Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ad Mat Rampage!

The brilliant poem on this ad mat for Gordon Hessler's mostly tragic Cry of the Banshee ('70) is what got me into Poe.

Of course, Poe had nothing to do with Cry of the Banshee.

I'm at a loss to remember where this poem is from. It is so evocative and powerful.

In my teens, I was a member of the Dusan Makavejev cheersquad, and WR: Mysteries of the Organism ('71) was my favorite of his many works.

I saw Sweet Movie at the Valhalla Cinema in Melbourne with my second ex-wife, when she was a girlfriend, and she walked out in disgust. I'm not sure what particular aspect of the film caused her to hoof it, but it made the experience less enjoyable for me because she expected me to follow her lead.

Makavejev's Montenegro ('81) spoke to me because it opened with Marianne Faithful's amazing "Ballad of Lucy Jordan", which I'd never heard before:

The morning sun touched lightly on
the eyes of Lucy Jordan
In a white suburban bedroom
in a white suburban town
And she lay there neath the covers
dreaming of a thousand lovers
til the world turned to orange
and the room went spinning round
At the age of 37
she realized she'd never ride
through Paris in a sports car
with the warm wind in her hair
So she let the phone keep ringing
as she sat there softly singing
pretty nursery rhymes she'd memorized
in her Daddy's easy chair
Her husband he's off to work
and the kids are off to school
and there were oh so many ways
for her to spend her days
She could clean the house for hours
or rearrange the flowers
or run naked through the shady street
screaming all the way
At the age of 37
she realized she'd never ride
through Paris in a sports car
with the warm wind in her hair
So she let the phone keep ringing
as she sat there softly singing
pretty nursery rhymes she'd memorized
in her Daddy's easy chair
The evening sun touched gently on
the eyes of Lucy Jordan
on the rooftop where she climbed
when all the laughter grew too loud
And she bowed and curtsied to the man
who reached and offered her his hand
and he led her down to the long white car
that waited past the crowd
At the age of 37
she knew she'd found forever
as she rode along through Paris
with the warm wind in her hair

Montenegro is a strange and anarchic film that I still have much fondness for.

I watched WR again recently and thought it was OK.

I watched Sweet Movie on the following night and was bored to tears. I really despised it.

Things change.

At 11 years old, I didn't enjoy Theatre of Blood ('73). I snuck into the city to see it and expected it to be about two giant puppetmasters who put on shows with human puppets. Think of the possibilities! I took the poster very literally.

A decade and a half later, I enjoyed Vincent Price playing a campy actor who takes revenge on his critics.

It made me laugh a lot.

At 11, the disappointment filled my stomach like a ball of lead.

Dashing good double!

The "Rapallo" cinema became the Forum 2.

In '72, I liked this second last Drac film with Lee a whole lot more than I like it now.

I still love the period opening scene with Cushing and Lee, but the Swinging London stuff makes me want to puke.

I was there, and I only had eyes for Barbara Carrera and the Beasts.

I was hoping she'd lie down with the beasts, but she took advice other than mine. To her detriment.

Peter Weir's The Last Wave ('77) was my favorite Australian film until Brian Trenchard Smith's Stunt Rock ('78) and George Miller's Mad Max ('79) roared into theaters.

I still like it a lot.

Richard Chamberlain returned to Australia for The Thorn Birds ('83) mini-series , which was not, unfortunately, about birds with thorny, razor wings doing a Hitchcock on Aussies.

The amazing trailer for Bluebeard ('72) played with a James Bond movie that my Dad took me to see.

On the way home in the car, I had a very serious discussion with him that went something like this:

"Dad, can you really buy guillotines for killing ladies?"

"I don't think so."

"Then where did that Blackbeard (sic) guy get his?"

"Grown-ups can buy them."


That meant I'd have to wait eight years before placing my order.

"Dad, can you really kill two people with a chandelier?"

"What are you talking about?"

"That Blackbeard (sic) guy killed two ladies with chandeliers in his movie."

"It's just a movie."

"But could you really do it to two ladies at once?"

"I'm not sure. I've never tried it."

That wasn't helpful.

"Dad, what's falconated?"


"That Blackbeard (sic) bloke falconated a lady with a bird. How do you do that?"

"I don't think anybody really falconates people."

"Blackbeard (sic) does."

"I don't think so."

"But could you train a bird to kill a lady?"

"Why would you want to do that?"

"I don't know."

"You're not doing that, alright?" My father looked angry. "Smarten up."

I waited for a few minutes before popping the final question:

"Dad, can we see Blackbeard?"


And that was that. Another strike-out with the "pares".

I begged and pleaded to see this one, even though I was eight years younger than I needed to be for admittance.

When I finally saw it, I was glad that it was a battle I'd lost.

Battles? You learn to pick them.

I only saw the haunting and reasonably effective Summerfield ('77) four years ago. It has mood, mystery, and magic, but it writes creative cheques that can't be cashed. The resolution is very ho-hum.

As depicted in the blood-smeared ad mat (just kidding!), the most important location in the film is an island that is only accessible by a bridge.

I discovered that the island (Churchhill Island) was just two hours' drive from Melbourne, where I was living at the time. I became obsessed with it.

I invited an adventurous girlfriend to join me for a day and we headed off for some adventure.

It was a weird and wonderful experience. The bridge to the island had been recently painted and the island itself had become a modest tourist attraction, but it still retained its ambiance, and I was able to bask in the echoes of the creepy events that took place there (on film).

My companion and I spent half the day exploring fascinating areas of the tiny island and found several remote fields and sheltered nooks that were ideal for bouts of horizontal refreshment.

It was a Summer in the fields that I won't forget.


  1. I never realised 'Blue Beard' was based on an actual historical figure/fiend until I stumbled on a great biography recently.

    A fascinating read.

    Interestingly enough I was reading about Burton last night; Criterion has released an edition of 'Spy Who Came in from The Cold' in a two disc set I was not previously aware of, and I was doing a little research on the man.

    Fascinating career. He did tend to choose his roles with beer goggles on, but then, some of his worst failure are his most fascinating films. As films they often don't work, ('try 'Assasination of Trotsky') and although for me watching 'Hammersmith is Out' is somewhat lamentable because you know it doesn't work, like watching a 100 or so minute car crash, it has a fascination all it's own. And let's face it, if you watch a movie, and you can't look away, who really cares why?

    Burton was nearly always amazing to watch, no matter what abortion he was slouching through. 'Exorcist 2', anyone?

    Dip into his tripe from time to time for 'fun', then return to home base and revel in the glory of 'Virginia Woolf', or better yet 'Equus'- to name but two pure triumphs.

    That's the way I do it.

  2. Theatre of Blood is probably the first really nasty piece of horror I ever saw. I still get the creeps thinking about it, even though it was meant to be part comedy. Easily the most sadistic role Vincent Price ever played.

  3. I'm beginning to think your parents weren't so encouraging to your creative endeavors.

    So what did you think of Bluebeard when you finally saw it? I believe it's probably widely considered one of those abortions to which mandingo referred... Still, I think it's trashy and good fun despite its many flaws.

    I can't help but understand your lessened enthusiasm for Makavejev's two classics after rediscovering him. Bit of a bore.

  4. mandingo -- A BLUEBEARD remake is justified. Problem is, Hollywood would turn him into a twenty year old and he'd chandelier, falconate, and suffocate teens. They certainly deserve all that, but not in this movie.

    Burton did have his share of stinkers. MEDUSA TOUCH, anyone? Or BOOM! (with Taylor). That film has an amazing John Barry score, and that's all that's amazing.


    I remember a hilarious review of MEDUSA TOUCH in an old Cinefantastique. They headed it with a quote from the movie that they applied to his career: "I have been responsible for some of the world's greatest dizawsters!"


    Jaako -- yeah, THEATRE OF BLOOD is very nasty. Once I forgave it for not being about human puppets, I embraced its coldness. It IS a more sadistic role than Mathew Hopkins.


    My parents weren't encouraging. Quite the opposite. However, they did encourage my writing if it wasn't genre.

    In retrospect, they didn't get it. But whose parents do? Especially the parents of genre fans like us. And I was an extreme, extreme version of that! I remember answering some pointed questions about why I was keeping a book with Tom of Finland art on my shelf. I couldn't explain in a million years that a hetero Aussie guy can still appreciate the aesthetics of gay art. I still think Tom was a pioneer. Amazing stuff.

    If I had a kid who was into sports to an insane, obsessive degree, would I fall into the "just doesn't get it" category in terms of his/her interests? I don't know. I certainly understand obsession, so probably not.

    I'm not into sports, although I dive and love playing squash.

    I don't think most parents are prepared for the individual they created.

    Do you?

  5. I wonder if all this accounts for why I never- to the best of my knowledge- sired a sprog myself? Could it be that I suspect something happens to the adult brain when a child is born (possibly also at the behest of the woman), where the switch is categorically flicked from 'BC/AC'??

    Although most adult males with a new child seem rabid to inflict their sporting interests on them at an obscenely young age (with all the foul language, misogynism, violence, hatred, and anarchy/nihilism at the heart of all such warrior pursuits), and for the most part, this seems socially acceptable. And yet, if I dared to show my child 'The Club', I have no doubt I would be howled down.

    I call this- not to mention what happens to the average adult after parenthood- hypocrisy. The worst of all lies.

    A topic which comes up on this site with comforting frequency.

    Let me be very clear; I could not, in good conscience, sit down with any five year old child and show him a matinee consisting of 'Chainsaw', 'Maniac' and 'Driller Killer'. As much as I might like to.

    I would make choices such as your fave, 'Fly Away Home', Phantom. 'Nemo', etc...

    But at some point, if I had a child, of course I would want to turn the child's attention away from the grindhouse on the television, to expose him/her to a little of mine. (obviously my collection is not all doom and gloom, but as I look at the pile beside my TV, I notice a good half of it is)

    Movies are my passion; all movies, good bad and ugly. Why would I not want to share it with my children? My father exposed to me the joys of adultery, the subsequent fallout, and then shortly after the wonders of drug and alcohol addiction, then the miracle of violence and sadism. Top stuff.

    Sadly, though, I cannot see a time (and it is only going to get worse) where it would be possible/justifiable/acceptable to show the children 'Daddy's Top Twenty' until they reach at least their teens, by which time they will most likely be ready to fly the coop, and all that potential sharing time is gone.

    Who needs all that shit.

    I can barely look after myself properly, let alone a child.

    Plus, let's not forget the expense of maintaining a child, keeping it fuelled, serviced and on the road, means there is less money to spend on DVD's.

    I'll leave it to those the least qualified to cope with the responsibility, and let them fuck it up.

    I have my doubts about the 'joys of parenthood', and the somewhat selfish 'desire for immortality' motivation behind the decision to have a child. I also doubt whether it is the 'biological imperative' that many believe it to be.

    Murder is a primal urge too, but I wouldn't rip into that because it is a biological imperative. My personal goal is to transcend nature/instinct, rather than to remain a slave to it. And kids, frankly, seem to hold the process back BIG TIME.

    Have you noticed how many people with kids stop living? They call it 'small sacrifice'. Not small enough for this little black duck, thank you very much.

    Anyway, enough for now.

    I'll leave you with this. Talk about what a bad influence I am!!

    My nephew asked me recently if I believed in God, and I told him 'no'.

    His Father glared at me, and spat 'Don't tell him that!!' What? The truth??

    I suppose I could have kept my mouth shut.

    And so it begins...

  6. mandingo -- Great post!

    Speaking as one who has never had any inclination whatsoever to procreate, let nme say that I have a very full and fulfilling life without children.

    Some guys seem bent on having children; the rest (a majority?) appear to get pushed into it by their female partners. It perplexes me greatly how any real man can surrender to fatherhood in order to keep a woman happy.

    Ultimately, it makes for a very unhappy husband/boyfriend.

    The women are not to blame, though. The men are. Before any guy ties the knot with any woman, you'd think the children issue would be placed on the table and debated first. Do you want kids. Yes. Great. Do you want kids? No. OK, see ya! Simple!

    Yes, simple! Before the fact it IS simple. It's the biggest decision you'll ever make. It shouldn't be a surrendering point, or a dysfunctional way to keep a bad relationship alive.

    But it often is.

    I love these folks who, when asked if they're going to have children, say: "Well, if it happens, it happens." Buddy, conception doesn't just happen. Aging happens. Conception takes a conscious act. Certainly not an act requiring any intelligence, but you won't get pregnant watching reality TV.

    "If it happens, it happens" means "I/We want kids!" Don't kid yourself.

    I do notice that a lot of people stop living one life and start living another. The new one never looks like fun to me.