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This ridiculous Burt Reynolds paperback might mark when the 1970s truly began!
10:34 am


Burt Reynolds

One of the many mystifying aspects of the 1970s was the American public’s seemingly unquenchable appetite for Burt Reynolds. The same decade that is widely considered the strongest for uncompromising American cinema, a decade that produced The Godfather, Chinatown, Taxi Driver, and Nashville.... was also the decade that multiple times bestowed on Reynolds the title of America’s top box office star.

It isn’t so much that Reynolds is bad, exactly. It’s just that often his fame and celebrity success often seemed to come in advance of the cinematic accomplishments. If you look at Reynolds’ finishes in the “Ten Money Making Stars Poll” annually conducted by the Quigley Publishing Company, you get this:

1973: 4
1974: 6
1975: 7
1976: 6
1977: 4
1978: 1
1979: 1
1980: 1
1981: 1
1982: 1
1983: 4
1984: 6

Number one box office star—five years in a row. That feat was duplicated only by Bing Crosby from 1944 to 1948. If you look at 1973, the first year Reynolds made the list, he finished ahead of (in order) Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand, and Paul Newman. At that point his primary accomplishments as an actor were being second lead in Deliverance (an admittedly excellent movie in which he is also very good) and a brief appearance in Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask). In addition, of course, Reynolds had starred in The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing. For the next few years, it didn’t really matter what movies Reynolds starred in—the American public wanted more.

One of the most attention-getting episodes in Reynolds’ career was his hunkalicious nude appearance in the April 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan. Clearly, women were lusting after the cocky (ahem) and hirsute thespian and former athlete, a fact that leads us into the true subject of this post.

In 1972 Signet Books released a remarkable paperback, authored by Burt Reynolds, with the title Hot Line: The Letters I Get ... And Write! It was less a portrayal of Reynolds’ life as a man of letters than a kind of palatable, not X-rated version of his Cosmo pictorial.

Reynolds was not a man without a sense of humor, as can be seen in his confident, silly pose on the hand chair. (Yes, that’s right—hand chair.) The letters—who can say where these letters came from?—all acknowledge Reynolds’ fame and sex appeal as immutable facts and engage in some heavy double entendres—what one writer terms “Swahili.” Here’s a typical sample:

Dear Burt,

MAN, DO YOU EVER TURN ME ON! You’re great. When I told my husband how I love you, he said, “Well, just pretend that I’m Burt Reyolds.” To which I replied, “Nobody in the world has got that much imagination!”

I have to tell you this funny thing that happened at the office where I work. We have this 60-yr-old supervisor (lady). When we showed her the miniature picture of you from Newsweek, she said, “Well, that doesn’t turn me on!” The rest of us girls decided it would take all the men of South America put together to turn her on.

But you’re just the hottest! If I knew my tropic zone number I would use it rather than my zip code. (Sin)—Cerely


Dear Fay:

Why don’t you introduce your husband to the 60-year-old supervisor? Forget about your tropic zone number and bone up on your erogenous zones.

The pictures of these luscious babes literally draping themselves on Reynolds’ torso are a kind of visual corollary to the libido that the sexual revolution had just unleashed. You can’t exactly imagine Clark Gable doing this pictorial…. this was the new sexual frankness that would come to define the decade. In fact, you could argue that this stupid book, or the Cosmo pictorial, was the first thing that really reeked of the Seventies the way we think of it today. That hairy chest just needs a coke spoon to complete the picture.

Here are a few shagadelic scans from the book—I’m confident you won’t soon forget them.


More Burt Reynolds than anyone in this century could ever possibly want, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Combat Shock’: The Troma film inspired by Suicide’s ‘Frankie Teardrop’
08:03 am


Combat Shock

Frankie’s having a terrible day. His wife and infant son are starving. He’s run out of money and food. Now he’s going to be evicted. He’s got a gun. Let’s hear it for Frankie…

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the story of the 1984 Troma movie Combat Shock bears a striking resemblance to that of Suicide’s harrowing song “Frankie Teardrop.” The movie concerns the struggle of a young man named Frankie to feed his wife and child in blighted Staten Island, and if you’ve heard the song, I don’t have to tell you that it ends pretty badly for Frankie, his family, you, me, and the entire human race.

Frankie isn’t a factory worker in this version of the story, but an unemployed Vietnam vet whose days and nights are continually interrupted by flashbacks of ‘Nam and the torture he suffered at the hands of the VC. These, in turn, lead to flashbacks within flashbacks where, for purposes of exposition, Frankie relives arguments with his father, now estranged because a) Frankie has refused to carry on the family legacy of race hate and b) Dad disapproves of Mrs. Frankie. Suffering through the exposition of any movie is itself a form of torture.

However, these gestures toward the conventions of plot are mercifully few and brief, and Combat Shock soon makes with the laffs and gasps you crave from late-night horror fare. Much of the pleasure of watching Combat Shock comes from the genre detail writer, director, producer and editor Buddy Giovinazzo adds to extend Suicide’s story to feature length. For instance, because of Frankie’s exposure to Agent Orange, and because this is a Troma movie, the child looks like a cross between the Eraserhead baby and Edvard Munch’s screamer.

Until the awful climax, the movie takes its time presenting a loser’s-eye view of urban anomie. If you’ve ever lived in a place that had a TV set, you already know all these characters: Frankie’s slow descent into madness involves demoralizing encounters with small-time hoods (Frankie’s creditors), child prostitutes, junkie thieves and social workers (one of whom is missing a Ronco Veg-O-Matic). There are also one or two thrilling surprises, even for the very jaded.

And in case you somehow feel cheated of your full share of human misery after watching Combat Shock, here’s a kind of sequel to “Frankie Teardrop,” Alan Vega’s 12-minute bum-out “Viet Vet.”

Thanks to Greg Bummer of Azusa, CA!

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Death Trip: How would YOU like to be killed by Iggy Pop in Dario Argento’s new movie? Here’s how!
10:34 am


Iggy Pop
Dario Argento

Dario Argento The Sandman staring Iggy Pop
According to the master of Giallo himself, Dario Argento’s upcoming release will be a Christmas movie called The Sandman. The film is a tribute to Argento’s vast film career and will star everybody’s favorite punk, Iggy Pop. Based on a short story written in 1816 by German author E.T.A Hoffmann, Iggy is set to play a serial killer who takes pleasure in murdering his victims with a melon spoon, scoops their eyes out with with said melon spoon then, saves the unfortunate peepers as trophies.

Says Argento about the premise and inspiration for The Sandman:

On this Christmas a child witnesses his mother murdered by a serial killer. I am tired of these Christmas movies showing goodness. Beauty, snowflakes, sleds being pulled by reindeer. I’d rather have a Christmas movie where there is also violence, strength, and horror. And this is what I’m going to do. Christmas is coming and so is The Sandman!

Argento is using funding site Indie Go Go to raise $250,000 to make The Sandman. Below is the highly amusing teaser for the film that features Iggy who confesses that making this film with Argento would be a “dream come true” for him. A pretty tall order coming from a man who’s pretty much done it all.

And speaking of dreams that could come true, the reward for a $15,000 donation will not only get you a role in the film, it will also give you bragging rights to saying you’ve been killed killed by Iggy Pop while under the watchful direction of Dario Argento. Wow!

Posted by Cherrybomb | Discussion
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Behind the scenes of Martin Scorsese’s ‘Mean Streets’
07:05 am


Harvey Keitel
Martin Scorsese
Robert De Niro

I saw Mean Streets in my teens on late night TV after the parents had gone to bed and I’d stolen a couple of my mother’s cigarettes to smoke. Fourteen going on fifteen and pretending to be grown-up, but once more being made aware by that picture box in the corner of a world somewhere out there where things really did happen. That’s what Mean Streets made me feel. It made me want to go and live in New York and find and meet the people who made this film and learn more about them and their lives. It was a fantasy, just like the fantasy world Robert De Niro’s character, Johnny Boy, lived in, yet, there were some connections that made sense. When you’re a kid, if you can’t be a superhero then you want to be a gangster. I guess you could say I unfortunately had the pedigree for that—one uncle had served time convicted of manslaughter, another robbed a Territorial Army barracks for weapons but left drunk laden only with booze. I was working class and raised a Catholic with family hopes of the priesthood and was all too aware of that old country superstition that kept Harvey Keitel’s Charlie in check—the fifteen decades of the holy rosary and the candle-lit novenas to saints. How their world of Little Italy was caught between the traditions of the past and the monetary reality of the future which loomed large on screen in the form of the newly built Twin Towers.

The title for the film came from Raymond Chandler, who wrote in The Simple Art of Murder:

In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.

According to the producer Jonathan Taplin, Martin Scorsese had wanted to make Mean Streets for so long that he had “literally drawn out every single shot.” In 1970, Scorsese briefly moved out to LA to make the big time in movies and find someone to produce his film. He met Taplin at his house and they talked by the swimming pool. Taplin in trunks, Scorsese wearing a long black leather coat, like the kind the Gestapo used to wear in those wartime B-movies. All through their discussion under the blazing Californian sun, Scorsese never took off the coat, just sat melting into the deckchair, enthusing about his project. LA was not Scorsese’s kind of a town, New York was what he knew and what he liked.

Growing up in Little Italy, Scorsese had first considered being a priest, like a lot of Catholic boys do, but found a better vocation from watching movies on TV. This was where he learnt his trade, watching B&W films on television. For a time he attended seminary school, but gave it up to study film at NY University. Here he met the first of the people who would later play a major part in his life: a young court stenographer called Harvey Keitel and an Iranian born immigrant called Mardik Martin. Together this trio of ambitious film makers would star, write and direct in Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (1967), a film that took four years to make, which explains why Keitel visibly aged during its 90 minutes.

When he moved to LA Scorsese wanted to make a film about Little Italy and the people who lived there. He had a story, a script, one actor, and all he needed was the finance. Taplin had worked with Bob Dylan and had relocated from the east to the west coast with an ambition to make big movies. If he could organize 150 Dylan concerts then he could certainly put a movie deal together. Taplin raised the $500,000 needed and Scorsese went back east. The final piece of Mean Streets came together when Scorsese auditioned a young actor called Robert De Niro. The pair hit it off from the very first meeting mainly because, as De Niro later explained:

We were both brought up in the same area, and we see things the same way, I think, also, we both had a sense of being outsiders.

Mean Streets was shot quickly, on location, on the streets, with real people in the background not extras. Scorsese shot up to 36 set-ups a day often hand-held which gave the film a rough urban documentary feel. From its opening shots it felt like you were watching real people living real life—not actors saying lines on the screen—which is probably why I wanted to go live in Little Italy when I first saw the film all those years ago.

This selection of behind-the-scenes photographs captures Martin Scorsese directing Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro and the co. during the making of Mean Streets.
More urban realism from ‘Mean Streets’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Good Grief! Cancer Boy!’ Charlie Brown in nihilistic German existential cinema parody
09:32 am


Charlie Brown
Apocalypse Pooh

You may remember a post last week on “Apocalypse Pooh,” a fantastic little pre-Internet mash-up of Apocalypse Now and Winnie The Pooh released in 1987 through underground tape-trading circles by art student Todd Graham. Though Graham is still best-known for his prototype mash-ups, I was pleased to find his fantastic little original short, “Good Grief! Cancer Boy!” a nihilistic portrayal of Charlie Brown in German (I mean, it’s more nihilistic than the original).

The disdain of his peers, the conniving sadism of Lucy, the general alienation of modern life, even in childhood—really, the material is already there. Todd Graham himself is brilliant as our tragic protagonist, and you can really feel the existential despair, you know?

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘Harmontown: The Documentary’ is the best psychodrama of the season
08:45 am


Dan Harmon

Last year I proclaimed Harmontown to be the best comedy podcast, and in the intervening time I have seen nohing to change my mind (although I have grown fond of Greg Proops’ Smartest Man in the World and Pete Holmes’ You Made It Weird. A couple of days ago saw the release of a documentary about Dan Harmon and the nationwide tour his podcast made in January 2013. It’s available to stream on Amazon for $6.99 (to purchase, $12.99/$14.99).

The question arises, how is it? The simple answer is, it’s very good. I’m a little too close to the subject to review it properly, so while recommending the documentary (directed by Neil Berkeley, who also directed Beauty is Embarrassing: The Wayne White Story) I thought I’d also express some thoughts about why Harmontown (the podcast) is such an achievement as well as a few things the documentary inevitably missed (not a diss, it would have been impossible to cover everything).

Spencer Crittenden, Jeff B. Davis, Dan Harmon, and Erin McGathy
Dan Harmon is a TV writer and showrunner who is responsible for Community (NBC) and Rick & Morty (Adult Swim). He’s from Milwaukee and he drinks too much and he’s got some impressive verbal gifts and he has issues with people telling him what to do. Harmontown (the podcast) is taped every Sunday at the NerdMelt Theater, the back room of Meltdown Comics in Hollywood. The governing conceit is that Dan Harmon is the mayor and his buddy Jeff B. Davis is the comptroller. Dan occupies a unique niche, as something like the world’s most dangerous showrunner (i.e. writer who oversees a television show). The advent of high-quality TV that requires attention to long-form narrative issues has made a figure like Harmon nearly inevitable—who knew who ran Kojak?  If America loves Chuck Lorre’s shows, then that leaves an opening for an uncompromising indie showrunner who caters to a coterie—that’s Harmon, who plays Pulp to Lorre’s Oasis, perhaps.

Every show involves a mix of discussion about whatever has been occupying Harmon lately, audience participation, special guest appearances (Robin Williams, Patton Oswalt, Eric Idle, etc.) and a 20-minute chunk of D&D. The shows are entirely unscripted, and somehow they manage to be pretty darn diverting just about every week. As Davis points out in the movie, because it’s constructed from scratch every week, every episode feels completely different. What’s guaranteed is that because everything is filtered through Harmon’s lively, dangerous personality, there’s not much out there like it. What it feels like is unprecedented.

Harmon’s a dork of long standing, and his audience overwhelmingly consists of smart, introverted creative people (this is a euphemism for “on the Spectrum”) who, possibly, were bullied in high school; were far too interested in the Alien movie series and pop culture artifacts of that type; and have found some private fulfillment as adults in some interesting endeavor. What’s key is that the generosity, tolerance, and democracy behind Harmon’s sincere efforts at outreach have struck a massive chord among the people of this sub-sector, who in turn regard Harmon as their own special hero. The documentary is largely about Harmon going out into the country from LA to meet the throngs that make up his adoring audience. As Harmon often jokes, “his people” aren’t great at eye contact, which made the lengthy meet and greets after every session of “HarmonCountry” interesting social events in their own right.

The documentary covers all of this back story—the poster’s touting of the appearances of Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Joel McHale, and John Oliver is a bit of a cheat, they only appear in the movie for a couple of seconds apiece, as talking heads testifying to Harmon as a co-worker in the world of TV (Sarah Silverman and Jason Sudeikis are both in the movie in a fuller way). Implicit in that promotional strategy is that there’s not that much here to sell the movie. Much like Community, Dan Harmon himself is an aquired taste, and people watching the documentary should know that the movie features huge amounts of footage of exactly four people: Harmon, Davis, Harmon’s girlfriend (now fiancée) Erin McGathy, and Spencer Crittenden, the D&D dungeon master who was recruited from the live audience in an early episode and has appeared in the largest number of episodes since, excepting Dan himself of course).

Watching the movie, I found myself wondering what non-devotees will make of Dan Harmon. It’s a little like when you introduce your favorite noise-rock band to a friend, you might not have the best antennae about who will like this band. Same thing here—I love Harmon, but from all external appearances he’s a talkative alcoholic and egomaniac with a mean streak. It would be easy to imagine him wearing on people, which I sincerely hope doesn’t happen because I think Harmon’s worth the trouble. The thing to understand about Harmon is that he’s an idealist of the highest order. For instance, the HarmonCountry tour, even if it was the act of an egomaniac, was essentially an attempt to execute the world’s largest hug. A devotee of the Jungian mythologist Joseph Campbell, Harmon sincerely believes that his own writing accomplishments are merely a reflection of universal wisdoms that could equally well be expressed some other way. Harmon drinks too much and is self-destructive, all of which makes his penchant for unvarnished revelation all the more admirable. The list of his uncomfortable admissions (his purchase of a Real Doll many years ago, for instance) would be long indeed; would that we were all so honest! (Thus we see the idealism at work.)

One of the central issues in Harmontown the documentary is Harmon’s treatment of McGathy, who is clearly Harmon’s #1 supporter as well as his lifetime companion. The legendary Pittsburgh entry of HarmonCountry devolved into a huge onstage argument between Harmon and McGathy; the tour was clearly taking a massive toll on their relationship (they’re still together, obviously). Harmon did a bit about trying to become “visibly” aroused in full view of the audience by fantasizing about an attractive young lady in the audience, a bit that understandably wounded McGathy, who said so onstage some minutes later. The slack-jawed Pittsburghers were treated to a bit that wasn’t a bit, in essence a drawn-out, gut-wrenching conversation about the ways Harmon can wound McGathy and Harmon’s refusal to change. 

Harmontown the documentary faithfully captures the complexity of Harmon and the appeal of the show, almost entirely. Inevitably, a documentary of this type must maintain its focus on Harmon and the rapid rise to nerdy prominence of Spencer, the D&D dungeon master. What a movie of this kind can’t, by definition, capture is one of the central sources of appeal of the podcast, which are the longer-form discussions/banter, and especially the longer set pieces in which Harmon improvs a rant about the injustice of being told to tie his shoes or the faulty logic of Uber or why Captain America is an unsatisfying movie. That’s the stuff I go to Harmontown for, and there’s virtually none of it in the documentary (again, not a diss; Berkeley made the right movie that was there to make). For that, go to (episode 1) and listen to the podcasts. I wish they’d captured the dapper charm of Jeff B. Davis or the comedic genius—yes, genius—of Erin McGathy. In the movie you would get the impression that McGathy is a fairly typical supportive indie chick, but she has a lengthy background in improv and her comedic instincts are every bit as developed as those of Harmon himself. If anything she’s even quicker, and her bits don’t always depend on the filter of her own psychodramas. She has a podcast of her own about relationships called This Feels Terrible, which I highly recommend.

Download Harmontown the documentary—for some interesting insights into the making of the documentary, the Nerdist episode with Harmon and director Neil Berkeley is well worth a listen.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Wild Sex! Gore! Monsters! It’s the twisted, sick and nasty ‘Blood Island Trilogy’!

There I was, 1971, ten years old, bored, and flipping through the newspaper when BAM! It hit me like a ton of bricks! The exact thing my ten-year-old eyes dreamed of seeing: A huge half-page ad with a giant grotesque monstrosity ripping its own head off printed in blood red ink! Dripping red letters screamed BEAST OF BLOOD! I was an avid monster magazine reader then (and now) and even made a slew of my own monster mags. This ad was so very important to me that part of it was used as the entire back cover of “Monster Journal” a one-off handmade on loose leaf paper by a couple of ten year olds (one of them being me, natch). The monster ripping his own head off was the centerfold.

Luckily I somehow still have it. Here’s the front cover, centerfold and back cover:
Having misbehaved, I was punished the whole week this movie played in our neighborhood theater and I never got to see it, cementing it even deeper into my psyche, as it became my own demented folklore in my personal history. That I had to wait at least fifteen years—and for VCRs to be invented—to see it may be hard for young people to grasp in these days of consumer enlightenment, but such was our world back then, and believe me, the rewards were truly that much more rewarding when it took you that long to find something.

Not so strangely enough, this is exactly what these now 54-year-old eyes still dream of seeing. I have been buying a lot of DVD’s of late and was missing one of the “Blood Island” films so I bought a box set that came out called The Blood Island Vacation on Amazon. The so-called “Blood Island trilogy” has quite a convoluted past. Even the box set has four films in it. There are at least three or four other films that also fit into this trilogy.

The Blood Island saga begins in 1959 with Terror is a Man (later retitled Blood Creature, of course).  It borrows its basic plot from The Island of Dr. Moreau—an obsessed scientist on a secluded island experiments with changing animals into humans. But the film is anything but a cheap rip-off. Terror is a Man is surprisingly intelligent, stylish and suspenseful, and from the same creators/directors/producers as the “Blood Island” trilogy: Eddie Romero, Gerardo De Leon and Kane Lynn. But let’s deal with the three main films to start with.
Brides of Blood (1968) begins the way all of the “Blood Island” films do, with our hero John Ashley (long time Hollywood B movie favorite starting out in fifties monster and juvenile delinquent films, graduating to sixties beach party films, doing quite a lot of weirdo flicks in the Philippines in the seventies, and then winding up producing TV shows like The A-Team, etc.), some hot chick with a specific reason for going to the island, some natives and the ships captain all sailing out on a steam ship to the dreaded island. This first film co-starred the ample real life stripper/actress Beverly Hills and 1930’s-1950’s B movie star Kent Taylor as her scientist husband (Kent Taylor was apparently the inspiration for the name of Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent).

They arrive on Blood Island and are met with the usual hostile/fearful islanders. Something weird is going on. Why are these people here? Everyone has their own concept of the monster in this film but to me it looks like a big burnt deflated Michelin Man with fangs and ummm… lipstick?
The big gimmick for Brides of Blood was the wedding ring give-away. Theater managers were encouraged to order hundreds of plastic wedding and engagement rings to give to every unmarried female in the audience.  Hemisphere Pictures even made a special trailer to advertise the rings. I actually have a set of them that were still in the press book for the film that I bought many moons ago. The marketing and advertising for these films is amazing. Wild trailers, including deranged narration from demented doom comedian Brother Theodore on the Mad Doctor of Blood Island trailer (see below), gorgeous posters done by world-class artists (paperback book cover artist icon Charles Copeland on Mad Doctor of Blood Island and Beast of Blood, comic artist Gray Morrow on Brain of Blood) etc.
You can read a great and funny review of Brides of Blood from here. The whole film can be watched for free on Hulu here.

More ‘Blood Island’ after the jump…

Posted by Howie Pyro | Discussion
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Russian nesting dolls of ‘Spinal Tap,’ ‘The Young Ones,’ ‘Rocky Horror,’ ‘Heathers’ and more
08:01 am

Pop Culture

nesting dolls
Russian dolls

This is Spinal Tap nesting dolls
This is Spinal Tap
Australian artist Irene Hwang’s Etsy shop Bobobabushka is full Russian “Matryoshka” nesting dolls that bear the likeness of alt-cinema misfits from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, This is Spinal Tap, Ghost World, Heathers, cult BBC TV show The Young Ones and various troublemakers from the films of Wes Anderson and the Coen Brothers.

Hwang’s customers even harassed her into making a nesting doll based on the lower-than-low-budget 1966 cult film, Manos: The Hands of Fate and they are as excellent as Manos is horrible. A few of the cooler sets of Hwang’s hand-painted dolls ($120 - $190 a set) follow. 
The Rocky Horror Picture Show Russian nesting dolls
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Ghost World Russian nesting dolls
Ghost World
Heathers Russian nesting dolls
The Young Ones Russian nesting dolls
The Young Ones
The Big Lebowski Russian nesting dolls
The Big Lebowski
Manos: The Hands of Fate Russian nesting dolls
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Devo Russian nesting dolls
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Motörhead Russian Nesting Dolls

Posted by Cherrybomb | Discussion
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Bela Lugosi: Hollywood’s Dark Prince
10:17 am


Bela Lugosi

It was English character actor Raymond Huntley who first achieved success as Dracula in the famous stage production by Hamilton Deane of Bram Stoker’s classic novel in 1924. The twenty-year-old Huntley became a star taking the play from provincial tour to West End success. However, when offered to play the Count on Broadway, Huntley surprisingly turned the role down, later describing his time playing Dracula as “an indiscretion of my youth.” A strange and possibly rueful response to what in essence could have been a whole new career. Huntley’s refusal left the way open for Bela Lugosi, who made Dracula his own.

Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko was born on October 20, 1882 in Lugos, Hungary, to a respectable and successful middle class family. Bela’s father wanted his youngest son to follow in the family tradition and take up a career in banking, but Bela ran away from home when he was twelve with the single-minded ambition of becoming an actor. Like his father the young Bela was stubborn and headstrong. Even when his father died, Bela never gave in to the family pressure to relinquish his dreams.

After years of hoping, waiting and hanging around stage doors, Bela was given a chance to learn his trade. He spent years as the spear carrier, the one liner, or the messenger sent on to develop the plot before he impressed in several Shakespeare productions, most notably as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. This led to his being offered work with the National Theater of Hungary, which (as you can imagine) was the country’s principal theater group. Lugosi later claimed he “became the leading actor of Hungary’s Royal National Theatre,” which may or may not be true.
However, his theatrical career was drastically halted by the First World War Lugosi enlisted to fight, was wounded and spent the remainder of his service recuperating. After the war, he became politically active, helped set up an actor’s union and was then involved in the failed Hungarian Revolution, which meant he had to flee the country as a suspected radical and enemy of the state.

Lugosi traveled to Germany and eventually moved to America, where he worked with a small east coast theater company performing to fellow immigrants. His success here gave him a shot at Broadway, where he brought a seductive exoticness and great menace to the roles he played—most critically as the Arab Sheik in Arabesque, where he was compared to Valentino. But his biggest hit came when he was cast as the evil Count in Dracula. Lugosi made the dark and nefarious Count a highly seductive and erotic figure—a premeval mix of sex and death. Women fainted, men were jealous, both were equally terrified.
Surprisingly, despite Lugosi’s success on Broadway, when Hollywood decided to film Dracula, the actor was not the first choice of producer Carl Laemmle Jr. who wanted Lon Chaney to play the Count. Sadly “The Man of a Thousand Faces” died before production began, leaving Laemmle a long list of actors Paul Muni, Chester Morris, Ian Keith, John Wray, Joseph Schildkraut, Arthur Edmund Carewe and William Courtenay to consider—anyone (it seemed) but Lugosi. However, Lugosi was determined to play the Count and lobbied Laemmle for the part, eventually winning it after accepting a cut in salary.

For me, no matter who has played the role since, Bela Lugosi is the master and in many respects the definitive Count Dracula—he is the standard by which all of the other undead are judged.

As for Huntley, well, he is instantly recognizable from his many film and television appearances, where he usually played the bank manager in pin stripe suit and bowler hat, the civil servant, the untrustworthy politician, the judge passing sentence or the scientist who did things by the book, all of which makes me wonder what his interpretation of the Count was like.

This rather enjoyable documentary Bela Lugosi: Hollywood’s Dark Prince tells the story of Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko, from rebelious childhood to Universal star and sad drug-addled demise, with contributions from Robert Wise, Martin Landau and Bela Lugosi Jr.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Finally: The ‘Big Lebowski’ pinball machine is here and it is gorgeous!
07:37 am


The Big Lebowski

I have to tell you, I adore pinball, and I’m very excited to make a trip to my local bowling palace sometime in the next year or so to try out the soon-to-be-released Big Lebowski pinball machine, duly licensed by Universal Studios and manufactured by Dutch Pinball. The machine retails for $8,500 (which can be broken up into four payments), excluding taxes and fees; if you would like to pre-order one, you can do it here. They aren’t kidding about the “Dutch” in “Dutch Pinball.” Ahem: “Residents of the European Union are subject to Dutch BTW (VAT). ... Customers living outside of the European Union are not required to pay Dutch VAT; however, you may be subject to an import tariff.”

The game has three levels, including a stunning re-creation of a bowling alley (“Licensed Brunswick Lane Design”) underneath the main level. The game will play songs from the movie, including Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me,” Kenny Rogers’ “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In,” and Santana’s “Oye Como Va.”

Details on gameplay are not the easiest to come by, but the game features three “Character Modes,” two “Car Modes,” a “Mark It Zero” bonus, and three “Rug Modes” (you read that right). Marvelously, the game features a life-sized, actual goddamn White Russian that juts out of the playing field on the right-hand side and occasionally lights up.

When you speak of this—and you know you will—please resist the temptation to make a “rug ties it all together” joke, everyone’s already done that one.





“Attract mode lighting”:

Three more videos detailing the luscious Lebowski pinball machine, after the jump….

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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