Archive for September, 2013


MONSTERS FROM YOUR PAST

For those of you who have taken the time to read my bio on this blog you will know that I am a ‘Monster Kid” from way back. We face the fact that information is at our fingertips now with this wonderful tentacle entwining, tube filled creature called the internet. How easy it is to follow what the genre has to offer – both good and bad – with the right terms into a search engine. This is not a lament for the old ways; nor is it a condemnation of what this rapid retrieval system has to offer.

Years ago, it was about magazines and books. It is still is in some cases. I had the opportunity to visit a brilliant bookshop called STRAND on a recent trip to New York City. Ebooks are excellent for getting people to read as they make it convenient and cool to be seen holding up a device. There is nothing like the heft of the printed word in your hands as you cradle a volume be it from the library or bookshop. The important action is to engage the mind whatever way possible.

I hear you muttering, “What does all this have to do with horror?” Nostalgia for the magazines I see in shops now. Large glossy photos of some current film or the opposite end of the scale the almost fanzine look of some ‘classic horror’ papers crammed full of little print designed for those with good eyesight and the patience of Imhotep to read all the material.

Today’s Monster Lover gets their fix from digital editions available free or through payment site. Some of these offer “enhanced” enhanced extras with interviews and clips to be replayed again and again. It is a far cry from trundling to the nearest store in the snow to see if they have put out the latest copy of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, CREEPY, EERIE, MODERN MONSTER, VAMPIRELLA. Those black and white photos coupled with silly captions were the only connection to the classic and new film releases.

I purchased a slightly crappy dub of a film called HORRORWOOD which featured Forest J. Ackerman (Uncle Forry or Dr. Acula depending on who was speaking from his type writer) about FM in its formative years. Ackerman made us remember that ‘LON CHANEY SHALL NOT DIE’ ,‘LUGOSI LIVES ETERNAL’ and ‘KARLOFF IS KING’. FM magazine was the gateway that kept these elements of film history from being forgotten, adding momentum to the “monster boom” of the early sixties.
FM was glorious yet frustrating in some ways as being in Canada one could not order anything from Captain Company in the back of each issue. What self respecting Monster Kid would not want a “Full head Frankenstein” monster mask, or the “Screaming Skull?” Who would not want to own eight mm or subsequent super 8 mm fifteen minute versions of your favourite films? Long before home video came on the screen.

As a side note to this I did not learn about the lonely, short, tragic life of Dwight Frye in Famous Monsters but instead from a short run magazine called FOR MONSTERS ONLY produced by people who did the MAD magazine rip off “CRACKED” Those school nights of staying up late to watch programs like HORROR HOUSE which came on after the NEWS and HULLABALOO which was a music show plus A GO GO 66 with Robbie Lane and the Disciples as hosts (my first taste of rock and roll) at least where I was in Ottawa.

Memories of finding LP records in Friemans Department store of THEMES FOR HORROR MOVIES with Dick Jacobs and his Orchestra. I still have the copy in its original sleeve on Coral Records. This is not to be confused with today’s release of the same record which does not include the graveyard comedy intros to each selection by Mort Good. I was also lucky to find a copy of “AN EVENING WITH BORIS KARLOFF AND HIS FRIENDS” in the delete bin when they has such things in record shops for three dollars. That record was the first time I heard Bela Lugosi speak since I had to wait years to see FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA on the big screen in a double bill for three fifty.

 

Horror fans today have a lot to choose from as the genre has fragmented more than Christopher Lee destruction on any of the Dracula films. You have conventions, you have magazines, you have stars, directors and writers on Twitter that talk directly to fans. It is a changing landscape which shifts like something out of a story by William Hope Hodgson or Algenon Blackwood. It is filled with new ideas that blossom everyday which are communicated at the rattle of a keyboard.

I would very much like to recommend the site called simply THE CLASSIC HORROR FILM BOARD. It is a literate, free billboard site with many discussions on both film and literature. I cannot say enough about it and encourage people both alive and undead to join.

THE CLASSIC HORROR FILM BOARD link
http://monsterkidclassichorrorforum.yuku.com/directory#.UjkHMdKkrDQ

This is by no means a wishing for the good old days of Horror fandom when you had to get your material differently. Instead it is a pleasant journey or as the closing song for long gone and perhaps forgotten monster Saturday Morning cartoon MILTON THE MONSTER said ‘ Now let’s take a creepy trip down Horror Hill. Beware of the dangers along the way or you might take a spill.” Ha and we haven’t even touched those cartoons yet. Enjoy the ride.

THE REAL FOXY BROWN

Been writing on some pretty dark themes recently so thought I would have some fun with a little picture called FOXY BROWN that was released recently on blu-ray  Hey man ..give me five…. don’t give me the jive because FOXY BROWN is alive? Yes.. dust off  those white bell bottoms  with the tight waist, toss on a pattern shirt and some jewelery that will tip the average persons head over on  their chest and get ready because Jack Hill’s 1974 urban violent Blaxplotation hit film is on blu-ray.  Oh yes and did I mention is all to a cool funky soundtrack by Willie Hutch well before the style was readily available

FOXY BROWN ( 1974) along with SHAFT (1971) and COFFEY (1973) were three essential pillars  of what was known as Blaxplotation film.  While not exactly a politically correct term’ Blaxplotation supposedly was coined  by Mario Van Peebles for a series of pictures that allowed black actors and actresses to do the same thing that white actors at the time were doing in films such as DIRTY HARRY (1971),  MAGNUM FORCE (1973) ,  and MACON COUNTY LINE, (1974)  and the Charlie Bronson’s  DEATH WISH series.   These pictures would be targeted for the urban marginalized markets in inner cities which could identify with the people, setting and situations.  I would suggest that the genesis goes farther back to Russ Meyer’s female empowerment with guns and fast cars masterpiece of cool FASTER PUSSY CAT KILL KILL (1965).   Director Jack Hill has all the formula going here the car chase, the drug lords, the kidnapping and abuse of the lead character but it is how FOXY BROWN  it and who the film does it with that is different and  stylish.

FOXY BROWN starts with a street hustler named Link Brown, (Antonio Vargas) cringing in a bar full of police officers, he’s trying to wait out a bunch of thugs who want to beat him for holding out on a loan from losses incurred from street gambling schemes. In desperation he calls his tough sister Foxy (Pam Greer) to bail him out yet again. Foxy runs some of the thugs into the river in her car. Afterwards, Link pleads to her that he’ll live the straight life if he can hide out at her pad for a while. Foxy reluctantly agrees.

Later, Foxy goes to visit her boyfriend  Dalton Ford  (Terry Carter in a role before original Battlestar Galactica) in hospital , an undercover officer who has been investigating the same crime-ring that Link owed money to. The hoodlums thought they’d killed him, but he really ended up in hospital for plastic surgery to give him a new and safe identity. Emerging as handsome Michael Anderson, he and Foxy hope to start life anew. On the streets, they encounter a black gang who beat and run drug pushers out of town. Foxy introduces Michael to the free loading Link, and Link acts suspicious. Links leaves Michael and Foxy to themselves, but later looks at some newspaper cuttings and adds two and two together. There is an enormous debt to pay … and this kind of information could clear that debt. No sooner does Foxy think her life will be smooth, than Michael crashes through her door, breathing his last and shot to death. With some detective work, the grieving and raging Foxy soon tracks Link down at his white girlfriend’s, and as they snort coke she storms in on them. Livid with anger, Foxy won’t kill her own brother, but she does force the identity of Michael’s killers out of him, then force him to leave the city. And so Foxy is out for vengeance which does it so well as it seems with most action stars pulled to limits.

The  evil sadistic villain  in this case  who run the dug empire at  in the person of Steve Elias (Peter Brown) and Katherine Wall (Kathyrn Loder)  who looks a little like Carolyn Jones.  Interesting relationship between these to is that they feign physical contact going through the motions only to find that there real love is drugs and power that they bring.  Like most  villains they have cast of repulsive henchman that their disposal for the dirty work.

Vengeance get derailed with a series if incidence such as a graphic kidnap and rape scene at a farm by some good old country boys who keep Foxy happy by shooting her up with drugs.  Exacting her pound of flesh in flaming escape to being piloted in a plane to a meeting by a young Sid Haig leading to a fire fight and  a special personal delivery to the Drug lord’s girlfriend Katherine Wall.

FOXY BROWN blu-ray is a feast for the eyes in all its seventies glory. Every fold, every color every pattern this is shown is bright and crisp.  The interiors are all well done with all the  bric a brac and odd colors.  The night exteriors are all well shown as well as black levels contrast nicely with the colors.  The exterior scenes have a slight haze in them particularly the country scenes perhaps having to do with the heat of the day or the smog situation at that time.

Soundtrack wonderfully different for the time of funky, guitars with “wah wah” pedals going in car chases all wonderfully mixed in. What makes it different is that these films set the pattern for what was heard in TV series of the seventies such as  THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, CHARLIE’S ANGELS and action films to come.  Second track mixed in is commentary Director Jack Hill today telling us little details of his thought on the film.  You will be singing the title song FOXY BROWN along with the end credits.

FOXY BROWN Blu-ray comes with a good selection of extras for enhanced experience.  The feature comes with Jack Hill commentary on the filming. Interestingly relating how he had wanted FOXY BROWN to be a sequel to COFFY (1973)  which also starred Pam Grier. Asher thought he had created a franchise character for a series but the studio said no. Asher also mentions ho he was not in favour ripoff of the James Bond style of titles for FOXY BROWN that open the picture. A 25 minute look at Blaxplotation cinema is included  called BACK TO BLACK  THE BRILLIANCE OF BLAXSPLOITATON.     A 19 minute interview with Stunt man Bob Minor called  NOT A MINOR INFLUENCE explaining how the film launched his Hollywood career.     Theatrical trailers  for  FOXY BROWN,  COFFEY, THE BIG DOLL HOUSETHE BIG BIRD CAGE, SWITCH BLADE SISTERS and SORCERESS plus slightly longer  black and white promo  for Jack Hill/Sid Haig film PIT STOP.  Quality varies in these selection due to print preservation but still add to experience.

FOXY BROWN blu-ray would make a pretty cool addition to any collection interested the evolution of the female character as a  spirit of vengeance. or simply some kick ass action and guns.  Good high octane  fun, visceral story with an undercurrent of ‘ Power to the people”. It is a slice out of time with its colors, music, slang and seventies production values that set a pattern that is easily seen today with only the music  style changing.  FOXY BROWN  really is as her brother says in the film  “That’s my sister..she’s a whole lotta woman.”