Friday, December 28, 2012

Dr. Lamb's Secret Porno Empire?

Did Hong Kong's 'Dr. Lamb' character (played by Simon Yam in Billy Tang's gut-punching horror film) inspire these unbridled tomes of version?

Probably not. But it's fun to consider a fantasy connection, at least. 

Unapologetically lurid in title, content, and form,  the Dr. Lamb Library series was spawned by Star Distributors, the sleaziest and, arguably, most audacious of the pulpy porn paperback publishers. 

They managed several porno lines including 'War Horrors Casebook', 'Slave Horrors', and the 'Bizarre Library', which often featured great cover art by Phantom favorite Di Mulatto

The company survived for fifteen years in a competitive and transforming market before its founder,  Robert "Dibi" DiBernardo, was found in the trunk of a car. He wasn't smiling.

The company employed talented artists at bargain basement rates and these fellas really delivered the erotic goods. 

These covers, married to uncluttered graphic presentation, are examples of fine, unpretentious work.

The element lacking in the cover art of the Dr. Lamb Library is "fun" (a relative term, of course). These tales were hard and unforgiving, set in a world where lust trumped all else and a body was a vessel for selfish pleasure. Cover art from Greenleaf, for example, was more inclined to feature characters sporting a naughty smile or a background character getting their vicarious jollies from an observed scene of carnality.  

Common in porno novels of this period were the small swinger ads, some accompanied by grainy black and white pictures. 

I've yet to encounter anybody who can testify to the effectiveness of these.   

I love the 'strictly business' attitude of the guy here. He takes his pleasure seriously. 

The green socks on the lass are a fine touch.

The series was created by A. de Granamour (real name: Paul Little), who penned the bondage classic The Cult of Sathanas.  I don't believe he was the same Paul Little who created (and is) Max Hardcore, although the coincidence would have some folks scratching their heads.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Makers of Silent Night Have Been Naughty

SILENT NIGHT (from an obvious, clunker of a script by Jayson Rothwell) is a partial remake of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT ('84), and it's mostly a godawful killer Santa movie. Early on in the proceedings, there is a feeble rehash of the classic 'Catatonic Grandpa' scene from the original ("You been good, boy?") that makes the original look like a classic (which it actually wasn't, although it had spunk!).

This film's greatest crime is the truly clueless casting. It stands as a grand example of why casting is pretty much EVERYTHING because its failure in this movie has produced something that is very close to NOTHING. The lead cop (Jaime King) has no authority as an actor and doesn't look old enough to legally enter the local bar to bust an underage drinker, let alone chase a bearded serial killer. Malcolm McDowell is embarrassingly over-the-top as the town cop, and it's unbelievable that director Steven C. Miller allowed him (and others) to run rampant through this scenery-chewing abortion.  Miller will learn much from the non-stop mistakes he made on this utter stinker. If he's open to learning, that is.

Hopefully, the makers of this insult to bloody Xmas movies got no gifts this year because, there's no argument,  they're the ones who've been naughty.

I've read some decent reviews of this film. All I can say is standards are plunging fast.

Must add this turkey to my list of 2012's Worst Horror Films:

Silent Night
The Devil Inside
The Woman in Black
The Moth Diaries
Area 407
Rec 3
Chernobyl Diaries
Piranha 3DD
Lords of Salem
The Apparition

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell

The 'Gokemidora' (that name is like something ripped from old time Dr.Who) is my kind of alien -- a blue, putrid, gooey puddle who creeps across a spaceship floor like runaway diarrhea . Shapeless, perhaps attractive on his own planet, mean-spirted, evil, he defines what a monster -- a thing! -- really is. I love the Gokemidora. I love him for his otherworldly ways.

Goke - Body Snatcher From Hell (When Horror Came to Shockiku collection; Criterion) , is perfect Japanese pulp, a film so nutty, so inventive, so gosh darn entertaining, it plays like an unearthed Ed Wood film from an alternative universe where Ed insisted on solid production values, eschewed stock footage, pressured his writer to strengthen the characterizations, but forged ahead, as Eddie always did, with audacious concepts that were truly his own.

Of course, Ed didn't direct Goke; that credit goes to Hajime Sato, the talented director of one of Japan's genuine (almost) unseen gems, the '65 Ghost of the Hunchback (aka House of Terrors aka Kaidan aidan semushi otoko; Toei); a film whose only Western release was in Italy. For a while, a crappy VHS of the Italian release did the grey market rounds, and that's how I caught and fell immediately in love with its utter strangeness, insanity, and thick mood.

For big hunchback fans, it's the cat's meow.

The Italian release is dubbed.

Below is the stunning colour poster:

Horror and sci-fi meet and greet in Goke, a true original that fuses outrage at the war in Vietnam (and war itself) with a survival story not unlike Ishiro Honda's brilliant Matango, released five years earlier. After a plane encounters shabby weather, a distressed, red sky, a terrorist threat, and a close call with a light resembling the outer glow of a saucer, the pilot manages to crashland the craft on a rocky plateau where creepy horrors lurk. The feel for atmosphere and suspense that Sato demonstrated so well in Hunchback is in plentiful supply in Goke. While finessing a strong science fiction scenario, Sato lays on the scares and surprises with masterful strokes, a rich choice of colors, and an exotic location. Stunning cinematography by Shizuo Hirase, who also shot The X From Outer Space and Genocide (two other titles included in this box set), and fine special effects and miniature work, combine to produce a stellar work truly deserving classic status.

The film's climax features a superb shot of dozens of glowing alien spaceships hurtling towards a compromised version of our home planet. It's a grand, epic ending that Ed Wood would have applauded. Of course, by '68, (when Goke hit screens) Ed had had his heyday (relatively speaking), and his finest works, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and Bride of the Monster, were already nine and fourteen years old respectively. One watches Goke with warm appreciation for its purity and innocence, and laments how terribly calculated and bloated so much sci-fi and horror is these days.

The fourth film in this wonderful box set is the hypnotic Living Skeleton, a film I've covered on this blog several times already over the years, and surely an influence on John Carpenter's The Fog.

A link is here:

The Criterion version is, for the first time, officially subtitled in English, while the transfer appears similar to the Shockiku Japanese DVD I've reviewed.

If you're curious about Goke's true origins, the film doesn't go there. Although he's a body snatcher in the tradition of flicks like The Thing and The Hidden, he's most probably not from hell. Unless hell is running trips to Earth via spaceship these days.

Plan to spend an evening with the 'Gokemidora'. I won't say he doesn't bite. That would be denying his true nature.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hunting Sex Nikkatsu-Style

This rape- and revenge-themed nugget (Sex Hunter: Wet Target) cured me of the Lincoln blues. King Spielberg's nonsense left a bad taste in my eyes and ears with its pointless sentimentality and romanticizing of Abe, so I was keen to write new data over the old inner hard drive. I started with Red Dawn, which wasn't a complete disaster, although, like the first one, it struggled to find novel things to do after the bad guys (North Koreans this time) dropped in for a firefight. For some reason, John Milius's original is remembered as some sort of classic. It wasn't. It was average. It opened operatically with Russians fluttering down from the sky into a schoolyard, but then it languished with a long second act in which both sides engaged in pyrotechnic displays. And that was about it.

Killing Them Softly, caught on the same day as Lincoln, is a more honest look at America because it doesn't feel the need to add romance to harsh times. "America isn't a community, it's a business," mumbles Brad Pitt's character in the film's concluding moments. I couldn't help agreeing with him in light of the country's last twenty years of corporatization.  The film focuses on low level crims facing financial hardships not usually presented on screen, except in Buddy Giovinazzo flicks like Life Is Hot In Cracktown. Pitt plays a fella working for a "mob" of sorts who's been employed to organize some hits on two bozos who robbed other bozos. The drama's kept very much in the family here.

The film is talky and slick and director Andrew Dominick, who gave us the overrated Chopper and the fine Assassination of Jessie James By The Coward Robert Ford,  enjoys staging stylized shootouts and positively revels (hand down pants masturbating furiously, I suspect!) in the gloriously sickening street beating of old Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) by two thugs. The sound design and lighting in this sequence took my breath away. Easily the second best on-screen beating of the year after Guy Pearce's beating of Shia LaBeouf  in John Hillcoat's Lawless, this scene and Killing's more literary attributes make it a flick worth catching.

Which takes me to Yukihiro Sawada's Sex Hunter: Wet Target, a '72 shocker from Nikkatsu, the latest in Impulse Pictures' line of films mostly worth your time. Personally, I have no interest in the comedy-themed stuff Impulse is releasing in tandem with the harsher titles like this one, but I imagine there's a market of pussies for those, too. Each to his or her own.

Director Sawada made some of the most engaging and unique titles that Nikkatsu funded and distributed. His Retreat Through The Wet Wasteland ('73), conceived as a pink flick, became a crime thriller with an  obligatory and justifiable rape, and a helping of gratuitous eroticism. It had a story that is not a simple frame to hang sex scenes on, and a dark vein permeated its narrative. Without the sex, it still stood tall.

Sawada's Flesh Target: Rape ('79) was disturbing for its premise alone. An office employee crosses the line with his boss at a bar and gets demoted. In retaliation, he pulls up his socks and proceeds to rape as many of his female colleagues as possible.

In my imdb review, I wrote:

***An office "loser" becomes a "winner" by sexually assaulting and raping the women he works with at work and on the street.

Yukihiro Sawada, director of the brutal ASSAULT!, a truly gritty pink film, makes no concessions to political correctness in this mostly riveting sex pic.

Not quite as stylish as Hasebe's RAPE!, a film with a similar theme, it is, nevertheless, required viewing for fans of cinematic sex and violence hybrids.

Sawada's background in hard-edged crime/yakuza films gives him the good sense to successfully probe the warped psychology of the office environment the movie takes place in.

FLESH TARGET: RAPE is an alternative title, as is the simple FLESH TARGET.

There is something gloriously anarchic and wrong about this film and that's why I respect it (and its brethren) so much ***

I first saw Sex Hunter: Wet Target, made before the above films, on a crappy Japanese bootleg tape. It was unsubbed and the unfortunate victim of particle shedding. As a result, I was impressed but not blown skyward by the experience. Having now seen Impulse Pictures' superb DVD, which boasts a sensational color grade of a pristine source, I'm doubly impressed, but still not blown away.

The oddly named actor George Harrison (a Japanese who wasn't part of successful British rock band) gets some bad news just before he's released from prison: His sister has been found dead. Found hanging, in fact.

Harrison spends the next seventy minutes tracing his sister's last days, and discovers that it was a trio of American soldiers who beat, raped, and urinated on her before leaving her to die. We get a series of flashbacks documenting her degradation, and, to create some balance, we watch Harrison killing the bastards who aren't dead already. The rape and murder took place before the soldiers shipped out, so the fate of one member was sealed in combat.

Assisted immeasurably by cinematographer Teruo Hatanaka's stunning photography, Sawada delivers a taut little thriller that, once again, rises above expectations and shows a director not content to meet just basic genre requirements. The American GI angle adds a disturbing dimension to proceedings, infecting the tone with something more disturbing than sheer human savagery. The violence is reasonably harsh and graphic, although, thankfully, we're not forced to suffer through endless blowjobs and fogged fucking scenes. The erotica is plentiful, but it's skilfully integrated into the story's beats.

Most problematic aspect of the production is George Harrison's ex-con character.  He's out to avenge his sister, but we know little else about him. He's a bit of a nothing really running from one scenario to another.  An older man wanders in to help him on a couple of occasions, but George's relationship with him remains fuzzy.

The Impulse DVD includes a reproduction of the original  theatrical poster and some excellent liner notes by Jasper Sharp. I recommend it.  

Impulse's second December release, I Love It From Behind, is a softcore comedy featuring a stable of very attractive women. I can't find other reasons to recommend it. Not my style. just silly.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Grotesque Beauty of Shintaro Kago

I've been hanging out for The Art of Shintaro Kago (Timeless; November 2012) for quite a while, so I'm happy to report that it is a thing -- and I do mean THING -- of beauty.

My scans, which are mere segments of the plates, do not do justice to the sheer size and sizzle of this volume. It is a 30 x 40 cm venture across 35 vividly illustrated pages. Even the above cover scan is a mere bottom third of the full illustration.

Kago, a controversial artist who shares thematic concerns and rich, lurid aesthetics with the likes of Suehiro Maruo and Toshio Saeki, is not as well represented book-wise as those artists.

He is, however, a little infamous for his fine line of grotesque toys such as:

Flying Head Monster (described as 'Frying' on the website)

Daruma Girl

Dismembered Body

Cannibal Man's Dessert

Seppuku Girl

Dead Corpse (slightly redundant title)

and Accidental Cat.

Kago has many obsessions, and headlessness (dismemberment also) is surely a primary one. His use of color and texture is quite stunning, as is an underlying sense of paranoid outrage.

To grab this special limited edition from and published by France's Timeless (, act fast!, for only 300 copies have been printed.

This exciting publication by an on-line distributor of fascinating art reminds me somewhat of Last Gasp's oversized Toshio Saeki publication of 2009, Onikage. The same level of passion and perfection infects every page.