather, it doesn't always get anywhere or reveal any news. In fact, what's the most common response? (Pause) Your'e so good. That's right, "Fine." Now in most cases that's probably true. The funny thing is that as a listener, we've become so accustomed to "Fine" that we hear it and immediately move on. If we hear anything else, the first response is often: "What? I can't be bothered with this right now." If were not listening though, we don't learn anything, hence making even asking the question ridiculous.

I've pretty well limited asking that question to when I really want to know (like when I know something may be amiss)....or again, with new people. Other than that, I don't need to have my concerns calmed by a "fine" that may or may not be completely disingenuous. Then again, if I get something other than a "fine" and I'm gonna listen, it'd better not be some panty-anty bullsh!t either. I know. I'm harsh.

Now the final topic that I just don't get is perhaps just purely my own hangup. So here's a little backstory...

When I was a kid, many of our friends of the family were couples my dad knew through work. Part of what brought our families together is that we all moved around a good amount and so we could all relate to being transplants. Anyhow, when there was a gathering of some sort, the time before dinner was usually fun banter about any number of topics. Come dinners end, though, it usually turned to misery for me as the talk turned to nothing but business. It was complaining about some guy in some annoying department down the hall and so on and so forth, or they'd all be laughing about some business deal or something that was completely incomprehensible to anyone not in the business.

What I wanted to know was if they spent all week at the office, day-in-day-out, why would they want to spend all their free time talking about it? I got to know most of these guys and I knew that they each had interests other than work. Many of those interests overlapped. Yet, there we were, often for several hours listening to business stuff. I imagine it helped add to why my sister and I got to be such good friends. After all that moving and that business talk, we had to have someone else to turn to, right?

Ultimately, I think that's bred in me a total dislike for talking about my job. Now, that doesn't work out so well because I work in the entertainment industry. Ok, in SoCal, I'm safe because everyone knows someone who does this crap, but once I'm out of the state or on the phone with relatives....Egads! No more! It doesn't matter how monotonous or unglamorous what I do is simply because to them I'm in Hollywood. Anyhow, I don't feel the need to share what I do with anyone because I can't imagine them finding it any more interesting than I do.

Now take my best friend. He works in hosptial administration. When we talk, we sometimes talk about aspects of our jobs that we like/hate or wacky folks we work with, but never just about the job. I have no idea exactly what he does except in the broadest strokes, and vice versa. We've never felt any need to plumb it any further, because neither of us really cares what the other does. We talk about the stuff that made us friends or had kept us friends.

Guess it can't always be like that, but...

Well, I've felt that if someone is really fascinated by their field or wants to share it with me, then they should take the time to do just that. After all, if I'm brought up to speed just enough, I may: a) actually find it more interesting than I previously thought or b) at least feel like I understand it well enough to ask more meaningful questions. Otherwise, I don't feel terribly compelled to talk about my work and I'm not going to inquire about anyone else's on some superficial level that I'm probably already familiar with. And yes, the exception is the inevitable "And what do you do?" if I'm meeting some schmoe for the first time.

The most hilarious thing is that I often get looked at as though I'm some kind of hideous social leper for not wanting to waste my time with tidbits of conversational fluff. I won't say meaningless because I suppose I don't think it's totally without meaning. I'll give the fluffsters that much.

I guess this all happened when everything became a "career" instead of a "job." I can't imagine a bunch of blacksmiths standing around talking smithin' back in the day. I mean you might trade some tips or whatever, but not talk about it for hours and hours and hours. You'd probably talk about huntin', drinkin', sports, or w'men. You know, the stuff that didn't involve fire and molten metals.

Anyhow, that's just what I think.

At the same time, if asked about my job, I'm not a totall @$$clown about it. I'll answer your question albeit concisely for the most parts. But I gotta wonder why you wanna know, and if you don't really wanna know then why are you asking. And if you do really wanna know, for God's sake why? Stuff like that.

Of course the fact that I don't follow most of what people think passes for news these day (I still wanna know what makes Laci Petersen so much more special than any of the other murdered or abused pregnant women that day.) or sports. That rules out a couple of other common small talk topics for me. Again, I can do it, and so as to not be completely rude I will do it when the need calls. Doesn't mean I have to like it.

In many ways, to me, small talk is like television, you can get so much more done (or discussed) without it.

My thoughts on this could go for days. I'm clipping them here.


Monday, September 27, 2004

Sometimes You Watch it Just Cause You Have To...
At least there weren't any cows...

No time for an introduction of any sort.

Instead, I'm given an opportunity to discuss the shortcomings of my favorite subgenre.

Let's just dive into:

Between God, The Devil, And a Winchester (1968, d. Marino Giralami)

The Story: A map to a stolen treasure pits a boy against bandits, a surrogate father, and a mysterious preacher. (Ummm...that about covers it.)

The Review: I'm sure I've mentioned the fact that when spaghettis try to do traditional Hollywood Western stuff, I begin to do the opposite of enjoy them. Way back when I did a review of Last of the Bad Men, and the character name Kitosch aside, I complained about all the cows in the movie. Granted, it's not like they spent the whole time effing about with cows, but it was more than in any other spaghetti western. It was more than enough to make me uncomfortable. Luckily, Frank Wolff's way weird villain was enough to sway it safely back into familiar spaghetti territory.

It's the reason I'm scared of A Long Ride From Hell. The fact that it stars former Hercules Steve Reeves is sort of a mixed bag. What scares me is the frequent references to Steve and his fictional brother in the movie as being ranchers. No cows. No farms (unless their being raided or someone's hiding out there). And no...

This weekend's spaghetti featured another convention of sorts, the wagon train. Well, sort of...close enough in my book.

The reason for some debate is the fact that this movie goes the opposite direciton of many movies today. It actually assumes you know too much instead of the modern approach of 'you must be a moron' spoonfeeding. For instance, Chasquisdo (Gilbert Roland) leads expeditions across the mountain passes. Ok. So when our little band gets going, it looks like they've joined some wagon train that Chasquisdo is guiding. Ummm, nope. All those other yo-yo's are just his men. Of course, since we never actually really meet any of them, feel free to label them Cannon Fodder #1, Cannon Fodder #2, #3, etc.

Also, this movie featured an awful lot of groups of people hiking over rocks. That's it. Just hiking over rocks. Somewhere in all that hiking all this weird and clumsily built up double-crossing gets under way. Now that's in addition to the storyline with the crooked Colonel that started at the beginning, brought the bandits in, and eventually roped in Chasquisdo. Of course that part of the story gets dropped about a third of the way in, and doesn't reappear until about a sixth left. The strangest bit is that the for all the time they spend with the renegade Colonel at the get go, they certainly don't waste any time building him up as anything more than a plot device.

Which brings us to Richard Harrison's character, Pat Jordan, our hero. Somewhere, I think someone meant for it to be a shock that he's a priest, but I don't know who and I don't know who they were trying to surprise. It certainly doesn't seem relevant to anything going on in the story. His almost constant vow of inaction doesn't make for much of a hero. About the only implication of his being a badass follows Chasquisdo giving him a pistol which he uses to shoot a match out of Chasquisdo's hand. So he bust some bad just don't get to really see all. However, the one convention is established: like so many screen priests/monks from spaghettis to kung fu flicks, they're all secretly whoop@$$ killers.

Ultimately, there's not much to recommend in this movie. Though I've liked Gilbert Roland in nearly everything I've seen him, Chasquisdo just doesn't give him much to do. For instance, he's got this weird iron club hand, but later you see him working his fingers inside it. What's the point? Why does he have it? Granted, he uses it to club some dudes, but that doesn't explain why he has it. It doesn't seem terribly convenient to have on. Who knows? This also loses point for the all too often use of a child actor who spends 9/10 of his scenes mugging for the camera. This was in addition to the arleady constantly mugging character, Uncle Pink. At least he mugged in an actorly fashion, the kid just looked like he was over exaggerating every expression. So when the tender moment comes for the mugging kid and Chasquisdo...frankly, I kept hoping Gilbert Roland and this movie would move up a few notches by shooting the kid.

I guess the only plus is that it wasn't The Mug himself, George Hilton, and the mugging kid. Not even Klaus Kinski could've redeemed any aspect of that casting. That's saying something.


Friday, September 24, 2004

The Omega Man
Modern uses for the character of Robert Neville

If you don't have the same thirst for Charlton Heston science fiction vehicles as I do (Except maybe for Soylent Green, because once you know the twist...) and if you don't read up on your classic sci-fi/horror, then you're not likely to have any idea what the hell I'm referring to in my li'l title up there. Lemme explain. (It's not a review, it's an interpretation of a theme.)

The Omega Man (1971) and The Last Man on Earth (1964) were both film versions of Matheson's famous novella, I Am Legend. The book dealt with Robert Neville who was, as far as he knew, the last man on earth. Of course Neville wasn't alone. A plague of some sort had turned the population of the world into a species of vampires. Each day, during the day, Neville roots the wreckage of society for supplies, and he spends the night fending off attacks from the monsters outside. One day Neville rescues a "human" woman which brings about his eventual downfall when she turns out to be one of the vampires.

Simple enough right. It's a great page-flipping story.

My reason for bringing it up was that I got to thinking about the rant that I've been on this week. I've been steamed about all sorts of stuff. Now, I'm generally annoyed by the general stupidity of a good portion of society, but it rarely comes to head like this. It's like elevator music, normally I can just tune all the stupidity out.

Several things brought this to this point for the end of the week. The first is all these people I know, or friends of friends who are having children (I've already ranted about people having and raising kids these days, and what a colossal mistake that usually turns out to be). The second was a news story about this idiotic couple who killed this old man trying to steal his car and then hid his frozen corpse in a public storage locker. And last, the fact that my lunch order was f*cked up and no one seemed to care.

Let's take this in order. But first more about Robert Neville:

In the end, when the vampires finally manage to get their hands on Neville a funny little bit of philosophy takes place. The lead vampire reasons that as Neville is the last man, then it is only right that he be destroyed. Evolutionarily speaking, Neville's a member of a past archaic era, and just as primitive man likely wiped out the last of the cro-magnon man, so should the vampire wipe out the last of humanity. (Oh I should mention that these vampires do like chomping on some good old fashioned human meat, but don't subsist on it in a Dracula kind of way.) If you look at it one way, then it comes across as the sad fate of humanity at it's own hands (Neville was partially responsible for the research that led to the plague that led to the vampires). If you look at it in a more Nietzchean fashion, the vampire is absolute correct. It's a modernization of ideals, and in order to move on, the vestiges of the past need to be eliminated. Oddly enough, that's just what they do.

Now back to my pissy mood.

The baby thing. Well, I'm not gonna rehash is all over again. Luckily the personal friends of mine who have recently had or are with child are financially sound and emotionally stable. Not necessarily so much with the friends of friends. Then I hear about people I went to school with who are having or have had children, and my fear begins to spread. Then I look around on the streets and the stores, all these people with way, way too many li'l spawn running around brainlessly and crowding out everything. Sure some of them maybe cousins or some such and sometimes there are multiple parental types, but there's usually still too many kids to be divided up amongst these people. Perhaps you don't see this wherever you are, but it's a constant in Los Angeles.

For instance, you walk into a burger joint
, and there's like twenty people between you and the counter. One person is at the counter ordering. When they finish, suddenly all twenty of those people walk away to go sit down and you discover that you're next in line. Then you take a look at the twenty people. There are three adults, and the rest are kids of varying ages from teens on down. Now even if you divide that up, that's still like six kids for each parental unit.

And before you make any race calls or some such: Trust me, I've seen it for nearly each and every race and ethnic group out there in my trips around town.

Of course that's an extreme, there are plenty of people I've met for whom one child is one too many for them to handle on any level.

Either way, why are we suprised as a nation that in this society we seem to be turning into a sociopath generating machine? Morals, ethics, and courtesy seem to be at an all time low. I'm not playing it Joe Conservative either. Tradition can be a way, way stupid bullheaded thing, but some stuff is always worth preserving. You know like that "Do Unto Others..." bit. You don't have to be religious to appreciate that. So people of my generation are already handicapped for that kind of stuff thanks by and large to the 'peace and love' generation parents who became the 'sex, drugs, & rock 'n roll' generation before spawning a bunch of kids they had no equipment with which to handle. And now the slacker devil-may-care Gen-X and Gen-Y are having kids with even less tools. Nice.

Which brings me to my second point: the car-jacking couple turned murderers.

Ok, so it isn't as bad as the cousin turned killer for french fries story from the other day, but it was still a stupid stupid thing that shouldn't and once upon a time wouldn't have happened.

The victim was going to meet with the couple to complete the sale of his EIGHT year old SUBURBAN truck. Lemme repeat: EIGHT year old SUBURBAN. Note that that doesn't look anything like BRAND NEW FERRARI or 2003 ESCALADE. I don't imagine that the Blue Book value of that truck made it anything remotely worth killing that man over. I mean, no car is worth dying for, but that's just really, really f*cking wrong.

Some I'm guessing that these two criminal pieces of sh!t either A) didn't know any better or B) plain didn't give a fat rat's @$$ about this guy.

It kinda reminds me of that Utah woman whose child died because she refused a Caesarian section because she didn't want to have scars. Did you ever see this woman? In addition to routinely making an ignorant cold-blooded dipsh!t out of herself, I'm not sure that with that face she should really worry about scars. Call that a cheap one, but what do I care about that human stain. She falls under my category of people who are actually a waste of the couple gallons of water and $6.00 worth of chemicals that make her up. (In case you ever wondered, that is literally about what a human body's value is. Think about it. Hard.)

The only positive thing in a sense is that she didn't have and raise that kid if she herself is already that far gone. What would the kid have ended up like? "Ted Bundy Jr., dinners' ready!" Criminey.

Tell you what, I'll back abortion if only because it keeps people who aren't going to raise their kids properly or who aren't ready for them from having them. That's fine with me. You're welcome to call me whatever names you want for that one.

The final straw was of course my lunch which doesn't exactly hold on the level of infanticide, but it fits my thread here. I wasn't p!ssed off that my lunch was effed up. I was pissed off at the incredibly glib attitude that thos responsible for it took about it. I'm aware that I'm not an executive so my opinion doesn't count, but I certainly would've treated them with more courtesy had it been the other way around. Simply apologizing would've been nice. I didn't expect them to run out and get me something else, but I would've expected a little "Oh, sorry, we effed up."

I think that's just another indicator of what I'm talking about today. Even respectable people with decent jobs that are financially and socially in the middle of the road have veered off into a sort of trashiness. My job sucks too and there are aspects I hate about it, but I still do it and I'm careful and thorough about it. When I screw up, I apologize and try to remember it for next time.

So Robert Neville again.

The thing about stuff like this is that the slide tends to continue. Every now and again we have something like a new golden age, then it all starts to slide again. The Roman empire is perhaps the best documented and well known textbook case of this. And I'm sorry, but I'm not sure where the golden age is supposed to kick back in. Maybe it's something I have to get in on.

I'm all about evolutionizing new ideas, but not in glorifying trash. So I won't take the path of what seems to be the majority these days. However, once you've let something regress and go feral, it's difficult to reign it back in again.

If the trend continues, then maybe it's time my voice fade away, and what represents both the future and an accelerated form of entropy needs to take over the earth. (Think me=Neville and the world=the vampires. See how that works?) I've never once believed in trying to turn back. It's impossible. You move forward or you're not moving at all. Perhaps, however, the world itslef has passed me by, and my time was past before it got started up.

You would think I was too young for that.