Sunday, June 4, 2023

Juke Box Fury

Dada Debaser hasn't compiled a Best Films of the 1960s list, but it's a safe bet it wouldn't be like the predictably boring ones by elitist cinephiles.

There's a one word answer why Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) is on my shelf, and why my copy of La Dolce Vita (1960) is probably in some third world landfill site; soulful!

In the meantime, here's a furious compilation of vintage jams I'd put in the juke box if I ever ran a fleapit dive for all the beat girls, motor psychos and astro-zombies:

The Executioners - The Guillotine (1965)

The Night Beats - Night Beat (196?)

John & Jackie - Little Girl (1958)

The Genteels - Take it Off (1962)

Andrew Williams and His Orchestra - Sweet Little Pussycat (1966)

Roger & The Gypsies - Pass the Hatchet (Part 1) (1966)

The Majestics - Riding By (1962)

Jack Hammer - Wiggling Fool (1962)

Wiley Terry - Follow the Leader (Part 1) (1965)

The E Types - Put the Clock Back on the Wall (1967)

Steve King and The Echelons - Satan is Her Name (1962)

Bob Kayli - Tie Me Tight (1961)

Donna Dee - Nobody's Gonna Hurt You (1961)

The Go-Rillas - I Go (King Kong) (196?)

B.B. Cunningham Jr.  - Trip to Bandstand (1959)

The Hollywood Vines - When Johnny Comes Slidin' Home (1961)

The Surfmen - The Ghost Hop (1962)

The Frantics - The Whip (1960)

The Velaires - Sticks and Stones (1961)

Link Wray & The Wraymen - Jack the Ripper (1962)

Bob Landers with Willie Joe and His Unitar - Cherokee Dance (1956)

The Phantom - Love Me (1960)

Billy Mure's Super-Sonic Guitars - Supersonic (1957)

The Sonics - The Witch (1964)

Most of these songs were sourced from a bunch of old compilations, particularly from the Strip label. Regret not copping more of them back in the day as they go for a hefty price these days. In any case, I'm thankful for the ones I have.

DL in the comments.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Peter the Great

Unless there's a monumentable cock-up, The Flesh & Blood Show: The Horror Films of Pete Walker might be the most anticipated collection in what’s already been a stacked year for boutique releases, in my opinion.

Missed out on the old Anchor Bay set, which is why I'm as pleased as Punch that UK label 88 Films have stepped up to the task of releasing his films.

Pete Walker isn't ignored around these parts of the internet as he's considered something of a legend on this here blog. Three of his films made it onto the G.O.A.T Brit flicks list compiled by your host while celebrated directors Alfred Hitchcock and David Lean had one apiece.

For the uninitiated, two of Walker's films, House of Whipcord (1974) and House of Mortal Sin (1976) are currently available to stream for free over on Talking Pictures' site, and they're well worth checking out!

EDIT: How did I not realise until now that Ray Brooks, who starred in the Pete Walker films The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) and House of Whipcord (1974), and of course Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A. D. (1966) and Carry on Aboard (1972), was the narrator on the iconic animated children's series Mr Benn (1971 - 2005)? Only found out while randomly watching a documentary on the show via YouTube.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Viewings: May 2023

Mia Farrow being haunted by a malevolent ghostly child in the supernatural chiller Full Circle (1977) is the crème de la crème for me this month.

Other notable highlights: J.P. Mawra's politically incorrect, lesbian themed mondo, Chained Girls (1965); MTV's The Real World meets Argento splatter, Kolobos (1999); and the Irish creature feature, Unwelcome (2022/2023).

With the exception of Strange Days on Talking Pictures, I didn't really watch any TV; other than snippets of the news, weather and a couple of minutes of the crown being plonked on Charles’s bonce.



The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (Joseph Green, 1962)

Chained Girls (Joseph P. Mawra, 1965)*

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Elio Petri, 1970)*

Full Circle AKA The Haunting of Julia (Richard Loncraine, 1977)*

Strange Days (Kathryn Bigelow, 1995)

Two Orphan Vampires (Jean Rollin, 1997)

Kolobos (Daniel Liatowitsch & David Todd Ocvirk, 1999)*

Funky Forest: The First Contact (Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Ishimine & Shunichirô Miki, 2005)*

The Invitation (Karyn Kusama, 2016)

The Northman (Robert Eggers, 2022)

Enys Men (Mark Jenkin, 2022/2023)*

Tár (Todd Field, 2022/2023)*

Unwelcome (Jon Wright, 2022/2023)*

Evil Dead Rise (Lee Cronin, 2023)*

John Wick: Chapter 4 (Chad Stahelski, 2023)*

Plane (Jean-François Richet, 2023)*

Renfield (Chris McKay, 2023)*

Scream VI (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett, 2023)*

Sisu (Jalmari Helander, 2023)*


* First time viewings. 

Dada Debaser Notes:

  • One year later and The Northman still rules. Looking forward to Nosferatu.
  • Deadstream (2022) being the spiritual successor to the Evil Dead franchise rings true after seeing Evil Dead Rise. However, the final act is admittedly fun, and I liked the Romper Stomper girl in it.
  • Kermode ought to be flogged for picking such a boring dud like Enys Men for his BFI Player choice, but he redeemed himself a week later by covering Tenebrae.
  • Sisu is a repetitively one note film. The gory action gets stale very fast. Mentally checked out by the middle of the film.
  • The Grieg concerto sketch from the 1971 Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show is way more entertaining than Tár's joke ending, which requires nearly three agonising hours for its build-up. Pretentious as a brioche burger bun.
  • The John Wick films are essentially condensed down to neon lit action set pieces, accompanied by EDM and synthwave. The latest instalment is almost three hours and feels like a series of music videos.
  • Funky Forest: The First Contact is way too long and underwhelming. Its only real legacy are the gifs from it that used to be posted on now dead forums.
  • The Dracula (1931) callback was the biggest highlight from Renfield.

Other stuff I enjoyed this month: The Martorialist's favourite songs dicovered from other blogs; drizzle's best films of 2022; and Alan Scouser's ten worst Horror film traitors.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

It's All Ancient Greek to Me

Kolobos (Daniel Liatowitsch & David Todd Ocvirk, 1999)

Being a Gen X'er, the most memorable highlights from 1999 were the following: a total solar eclipse; the first airing of The Sopranos series: the beginning of Eminem's world domination; being more gutted with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace than breaking up with my girlfriend; and the world on tenterhooks over the Millennium Bug. The meta-horror Kolobos was also released that same year, and became a Blockbuster Video staple apparently, gaining a minor cult following ever since. Late pass! I only discovered it this month.

Beginning with a bloody woman stumbling in front of a car in the pooring rain, muttering the word "Kolobos". She awakens in a hospital bed with her face completely bandaged. The majority of the film from this point onwards is told via a series of lengthy flashbacks.

The premise of Kolobos is five young strangers are paid to live in winter retreat (looking like a Poundshop Overlook Hotel) together for a social experiment film. While habiting there, they'll be filmed via cameras installed throughout the premises, à la Big Brother.  Taking its cue from the MTV reality series The Real World, we're presented with entertaining demo reel introductions from our collective. These individuals include: Tina, the extrovert fast food employee who urinates in impatient customers' drinks; Tom, a stand-up comic; Erica, a horror actress from  The Slaughterhouse Factor series of films; Gary, the sensitive, pseudo intellectual; and finally, Kira, the artistic introvert, possessing all the final girl descriptive qualities you would come to expect.

Since Kolobos is a horror film, you don't need to make an educated guess about what's going to occur..

Kira has absolutely no business leaving the safety of her care facility, or as Tina the Drink Spiker calls it "the whacky shack", (which happens to be run by the legendary scream queen and fitness goddess Linnea Quigley in an all too brief cameo) as she's prone to slashing herself and having psychotic visions of faceless people and a disfigured maniac. Have you guessed who the villain is yet?

Kolobos suffers from many significant flaws which would turn away many serious film heads. With the exception of Amy Weber, who plays Kira, the performances are quite poor. Kolobos's co-directors were fresh graduates out of film school and their inexperience is very apparent. The writing is very muddled and convoluted at times. Much of what occurs on screen exists for superficial reasons rather than offer any real coherent sense. From a bonus feature on the film's blu-ray, the film makers admitted to naming their film after the Ancient Greek word for mutilate Kolobos, because it sounded cool.The antagonist has way too much plot armour which logistically makes little sense. Even with a huge suspension of disbelief, the writing has a significantly detrimental affect for the finale. Also, LOL @ the R&B snippet following on from the Lidl brand Suspiria theme during the end credits.

What makes Kolobos blogworthy however, is how unique it ostensibly is for its era: one, it preceeds other early reality TV based horror films I recall by a few years, e.g My Little Eye (2002) and Halloween: Resurrection (2002); two, the house is booby trapped with laser trip wire, metal shutters, acid plumbing, and robotic machines throwing circular razor saws, predating the Saw (2004 - ∞) franchise; and three, it's heavily inspired by both classic giallo and Italian horror way before the renaissance for them became noticeable a decade later.

You don't need to wait very long for the obvious influences either as Kolobos's main theme by William Kidd sounds like a complete rip-off of Goblin's theme from Suspiria (1977). Other than the Argento lighting, my favourite of the homages is the eye gouge scene, which takes obvious inspiration from Lucio Fulci's notoriously graphic eye gouge scene from Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979).

None of the main cast and crew seemed to have had significant career after Kolobos, with the exception of Amy Weber. She briefly went on to become a WWE diva back in the day, and also tried her hand as an budding popstar, covering Girls Aloud's Something Kinda Ooh! and dueting with Sean Kingston. I was going to add, on another alternate Earth, where Kolobos was a major hit, Weber might have never bothered with the wrestling and the singing and been on the same career path as Neve Campbell, but even she kind of faded out, too.

Kolobos is way better than some of the absolute trashfests I adore, but it's also way too burdened by major flaws to enter any kind of serious objective discussion of hailing it a good film; even by many horror film enthusiasts. Having watched this film a couple of times this month, I do understand the reason for its mini cult-following. It's got a lot of heart and ingenuity for what's essentially a low budget slasher and I admire that about it. Kolobos comes across as a freak of nature, as it's an obscure and forgotten, gory forerunner to the types of horror films that would become so prominent in the noughties. Film critics dubbing it as Saw meets Big Brother are kind of spot on about it, however. It's also one of the few films I've watched lately that's lingered with me after its end credits and that's a surprising feat in itself considering the amount of films I watch on the regular.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Bongos and Black Lace

Blood and Black Lace (Opening Credits)
Mario Bava, 1964

Like many Italian directors, Mario Bava dabbled in a multitude of different film genres throughout his career. His most celebrated works often fell under the horror umbrella, such as the gothic classics Black Sunday (1960) and Black Sabbath (1963). He also defined another genre; the giallo.

Blood and Black Lace (1964) might not have been Bava's first attempt at the giallo, but it laid a lot of the blueprint we would expect from the genre: from the graphic (and sometimes erotocised) deaths of beautiful, young women; to the opulent and lavish settings and locations; and the often imitated masked trenchcoat killer - Bava would turn the genre into an inspirational slayground to up and comers like Dario Argento, Sergio Martino, and Lucio Fulci.

You need only witness the opening credits from Blood and Black Lace to be convinced he was a master at his craft. Set in an elite fashion house, the sequence features its statuesque looking cast, situated with colourful flora (bouquets or wreaths) and eerie looking mannequins (which both reflects their superficiality and the forshadowing of their lifeless state), setting the tone for Bava's sardonically macabre tale. This is all complimented with his typical visual splendour; while composer Carlo Rustichelli's downtempo, cabaret-style score has an air of potential doom about it, quelling any potential doubts.

The rest of the film masterfully lives up to those opening credits, to the point where I consider it amongst the greatest in the genre.

Blood and Black Lace (Nicole's Murder Scene)
Mario Bava, 1964 

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Mamma Mia

Full Circle (Richard Loncraine, 1977)

Big mistake watching director Richard Loncraine's introdcuction to his semi-obscure British-Canadian co-produced chiller Full Cirlcle (1977) AKA The Haunting of Julia. Loncraine describing it as "almost a good film", somewhat put a damp squib over my expectations; especially after having shelled out a fair bit on the lavish looking BFI 4K release of it. Fortunately, Full Circle turned out to be a wonderful missing link between the classic horror films Don't Look Now (1973) and The Changeling (1980). Not quite on the same level as them, but an excellent film, regardless.

Full Circle begins with a cautionary and fatal example of always chewing your food, as Katie, daughter of wealthy American living in London, Julia Lofting, played by ginger pixie Mia Farrow, literally chokes it at the breakfast table while eating an apple. Ridden with guilt after performing an unsuccessful emergency tracheostomy on her daughter, Julia sinks to suicidal depression and becomes estranged from her money grubbing husband, Magnus, played by Keir Dullea.

After being discharged from hospital, Julia attempts to rebuild her life by moving in to a new apartment, far from Magnus's watchful eye. Shaggy haired, antiques dealer Mark, played by Tom Conti, is her rock of support as she slowly tries to pick up the pieces while Magnus continously harasses her. It's just rotten luck that she just also happens to be experiencing supernatural goings at the same time. Going on into any further detail would totally spoil the mystery of the film, so I'll leave it there.

Despite Loncraine's personal assessment of Full Circle, the film totally charmed me. Its slowburn pacing and rich atmosphere worked perfectly for its premise. This was a captivating viewing experience. As a horror afficionado, familar with certain tropes and cliches, being unable to second guess certain plot outcomes made the film a fresh experience. Farrow's performance as the guilt-ridden, grieving mother is superb. The supporting cast are also effectively good; particularly Conti. I also liked Anna Wing, better known for playing Lou Beale off EastEnders, as the dotty spritualist Mrs. Flood. Small, minor details like the contrast between Julia's well-off lifestyle and Mrs. Flood's impoverished dwelling really highlighted seperate worlds; just as much the ones conveyed for both the living and the astral plane.

Worth noting that Colin Towns's soundtrack is suitably eerie and chilling. Particularly fond of how he layers a melancholic piano melody with an eerie modern synthesizer riff; complimenting Julia's fragile mental state and the supernatural elements. Town's music is a strong reason why the film's haunting atmosphere is such a success.

Mark this up as another film which has me regretting not seeing when I was a child. Full Circle would have scared me out of my wits back then. A truly rewarding discovery, and definitely amongst my favourite watched so far this year.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Ya Medulla

Always get a buzz whenever my way favourite interests occasionally combine. In this case, it's whether the west coast rap group, known as The Pharcyde, sampled Joseph Green's The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962), or not? 

The cult-classic, sci-fi horror features Abie Baker's 1959 single The Web; notably, when the mad doctor is on the prowl for a fine, young woman's body to replace the one his fiancée lost in a car accident. Cue curb crawlin', fleapit nightclubs scenes and plenty of ogling. Although not credited anywhere, the sleazy trumpet horn sounds identical to the one used on The Pharcyde's 4 Betta or 4 Worse (1992). Also, there's the disturbing phone call segment on the third verse of their song containing these lyrics: "I'll take a hammer and start to drill/ Your skull, and then I'll really start/ Picking, your brains cells, I will be/ Licking, mm mm mm mm! Okay?/ You taste so intelligent." Can't just be a coincidence with both a horn sample and those lyrics, can it?

Abie "Available" Baker - The Web
The Web/Moccasin Rock 7" single, 1959

Thursday, May 18, 2023

My Little Powrie

Unwelcome (Jon Wright, 2023)

Ireland has produced some solid horror films over the years, and director Jon Wright has played a hand thanks to standouts like Tormented (2009) and Grabbers (2012). His latest film, Unwelcome (2023), is a fairy tale style horror inspired by Celtic folklore that I've seen accurately described as Straw Dogs meets Fraggle Rock.

After a traumatic home invasion, young couple, Jamie (Douglas Booth) and his expectant wife Maya (Hannah John-Kamen), discover they've inherited a house in the Irish countryside and so upsticks from the shit hole that is London for greener pastures. With their new home needing repairs, our couple unknowingly hire the services of the local scumbag family, led by the patriarch "Daddy" Whelan (Colm Meaney). As can be expected, things escalate from loafting while on the job to more threatening territory. To add further fuel to the fire, our protagonists' home also has other occupants residing at the bottom of their garden - folklore creatures known as redcaps.

Unwelcome harkens back to old creature features in the vein of Gremlins. Filmed with a combination of traditional practical effects and digital wizardry, the end result for these violent redcaps is very impressive. Along with their wicked nature, the imps are entertaining to watch as they lay the smack down upon the Whelans. Their comedic actions and behaviour were what really made the film for me.

The garden scenes were filmed in a studio. This proved to be an ingenious decision, as it utilised the exaggerated theatrics present in old studio films for instant visual changes to occur. I also observed the use of a studio evoked the twisted fairy tale atmosphere of Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves (1984). This stylised treatment adds a lot to the fantastical elments of the film.

Unwelcome isn't entirely perfect. Fantastical as the premise might be, Jamie being such a failure is cringe to watch at times, regardless if it's for comedic purposes. His character does develop some courage during one confrontational scene; in a similar vain to Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs (1971), but he's definitely a burden to Maya at times. She is the stronger person of the two, and it becomes more apparent throughout the film that she is the film's focal point.

Kudos to Jon Wright for avoiding what could have potentially been another excrutiatingly pretentious, art house, folk-horror and delivering an accessible and entertaining creature feature for commoners like me. Since Hatching (2022) eventually made it onto Joe Dante's radar, then I would wager Unwelcome's murderous critters would wind up on there, too. It's not perfect, but Wright's film manages to break the disappointing run of horror films that have been around in the last few months and that's a cause for celebration from me. Enjoyable film.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Long Weekend

Maybe it's middle age, but tolerance for epic feature films has taken a noticeable plunge since my bladder took over. Alas, intermissions, which a were a common recess in the past, are no longer common in these modern times, which is baffling, since today's films are usually around two hours minimum as standard and a welcome break is probably more necessary now than it ever was. 

The real problem is the unnecessary scene filler to pad out a film when it really doesn't need to be. Dune, Terrifier 2, and Top Gun: Maverick were relatively recent films I thoroughly enjoyed, but even they felt too long to me.

Of course, there are exceptions where a film's epic length isn't a soul-crushing experience. Thus, here is a list of films, 150 minutes minimum (not including director/extended cuts or special editions) which miraculously managed to maintain the interest of your host:

All Quiet on the Western Front (Lewis Milestone, 1930)

Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)

The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957)

The Longest Day (Ken Annakin, 1957) 

The Guns of Navarone (J. Lee Thompson, 1961)

The Great Escape (John Sturges, 1963)

Kwaidan (Masaki Kobayashi, 1965)

The Dirty Dozen (Robert Aldrich, 1967)

Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)

Where Eagles Dare (Brian G. Hutton, 1968) 

The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)

The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)

The Towering Inferno (John Guillermin, 1975)

Kagemusha (Akira Kurosawa, 1980)

Fitzcarraldo (Werner Herzog, 1982)

Scarface (Brian De Palma, 1983)

Amadeus (Milos Forman, 1985)

Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)

Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1996)

Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997)

Armageddon (Michael Bay, 1998)

Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1998)

The Green Mile (Frank Darabont, 2000)

Downfall (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2004)

The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)

Grindhouse (Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez, 2007)

Love Exposure (Sion Sono, 2008)

Watchmen (Zac Snyder, 2009)

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (Daniel Farrands & Andrew Kasch, 2010)

Hard to be a God (Aleksei German, 2013)

The Raid 2 (Gareth Evans, 2014)

The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2014)

The House that Jack Built (Lars Von Trier, 2018)

The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)

The Last Duel (Ridley Scott, 2021)

Elvis (Baz Luhrmann, 2022)

R.R.R. (S.S. Rajamouli, 2022)

Honourable mentions omitted for being a couple of minutes shy: 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966); Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979); Das Boot (Wolfgang Peterson, 1981); and All Quiet on the Western Front (Edward Berger, 2022).

Dada Debaser Bonus:

Less a film and more of a form of masochism, imagine the poor sap opting to waste over a month of their life watching the art-house film Logistics. Clocking in at a whopping 51,420 minutes (35 days and 17 hours), it chronicles the reverse journey of a pedometer from retail to manufacture. Chances are it would be more stimulating than anything on QVC, though.

Logistics (AKA Logistics Art Project) (72 Minute Edit)
Erika Magnusson & Daniel Andersson, 2012

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Looks Familiar

Renfield (Chris McKay, 2023)

The horror comedy Renfield (2023) is nowhere near as terrible as I feared, but it's hardly a great film either. It did manage to produce a few rare chuckles out of me. I'll probably forget most of it within a few days, though, and really can't be arsed to provide an in depth analysis over a mediocre film, therefore I jotted down my observations:

The story reminds me of the obligatory cut and paste (super)hero vs. gangsters formula, we’ve all seen before. This includes a matriarch crime boss and her idiot son. The only real noticeable change to the formula is the absence of a romance subplot between Renfield and whatever Awkwafina’s character was called.

It looks like a Rob Zombie movie. Ultra colourful interior scenes and washed out exteriors. Mix that with all the supernatural powers, and Renfield winds up looking and feeling like a campy comic book adaptation.

The bloody and gory digital visual effects are a mixed bag; some of it looks serviceable, while other times they appear ridiculously dated. Could have been lifted from a Syfy movie.

The film is set in New Orleans, yet I doubt anyone would even realise it. Looks like any other generic western city.

On a more positive tip, kudos to Nicolas Hoult for portraying the titular familiar with a degree of likeability while still immitating Dwight Frye's iconic evil laugh

Awkwafina was nowhere near as annoying as I expected her to be.

Cage predictably steals every one of his scenes as the Prince of Darkness. I'm wondering if he just wore his usual wardrobe on the set.

The biggest highlight came at the beginning of the film with the obviously remixed scenes from Tod Browning's revered Dracula (1931); easily the most impressive film reference/homage since The Great Escape scene from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). Made me wish the rest of Renfield had been given the same treatment, too.

Mentioned the warning signs in an earlier post, but, like a moth to a flame, I was still drawn to it.