Thursday, 25 October 2012

Behind the Fear:
The Fifth Annual Stereo Sanctity / Breakfast in the Ruins
Halloween mix CD

(Cross-posted with Stereo Sanctity.)

Well, it’s that time of the year again – I’m sure you know the routine by now.

This time round, I’ve let Roky, The Cramps and The Misfits take a well-earned rest, and have instead found myself assembling a slightly more.. irregular set of all-hallows tuneage, I suppose. Not even spooky instro stalwarts The Ventures get a look in come to think of it, although there’s always room for Ennio. Aside from him though, Halloween comp debuts all round I think. As ever, I’ve tweaked the track-list for what I hope is a enjoyably cohesive listening experience, so try to make it through in one sitting… if you dare, etc etc. Things get a bit weird and grizzly towards the end, but then, what good horror movie doesn’t?

Motion pictures represented through music and sounds herein include: Door To Silence, Andhera / Darwaza, Phantasm, The Velvet Vampire, Fascination, Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowlarama.


1. Lucio Fulci / Franco Piana – Lucio’s message to his fans
2. Gravity Craze – Song for M
3. Los Shains – El Monstruo
4. Bintangs – Demons
5. Gatekeeper – Chains
6. Depth Charge – Dead by Dawn
7. (undertaker)
8. Apache Dropout – Lady Blood
9. Sonik Omi – Main Theme from Andhera / Darwaza
10. Fred Myrow & Malcolm Seagrave – Mineshaft Chase
11. The Frantics – The Werewolf
12. The Nixe – Man Under My Bed
13. Purling Hiss – The Hoodoo
14. Koko Taylor – Voodoo Woman
15. (mummy)
16. Ennio Morricone – Giorno Di Notte
17. The Fall – A Figure Walks
18. Greg Stone - ‘Here in the Darkness’
19. Philippe D’Aram – Bizarre Cult 2
20. The Shadow Ring – Cape of Seaweed
21. The Caretaker – Malign Forces of the Occult
22. Rameses – Witchampton
23. Mayhem – Necrolust
24. Philippe D’Aram – Apparition Du Chateau
25. Lum Hatcher – Behind the Fear


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Koji Wakamatsu

 Although I’ve yet to see the facts reported anywhere in English, word is that the legendary Japanese filmmaker, political activist and counter-culture hero Koji Wakamatsu died yesterday, after being hit by a taxi in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

You could say that such a demise might make a fitting exclamation point to end the career of a man who spent much of his life exploring extreme states of consciousness and the violent dissolution of the body & spirit… but that would be pretty crass to be honest. It is, of course, a terrible event – a pointless and awful way to go, after so many years of hard work, strife and creative achievement.

Born to a poor, rural family, Wakamatsu left home and migrated to Tokyo at a young age, and after working through a variety of menial jobs he eventually winding up working for the yakuza in Shinjuku, where one of his duties was to ‘supervise’ (and presumably extort money from) film crews shooting in the area. As he recalled in a 1999 interview carried out for Chris D’s ‘Outlaw Masters of Japanese Cinema’ book:

“Later, I got arrested. […] They put me in the joint for six months. The cops beat me and teased me all the time. So, I said to myself, ‘Fuck! How can I get these fuckers back!?’ ‘Express yourself,’ I thought; ‘what a boring existence I’ve been living these past 20 years.’ But there had to be some kind of authority in the expression, some way to show these guys. So, when I got out of prison, I told my gang boss I wanted out. […] At first I tried becoming a novelist. But, since I never finished school, I could never get beyond ten pages. Then it dawned on me: ‘Film! I’ll be a producer, make some money.' I went to this producer I knew, got down on my hands and knees in his doorway, saying ‘Please, take me on as your understudy!’”

As so, after a suitably torturous apprenticeship, payback began in earnest when Wakamatsu directed his first underground pink film, ‘Sweet Trap’ in 1963, after which he proceeded to churn out bizarre and transgressive films at a dizzying speed for the next fifteen years, working with shady pinku distributors, doing occasional hired work for studios like Nikkatsu and Shochiku (with predictably controversial results), and eventually establishing his own independent production company to handle more personal and unconventional projects, including such audacious and disturbing works as ‘The Embryo Hunts in Secret’ (1966), ‘Violated Angels’ (1967) and ‘Go Go Second Time Virgin’ (1969);

“Most people were going ‘What the hell are these films?!’ A lot of people were criticising the shit out of my movies. But, for the most part, five years or so after each release, people would sing praises of those * same * films. […] Basically I destroyed all the film grammar there that was conventional. It doesn’t really matter how you shoot a movie. If the spirit is there, it will cut together.”

In the later ‘60s, Wakamatsu became heavily involved with radical politics and student protests in Japan, and his friendship with the writer & activist Masao Adachi led to the pair investing a bunch of the profit they’d made from pink films in a trip that saw them following members of the ‘Japanese Red Army’ to Beirut and Lebanon, where they befriended and were trained by guerrilla fighters, an experience that seems to have cemented Wakamatsu’s life-long anti-authoritarian stance, even if his provocatively titled documentary ‘Red Army - Palestine Liberation Front – Declaration of Global War!’ (1971) brought him a lot of heat after his return to Japan, ensuring that – as of the 1999 interview at least- he was never again allowed a visa for foreign travel.

Although it may be difficult to grasp the connection between Wakamatsu’s political beliefs and the dozens upon dozens of violent sex films he spent his time directing, it seems he saw them as one and the same, integral parts of the same continuum, and that, to some degree, is what gives his films such a unique power;

“Movies can’t really be called ‘pink’ if they’re being accepted by the general public. They’ve always got to be guerrilla. Pink films are about putting it out there in the public’s face and smashing people’s minds!”

Most people who have spent any amount of time reading about ‘cult film’ or knocking about in related communities will probably have heard Wakamatsu’s name at some stage, although the extremely limited distribution of his films in the English-speaking world has often prevented most of us in the West from actually seeing much of his work. I think I first came across his name back in the day whilst perusing some dubious Creation books anthology on ‘extreme cinema’ and, whilst the details and the bizarre translated titles of his films certainly stuck in my memory, I wasn’t at that time inspired to investigate further. I’ve never been much of a fan of pretentious ‘transgressive’ art, and the writer’s leering descriptions of assorted rapes, mutilations and murders didn’t exactly make Wakamatsu’s work sound like my cup of tea.

In recent years though, as my interest in Japanese film and far-out 60s/70s cinema in general has grown, Koji’s been back on my radar, and after reading the astounding interview quoted above, I thought it was probably time to take the plunge. The BFI came through, conveniently screening 1972’s ‘Ecstasy of the Angels’ as the wild-card entry in a season concentrating on films associated with Japan’s high brow Arts Theatre Guild, and… well all I can say is that it cracked my head open like a nut. An insane, awe-inspiring work of low budget cinematic terrorism, it sees Wakamatsu not just pulling off a shotgun wedding between the more extreme ends of pink eiga and the avant garde, but also gifting them with a streak of uncompromising, self-immolating extreme-left political desperation and packing them off for a honeymoon on a mac-truck full of napalm driven by Jean-Luc Godard and Jess Franco. Absolutely indescribable. And you’re telling me that’s only one of, like, about a HUNDRED films this guy made between 1965 and 1975..? WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

Well, nowhere as it turns out - bar a few much sought after, long out of print DVD releases, it takes a lot of effort to find *any* of his stuff in sub-titled form these days, but I have at least assembled a modest collection of four of his best-known films, and each has proved an astoundingly powerful viewing experience.

They are, undoubtedly, difficult films to write about, but I’ve recently been intending to cover some slightly more challenging and way-out material on this blog alongside all the easier horror and exploitation reviews, and, although writing time is frustratingly short, Wakamatsu’s passing has certainly encouraged me to try to move his films up the list and get some analysis underway.

But in the meantime, R.I.P. to a truly legendary figure and a real mad genius of rebel cinema. Our best wishes to those who were close to him, and I’ll leave you with some more words from the man himself;

“The minority opinion matters! But nobody gets it. They say, ‘These guys are too radical, they stick out.’ No! Without them, we’d have nothing but dictators in this world. For example, if the Japanese Communist Party comes to power for some reason, then I’ll join the side that criticizes them! The reason why is that the people who make things, who create in this world, have to remain on the outside, have to look at the world from a different perspective: saying ‘Hold on!’ People in power always turn into these yes-men. You have to have some kind of resistance to that, or it’s all a lie.”

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Restless Bones
& Other True Mysteries
by Peter Haining

(Armada, year unknown)

Cover illustration: Alun Hood
Interior illustrations: Ellis Nadler

Assorted tales of strange and unlikely goings-on, written in simple words and big type, guaranteed to put a rocket under the imagination of any young mind. Do kids these days still read books like this? I hope so.

I suppose parents & teachers might frown upon Haining’s insistence that the tall tales herein are all 100% factual, but his introduction, in which he thanks readers of his previous books for alerting him to new ‘mysteries’ worthy of investigation, is certainly pretty charming.

My favourite story is the none-more-hauntological yarn about an RAF pilot stationed at Mildenhal in Norfolk, who apparently discovers whistling East Anglian ghost ‘Old Roger’ doing his bit to help repel the Luftwaffe. Top stuff!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Windows of the Mind
by G.M. Glaskin

(Arrow, 1975)

I can’t remember where I found this. I think it must have been free, or near enough, but something about it grabbed my attention - heavy, heavy new age vibes of the sort that can’t help but seem thoroughly sinister. Just check out the strange geometric shapes on that landscape illustration on the back cover. Something’s not quite right there. A rather too literal uncanny valley.

‘The Christos Experience’, as outlined in the bits of this book I’ve skimmed over, appears to be a set of meditation techniques which can be used to invoke a kind of waking lucid dream state, wherein one explore amorphous internal landscapes and, allegedly, details of one’s past lives. Despite the doubtlessly profound impact this technique had upon participants at the time, the internet circa 2012 remains fairly quiet on the subject of ‘The Christos Experience’, suggesting that its long term legacy may have been somewhat limited.

Although ‘Windows of the Mind’ bears all hallmarks of the kind of book that might be distributed free at some dubious ‘institute’ or passed between shaky hands on busy street corners, it is actually the work of a mainstream paperback publisher (Arrow, an imprint of Hutchinson), and, rather surprisingly, G.M. Glaskin turns out to be none other than Gerald Glaskin (1923-2000), a celebrated Australian novelist who won the Commonwealth Prize for Literature in 1955.

A straightforward, factual (well, factual as this kinda stuff gets) account of the experiences of the author and his friends with the aforementioned technique, ‘Windows of the Mind’ seems to be, well, some genuinely head-bending stuff to be honest. Dipping into some random passages, it certainly seems strange enough to make me want to give it a proper read some time.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Hellfire Club
by Daniel P. Mannix

(Four Square, 1961)

Ah, now we’re talking! An absolute classic of this hypothetical ‘edusploitation’ genre, and one I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time.

Although not as gothic horror-y as the cover art implies, Daniel P. Mannix nonetheless gives us the full run-down on what Sir Francis Dashwood and his rakish cohorts got up to, in meaty, no nonsense prose that the ale-drinking layman can really get stuck into of an evening.

Obviously proper history has tended to record more of the ‘political intrigue’ side of the Hellfire Club members’ activities than the ‘despoiling of innocent virgins’ side, but that doesn’t stop Mannix (who has little time for such academic niceties as acknowledging his sources) riding rough-shod over the facts, and editorialising mightily on the subject of what they all allegedly, probably, might have got up to in the (genuinely incredible) purpose-built subterranean caverns beneath Dashwood’s West Wycombe Estate in Buckinghamshire.

Which is not to say though that Mannix is any slouch when it comes to running down the details of the club’s not inconsiderable political influence; leaving all the Satanic hooey aside, he makes a good case for seeing them as a kind of 18th century equivalent of the Bilderburg Group or the Bullingdon Club, but thankfully with a more socially progressive agenda than either (virgin despoiling notwithstanding). In fact, if you follow Mannix’s line of thinking then the roots of the American War of Independence can eventually be traced back to a feud that resulted from a practical joke that saw John Wilkes unleashing a baboon dressed in a devil costume in the middle of one of the Club’s rites – a story that’s worth the entry price alone.

Regardless of what you make of all that though, what we can say for sure is that ‘The Hellfire Club’ is perhaps the most intensely concentrated compendium of decadent 18th century ribaldry and grand, rakish cynicism ever committed to print, and I heartily recommend tracking down a copy. (If you can’t find this edition, it was reissued – with lousy artwork, sadly – by a publisher called I Books in 2001.)

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Cults in America
by David Hanna
(Belmont Tower Books, 1979)

Sadly I didn’t get a chance to read this one before giving it to my brother as birthday present. Looks pretty great though, doesn’t it?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Ritual Magic
by Francis King

(New English Library, 1972)

(cover uncredited)

You wouldn’t believe how much authentic ‘70s witch-smut books go for these days. I jumped for joy when I found a stash of them on my last visit to Hay On Wye, but my enthusiasm faded when I opened the front covers and saw the double figure price tags.

I was under the impression that the market for these things in the UK consisted of me, about six other pale and reclusive bloggers and the bloke from Electric Wizard, but maybe I under-estimated their appeal.

Anyway, this one went for a slightly more reasonable £3.95 – presumably because there are no boobs on the front and no illustrations within, but I like it all the same.

Some great band name / concept album inspiration to found on the contents page:

You’ll be happy to hear that Francis King also contributed a volume on ‘Sexuality, Magic and Perversion’ to the New English Library occult series. Well, I mean, of course he did. God bless you NEL.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Strange Goings-On Week.

Gathering at a rate of knots recently on my paperback acquisitions heap are an increasing number of non-fiction books – both paranormal & new age tracts from the golden era of such things in the ‘70s, and also books that, for want of a better word, we might term ‘non-fiction pulp’ - texts on history, sociology, geography and god knows what else given a heavy & salacious mass market slant. ‘Exploication’ maybe? ‘Edusploitation’? Well you know the kind of thing I mean, anyway.

And whilst the former rarely make for good reading beyond their surface value as satisfyingly mysterioso aesthetic objects, I confess that I’ve actually found myself really enjoying a lot of books in the latter category. Basically a sleazier and more fun precursor to the popular history and science books of recent decades, for some reason I get a real kick out of ploughing through these dated, factually dubious monographs on subjects ranging from Indian Thuggee cults, witch trials and 18th century debauchery to Antarctic exploration, lost cities and the sexual etiquette of the exotic Far East… everything that an imaginative young lad wants to find out about when he first walks into a school history class basically, before the monotony of seed drills and economic reform and proper history that actually happened gets in the way and crushes his spirit.

So, yeah – basically I’m going to spend the next week or so posting covers & brief observations on some of those books. Hope that’s alright with everyone.