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Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Stop the muthafukkin' presses!!!

Vaulties, if you read this blog regularly you know I always strive to alert you to stuff worth your time, and with the upcoming Astro Boy movie opening in less than a month — which, for the record, I do not support for a number of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" reasons (yet I will see it just so I can legitimately comment on it, so I'm a two-faced douche) — the book I'm about to recommend could not possibly have rolled around at a better time. Y'see, I just read an advance copy of Abrams Comicarts's THE ART OF OSAMA TEZUKA: GOD OF MANGA and loved it so much I would have tender, loving sex with it if it were equipped with compatible genitalia.

My lifelong fascination with and deep love of superheroes began in my very early youth with exposure to the animated versions thereof, and among the first heroes to have a massive impact upon me was Astro Boy, without question the most internationally famous of tezuka's scores of creations. He's the adorable little robot guy seen above and to those unfamiiar with him he may look a typical Japanese "kawai" character, meaning all cuteness and little or no substance, but that could not be further from the truth. By my estimation Astro Boy is one of the great superheroes in the entire genre, regardless of what country and culture spawned him, bearing as he does a tragic origin, a powerful allegorical point to his existence, and his status as perhaps the cutest hero ever to be such a complete and total indomitable badass.

Astro Boy aside, Tezuka's impact on manga and anime is impossible to overestimate, and there's a reason that the guy was called the "God of Manga." I'll give this book a proper and well-deserved review when my schedule allows, but take my word that this is one of the indispensable comics history tomes that absolutely belongs on the enthusiast's shelf. A ten out of ten across the board, this is the finest book ever done on Tezuka in English and would be virtually impossible to improve upon. The damned thing even comes with a DVD documentary showing Tezuka's creative process. Did you know the guy produced twenty pages per day? Yes, you read that right: twenty pages per day!!! They just don't make 'em like Tezuka anymore, bwah... HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The child's drawing that sparked a psychedelic classic: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by Julian Lennon, circa 1966/67.

I'm a Beatles buff, but I'm not gonna lie. The first time I heard "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was when Elton John's cover of it came out and I was totally blown away by it, but at that tender age I had not yet heard the Beatles original. That situation was corrected a couple of years later and I was one of the legion of fans who'd been led to believe the song was a lysergic ode to the joys of LSD — "Lucy, Sky, Diamonds..." Get it? Heavy, man! — but such was not the case as many of us discovered after years of immersing ourselves in Beatles minutia. A far cry from its alleged hallucinogenic roots, the true origin of the song couldn't possibly be more innocent or sweet, and reading this obit admittedly made me tear up. From the Associated Press:

'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds' Subject Lucy Vodden Dies

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lucy Vodden, who provided the inspiration for the Beatles' classic song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," has died after a long battle with lupus. She was 46.

Her death was announced Monday by St. Thomas' Hospital in London, where she had been treated for the chronic disease for more than five years, and by her husband, Ross Vodden. Britain's Press Association said she died last Tuesday. Hospital officials said they could not confirm the day of her death.

Vodden's connection to the Beatles dates back to her early days, when she made friends with schoolmate Julian Lennon, John Lennon's son. Julian Lennon, then 4 years old, came home from school with a drawing one day, showed it to his father, and said it was "Lucy in the sky with diamonds." At the time, John Lennon was gathering material for his contributions to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," a landmark album released to worldwide acclaim in 1967.

Lucy Vodden as a child.

The elder Lennon seized on the image and developed it into what is widely regarded as a psychedelic masterpiece, replete with haunting images of "newspaper taxis" and a "girl with kaleidoscope eyes." Rock music critics thought the song's title was a veiled reference to LSD, but John Lennon always claimed the phrase came from his son, not from a desire to spell out the initials LSD in code.

Vodden lost touch with Julian Lennon after he left the school following his parents' divorce, but they were reunited in recent years when Julian Lennon, who lives in France, tried to help her cope with the disease. He sent her flowers and vouchers for use at a gardening center near her home in Surrey in southeast England, and frequently sent her text messages in an effort to buttress her spirits.

"I wasn't sure at first how to approach her," Julian Lennon told the Associated Press in June. "I wanted at least to get a note to her. Then I heard she had a great love of gardening, and I thought I'd help with something she's passionate about, and I love gardening too. I wanted to do something to put a smile on her face."

In recent months, Vodden was too ill to go out most of the time, except for hospital visits.

She enjoyed her link to the Beatles, but was not particularly fond of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." "I don't relate to the song, to that type of song," she told the Associated Press in June. "As a teenager, I made the mistake of telling a couple of friends at school that I was the Lucy in the song and they said, 'No, it's not you, my parents said it's about drugs.' And I didn't know what LSD was at the time, so I just kept it quiet, to myself."

Vodden is the latest in a long line of people connected to the Beatles who died at a relatively young age. The list includes John Lennon, gunned down at age 40, manager Brian Epstein, who died of a drug overdose when he was 32, and original band member Stuart Sutcliffe, who died of a brain hemorrhage at 21.

A spokeswoman for Julian Lennon and his mother, Cynthia Lennon, said they were "shocked and saddened" by Vodden's death.

Angie Davidson, a lupus sufferer who is campaign director of the St. Thomas' Lupus Trust, said Vodden was "a real fighter" who had worked behind the scenes to support efforts to combat the disease.

"It's so sad that she has finally lost the battle she fought so bravely for so long," said Davidson.

A recent photo of Vodden.

Monday, September 28, 2009


My buddy Kenny alerted me to a site called UGLIEST TATTOOS: A GALLERY OF REGRETS , and I have to say I'm delighted to see it more than lives up to its name. Many are poorly executed, poorly thought out, or just plain bad, but then there are the ones that are just plain conceptually beyond the pale. Some of the tats on display will make you ask exactly what the fuck, if anything, was going through then minds of the people who willingly had them inked into their hides, like for instance Wolverine heroically riding My Little Pony,

or the horror of what appears to be the Pillsbury Dough Boy raping Little Debbie atop a snack cake:

I don't know what's most disturbing about this, the bruises on Little Debbie's thigh and buttcheek or Poppin' Fresh's eerie facial expression and doughy balls.

But then we have the following, a piece of work that just plain stopped me in my tracks:

It took me a moment to suss out what it was, but how does one come up with a bad caricature of the recently deceased David Carradine atop the body of a grasshopper (get it?) that has an auto-erotic strangulation setup tied around its neck and engorged Johnson? This is a rare instance of something that is simultaneously incredibly offensive and utterly brilliant, which, come to think of it, is the perfect way to describe much of the site's content. Check it out immediately, but bear in mind that it's in no way safe for work.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Old school Greek erotic pottery: is this pornography?

I regularly try to have some sort of porn available as an alternative to the sex-negative theological stuff observed worldwide each Sunday, and this week's offering is a charming change of pace from the silly and largely un-erotic video parodies of TV shows and movies I usually find. You see, the word pornography does not necessarily bear a negative connotation, despite deriving from "pornographos," a melding of the Greek terms for prostitutes ("porne") and the recording or illustration ("grapho") of that subject, and now having "sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal" as my favorite of its several definitions. That definition is certainly far more open to interpretation than "obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, esp. those having little or no artistic merit," and to folks like me who have no problem admitting to enjoyment of pornographic imagery (though not everything appeals to me), I like having such an open-ended characterization available.

My dear friend Stephanie is one of my favorite human beings and quite a saucy bit of half-British totty with whom I share an number of common interests, including music, comics, and giant monsters. We also share a fascination with most things sex-related, and some of Steph's painted works speak from that aspect of her personality. She recently sent me a jpeg of one of her recent works, and I dug it for obvious reasons.

"Pistil" by Stephanie Ratcliffe.

Channeling her inner Georgia O'Keefe, Steph made with the always appealing fusion of the labial with a lovely garden specimen, and I don't care what anyone says: I will never, ever get sick of such pussy paintings. Vaginal petals are beautiful and endlessly fascinating to me, and when I am not finding myself up close and personal with a living specimen of the enthralling human version I am quite happy to find intellectual comfort in the painted depiction of such. Yes, O'Keefe was the undisputed master of the vadge canvas, but Steph is certainly no slouch by my way of thinking. Her painting is straight-up art and easily construed as pornographic, but I bask in all its lippy glory and see no trace of obscenity in it whatsoever. But then again I am a famously outspoken advocate of most things related to the sweet and mighty pussy so I'm an easy sell, but be that as it may I would defend this work in any court of law as definitely possessing "redeeming social importance," something that obscene material apparently does not feature, as determined by the Supreme Court in the cases of Roth v. United States and Alberts v. Canada (both 1957).

Which is a long-winded way of saying, "Stephanie, I really like your pussy painting. Well done!"


Each week I think I've finally heard about a Hollywood project that once and for all proves that the great dream factory has run out of ideas, but then another week goes by and a project even more ludicrous and creatively bankrupt than the previous week's surfaces like a stubborn floater turd. The most recent of such projects to make my gorge rise was the bigscreen adaptation of the BATTLESHIP board game — no, seriously! — and now comes the announcement in VARIETY of a movie based on Barbie, the venerable girl's toy with bodily proportions suggesting a human female re-engineered by extra-terrestrials with only their own physiognomies to serve as a reconstructive road map. Hopefully the film will be a forum for a long-needed lampooning, but I doubt Mattel will be hip enough to allow that...

Saturday, September 26, 2009


My dear Vaulties, do not walk. RUN to your local comics shop and pick up Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson's BEASTS OF BURDEN #1 immediately! It's a top notch effort in every respect and you simply must read it. If you know anything about comics since 1991 you know both Dorkin and Thompson have proven time and again that they can deliver the goods, and here their talents create nothing short of lightning in a bottle. And how's this for a loopy hook of a concept: the protagonists are a bunch of house pets, dogs and cats, who are paranormal investigators/problem solvers in the town of Burden Hill. Much like both the book and movie of WATERSHIP DOWN, I totally bought everything about the anthropomorphized critters and their world, and even though we may see and live with them every day, capturing the nuanced moods and movements of dogs and cats is not something lightly undertaken, but Thompson has it nailed down tight. Here are some examples of what I'm going on about:

Stunning, right? It's just so much fun that I wanna reach out and kiss somebody. Apparently there have been four previous short stories featuring some of the characters and I am now on a mission to find and read each one.

No bullshit, you've gotta check this one out. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

Friday, September 25, 2009


"Always expect the unexpected! In my world, one mistake can cost you your life!"
-Tara, explaining Rule Number One for survival in Skartaris.

In my nearly two decades of living in New York City and riding the underground MTA rails nearly every day, I have seen a lot of scary shit that at times justifies the casual visitor's paranoia about the subway being an underground death trap. When I was a child I was taught that when in New York City one must always be alert and ready for anything, a sentiment expressed quite eloquently in Mike Grell's barbarian adventure comics series THE WARLORD. Beautiful savage Tara firmly informs soon-to-be-hero Travis Morgan that one must "always expect the unexpected" in her subterranean world of Skartaris, a realm where one must hone their martial skills to a lteral razor's edge to fend off endless vicious foes and remain ever vigilant in the face of megalomaniacal madmen, crazed techno-wizards, deadly mythological threats and still extant carnivorous dinosaurs. Taking her warning to heart, I have thought back to when I first read it at the age of ten many times since then, but most often when confronted with random, unexpected and potentially dangerous loonies on the subway. I've personally run into several since 1990 and this morning I witnessed another disturbing textbook example that brought Tara's words to mind.

While riding to work on the R train, I was deeply engrossed in the book I was reading when a mother boarded the train with her brood of three rowdy children. Displaying the lack of interest in keeping her kids under control that I see all too often in this generation of parents, the woman took her seat and paid no attention while her Aryan youth brigade screamed, stood on seats, kicked the walls and otherwise made utter nuisances of themselves. After about ten minutes of this, the Hispanic gentleman unluckily seated next to the kids began to grow visibly irritated with their shenanigans when the car's doors opened and in walked a black gentleman of perhaps fifty years of age. At that point my well-honed "crazy sense" began to go off bigtime, and the black guy sat down directly across from the Hispanic fellow.

The black dude's eyes burned with an unexplained anger and his gaze fixed itself upon the man across from him. Suddenly, one of the kids lost his footing and fell onto the Hispanic guy, who reacted by saying, "Damn! Would you watch it?" That expletive provided the black guy with a perfect opening and he snarled, "Watch your mouth!" The stunned rider across from him asked "What???" and then the black guy let loose with an escalating litany of admonitions and undisguised threats that killed all other conversation on the train.

"That's right, you heard me!" he growled. "Don't you curse! Not in front of the kids!" The mother, finally awakening from her indifference, sensed that the man was crazy and corralled her brood to her side, thereafter moving them to the relative safety of a few seats away from the conflict. The Hispanic guy tried to brush it off by at first ignoring the irate passenger, but when the black guy kept clenching and unclenching his fists and trying to intimidate him for no good reason, the Hispanic guy made the mistake of responding with, "Oh, shut up and go sell some drugs."

He shouldn't have said that.

The train's passengers sat riveted as the black guy's face went through a series of contortions before he exploded at his target with, "I have a job! Had it for fifteen years!!! Who are you to judge me? I'm gonna..." He then noticed that there were children present and declared that he would not continue "out of respect for the kids." The Hispanic countered with more jibes at the man's obvious instability, punctuated with some finger-pointing, which only fueled the loony's anger. "Oh, just you wait!" shouted the crazy black man. "Just you wait until you get off the train! I'm gonna beat you down to the platform!!! Pointing a finger at me??? I'm gonna break that finger right off! You better hope the police are standing right there when we get off, 'cause I'm gonna beat. You. DOWN. Do you hear me???"

The guy radiated pure, insane hatred and stood up from his seat to go and hover above his target, his eyes practically staring a hole through the Hispanic guy's head. Still clenching and unclenching his fists, the guy towered over his intended victim, but he soon shifted position to the floor-to-ceiling pole and leaned against it, still continuing to stare. I'm sure none of my fellow travelers doubted the psycho's intention of beating the guy half to death when he disembarked, and I swear you could cut the tension with a dermatome blade. The Hispanic passenger ignored his would-be assailant, but it was clear from the beads of sweat on his forehead and the nervous drumming of his fingers upon his thighs that he realized he'd inadvertently bitten off more than he could chew, and it was only a matter of time until he had to leave the relative safety of the subway care.

And then what?

I never saw that question answered because the train arrived at my stop, Times Square/42nd Street, and I had to get off. I'm glad I didn't get to see what may or may not have transpired, but I'll tell you this much: if there had been one of New York's Finest on the platform when I walked out, I would have sent him onto the train with a brief rundown of what was going on. The Hispanic guy's fear was one thing, but the rest of the passengers were just as nervous and uncomfortable, so maybe some police presence could have throw some water on the proceedings. But then again, this was the MTA subway, so one must always expect the unexpected...


The latest of the DC Comics animated DVD features adapts the Geoff Loeb and Ed McGuiness graphic novel with all the superheroic bombast and action one would expect from the studio, and the icing on the cake is the return of Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly and Clancy Brown to the characters they voiced to lasting effect in the BATMAN and SUPERMAN animated series starting in the 1990's.

"I am not a crook": President Lex Luthor.

The story revolves around what happens when Lex Luthor is elected President of the United States and how that level of power allows him to take his intimate war with the Man of Steel to new levels of very personal assholism, basically framing him for murder and issuing a billion-dollar bounty for his arrest (yeah, good luck with that!).

Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

Of course Batman's got Superman's back as government-deployed supers seek to corral the Kryptonian — a hardcore-badassed team comprised of Captain Atom, Power Girl, Starfire, Black Lightning, Katana and Major Force — and a legion of bad guys seek to collect on Luthor's bounty, so there's lots of ass-whuppin' to be had.

Just a smattering of the film's shitload of bad guys!

I mean there's the Silver Banshee,

Mongul, Solomon Grundy, Giganta, Cat-Man, Deadshot, Black Manta, Gorilla Grodd, Captain Cold and Mister Freeze, Nightshade, and even Lady Shiva, for fuck's sake, and I never expected to see her in animated form! And that's not even all of them!

The all-too-briefly-seen awesomeness of Lady Shiva.

Oh, and there's also the small matter of a continent-sized Kryptonite asteroid on a collision course with Earth that Superman could easily make short work of (provided he was in a lead suit for obvious reasons, which is addressed) but Luthor's ego won't let him consider that option, instead insisting that his calculations for blowing it out of the sky with a barrage of missiles is foolproof...

The story's solid, action-packed like a mofo and briskly paced, and the fact that they were able to get Kevin Conroy (Batman), Tim Daly (Superman) and Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor) back in the recording studio at the same time was nothing short of a minor miracle. As far as I'm concerned, Kevin Conroy should be held on lifetime retainer by Warner Brothers because let's face it, the guy simply is the Batman. I can't speak for anyone else out there, but I have not been able to read a Batman comic since 1992 without hearing his voice coming out of the character's mouth. Same for Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor, and Luthor has many moments in which to shine his vile light, especially during a truly douche-chill-inducing moment involving Amanda Waller of Suicide Squad renown. (And for the record, I like Tim Daly's understated/reserved Superman, but he is not the voice I hear in my head for Clark.)

Though using Ed McGuiness's designs as a visual springboard, the animation designers fixed his tendency to draw his characters shorter and more squat than is to my liking, so it works quite well visually speaking (although Superman looks a bit too much like Li'l Abner for my liking). Power girl is also in it and drawn to look like a big-eyed Tex Avery/Preston Blair-style heroine, and her famously-big tits are also refreshingly present (and realistically dealt with when she goes to seek the help of a thirteen-year-old boy genius). Plus the film's violent as hell and at one point, during a DAILY SHOW parody, compares, in bleeped-out fashion, the public's acceptance of Lex luthor as president to how some members of the general public "also like getting fucked in the ass with a red hot poker." Lastly, it's short, clocking in at barely over an hour in length, so there's not a slow moment to be had.

Overall I'd give it a 4 out of a possible 5, and out of the whole growing stable of DC animated features I'd rate this just behind the Wonder Woman and Green Lantern entries as the most fun of the lot.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


My loyal army of nieces added a new recruit three weeks ago when wee Lily Leona Murr entered the world following her extraction from her mother, Olivia, via McCullough chainsaw. The 19.5-inch, 6lbs. and 7oz. tyke was healthy as a horse and is presently being indoctrinated into the early teachings of my army's assassination skills at her home in Beacon, NY.

Wee Lily breaks out with her Nina Hagen imitation.

I have to get up there and check on her progress myself, and if she's ready I may just teach her the dreaded "Scalp Claw."

Delivery room nativity scene as Devo album cover: Proud papa Eddie poses with the new addition while valiant birthing-warrior Olivia cautions him not to conduct experiments that will turn the baby into a beer-drinking lemur. (NOTE: use of this photo was fully approved by the mother, so don't give me any shit!)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


1:11 PM, happening right now:

Once again the world of international politics collides with my insignificant orbit, this time in the form of irate protesters on 40th Street making known their displeasure over Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presence today at the U.N. Here are two shots of the crowd as seen from fourteen stories up:

And you've just gotta love how you can come away from this with a bitchin' t-shirt purchased from the protest's handy merch tent:

"You're all out of anti-Ahmadinejad tees? Bummer, dude... Oh well, I guess gimme that Motorhead tour shirt instead."



Is there any better lure for an exploitation movie junkie than the promise of a film that was allegedly deemed too ultra-violent to be rated? That was certainly the case with TENEMENT: GAME OF SURVIVAL — aka SLAUGHTER IN THE SOUTH BRONX, which, if you ask me, is a better title — , a very, very nasty 1985 grindhouse classic that was legitimately awarded an X rating by the MPAA for its foul language and generous lashings of sadism, gore, and humanity-degrading brutality. I'd never heard of it until it popped up a while ago as one of three films included in a "Grindhouse Psychos" boxed set, and my interest was piqued as I read a description of its plot. I love revenge movies and films about people trapped in a location where they're pitted against psychos or monsters and there's no way out other than to become as savage as their assailants, and that's exactly what we get with this low budget, balls-out visceral mamma-jamma. (I don't know how the fuck I missed this during its theatrical run, but I'm guessing it came out during the period in my third year of college where the only movie I saw in the theater was RE-ANIMATOR.)

The Gang: these guys make the droogs in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE look like choir boys by comparison. And is it just me, or does the guy with the red sash have a kind of Shabadoo Quinones thing going on?

The plot of TENEMENT is a study in exploitation movie simplicity: a bunch of totally '80's multi-racial thugs/gang members of the type common to films like VIGILANTE, SAVAGE STREETS and the sublime DEATH WISH 3 are hanging around in the basement of some South Bronx shithole tenement building — located in an area so desolate that it's nearly as surreal as the myth-ready wasteland in THE ROAD WARRIOR — snorting Angel Dust off of switchblades (no, really) and apparently eating rats (no, really) while making feeble attempts at break dancing, but otherwise not bothering anybody. The building's drunken Hispanic busybody of a superintendent calls the cops and has the gang busted, but the gang hears the approaching cops and has time to rid themselves of their stash and hide their weapons before their trip to the local precinct. The super mocks them to their faces as they're led away and the building's residents immediately throw a party to celebrate, secure in the knowledge that the gang is gone for good. Seeing as we're only about eight minutes into the movie at that point, it's no surprise to viewers when the gang is released a few hours later due to lack of evidence. Once freed, the gang scores some primo Angel Dust, gets staggeringly high (their leader has crazed, blood-filled visions), and embarks on a vicious mission of payback that sees them make their way up the tenement floor by floor, raping, killing and mercilessly torturing as they go.

That's pretty much it as far as the basic plot goes, so the bulk of the film is taken up with the building's residents being horribly slaughtered and finally banding together once they've had enough. As is par for the course with the urban terror genre, the tenement's residents are a corny collection of ethnic/religious stereotypes straight from Central Casting:
  • an unwed, very pregnant Hispanic girl
  • her "Ay-yi-yi"-accented mother
  • the bitter black handyman who becomes the de facto leader of the residents.
  • a tough-as-nails Jewish old lady from "the old country"
  • a loving middle-aged black couple, of which the wife is a broad-beamed complainer who would be right at home in a Baptist revival meeting
  • the savvy black single mother who fantasizes about moving to a Park Avenue apartment where she can raise her daughter in safety while drinking champagne all day
  • a blind Hispanic man and his companion dog
  • a number of cute kids for instant audience sympathy
  • the once-well-off white girl who's become a whore in order to pay for her boyfriend's raging heroin habit
There's little attempt at characterization, but that's beside the point since we're given all we need to know in brief bits of character shorthand since the real point of the movie is the carnage and the fighting back in response to it. And what carnage it is! I haven't seen so much red paint used in lieu of stage blood since the LONE WOLF AND CUB movies or one of Chang Cheh's Shaw Brothers flicks, and every now and then random bits of ripped out (and hard to identify) internal organs are on display. We're even treated to a bit where the head creep, Chaco (Enrique Sandino), and the gang's sole female member get it on beside the corpse of one of their fallen comrades (who was ingeniously killed when he shot up what he thought was heroin but was instead rat poison) and his gut-stabbed victim, engaging in some blood-smeared foreplay that made me laugh out loud at how fucking sick it was.

The only way this bit could have been more repulsive is if Chaco had wanked off between her blood-annointed tits.

The film is certainly not shy in the violence department and its "X" was earned due to that and relentless uses of "motherfucker" in the dialogue. According to director Roberta Findlay's commentary, there was actually a point when multiple uses of the F-bomb, especially when used in a maternally incestuous context, would ensure an X-rating, which would explain why RICHARD PRYOR LIVE IN CONCERT (1979) went out unrated. Then again, John Waters' A DIRTY SHAME (2004) reportedly earned its NC-17 for dialogue involving frank sexuality and concepts related to various kinky acts, so I guess things haven't really changed at all...

But the one sequence that really gained TENEMENT its X is one of the nastiest rape scenes ever committed to celluloid, and it's even more amazing/horrifying because it has such hideous impact without showing one bit of nudity. It's often been said that what the viewer can come up with in his or her imagination is far worse than anything a director can show directly onscreen, and that's proven true by this scene. The rapee is hauled into her bedroom by about four gang members and has her wrists tied as the assault begins, but a pair of sewing shears is within reach on her nightstand and she swiftly grabs them and plunges them through the eye and into the brain of her rapist, killing him stone dead. That was shocking enough, but then the remaining gang scum proceed to pummel her senseless before hitting upon the unsavory idea of killing her by unceremoniously shoving a broom handle into a place where such household items were in no way intended to go... This landmark in cinematic good taste occurs while the woman's five-year-old daughter hides in the closet, eventually coming out once the gang has taken their leave, there to discover her mother's horribly violated corpse.

Do I need to tell you I don't recommend this one as a date movie?

Following that bit of business and several other heinous atrocities, the tenants take the fight to the gang in earnest, resorting to blunt instruments, scalding water, a swiftly MacGyvered electrified fence, and other defenses before the day is eventually won by a handful of survivors.

Lesson learned: an old Jewish broad with a grip-taped baseball bat is a dangerous thing.

TENEMENT is a down-and-dirty, relentlessly vicious story that appeals to those who can handle it because it's simply impossible not to put yourself in the place of the besieged tenants. Made in the years before cell phones and during the days when a cut phone line meant no way of contacting help, this is an urban horror story that brings one back to the bygone time when New York City could still (almost) believably be depicted as an earthly manifestation of Hell itself. It's kind of a campfire horror story transplanted from the deep woods into the concrete jungle and as such it's very effective, provided one can stomach its excesses. I know I could, and stories about people resorting to savagery when backed against a wall have for some reason always spoken to some dark place deep within me, so if you also understand the appeal of that primal, on-the-defensive animal urge, by all means give TENEMENT: GAME OF SURVIVAL a look. It ain't great cinema by any means, but you can certainly do worse with a Netflix choice.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I've said many times before that while I may think Rob Zombie can't direct a turd out of his own asshole, let alone a movie, I can't quite bring myself to despise the guy and what he does because it's so obvious that he knows and really loves all the same horror, sci-fi and exploitation movies that I do. The guy's heart is definitely in the right place, but his feature films to date have been either highly derivative or remakes or a combination of the two, and I swore that his animated feature, THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO, would be the make-or-break movie when it came to me ever wasting time or money on another one of his efforts. Well, now I've seen THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO and I have to say I found it incredibly frustrating. Not an outright piece of shit like the three previous Zombie films I've seen (I refused to see HALLOWEEN 2), but very frustrating for a number of reasons.

Taking place in a world where monsters and other denizens of horror/sci-fi/exploitation films exist as a facet of everyday life, the film follows the adventures of El Superbeasto, a comedic take on the masked Mexican wrestling heroes of yore like El Santo and the Blue Demon. He's an obnoxious, sex-obsessed egomaniac whose glory days in the ring are apparently over, and he currently spends his time starring in porno movies when not hanging out at the monster-infested Haunted Palace nightclub. A little of El Superbeasto goes a very long way and after about five minutes I'd already had enough of him; he just isn't that funny, and the wearing of a luchador mask does not automatically guarantee laughs (did no one learn from NACHO LIBRE?). Luckily we have his sexy crimefighting sister, Suzi X, on hand to hold our interest.

Suzi X , gorily putting foot to much Nazi zombie ass.

Amusingly voiced by Sheri Moon, Suzi X is a ribald adventuress who is an over-the-top sendup of scantily-clad action movie heroines, and with her love/lust-struck robot sidekick/vehicle Murray (Brian Posehn), she steals the movie and renders El Superbeasto pretty much superfluous. If not for him being hornily motivated to rescue the ultra-ghetto, big-titted and topless exotic Dancer Velvet Von Black (Rosario Dawson in full-on-and-foul "No he di'in't" mode) from becoming the bride of Dr. Satan (Paul Giamatti), The movie could have (and should have) been a solo Suzi X adventure. Anyway, here's all you really need to know about THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO:
  • The movie is packed to the rafters with in-jokes for those of us who have loved and absorbed the lore and minutia of multiple cult movie genres, and you'll need to have your DVD remote handy so you can freeze-frame and catch all the familiar characters. My favorite geek-service moment was when Varla from FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! showed, voiced by Tura Satana, the icon who breathed life into the live-action version of the character back in 1965.
The brief and thoroughly welcome return of Tura Satana as Varla from FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!
  • Some of the character bits with the assorted monsters are very funny — the Metalunan mutant from THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955) officiating a wedding being splendidly silly — and I particularly enjoyed the submerged cunnilingus interlude between the Bride of Frankenstein and an all-too-obliging Creature from the Black Lagoon stand-in.
Think about it for a minute: a horny amphibious humanoid eating the pussy of a woman constructed from the sundry parts of random dead chicks? Now that's comedy!
  • The movie is loaded with original songs by the Los Angeles comedic musical duo Hard 'n' Phirm, each a direct commentary on the narrative and many of them flat-out hilarious, especially one taking place during a vicious and clothes-ripping cat fight that lets us know it's okay to masturbate to animation because "the Japanese do it all the time," so we should "rub one out for the U.S.A."
  • If you thought the idea of a live gerbil up a guy's ass was bad, wait'll you see one character's amazing colonic capacities involving a seeming legion of rats.
  • When Dr. Satan marries Velvet Von Black, he is granted vast evil powers and transforms into a gigantic demonic monster who goes on the kind of evil rampage guaranteed to put a smile on the viewer's face. Once fully empowered, the guy does not give a fuck and proceeds to wander about eating babies and such, and it's a riot.
As previously stated, Suzi X is the real treasure here and when she's not onscreen the movie suffers for her absence. Apparently a number of animators from Spumco were on hand for this one and even if one didn't know that for a fact, the film reeks of their stylistic influence and looks like an especially dirty, mega-profane and ultra-violent episode of THE REN & STIMPY SHOW. I don't know about you, but I loved that show when it was firing on all cylinders and traces of that insane energy can be found here and there during THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO's running time, but those flashes of brilliance are tantalizingly few and make the viewer realize just how good this movie could have been if a little more polish had gone into the script instead of the filmmakers being content with a half-baked cult movie lampoon. When you have a protagonist whose non-appeal nearly overwhelms the movie, that's a big problem, one endlessly compounded with gags that fall flat from start to finish, especially an ill-advised bit at the end where El Superbeasto performs (lip-synchs, actually) Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend."

El Superbeasto belts out Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend." Why?

Why did any of the writers think having him do that oh-so-eighties chestnut would be in any way funny? I assure you that it isn't. And speaking as a person who hated all of the previous Rob Zombie movies I've seen, I wasn't as tickled as I was supposed to be by the inclusion of an animated version of Zombie's would-be psycho icon Captain Spaulding.

HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL'S REJECTS psycho Captain Spaulding gets animated and does his lecherous thing.

Spaulding wasn't much of a presence when compared to such creations as Leatherface, Michael Meyers, or even Jason Voorhees, but I guess this was just about the only chance Zombie would get to put the character onscreen in animated form, voiced by his live-action counterpart, exploitation movie veteran Sid Haig. Meh, whatever...

The bottom line on THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO is that it's not an agonizing way to kill some time until something better comes along, but don't go in expecting the crazed heights promised by the trailers. Oh, and at the end there's a title card promising another adventure of El Superbeasto "next summer," so let's hope the filmmakers learn some valuable lessons from this film's misses. (I'm not holding my breath).

Monday, September 21, 2009


I just finished reading chapter four of THE WALKING DEAD's five-part "Fear the Hunters" arc and I only have three words for it: Best. Issue. EVER.


Joseph Michael Linsner's CRY FOR DAWN comics first turned up in 1989 and revolved around Dawn, the goddess of birth and rebirth and the deity worshiped by witches. Talk about a ready-made chick-friendly concept, right?

The goddess Dawn in her most commonly-seen aspect.

Well, over the years the character struck a chord with female readers and continues to resonate, so Dragon Con's costume contest was a natch for contestants who wanted to represent as a character whose very concept opens her up to limitless interpretations.

My buddy Amanda had finagled her way into being one of the show's judges and I asked if I could tag along and photograph the proceedings. A.C. was totally amenable ("Amandable?") to the idea and told me to meet her at her hotel room to pick her up. I had a few hours to kill until then, so I hit the bar and drank way too much tequila and beer, becoming acquainted with a nice con-goer named Eeyore and offering him the chance to go behind the scenes side and marvel at a bevy of beauties in awesome homemade outfits. It may have been potentially girly as hell, but we kicked down more liquor to help us get into the proper "Barbie on mushrooms" state of mind. When the time came, the two of us picked up A.C. and made our way down to where the contest was being held.

Backstage at the contest. That's Eeyore in the foreground.

The backstage area was packed with women of all shapes and looks, ranging in age from their late teens through their early thirties, and all of them were caught up in the buzz of getting to strut their stuff in front of an audience of like-minded geeks. Amanda left me and Eeyore to our own devices and took her place with the show's judges, and Eeyore and I scoped out the backstage area for an optimal photo location. I made sure not to infringe upon the space of any of the professional photographers chronicling the event and made my way through the pulchritudinous tumult, meeting and greeting and explaining that any photos taken might end up accompanying my article for THE BEAT. With my press pass prominently dangling from my neck, the ladies were put at ease and welcomed me as a tequilaed-up legitimate journalist rather than a tequilaed-up lecher out to snap photos that would later to be put to unsavory and Onanistc use. (Eeyore also acquitted himself admirably as a point man and traffic controller.) The truth of the matter is that I was there mostly to chronicle it just for the sheer fun of doing it, and the the BEAT thing was just my way in. As the evening progressed and the tequila in my system emboldened me, I ran back and forth between the backstage area and the frontlines in front of the stage to make the most of the opportunity. Anyway, that's the setup, and what follows are shots of the contestants and some commentary here and there.

Friendly contestants give a thumbs-up to estrogenic geekery.

The lady to the right — who identified herself as Shelli Da'Neal — was a riot. She was a student in Japan and studies tiger-style kung fu (for real!). Being a martial arts enthusiast myself, I asked her to show me her footwork and in no time there was much discussion amongst myself, her, and a couple of other attendees, including a guy who teaches mantis kung fu while studying Capoeira. Needless to say, I was in my element.

Gotta love the broomstick!

When HEE HAW meets comics fandom: the hillbilly version of Linsner's creation, "Ding Dang Dawn." She got out onstage to stunned silence and danced a gurk-gurk jig that made many in attendance (myself included) laugh our asses off.

Here's my vote for the best Dawn of the lot. While the character is totally open to re-interpretation, she looked like she walked right off a comic book cover. And she was a total sweetheart!

The incredible Yaya Han, professional model, cosplayer and costume designer. While not my favorite of the contestants, she was by far the best-executed and should have won first prize on craftsmanship alone.

A contestant does some last-minute primping.

The judges, including Dawn creator Joseph Linsner, get started (that's A.C. 2nd from the left).

Our emcee, Anthony "C-3PO" Daniels. This guy was hilarious and should host the Oscars instead of that tired-assed Billy Crystal..


Here's my favorite again, this time vamping for the judges.

The enthusiastic audience.

I don't know why, but I simply love this. Maybe it's my Zatanna fetish speaking...

The tiger kung fu lady works it.

Why do I have the urge to crank up The Crazy World of Arthur Brown?

A very charming Dawn who was described as "your dream prom date." As my buddy John Bligh would say, she was a doll.

The ultimate fashion accessory: a severed human head.

The simplicity of this Dawn was very appealing, and I particularly like her wings.

While the judges dickered over who would win, Anthony Daniels worked the crowd while imbibing a tall boy of lager kindly provided by a fan. Among other attendees of interest, he encountered this very fetching Marie Antoinette, complete with cake.

Note the tall boy in his left hand.

And the $1000 prize goes to...

...this lady. She was cute and rocked a nice outfit, but the prize should have gone to my favorite or Yaya. I guess the judges dug her chains (which adorned her wrists, but are not clearly visible in this shot).

Undaunted by her loss, a magnificent Yaya Han obscures her fellow runners-up.

Yer Bunche, A.C. and Anthony Daniels.