Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hot Magazine Orgy


 Mirek Lipinski's Latarnia Fantastique International #1 launches a veritable month-long orgy of great genre magazines.

"Cinema is an adventure," Lipinski writes in his maiden editorial. "it can inspire and embolden, sweeten or spice the days and the nights."

Beautifully said, I say.

He concludes: "I'm not of the opinion that every magazine should be welcome, just those that provide something others do not. Hopefully you'll find in these pages something that you've not seen or read in other magazines, something worth your time, so that you can take the journey along with Latarnia Fantastique International  -- now and into the future."

Lipinski sticks to his mantra with the first issue. It features a passionate piece about Harald Reinl's The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism -- "The start of a horror series that never was".

This piece is well researched and includes a fascinating sidebar of some gruesome special effects that were cut from the finished film.

  Sensational poster art reproduced on the first issue's back cover

Ivan Cardoso's Werewolf in the Amazon, the obscure Paul Naschy flick, is also reviewed by Lipinski. Little seen outside limited festival venues, the film is favorably reviewed, although the writer suggests that it would have a tough time finding theatrical support. A half page still of Naschy in full werewolf make-up is included.

With a sensational Barbara Steele paining adorning the magazine's cover, one would expect a Steele appearance inside the magazine. Well, Steele does appear in a photo gallery taken from An Angel For Satan and The Maniacs.

Other items of immense interest in this issue include an English translation of Gustavo Adolfo Becquer's Spirit Mountain, the short story that inspired the Blind Dead movies; and a fascinating and lengthy interview with actor Andres Resino; posters from a number of Resino films such as La Mansion De La Niebla (aka Maniac Mansion, '72) are faithfully reproduced.

This is a beautiful publication, forged with love and passion. It reminds me of early issues of FRederick S. Clark's Cinefantastique, a magazine once dedicated to obscure and delicious cinematic treasures. The magazine also bears the lycanthropian marks of the French midi/minuit Fantastique -- not surprising, really, because midi/minuit was Clark's original inspiration.

I can't wait to see where Lipinski goes with this.



Richard Klemenson's Little Shoppe of Horrors -- "The Journal of Classic British Horror Films" -- has topped itself once again with this special issue devoted to the British masterpiece The Blood on Satan's Claw (aka Satan's Skin).

From the awesome cover art by Adrian Salmon to the numerous articles about the film and its makers, this is an issue you'd be a damn fool to miss.

A piece titled "The Godfather of British Exploitation" opens the book on  genre producer Tony Tenser, the indefatigable producer of Satan's Claw, in addition to Repulsion, Beast in the Cellar, The Sorcerers, Doonwatch, The Creeping Flesh, Gutter Girls (love that title!), Witchfinder General, and As Nature Intended. It's an exhaustive look at this smart and courageous bloke, a producer of the likes of which I rarely encounter my film career.

Bruce G. Hallenbeck delivers 'Are You Afeard? The Making of The Blood on Satan's Claw', an exhaustive essay on every aspect imaginable of the film's production. Our favorite Satanic slut, Linda Hayden (and I mean that in the nicest way!), appears in original illustrations and stills throughout this issue. Her erotic contribution to the movie is discussed at length, as is her strange allure so many years later.

Jonathan Sothcott throws in with 'Remaking the Blood on Satan's Claw', a multi-part piece on aspects of the film's production not coveded in Hallenbeck's piece. Producer Malcolm Heyworth is interviewed by MJ Simpson, as is director Piers Haggard, screenwriter Robert Wynne-Simmons (a novice at the time), and supporting cast members Tamara Ustinov, Simone Williams, and Robin Davies.

As usual, the magazine's focus piece doesn't push other diamonds of genre journalism aside. In addition to a  magic article on Terence Fisher, there is "Confessions of a Hammer Lifer" (by Andy MacDougall), and a John Hamilton piece on the late, great Milton Subotsky; this emerged from an interview he conducted with the late producer's daughter Fiona.

I cannot urge you strongly enough: For God's sake, get this issue...or die screaming you fucking hellspawn!!!

The Toy Shop Tragedy


Have you ever felt sorry for a book? -- or a book's hard working author?

I have.

I still feel sorry for The Toy Shop and its author J. Robert Janes.

Take a good look at this cover. Study it and learn... learn how not to sell a book.


Pretty fuckin appalling, isn't it? It's another winner from Paperjacks, a long gone Canadian publisher. This strange little company didn't publish shit, but they sure packaged it that way.

They put out several novels by Mr. Janes including The Hiding Place, The Third Story, and The Watcher.

They also published one of my favorite horror novels ever, Eric Higgs' The Happy Man, a book I covered on this blog way, way back when Jesus was a grasshopper.


 The first edition of The Toy Shop came out in '81, via General Publishing,  in the midst of a horror novel boom. Bookshelves were top heavy with the stuff back in those days, and there were at least a dozen publishers -- Fawcett, New American Library, Pocket Books, Ballantine, St. Martin's Press, Avon, Zebra, Pinnacle, Dell, Charter, Jove, Popular Library -- cashing in and jostling for shelf space before boom turned to bust. Paperjacks released the book's second edition in a still-horror-friendly market in '84. 

I bought The Toy Shop because the cover art was so odd -- a picture of a rag doll with another picture, a face, pasted (badly) on top of it. Was this supposed to look amateurish? Was I missing the point?

I felt great sympathy for J. Robert Janes because writing books is damn hard work and he was being short-changed in the marketing department. If you do manage to get something published, its a little miracle. Unless a writer has lots of of devoted fans, he depends on cover art to attract some newbies (who or what was this going to attract?) The hope is, the potential punter will find the cover art enticing enough to want to flip the book to read the blurb on the back. If they don't want to do that, you're shit out of luck.

Not the best of blurbs. Not the worst, either.  A toy shop you can't trust. "Daddy's Secrets" (not hard to figure what those are). Nosy neighbors disappearing. Terror, sex, and innocence. And "innocence"? It's an abstract that doesn't quite fit with terror and sex. I get what they're trying to say, but it's awkwardly put.    

The front cover blurb isn't any great shakes, either: "Daddy, Mommy, Madness, Sin, Here We Let The Terror in!"

"Here"? Does that make any sense to you?

Wouldn't the correct -- no, smoother -- word be "Now", as in "Now We Let The Terror In!"?


 Zebra Books used to get roasted for their artwork -- unfairly, I feel. Sure, the art rarely connected with the story, but it was eye-catching and slick (see below!).



This nonsense -- The Toy Shop art -- is just drab and uninspired.  

Perhaps I'm pissing up the wrong pole? The Toy Shop did earn a second printing in November, '84, after Mr. Janes had released The Third Story (my favorite of his) and The Hiding Place. Had the cheap little rag doll composite attracted readers for the same reason it attracted me? Was its anti-aesthetic an engine of persuasion?



 An internet search reveals that Mr. Janes has written fourteen novels, was born in 1932, and is Canadian. That explains the Paperjacks and General Publishing connection (was Paperjacks an arm of General?). I'm curious about The Watcher, and must start upending every second hand bookshop between here and Ontario to find a copy. It's not like I need more obsessions, but another one won't hurt. The writer, it appears, was a mining engineer and teacher before turning full time wordsmith. He had this to say about writing:

"If anyone tells you that this is fun—forget it! It is lovely sometimes to be able to write every day. There are the highs and lows as in any other job. But it is absolute hell most times."

Despite the cover art, the pure horror work of Mr. Janes (as opposed to his crime/detective work) remains curiously entertaining, and twisted in just the right way. If you know what the right way is, you'll know it needs no explanation.   

I remain in sympathy for The Toy Shop.


This woman's face is featured on the front cover of two Janes books.
Was she the Alfred E. Neumann of Paperjacks?
Enquiring minds would like to know.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Deadite Press Gears Up

 
One of the saddest horror stories of 2010 was the demise of Leisure Books' horror line and ousting of editor Dan D'Auria. For several years, Leisure published two paperback horror novels a month from literary luminaries such as Brian Keene, Wrath James White, JF Gonzalez, Bryan Smith, Edward Lee, Ray Garton, Gord Rollo, Richard Laymon, Simon Clark, Mary Sangiovanni, Tim Lebbon, and many others.  I was a member of their horror book club and always looked forward to the thud of that cardboard box of pulp goodness on my doorstep. When they started sending me books from other publishers, I smelt a James Herbert-sized rat. 

For many of Leisure's authors, the end, like most ends, was a messy affair. Advances had not been received. Pending releases hung in holding patterns. Anger spilled over into blogs.



With 2011 now upon us, so is some very good news. Deadite Press, a specialty publisher with solid horror bona fides, has embraced and will be releasing the past and future work of Leisure lifeboat authors Brian Keene, JF Gonzalez, Bryan Smith, and Edward Lee, to name a few.

Deadite is already an active horror publisher and has demonstrated a healthy jones for extreme, wild, and deliciously subversive material. They also publish works from Bizarro writers such as Carlton Mellick III (Apeshit), AndreDuza (Necro Sex Machine), Adam Pepper (Super Fetus), and Robert Devereaux (Slaughter House High).


 Upcoming novels from Deadite include re-publishings of the Guy N. Smith-inspired Clickers books (there are two so far)  from JF Gonzalez -- if you haven't read his Survivor, you ought to, because then you'll know what it feels like to be ass-raped through your eyes. Jack's Magic Beans is coming from Brian Keene; and Bryan Smith has Highways to Hell, a new short story collection, and The Killing Kind 2, on the way.

Baby's First Book of Seriously Fuck-Up Shit, by Robert Devereaux, sounds like a must-read based on  title alone; it hits stores in March. Other upcoming Devereaux titles include Santa Steps Out, Santa Conquers the Homophobes (a certain reader of this blog had better watch out!), and Book Three of the Santa Chronicles

Wrath James Wright, who wrote the troubling Succulent Prey, has His Pain out in September, and Population Zero available for immediate fondling.


 Already available from Deadite and recommended is Edward Lee's Trolley No. 1852, a tale so much in the Lovecraftian tradition, it's backstory is that it was written by Lovecraft himself when he was skint. From what I've heard, the dark scribe was skint most of the time. The stories within this framework involve a strange sex club that smells like a more gentlemanly version of Ray Garton's den of slut vampires in Live Girls. By gentlemanly, I'm not suggesting that nothing much happens in Lee's club but cigar smoking and cricket chat --  on the contrary, much perversion occurs, but it's seen from Lovecraft's more sexually conservative point of view, and not described with the relish Mr. Lee is famous for.

Leisure has gone, but Deadite survives, and should thrive with its new roster of warped wordsmiths.  

Here's a more official rundown of the blood-, gore-, and semen-soaked magic upcoming from the publisher:
February
Urban Gothic by Brian Keene
Jack’s Magic Beans by Brian Keene
Clickers by J. F. Gonzalez and Mark Williams
Clickers II by J. F. Gonzalez and Brian Keene
March:
A Gathering of Crows by Brian Keene
Take the Long Way Home by Brian Keene
Baby’s First Book of Seriously Fucked-Up Shit by Robert Devereaux (a new collection of short fiction)
April:
Highways to Hell by Bryan Smith (a new collection of short fiction)
Coming later in 2011
The Corporation by J. F. Gonzalez
His Pain by Wrath James White
The Killing Kind by Bryan Smith
Freakshow by Bryan Smith
Depraved by Bryan Smith
Dark Hollow by Brian Keene
A Gathering of Crows by Brian Keene
Darkness on the Edge of Town by Brian Keene
Castaways by Brian Keene
Ghost Walk by Brian Keene
Ghoul by Brian Keene
Dead Sea by Brian Keene
Kill Whitey by Brian Keene
The Conqueror Worms by Brian Keene
The Conqueror Worms: Selected Scenes from the End of the World by Brian Keene
The Rising by Brian Keene
Walking Wounded by Robert Devereaux
Santa Steps Out by Robert Devereaux
Santa Conquers the Homophobes by Robert Devereaux
Book Three of the Santa Chronicles by Robert Devereaux

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Director Toshiharu Ikeda Is Dead



I received some very sad news this morning from my Japanese friend Tomoaki Hosoyama. He informed me that Toshiharu Ikeda, a director of more than 20 feature films, had committed suicide by drowning at the age of 59.

Ikeda is probably best known in the West for his horror film Evil Dead Trap (Shiro no wana; '88), a bizarre and inventive splatter flick released by Synapse Films. With its focus on complex killing techniques within a maze-like setting, it clearly provided inspiration for the Saw films and their ilk.



My favorite work of his is Mermaid Legend (Ningyo densetsu; '84), a surreal, bloody revenge fantasy that has been little seen outside its country of orgin. It's a poetic, often brutal study of a wronged woman fighting corporate oppressors in a seaside setting. Ikea's suicide by drowning (the mind boggles!) renders the subject matter of Mermaid Legend just a little bit spookier than it already was. A non-subtitled DVD of the film, a masterpiece in my humble opinion, was released by Geneon.

 
Ikeda began his career as a pink film director and helmed the startling Sex Hunter ('80), surely one of the most audacious and erotic pink flicks of the period. It focused on a kidnapped ballerina who is forced into sexual servitude and liberated by her captors. It is one of the most elegant and exotic pink films of the period and features a volcanically hot young actress.


Quite a controversial work, the trailer recently appeared in America on Synapse Films' Nikkatsu Roman Porn Trailer Collection. There no indication that the company will be releasing the feature itself. The feature is available, though, from Geneon.



Also of interest and worth catching is Ikeda's Angel Guts: Red Porno (Tenshi no harawata: Akai inga; '81), an entry in the series that is top heavy with female masturbation and rugged S&M scenes. Unfortunately, it's not up there with the best in the series, but it can boast a number of graphic rape scenes that are stunningly photographed. 


 

In addition to directing Beautiful Prey and Beautiful Beast, Ikeda also contributed to the 'Female Prisoner Scorpion' series with 91's Female Prisoner Scorpion: Death Threat (Joshuu sasori: Satsujin yopkoku).

The late director's final work was Akifukaki ('08),  a confused but ambitious film mixing breast cancer, love, and horse racing.
 
It is terribly sad when when another Apostle of Pulp leaves our midst.

RIP, Toshiharu Ikeda. You will be missed, and your work will endure.



Monday, January 24, 2011

The Fucking Geniuses at IFC


IFC (Independent Film Channel) is my favorite cable TV channel. No, it WAS. Now, it's one of my least favorite cable TV channels because they're breaking up their movies with fucking commercial breaks.

Great idea, huh?

They have the nerve to call it "The New IFC" when it's become "The Shitty IFC".

Some Clever Clogs at the network (probably some dickwad bean counter) came up with a smart idea to make the station better for the owners and worse for the viewers/subscribers.


It's a terrific way to alienate subscribers (who are already fleeing in droves!) and force them to write bitter blog posts about the station that was once a diamond in the cable rough.

My next step will be canceling IFC and, while I'm at it, I'll probably give Sundance the ass, too, because they've also started showing commercials.

Initially, the whole point of cable was that you didn't have to put up with commercials because you were paying the TV station NOT to show them. Free TV was free because commercials paid for it. Fine. But Pay TV was Pay TV because, well, WE paid for it -- that distinguished it from the free variety.

Well, the greedy suits who run the cable giants are now having it both ways -- they charge for their channels AND fill their shows with commercials. The result will be subscribers canceling and fleeing en masse to other alternatives




I can see IFC and Sundance becoming about as much fun as AMC was before it got into original series production. They began life showing movies without commercials -- then they dirtied their drawers with them. But AMC was a little different because you didn't pay extra to receive them. Now they show very decent original programming such as Mad Men and they're still not an upper tier network that you pay extra for. Which is as it should be.

The last hold-out is TCM (Turner Classic Movies), easily the best thing on cable. They have no
commercials, they show stuff in its correct aspect ratio, and you sense that they have some respect for their subscribers.

Let me pose a hypothetical...

If you were IFC and you were being threatened with new alternatives such as Netflix, the torrents, Redbox, and a hundred other options, would you try fucking your Golden Goose in the ass while it's manifesting pre-death throes?

Well?

Wouldn't it be better to help the poor creature up, plop it in a wheelchair, and pretty up its sagging features with some nail polish, lip gloss, and an approach to its condition that will make it a healthier being?

Well, IFC chose the assfucking instead of the wheelchair. Yep, they added commercials to a network that is supported by film purists.

"Let's call it The New IFC and add commercial breaks!" they roared.

Geniuses, huh?! Fucking geniuses!!!








Yeah, "off" like month-old milk.

A Sweet Erotic Trickle From Japan




For mine, these are elegant examples of erotica. Some are more explicit than others, but each suggests erotic potential untapped.


 



Incest-themed erotica from Japanese trades on the traditional image of a mother and turns it on its head.

I find this box cover (above) extremely powerful for its intense understatement.









Many of these images succeed in portraying an emotional state in addition to a primitive desire.










The traditional Japanese office lady is the subject of this erotic adventure. Perfect use of wardrobe in an urban setting completes the fantasy.

These are works of art.




An amazing concept here. I love how the bedside status of the woman on the right seems ambiguous.














Beautiful portrait of a sensual Japanese woman whose age is clearly an asset, not a handicap. 

Pornography and acknowledgment of the sexual impulse is not the exclusive domain of youth in Japan.
  


The mere context of this box cover (it is for a pornographic movie) takes the image of this traditional Japanese housewife -- a modern version -- and makes it a diamond of intense erotic suggestion.

The Japanese are masters at this.

***

I'd like to thank an anonymous reader (you know who you are) for the Ruby heads-up.