Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Books You Can Have Sex With
I picked up Mark Goodall's terrific book on Mondo films, Sweet and Savage (Headpress, '06), quite recently, and I've enjoyed it immensely. Any tome that virtually canonizes filmmakers Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi (the makers of Goodbye Uncle Tom, Mondo Cane, Africa Addio; all masterpieces!), and makes a sincere effort to acknowledge the brilliant contributions of composer Riz Ortolani and cinematographer Antonio Climati to their work is more than alright in my book.
Reading the book has been an experience similar to the reading of another treasure, Kerekes/Slater's Killing For Culture (Annihilation, '94), one of my favorite film books of all time. It also focuses on Mondo cinema, but travels outside that perimeter, too, which is why this book (Sweet and Savage) can boast that it is "the first English language book devoted exclusively to the Mondo documentary film."
My brother and I were both huge fans of Killing For Culture and would re-read and pore over it constantly. It was our bible for a while. Our American Express card. We wouldn't leave home without it.
Well, once upon a time, on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Melbourne, we did leave home without the book to visit an old school buddy of mine. His name was Peter. Peter B. Like many old school friends, I associated Peter with films and products.
In primary school, I was best friends with a ratty kid named David Hagen. I've always associated him with The Blob. I haven't seen him for close to thirty years, but when I think of him, I think of The Blob. He...is...The...Blob. Young Mr. Hagen, like me, was a monster movie fan, and he'd seen The Blob.
Unfortunately, I hadn't, and it drove me nuts.
So, while I waited for what seemed like years for the movie to pop up on telly again, Hagen would talk about it constantly. Blob this. Blob that. The Blob was better. The Blob is best. You should see The Blob. Yeah, I'm trying! The Blob's scary. The Blob's sick. Blob blob blob blob blob. Hagen gave me so much Blob I wanted to kill him. Even at his tenth birthday party he told other partygoers that I hadn't seen The Blob. Me, the big horror fan, hadn't seen the fuckin Blob. I was humiliated. A fan reduced to a Blobless also-ran. Screw that guy. Finally, when I did see, it was disappointing. Thanks, Dave.
Pete B. didn't crap on about Blobs. The Blob wasn't his bag. No, Pete B. was all about G-Tapes. G-Tape was a brand of cassette. A cheap brand of cassette. Whenever the two of us would go to a record shop to buy some blank tapes, Pete would ask for G-Tapes. If they didn't have them, he got pissed. If I bought something other than G-Tapes, he got pissed at me. I was betraying him. Betraying his love of G-Tapes. It was G-Tapes or nothing for Pete B. If I ever made Pete a recording, he'd ask me if I'd recorded it on a G-Tape. If I hadn't, he'd tell me he didn't want the tape and slam the phone down. He lived for his G-Tapes with the same intensity that I lived for freaks and lesbian vampires and David Hagen lived for the goddamned Blob.
By the time my brother Colin and I decided to visit Pete B at his house, G-Tapes were done. CD's had come in and Pete was busy recording on to those. I don't think there were ever any G-CD's or G-DVD's or G-Blu-Rays. The G company went kapoot!, I assume, when Peter B. stopped promoting them.
The point of visiting Pete on this sunny Saturday arvo was to watch his "sick" Mondo collection. On VHS. He'd assured me that he had a lot of "sick stuff". To me, that meant beheadings, trucks pulling people apart, lepers on beaches, trannies, midget wrestlers, backyard sex changes, and animal cruelty. I didn't like animal cruelty, but I still wanted to see it so I could dislike it even more. What a confused cunt I was!
We arrived at Pete's place around 2 pm and were offered soft drinks and Tim-Tams. Pete, a little shy at first, asked us how we were and told my brother (Colin) that he had the same "sick" laugh as me. As Pete spoke, he didn't look at us. He kept his eyes lowered. He kept his eyes on a book. At first, I couldn't figure out what book he was reading, and I'm usually a wiz at identifying books people are reading. I have a compulsion to know. After saying "So, you guys want to see something something sick?", Pete got our enthusiastic nod and got up. He headed to the next room where, presumably, his "sick" videos were stored. I noticed right away that he'd taken the book with him. He'd taken it with him to get the videos from the next room. The next room was a 5 second walk. The book went with him. A book he clearly couldn't do without. Couldn't do without for 5 seconds. Must have been a fuckin good book, I reasoned.
Colin and I sat on Pete's saggy sofa with our soft drinks and melting Tim-Tams while Pete went missing. We knew he was in the next room, but he wasn't making any sound. I couldn't hear the clap of tapes or the thud of boxes being shifted around. Pete was doing it all in silence. What a guy! After fifteen minutes, I figured something was up. Pete hadn't returned. Finishing my drink, I got up top take it to Pete's kitchen. As I passed the room, I noticed Pete. He was sitting on a box in his messy storage room reading that book. He didn't even look up. I placed the glass in the sink and walked back down the hallway. "Hey, Pete, we gonna watch those videos or what?" I asked.
Pete didn't look up from the book. Just mumbled: "Yeah, sure."
It took Pete another half hour to re-join us in the TV room. He crept in with a small stack of VHS tapes and plonked them on the table. "Pick the ones you want to see," he said, returning to the book. "They're all sick."
I noticed Colin focusing hard on the book. I focused with him. Fuck the sick vids, I wanted to know what book he was reading. Because Pete was sitting across from us, the book was upside down and tilted towards him. If he'd lifted it up, we would have caught the cover, but he didn't read it like that. He read it open and flat across his thighs. In my world, that was book vandalism because he was breaking the spine, but this wasn't my world, this was Pete's world, the world of G-Tapes, the world of rudely reading books when your mates came over.
Finally, I said, "Hey, Pete, what's the book?"
"Oh, nothing," he said.
Wanting more details than that, I pressed him with greater diplomacy. "What's the fuckin book you're reading?"
Pete stopped and looked up. He seemed reluctant to divulge its title. Made me feel like some sticky-beaked cunt for asking. Colin waited for his answer, too.
Pete's nod of approval happened in slow motion. Relief poured out. It was like he was suddenly sharing a secret he'd bottled up for years. It was the nod of approval you'd surely get if you asked a fifteen year old boy if he'd enjoyed shagging those ten young hotties currently staggering out of his bedroom. Pete began to light up and his face twitched involuntarily in the moments before he tilted the cover of the book up.
Killing For Culture.
Aaaahhh. Immediately, I understood why he'd been ignoring us. Somehow, it didn't seem rude anymore that he'd placed us on his pay no mind list. He was half way through the book, and it was giving him a mental stiffy equal to the physical stiffies that people like John Holmes get all day. Us being there was like sitting next to a guy who was masturbating to Swank or Hustler. Mates are mates, but you don't share masturbating space with mates. Masturbating's a one-man activity. Unless you've gone faggot. As far as I knew, Pete hadn't. He was still rowing for the blue team.
Over the next two hours, we did watch some of Pete's "sick" tapes. He did have some worthy merchandise with dwarves and car accident footage, and he did rock our world with a couple of repulsive clips, but his main focus was Killing For Culture, and it was very apparent that Killing For Culture was the new lady in Pete's life. Any time I would bring up a movie, Pete would steer the topic back to Killing For Culture:
"Hey, Pete, did you see that great Ed Wood film?" Pete: "Nah, but there's this sick flick in here (holds up book) where they reckon this snake eats a guy whole."
"Hey, Pete, we're out of Coke. Want me to go get some?"
Pete (leafing through book): "Yeah. Have you guys seen the uncut version of This Violent World?"
We left Pete to his old G-Tapes and Killing for Culture around 8 pm. By then, Pete had almost finished the book.
A couple of weeks later, I met up with Pete at his car. He had some "sick" vids for me and I had a couple for trade. As he discussed his new job at a tape dubbing house, I noticed Killing For Culture lying on the front passenger seat of his car. It was waiting for him for a devoted lady. Reclining. Thinking only of him. Would it spread its legs for him? Beg him to do it hard?! Without mercy? I knew it would. They were still in the honeymoon phase.
If I ever see Pete again, I must introduce him to Mark Goodall's succulent Sweet and Savage. Pete's been with Killing for Culture now since '94. He probably needs some new book pussy.