Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Todd Stadtman.

Please excuse this brief interruption to our first-viewings countdown, but I need to take a moment to express my great sadness upon learning today (via tribute posts on Teleport City and that Todd Stadtman – proprietor of the Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill! and Lucha Diaries blogs, amongst many other things - passed away earlier this month.

Unlike the authors of the aforementioned posts, I can’t claim to have known Todd personally (my interactions with him have been limited merely to a few exchanges of blogger comments over the years), but his writing on film, and his relentless enthusiasm for shining a light on the stranger and more culturally distant corners of what we might broadly term ‘international pop cinema’, has always been a great inspiration to me – not to mention a veritable fount of knowledge when it comes to uncovering wondrous realms of world culture which, despite his noble efforts, remain terminally obscure bordering on actually-totally-forgotten to this day.

Oft was the time, back in the glory days of both 4DK! and his work for Teleport City, that I’d find myself overcoming the boredom of my day-job by covertly clicking across to a web browser to read, dumbfounded, about the latest extraordinary, subtitle-free discovery he’d dug up from the darkest VCD-trading corners of Taiwan, The Philippines, Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, Mexico, Argentina or goodness only knows where else. Who knew, prior to Mr Stadtman’s evangelism, that pretty much the entire globe had once been busy cranking out rip-roaring, culturally specific entertainments full of garish colours, monsters, robots, disco dancing, high-kicking heroines, spies, cavemen, mini-submarines and guys in skeleton suits? Well, I’m sure some people did – but not I.

All these years later, I’ve only managed to watch the tiniest fraction of the stuff Todd wrote or spoke about online, but, speaking as someone who always enjoys learning about other nations primarily through their pop culture, I found his work hugely educational, as well as funny, concise, unpretentious and – crucially – always respectful of the people and cultures who created these amazing movies, retaining a tone of open-minded bewilderment which I’ll always take hands down over the kind of misplaced mockery and snark which tends to predominate whenever fragments of this kind of stuff find themselves washed up on English-speaking shores.

Todd’s 2013 book Funky Bollywood is a fantastic read (although I’ve STILL not managed to find a source through which to acquire most of the movies discussed within it), and his myriad podcasting endeavours have always been worth a listen, most particularly the long-defunct Infernal Brains series recorded in collaboration with the aforementioned Tars Tarkas. It’s no exaggeration to say that almost every episode of this podcast will take you to a place on the cinematic map you never even knew existed, and their series of episodes on the work of Taiwanese action heroine/director/mysterious lost genius Pearl Cheung-Ling borders on the life-changing. (Well, it certainly changed my bank balance slightly at any rate, as I scoured the shadier corners of the internet trying to track down watchable copies of her films.) [Links: part one, part two.] 

Outside of film, even the briefest scan of Todd’s blog reveals that he was something of a renaissance man to put it mildly – a novelist, musician, songwriter and DJ, just for starters – and, having followed his endeavours from a distance for over a decade at this point, I would also venture to suggest that the picture which emerges from all of his work is that of a very nice man indeed.

Even in a many-steps-removed online kind of way, his presence will be greatly missed. My thoughts go out to his family and friends, who must miss him terribly. R.I.P.

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