Saturday, 31 October 2009

Disc-O-Teen Halloween Special with Zacherley and The Box Tops, Newark NJ, 1967

I posted this on my other blog earlier this year, but can't resist giving it another go round.

To repeat what I said then; if I had my way, TV would be like this twenty four hours a day.

Long live The Cool Ghoul.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

A Perfect Monster Has No End:
Halloween Mix CD 2009

(cross-posted with Stereo Sanctity.)

download (92mb .zip file).

For reasons too dull to go into, last year’s Halloween mixtape actually dated from 2007 (give me a shout if you’d like me to re-upload it), so I’ve had a whole extra year to stockpile creepy tunes for your enjoyment.

Unlike the last one, there’s no film soundtrack / narrative type gimmick year, just a whole heap of the usual twisted rock n’ roll and such, with obligatory appearances by Roky and The Cramps, and taking in witches, demons, zombies, psycho killers, werewolves, vampires, demonic ghost-cats and the like. Like any good horror movie, it will hopefully succeed in being broadly enjoyable and atmospheric, with occasional lurches into the realm of genuinely disturbing mania. Try it out at parties.

So, simply my gift to you to celebrate what’s self-evidently the coolest day on the calendar, and if you’re stepping out this weekend, remember, play safe:

Further useful advice from Beat Happening:

Monday, 26 October 2009

Youtube Film Club:
Louis Feuillade, Fantomas and Les Vampires

I’ve recently been watching a number of films by the great Georges Franju (best known for 1960s ‘Yeux Sans Visage’ / ‘Eyes Without a Face’). Reviews coming soon, hopefully.

On several occasions in his career, Franju teamed up with the writer Jacques Champroux, grandson of famed silent era director Louis Feuillade, to make films loosely inspired by the spirit of Fantomas, the diabolical criminal mastermind who hopefully needs no introduction as one of the most popular and influential characters in French popular culture.

Although Fantomas was the creation of writers Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre, Louis Feuillade can arguably take just as much credit for cementing him in the popular imagination via his series of silent adventure serials, produced during 1913-14, at the same time as Allain & Souvestre were publishing their stories.

So, as useful background to Franju’s films, just out of general interest, and also as a primer to the as-yet-unread volume of Fantomas stories on my bookshelf, I thought I’d check some of Feuillade’s films out.

Sadly, very little footage from the Fantomas serials is available on Youtube (perhaps as a result of the same copyright issues that prevented Franju & Champroux from using the character directly in their films), but this brief clip can at least serve to reassure us that they were pretty bad-ass:

An unexpected delight that my Youtube searches did show up though is some significant chunks of Feuillide’s subsequent serial, Les Vampires (1915-16). Need I say more?

Actually, I probably had best say more. From what I can gather, Les Vampires does not actually feature any vampires, but, confusingly, it does prominently feature the eerie, expressionistic beauty of its heroine Irma Vep (portrayed by one Musidora, who sounds like a pretty fascinating woman in her own right), who plays a vampire at the theatre, and who becomes the main antagonist of a gang of Fantomas-like masked criminals called ‘Les Vampires’.

Filmed in the overly theatrical manner common to their period, with a stationary camera and few close-ups, Fuillade’s serials are clearly not in the same order of formal innovation as other early vampiric classics such as Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’ or Carl Dreyer’s ‘Vampyr’, but nonentheless, they are hugely enjoyable, relatively fast-paced little capers for their era, and their exquisite production design and solemn, gothic beauty is remarkable.

Whilst these films might not have had quite the same impact on the world as Fantomas, it seems inconceivable that many subsequent champions of the fantastique in France, my man Jean Rollin foremost amongst them, didn’t take at least SOME inspiration from ‘Les Vampires’.

Episode 2: “The Ring That Kills”:

According to Wikipedia, the publicity campaign for ‘Les Vampires’ saw this mysterious poster pasted around Paris…

…whilst the next day’s newspapers carried the following verse:

Of the moonless nights they are kings,

darkness is their kingdom.

Carrying death and sowing terror

the dark Vampires fly,

with great suede wings,

ready not only to do evil... but to do even worse

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: God bless the French.

The entirety of “Les Vampires” first episode (entitled “The Severed Head”) can be seen split across four youtube videos, beginning here. Sadly, sound & picture quality is pretty low:

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Dust In My Throat
by John Farrimond

(Corgi, 1963)

Finally! A REAL miner's novel!

This one rather reminds me of the breakthrough bestseller that Stanley Baker's character was supposed to have written in Eva.

The press quotes are superb.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Don't Bother To Knock
by Clifford Hanley

(Digit, 1959)

I'm afraid I startled several other second hand bookshop patrons by laughing out loud when I got to the phrase "glamorous wench". That plus complications ensuing, and I had to lay down 50p for this one.

Maybe I'm being pedantic, but isn't it rather in the nature of "wenches" that they are not glamorous..? Then again, what do I know - I'm not a travel agent.

Here's the imdb page for the film this edition seems to be tying in with ("Haileywood Productions" eh?), not to be confused with the better known 1952 film of the same name. It's odd that the front cover fails to mention Elke Sommer, whose presence seems to have been the main selling point of this otherwise largely forgotten movie (tagline: "Elke Sommer...The 'Shot in the Dark' girl gives SEX a shot in the arm!") Anybody seen it?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

"Can a Mermaid Kill?"
by Thomas B. Dewey

(Tower Books, 1965)

Well, how could I resist this one?

Sadly, it turns out to be a fairly stuffy, undistinguished murder mystery:

There seems to be a pleasantly gothic air to things, but sadly I'd guess you could read the whole damn thing and still be none the wiser re: the homicidal propensities of mermaids.

Apologies for Lameness.

Apologies for my poor showing re: updating this month. Needless to say, I'm got a ton of exciting discourse of movies, literature and general weirdness to impart... as ever, the trouble's just finding some spare time to write some of it down.

In the meantime, I'm gonna up my post count by putting up a new scan of a recently obtained paperback every day this week (well ok, let's be realistic - most days). Hope you enjoy, and I'll be back with some more substantive posts soonish.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Youtube Film Club:
Harry Smith

When he wasn’t busy changing the world forever by compiling the Anthology of American Folk Music, forging new ground in the fields of anthropology and ethnomusicology, engaging in Thelemic magickal practice and the wider world of occultism and generally making the scene as all-round godhead of mid 20th Century beatnik weirdness, Harry Smith liked nothing more than knocking out tripped out experimental films such as the ones that follow.

Most of his earlier stuff was entirely abstract, though no less captivating for it:

It seems it was slightly later that animated figures and symbolism started to find their way into his work, resulting in some truly incredible stuff; mindbending esoteric psychedelia, years before anyone even came up with the term ‘psychedelia’:

Sixty seven minutes of his quite unbelievably strange “Heaven and Earth Magic” can currently be seen on Youtube. Apparently his original cut ran for over six hours! Here’s part # 1:

I dare you to get to the end of part # 7 in one sitting.

Finally, here’s some words of wisdom(?) from the man himself in his later years. I wonder if he and Burroughs ever got together for a grumpy old coot counter-cultural griping contest? God, I hope not. My money’d be on Harry anyway.

I had a very strong sense of deja-vu during the bit where he starts going on about two books someone sent him to review – sure I’ve heard that sampled/quoted somewhere…

The music in some of the above videos is interesting too of course. “Heaven & Earth Magic” may just have a load of cat noises, and “No. 11” has been fitted out with a nice bit of Thelonious Monk, but the music accompanying the first ‘Abstractions’ video could easily be a LaMonte Young or Tony Conrad piece, and you can clearly hear Angus Maclise banging away on some of the others… interesting stuff.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Album Covers by Chris D.

When I moved into my new flat earlier this year, I thought it would be a cool idea to pin some particularly pleasing looking LPs from my collection on either side of the blocked up fireplace in my room. And frankly there’s no reason why anyone else should care what I pin to my wall, so let’s assume that I was right and that it is a cool idea.

One of those LPs is The Gun Club’s ‘Miami’:

Now I don’t know quite what it is that makes this cover so striking, but it’s GREAT, isn’t it?

I mean, on the surface it’s just a shot of some guys who look more or less like you’d expect some guys in a rock band in the ‘80s to look, standing by some palm trees, with some plain text in the corner. But the composition of the shot, the choice of (presumably) slicing it off at the shoulders, leaving acres of hungry sky and those unhealthy looking palms stretching into the heavens, the almost hallucinogenic oversaturated colours, the way the text is set out in the corner in such a low key yet curious manner, with that sinister little cross beneath the album title… how cool is that?

It’s difficult to explain why, but it’s a masterpiece – the kind of cover that draws people with no particular interest in the band to pick it out of the racks, to wonder what it sounds like, but to not doubt for a moment that whatever’s going on inside, it’s fucking cool.

Actually, my copy is slightly different from the one reproduced above. It looks like this, and I think I prefer this shot, maybe just because I’m more familiar with it:

Anyway, it wasn’t that much of a surprise to notice that this cover is the work of Chris D., who also co-produced and otherwise contributed to the first couple of Gun Club albums. Chris D. is best known as the singer/conceptualist behind LA death-punk band The Flesheaters, and a brief google search will reveal that he’s also built up a reputation as a bit of a subcultural renaissance man over the years, working as a journalist/critic (for the seminal Slash magazine amongst others), as a record producer, poet, an all-round LA punk scenester and perhaps most notably as a cult film enthusiast/expert. In that capacity, he’s worked as a cinema programmer, written several books on Japanese cinema, and in 2004 he directed his own intriguing-sounding vampire flick, “I Pass For Human”. Pretty nifty CV, huh?

The overriding interest in horror/b-movies is unsurprising, given that his lyrics and general aesthetic for The Flesheaters consist of a dense catalogue of cult references, even more so than horror-rock contemporaries such as Roky Erickson and The Cramps. What seems to be lacking from any of the online biographies/articles on the man however is an appreciation of his highly distinctive work as an artist/designer, as expressed primarily through record covers for his own bands, and those of his buddies.

Especially awesome is the iconic cover to what is usually considered The Flasheaters’ masterpiece, ‘A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die’:

Musically, the album doesn’t really click with me that much, but you’d better believe I’d pick up a vinyl copy of THAT if I ever saw one at an affordable price.

Amongst his other credits:

What I think is remarkable about these covers is both their comparative subtlety. Given his interests and the scene he emerged from, you’d reasonably expect Chris D. to indulge in a whole loada cluttered kitsch rockbilly/tiki lounge excess, but instead his images – obviously homemade, and influenced by both collage-based punk rock flyers and Warholian pop art – are bold, deliberate, striking and authentically weird, rather than contrived weird.

I’m SURE he must have turned his hand to doing movie posters in this distinctive style at some point, and I’d love to see the results. As I say, surprisingly little info is available online re: his visual art, so if you’ve got any more info or scans, pass it on. Dude’s a master.