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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

BAD MOON (1996)

Thor the German Shepherd: this is the face of a true-blue hero.

AS the TWILIGHT juggernaut rolls on and perpetuates the whole pussified vampires thing, I once more take solace in the werewolf movie genre and recently got my hands on a copy of BAD MOON, a flick I'd heard of but ignored for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was its rep as yet another of the many low-budget throwaways in the genre, and if there's one thing I should have learned by now it's that you cannot judge a horror movie's quality by it budget or relative lack thereof. The original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD cost about fifteen bucks to make even almost forty years ago, and it's a classic. Same for the original THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. Though not quite within the realm of those exalted landmarks, BAD MOON is a minor gem that does something different with the hoary conventions of the cinematic werewolf yarn.

The film is based on the 1992 novel THOR, by Wayne Smith, a story told from the point of view of the titular faithful German Shepherd who lives with a family of humans that he understandably considers his "pack." In the hierarchy of the pack Thor functions as the very capable protector, and his natural abilities are put to the test when a relative, Uncle Ted, comes to visit the family and only Thor, thanks to his animal senses and intuition, realizes that the guy is a werewolf. I have not yet read the book (I ordered it from Amazon and will review it once I've finished with it), but the movie apparently follows the book's plot basics, only losing the family's husband/dad and two of the kids, leaving Thor to look out for a single mother (Mariel Hemingway), and her young son (Mason Gamble, the kid from the horrid DENNIS THE MENACE movie). Thor proves his worth as a guardian early on, when a con man tries to fleece money out of the mother by provoking Thor to attack him, unaware that the woman is a lawyer who has prosecuted dozens of would-be hustlers just like him, and from that incident onward the audience knows to trust Thor's instincts.

After an expedition to a foreign land where his colleague/girlfriend is savagely killed by a werewolf and he himself is stricken with the curse of lycanthropy while trying to save her, Uncle Ted (Michael Paré) returns to the States and embarks on a quest to find a cure for what has befallen him. Unfortunately, all avenues prove a dead end and Ted moves into a trailer somewhere in the deep backwoods of the Northwest, where his homicidal lunar activities will stand less of a chance of getting out of hand (a plan that doesn't work because his transformations are nightly and he's wracked up a body count of five before the plot even really gets rolling). When he invites his sister and nephew up to visit (with Thor along for the ride), Ted gets it into his head that the company of his family may be just the thing that will curb his rapacious supernatural urges. It is during this daytime visit that Thor is allowed to sniff about freely in the woods, where he picks up strange scents and the remains of a forest surveyor, a trail that leads right back to Uncle Ted. Thor may not be able to articulate what he senses, but he knows Uncle Ted is something very, very dangerous, and from that moment on he holds the man under very close scrutiny.

Creepy Uncle Ted, now a werewolf and safely ensconced within the bosom of his family...

...which puts him within Thor's territory of guardianship, and Thor knows EXACTLY what's up. And he doesn't like it one bit.

Following his latest murder and with the police investigating literally right outside his trailer door, Ted calls his sister and asks if he can stay with her for a while. Once he parks his trailer outside the family home, Thor immediately sets up a vigil to keep an eye on the lupine visitor. Ted, very much aware that Thor has his number, creepily tries to insinuate himself into a position of power within the pack while going out nightly to chain himself to a tree as his transformed self rages without causing harm to anyone.

Uncle Ted, all wolfed-out.

Thor witnesses the chained werewolf and has his worst fears realized, returning to the house and pissing on Uncle Ted's camper as a territorial warning. From that moment, you had better believe it's on, and in no time Thor's seemingly vicious and totally mis-interpreted aggression toward Ted lands him in the pound, leaving his pack very much in harm's way. But never underestimate the power of a boy's love for his dog, or the dog's love of his humans...

The film's low budget is certainly evident, but the story more than makes up for any deficiencies in the department of production values. The movie even has a werewolf that's much better than expected, although the transformation sequence is somewhat-justly maligned. Though low on gore (at least by my standards), the film is a lot of fun thanks to its unusual protagonist and if you're a dog-lover like me, you will root for Thor like you haven't rooted for a hero since Indiana Jones went after the Ark of the Covenant. Played by a pooch named Primo, Thor is a canine hero to be reckoned with and he even takes on the werewolf — a goddamned WEREWOLF!!! — twice, in what can only be called savage, animalistic combat. When stacked up against Thor, Rin Tin Tin, Lassie and Benji are a bunch of pussies and they can each suck it.

If not for a wholly unnecessary sex scene at the film's very beginning, I would recommend this as suitable for all ages, provided the kiddies can take scares that are mild by adult standards. This really is the heroic dog story taken in a different direction and as such it has the potential for great cross-audience appeal. BAD MOON awaits re-discovery and I suggest that you give it a chance. RECOMMENDED.

Cover art for the DVD release.


According to several news sources, including COMIC BOOK RESOURCES, this is Jim Lee's re-design for Wonder Woman, as per the revamp planned by new helmer of the monthly book J.M. Straczinski, and it will be seen as of the release of today's WONDER WOMAN #600. Not only is the Amazing Amazon getting a makeover, her origin and history is being re-written as "the gods change the timeline," eliminating her Greek influences and essentially robbing the character of the things make make her of interest (providing she's written well, which is almost never, to tell the truth). I am not down with this, but I will read it before passing full judgment, yet how can this possibly be any good? Darwyn Cooke, where are you when Diana so obviously needs you again?

Wonder Woman, looking not unlike some of the chicks who hang out around Brooklyn's Fulton Mall or Greenwood heights. No, that is not a compliment.


THE ANGRY RED PLANET (1959): a sci-fi film that would unexpectedly be tied in to my library of books on human sexuality.

While continuing my ongoing mission to purge the tiny and over-crowded studio that I live in of sometimes superfluous stuff I've accumulated over the thirteen years that I've lived here, some of which I dragged from previous places I've resided in since 1990, I unearthed this little red tome that I had completely forgotten about.

I have no recollection of where I got it from (most likely during my "lost" years) but I will always read a sex book penned by a woman because they obviously possess the equipment that I like to fiddle about with and make feel good, so who better to write a book on the subject? The thing that makes this particular little tome worth owning to a geek like me is that it was penned in 1982 by one Naura Hayden, formerly known as "Nora," who was the female lead in Ib Melchior's pre-psychedelic-yet-psychedelic-anyway THE ANGRY RED PLANET (1959), a film fondly remembered for a number of reasons, but most notably for its fucking bizarre bat/rat/spider/crab alien, a textbook example of how to do an awesome special effect with a budget that normally wouldn't buy you a sandwich at the Carnegie Deli.

Seriously, that fucking thing is downright Lovecraftian!

Hayden played Dr. Iris "Irish" Ryan, a cute redheaded scientist of the type found in sci-fi flicks from the pre-liberation age, and god, how I loved those gals. Smarter than all of the men who surrounded them, yet constantly having to prove their worth until the men got over themselves and realized that egghead chicks have it goin' on, especially when sussing out how to deal with that particular movie's non-human menace (for the quintessential example of this archetype, look no further than Dr. Patricia "Pat" Medford in 1954's classic THEM!, the Ground Zero of the 1950's giant critter wave, as played so unforgettably by Joan Weldon). Nonetheless, Dr. Ryan was mostly along on the trip to Mars so there could be a female to scream when the assorted threats showed up,

but I liked her better when she was seen as a competent member of the expedition (see below).

But I digress.

So the sex manual in question is not only of interest because it was written by a Fifties space-heroine, it's also a very human examination of everyday lovemaking and keeping your lady happy with foreplay, something that several of my ex-girlfriends have said lacked in previous relationships (do NOT get me started on the excellence and importance of foreplay or we'll be here all day). It's definitely geared mostly toward guys who have no clue as to what to do, so it's a worthwhile volume that is unfortunately most likely doomed to remain in obscurity.

The book's back cover.

While I've gotten rid of many other oddball items during this purge (which has been ongoing in earnest since early March), but this forgotten gem stays.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Here's a review by my pal and recent high school graduate Olliver, which he kindly provided because I refuse to see this film, even though it has werewolves in it. Plus, let's face it: I'm not a tweener girl, the film's target audience.
-Yer Bunche

This is a 30-minute movie review (I did everything in just 30 minutes).

After the success of Twilight 2: Electric Boogaloo, you would have to be extremely stupid if you didn't see this movie coming. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse provides more of the same from the last two movies, namely one-dimensional characters for tweener girls (and overage shut-ins with nothing better to do) to ogle over. Do you remember in high school how all the hot girls would only go out with the biggest tools they can find? Well, that's this movie. Twilight is THAT movie. We have "sensitive" vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattison), the amazingly bad actor with skills that bring to mind those of a dead fish, Bella (Kristen Stewart), who the movie obviously wants us to compare to a beaver since 60% of the movie is just a close up on her giant teeth, and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the Indian werewolf hunk who is only there to sell tickets and can't seem to afford a shirt.

This is the best way I can think of to sum up this movie.

So Bella now has to decide who to go out with. If I was a girl, my choice would be obvious, but no... This is a Mary Sue story, so "everybody loves her and she has absolutely no real problems." (I wonder if the next movie is going to have an hour of Bella picking what shoes to wear for the day?) Have you ever heard some spoiled asshat complain about how their life is "soooo hard" and then they mention it's hard because they have to "take out the garbage" or something trivial like that? Well, say hello to the target demographic because that's Bella and those who fantasize about being her.

Meanwhile we are introduced to some real vampires. These guys kill for blood and are "real" to such to such a degree that they could have just walked off the set of Blade and make the Cullen family look like a bunch of whiny little bitches (though the Cullens actually do a good job of conveying that by themselves). So these vampires are ruling Seattle, eating all the people they can and there's nothing to stop them... until they decide to stop and, for no reason whatsoever, go after Bella. The whole world revolves around her. In the Twilight series she's more important then the Pope. Mary Sue literature at its best, folks.

"Forget about all that genocide and stuff, this single dull girl is more important than the horrible history of acts you committed against my family."

So the two clans decide, "Hey, let's not fight each other anymore. We need to work together to make sure that these new vampires don't kill this single teenage girl, even though the real vampires probably killed 40 girls by now in Seattle, but WHO CARES? Bella is more important, you know that!!! You can go killing all you want, but don't mess with this one girl." It's not like she has a secret or something so they have a reason to kill her. If Bella would die, nothing would be affected by her death. Both Edward and Jacob would go on living their lives like nothing happened and the world will still revolve with one less stuck up girl in it. So anyway, the two clans put aside all their differences and thousands of years of bloodshed for this one girl. BECAUSE SHE IS SOOOOO SPECIAL. This is the same as if the KKK and the Black Panthers teamed up... for a girl. Retardedness... Sheer retardedness...

One thing I hate is how we have Stephanie Meyer's (the shit-tastic author of this snooze fest) Mormon beliefs thrust upon us. It's hard to believe that these immortal monsters would care about the sanctity of marriage. Bela Lugosi wouldn't have made a purity pledge! Jacob talks about how it's fine to "love two people at the same time" and how he's "seen it before" and Edward... oh god, this one's gonna need it's own picture.

"Will you be my wife for the next 3 decades till you die and I find another?"

So Edward proposes to Bella for her hand in marriage (blegh) and she accepts even though she doesn't want to accept because she still has feelings for Jacob. Boo-freakin'-hoo. So we have a scene where Edward (keep in mind that he's a vampire) is sitting in the middle of a FIELD OF FLOWERS IN BROAD DAYLIGHT TALKING ABOUT WEDDING PLANS!!!! He tells her how important virginity is and how it.... Wait a second; a 200-year-old vampire is a virgin? What the fuck? So you're stuck as a 19-year-old for 200 years and can do all these flips and have super strength...and you can't get any poon? Either he is the most pathetic vampire ever or he's playing her for a dumbass . I hope it's the latter but wouldn't be surprised if it were the first. There you go, another example of Mary Sue literature; he waits 200 years 'til she comes along to have sex, BECAUSE SHE'S SOOO PERFECT. How can a vampire believe in virginity? Vampires are beings of pure sexuality. Then we have Edward. The sun doesn't hurt him, he doesn't turn into a bat, he doesn't drink blood, he's made out of crystals, he's a vegetarian and believes in virginity.... WHAT MAKES HIM A VAMPIRE?!?! He doesn't have a SINGLE vampire quality. My fish drawings are waaaaay more accurate than drawing him as a vampire. This, my friends, is why Mormon women should not be allowed to write books.

Of course, don't say that while watching the movie or you'll face a similar result (see above) from hardcore "Twilitards."

The movie consists 90% of just close-ups. Damned near everything is a close-up. The talking is zoomed all the way in, the makeout scene is zoomed all the way in... The only time to movie ever zooms out is to show the Indian kid's chest. I got that the vampires are pale, it's okay, but I didn't need to stare at his pale-as-a-corpse's-ass face for 2 solid hours. It jumped around more than Manos: Hands of Fate. I started getting motion sickness from it. It felt more like I was watching The Blair Witch Project than a vampire movie... Actually, it felt more like ANYTHING but a vampire movie.


Mere words are inadequate to express my love, respect and admiration for the work of this one-of-a-kind imagineer. He brought the impossible to life without the benefit of CGI, and much of his work, even though some of it goes back five decades, looks better than state of the art effects. So hail to the stop-motion wizard behind Medusa, the cyclops, the Hydra, Kali, the Ymir and those badassed word-fighting skeletons. Mr. Harryhausen, my world would have been immeasurably empty without you, and for being there I give you my most deeply-felt thanks.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Here's a quick question: say you're a dad who's out to annihilate the human filth who dosed your daughter with heroin, videotaped her drugged-up and incoherent self being gang-banged by multiple creeps for commercial sale and then dumped her used-up body, and you have one of the offending scum tied nude to a chair with no possibility of him getting away. You need to know where the rest of her rapist/murderers are and he has that information. His genitals are right there, hanging like an uncooked piece of pork, and you have on hand an assortment of deep sea fishing hooks. What would you do?

Writer/producer/director Steven Kastrissios' THE HORSEMAN (as in "of the Apocalypse;" I'm guessing, because the title is not explained in the film) is a welcome and extremely savage throwback to the old school revenge exploitation genre, similar in some respects to TAKEN (also from 2008), only minus the utterly implacable martial skills of Liam Neeson's secret agent or whatever the hell he was, but with elements of the currently popular "torture porn" genre (best exemplified by HOSTEL) thrown in for sadistic measure.

The protagonist of THE HORSEMAN is a grief-and-vengeance-driven father named Christian (Peter Marshall) who works as a pest control professional and quite literally embarks on a mission to take out the two-legged, sentient vermin who did serious wrong to his daughter, a situation he's made aware of when the cops find her body, which contained heroin in her system, along with amounts of semen. As if that information were not enough to send any parent into a state akin to that of a Fury straight out of Greek mythology, Christian receives an anonymous package containing a copy of "Young City Sluts 2," the porno that graphically depicts what happened to his kid, and it is that piece in the puzzle that sends him down a trail of ultra-brutal retribution as he kills his way down the line of distributors, producer, director, actors and anyone else associated with his daughter's sleazy and degrading death. As Christian travels the desolate highways of Queensland in search of his prey, he encounters a young runaway named Alice (Caroline Marohasy) who has troubles of her own, and the two form a charming bond along the way. But that ray of sunshine in their lives is overshadowed by Christian's horrific quest, so no matter how it all turns out, you just know it ain't gonna be pretty for anyone involved.

Every aspect of the film is the best that it can be and I've always felt the Australians have a knack for making exceptional exploitation films — MAD MAX, anyone? — and THE HORSEMAN totally delivers on its very visceral promises. The fights are very realistic, giving us an ordinary man pushed past the brink of savagery who possesses no action movie-style highly-trained fighting abilities but wields a knife, a crowbar and a utility hammer with shattering efficacy, and the flick's violence is definitely not for those who can't take such material depicted with unflinching nastiness. And, as previously mentioned, the film contains several scenes of excruciating torture and sadism that even made me utter assorted exclamations when the going got rough (and, BOY, does it get rough), so proceed with caution if you plan on watching this with friends or family who are not hardened to the excesses of exploitation cinema.

But while THE HORSEMAN has much to offer and is very entertaining, it kind of runs out of steam during its last third and degenerates into repetitiveness as it makes its way to its inevitable climax. The film's structure basically follows Christian's path of vengeance and can more or less be summed up as "Christian finds scumbag, beats the shit out of the guy, tortures him for information and then kills him before continuing on to the next scumbag," and while it's an entertaining ride, it becomes a catalog of predictability (with a few exceptions) that prevents the film from being a classic. That's a frustrating aspect when one considers how strong the narrative is when coming out of the gate and maintaining serious momentum before the final third's coasting (which is not to say that the final act does not contain brutal graphic violence).

But, all quibbles aside, THE HORSEMAN is definitely with your time, especially if you're looking for the polar opposite of the largely toothless fare that continues to crawl across the world's movie screens. RECOMMENDED.

Cover art for the American DVD release.



The grave of GG Allin: more pilgrimage-worthy than Mecca?

Today is the seventeenth anniversary of the loss of one of our fair nation's great troubadours and social commentators. Yes, it seems like only yesterday when GG Allin — born Jesus Christ Allin, later changed to Kevin by his mother — was unceremoniously plucked from this mortal coil to lend his singular musical stylings to the Choir Invisible, although I doubt he was granted admission through the Pearly Gates thanks to certain aspects of his general philosophy and behavior. Nonetheless, we are without his dulcet tones and lyrics that would have made Harold Arlen tear out hunks of his hair in a fit of raw jealousy. Never again shall we experience such rich and deeply moving works of the musical arts as "Expose Yourself to Kids," "I Wanna Piss on You" and of course the timeless and beatific song to Ethiopia, "Kill the Children, Save the Food." Such odes as "Fucking the Dog," "Abuse Myself I Wanna Die," "Bloody Mary's Bloody Cunt" and the cautionary "Needle Up My Cock" are now left as fodder for cover artists and would-be suburban iconoclasts, never more to be shouted to the heavens by the man who exposed his soul (and other things) through his body of work.

So rest well, o contentious GG. Your loss is mourned and may you have found a place in Valhalla where your philosophy of "drink, fight and fuck" would most certainly be embraced.

The corpse of Jesus Christ "GG" Allin, thoughtfully defaced by family, friends and fans.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"45" by Elvis Costello

Ar 2:08AM on this date forty-five years ago, I entered the world, and there os no one I would rather have perform an ode to my age and the now-dead 45rpm vinyl single than the great Declan Patrick McManus, aka Elvis Costello. So I give you (and myself) "45." Enjoy.

-Yer Bunche (still out partying when this posts)

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Sing along, dear Vaulties: "Maybe I know that he's been cheatin', maybe I know that he's been untrue..."

This just arrived in the mail and yes, it's an actual autographed photo of Lesley Gore as Pussycat, Catwoman's hench-girl who seduced the Boy Wonder and turned him evil. For me, an early lesson in the power of pussy. Thanks, Norman!


And we close the dance party with this indelible masterpiece.


Blowfly, blaxploitation and guest appearances from Dolemite and Jim Kelly. If only my real birthday party were like that!


An unjustly forgotten and totally badassed classic by the all-female Fanny.


Run-DMC's crowning moment of utter glory. Sing along, dear Vaulties: "Dick in your mouth all day!!!"


Fuck "The Star Spangled Banner;" this should be our national anthem!


The best Elvis cover ever.


What's a birthday party without Wendy O. Williams and The Plasmatics?


A forgotten gem from L.A.'s Legal Weapon.


The best song ever about a serial rapist. What, you didn't know what it was about? Well, when a song rocks this hard, you can be forgiven for not noticing the lyrics.


The only song in history to make mention of a "muthafuckinsuckadickaniggalog," whatever that may be.


Witness the unintentional invention of "New Wave" over a decade before it actually happened.


This one has been my theme song more times than I care to admit, but truth must be addressed.


I dare any white girl to even think of performing this one nowadays. Bravo, Patti!


Who says there was no romance in classic punk?


Magic" by Pilot. A favorite during my awful formative years, this song will always remind me of the few pleasant moments during a radio era dominated by utter pap and the nascent stirrings of disco.


This one's for fellow metalheads only. This is the track that immediately turned me into a Mercyful Fate fan and led me to listen to this album around three times a day for the following three months (for real), thus insuring that my soul is damned for all eternity. The live videos I found for this suffer from lousy sound quality, so why argue with the perfection that is the studio version?


Truth told via satire.


Another song that ruined me for life, this one first encountered on an extremely drunken night during a Manhattan loft party when I was fifteen. I don't speak the language, but I've listened to this so many times over the past three decades that I can sing the entire thing in German. Miss Nina Hagen, I love your Teutonic ass and hope you never, ever change.


A great virtually unknown Blondie tune from "Eat to the Beat" (1979). Why this was never released as a single is beyond my powers of comprehension.


The song that made me love the B-52's, and still my favorite of their catalog.


The all-time classic of the "ereki" genre.


"Oooooh, oooh, everybody knows!" The only thing that sucks about this is that when the American release of the lone Plastics album happened, the version of "Top Secret Man" heard here was not the one found on the album and the album version, while okay, is nowhere near as good.


"My little Angelfuck, I see ya goin' down on a firepluuuug..."


"I've suffered for my music, and now it's your turn."


The opening lyrics sum this one up:

There is unemployment, misery, despair
Really wanna lose my job, I'm going to the fair
Life is getting rough, oh yes I know
'Scuse me, but I've got to go
There is a man in Germany
He can send a tool

No, I don't have a fucking clue as to what any of that means either.

Oh, and best dancing ever!


One of my personal anthems since 1982. The album version is much better.


For those of you who have yet to see them live.


A classic that ruined me for life some thirty-two years ago.


Dear Vaulties-

Since the majority of you don't live anywhere nearby and thus won't be able to make it to tonight's birthday shindig at a celebrated Brooklyn dive, here's the first of a few of my favorite songs that I wish were on the bar's jukebox. Wish you were here!


Yours truly, approximately seven months old, 1966, before I was ruined by potables, pussy, and pot.

In one day it will be June 27th, 2010, and on that day I will be forty-five, just five years shy of being half a century old. It's almost impossible for me to contemplate, but this coming September will mark the thirtieth anniversary of me starting high school (back in those days, my high school only went from grades 10 through 12). That was the same year that saw the release of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and Devo's crossing into mainstream pop culture history with their breakthrough hit "Whipit," which is in many ways to me the anthem for the start of the 1980's. (NOTE: contrary to popular belief, both "Cars" and "Pop Muzik" are from 1979, so they don't count as Eighties music.) Though well-remembered, those high school days become more and more distant with each passing year and I can hardly believe that myself and my friends from those days, several of whom I remain close to, were ever that young and unformed...

Tonight I will be partying with the NYC-based friends who don't usually make it to the annual do that I share with my friend Cat, and I think the party just might be the tonic I need to raise my spirits.

Yours Truly in the present. To paraphrase Bugs Bunny: "He was somebody's baby once..."

Friday, June 25, 2010


The most prescient piece of makeup artistry ever.

And Farrah Fawcett died on the same day. That's some eerie shit...

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Surprisingly, not Henry Rollins.

Needing an infusion of some of the pop culture stuff that always restores my moxie, I've begun work on a long-overdue overview of the classic TV version of HOKUTO NO KEN — aka FIST OF THE NORTH STAR — and the re-watching of the pertinent material has plastered an ear-to-ear grin across my face. It's loads of fun, but, much like its source manga, HOKUTO NO KEN is flawed in places and as a result I'll be examining its four "books" and alerting the newcomer to the "must see" segments. No lie, it just may be the single most "metal" cartoon of all time. I hope to have the first installment completed soon and with it re-start the weekly FIST OF THE NORTH STAR FRIDAY column, so stay tuned!

Oh, and don't forget: "YOU WA SHOCK!!!"

"Omae wa mo shinderu," muthafukkas!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010


Yer Bunche, enjoying a late night/early morning cup of miso soup.

Current random iTunes soundtrack: "Voodoo Doll"-Toyah Wilcox, "Agent Double-O-Soul"-Edwin Starr, "Action Woman"-The Litter, "Ahead"-Wire, "I'm An Agent"-Gary Numan, "Run for Your Life"-Al Hirt, "There'll Always Be An England"-Alfred Piccaver, "The Mob Rules"-Black Sabbath, "Needles in the Camel's Eye"-Brian Eno, "Praying Hands"-Clawhammer, "30 Years"-Electric Deads, "Margaya"-Fender Four, "The Big Beat (theme from "Front Page Story")"-Eric Delaney's Big Beat Six

(Regarding the above playlist: I always write with music on random. Helps my thoughts maintain their skewed rhythm.)

As I begin writing this it's nearly 12:30 AM and I am not sleepy in the least. One of the things that happens to me during periods when I don't have to answer to 9-5 programming is that my nocturnal nature returns with a vengeance, and lately my average bedtime takes place right around sunrise. Don't worry, ladies; I assure you that I am not a vampire (also vulgarly referred to as an "undead suckface") and I definitely do not sparkle.

This schedule can be both a blessing and a curse, allowing me to work on various writing projects without the annoyance/distraction of noisy daytime sidewalk and street traffic, but also meaning that by the time I wake up I've lost a good portion of the day and therefore available hours when stores and some restaurants are open for business. It's also rather lonely because everyone else in the world, at least those counted among the employed, is home from work and completely worn out by the time I'm ready to play. A re-adjustment is clearly in order, although I have altered this pattern for the days when I have had job interviews...

I swear by Cthulhu, if I hear the fucking phrase "You're ideal, but you're over-qualified" one more goddamned time...

...I will do nothing. Nothing except press on and say "Next!," a catch-word that I usually reserve for when the pursuit of whichever woman I was chasing at the time doesn't work out.

I'm working on two book manuscripts right now and have the notes for two more works ready to rock, so this moment of being adrift in the sea of mid-life is at least a period of free-flowing creativity. I'm approaching the books from the standpoint of them being things that I just need to let out of my head, rather than anything I may get rich off of, but if that happenstance occurs, I will not turn up my nose at filthy lucre. All I know is that even in this odd period of creative isolation in a tiny apartment that sometimes feels like a cell with amenities, I'm feeling wheels turning in my mind, heart and soul that have lain dormant for too long and there has really been no excuse for that state of affairs. Too much time has been allowed to pass without producing anything to satisfy my own artistic needs, and that will no longer stand.

I'm writing all of this and publicly stating it in order to keep my forward momentum going and send that positive energy out into the aether. With creativity expressed comes a great and fulfilling freedom and for too long I have gainfully toiled crafting what amounts to a surfeit of bullshit, especially at the job I was laid off from around four months ago. Flowery copy for churned-out consumer products, right-wing news organizations, spoiled heiresses and style guides for bad TV shows (HEROES, anyone?) may have paid the bills to some extent, but the price for that was a part of my soul, a soul I felt atrophying with every hour I spent in the design 'ho house. My time in comics had its ups and downs, that's for certain, and it may have ended on a very sour note, but my heart was in that line of endeavor, something I cannot say for writing mindless horseshit when not proofreading the boring minutia found on the sports-related trading cards that the 'ho house regurgitated back to its main client.

In short, I have been a whore for the past three years, selling the textual equivalent to man-pussy, and I'm glad to be done with that mess. I made some good friends at the design 'ho house, some of whom also got cast into the winds and some who remain within its creatively bankrupt walls, and I miss them, but right now it's all about the freedom, the centering and the enlightenment to be found by not trying to please a massa what don't give a shit 'bout his niggers (including the white ones).

With that thought in mind, I have just lit my fuming incense stencher (as the late, great Frank Zappa so eloquently once put it), cracked open a brew and am readying to sit through THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS before I retire for the morning. Tomorrow is another day, and it is looking pretty good.

Holy shit! I just realized: I turn 45 in less than a week. Hunh...

Sunday, June 20, 2010


You know you're in trouble when they give away the film's ending on the DVD box's cover.

Upon reading about this early Shintaro Katsu film, also known as SECRETS OF A COURT MASSEUR, that supposedly paved the way for the classic Zatoichi series of chambara films, I knew I had to see it. Katsu is one of my favorite actors and anything that was the raw clay from which the deadly blind swordsman sprang automatically intrigued me, plus Katsu plays a subtle yet outright villain in the piece and he can work magic in roles that show none of the lovable humanity of Masseur Ichi (as the HANZO series proves in spades).

Suginoichi (Katsu) is a lifelong unscrupulous bastard who never let his blindness stand in the way of him weaseling what he wants out those whom he mercilessly manipulates. Bucking for the position of kengyo, which is the highest rank among the skilled blind (masseurs and the like) who serve in various houses of Japanese royalty, Suginoichi murders a traveler for his money and when the killing is witnessed by a yakuza soldier named "Severed Head" Kurakichi, the blind schemer pays the guy off with half of the ill-gotten loot and establishes a criminal link with the yakuza (while also leaving behind evidence that will frame the yakuza for the murder if the body is detected). Now secretly in league with the yakuza gang, Suginoichi uses his seeming blind helplessness and familiarity with the local noble house to commit acts of rape, blackmail and sexual extortion, even plotting jobs that morally offend the hardened gangsters he associates with (so much so that one of the thieves observes that killing him would be a public service).

The sightless turd's machinations lead to him manipulating his yakuza associates into killing his master and his master's wife, thus allowing him to fake his own death (mostly to allow him to escape the wrath of the husband of one of his female victims) and slide into the sought-after kengyo position, and five years later Suginoichi reigns as a powerful figure whose wicked ways are couched in a veneer of respectability. But Suginoichi remains a man of base and vile lusts (he really digs rape), so he and his yakuza pals (who are now his well-off vassals) wager amongst themselves to see who will be the one to bag Ohan of Yushima, the stunning courtesan subject of a popular block print who is considered "the most beautiful woman in Japan." Tortured by dreams of himself serving as a a samisen player while Ohan traditionally dances (he can see in his dreams), Suginoichi uses his wealth to lure Ohan into marrying him, much to the pissed-off jealousy of his colleagues. Ohan, however, feigns sweetness toward Suginoichi in order to enjoy his sweet moolah and the privileges afforded to the wife of a high-ranking official and sneaks off the her former place of employ for clandestine trysts with her lover, Fusaguro, who feels inadequate when considering the "deeply passionate" reputation held by the blind. (Here's a clue, shithead: if Suginoichi's blind business were all that, would the hottest woman in Japan be coming back to get some from your pitiful ass?) But as Suginoichi gets wind of his wife's infidelity and plots his vengeance, his past sins catch up with him and converge on him from all angles...

THE BLIND MENACE is a period piece rather than the expected chambara sword-slasher I'd hoped to see, but the roots of Katsu's later honed-to-a-fine-art blind schtick can be found here and for that reason I'm glad I saw it. From what I've read, this film turned out to be Katsu's breakthrough role after years of him being box office poison (reportedly thanks to his looks, which led theater owners to complain to the studio heads about their repeated use of him) and from here the writers refined elements of the Suginoichi character and fused them with the wandering swordsman archetype, only amping up the superhuman swordplay, thus coming up with Zatoichi, himself a new archetype. I'd also read that this was quite a controversial item when first seen a half-century ago and I can believe that to a degree, but by today's standards this is pretty tepid stuff. Suginoichi is certainly a contemptible scumbag, but the script needed to be much stronger meat to really make me warm to this film. Purely for historical reasons, I'm glad I saw THE BLIND MENACE, but, unlike pretty much every other movie Shintaro Katsu made, I won't be returning to it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


"Now, uh, did ol' Eddie, uh, I mean the rapist...did he bite ya on the titties?"
-Sheriff Slim Pickens, good-naturedly conducting a post-rape questioning of the assaulted woman.

Two weeks before her next concert, popular black jazz singer Elizabeth "Liz" Wetherly (Leslie Uggams) gets in her car and drives until she finds the most rustic, backwoods, middle-of-nowhere place where she can clear her head and relax. When her car breaks down before finding an ideal spot in which to chill out (cue ominous banjo music), she ends up at "Bertha's Oasis," a decaying motel that would give Tennessee Williams hives, run by its namesake, a boozy, washed-up, fat and aging former entertainer (played to great effect by Shelley Winters), and her questionable staff that consists of somewhat-slow handyman Keno (Ted Cassidy, best known as Lurch from the classic ADDAMS FAMILY television series), who really loves his dog, and delusional, talentless Elvis impersonator Eddie (Michael Christian). Though openly bitchy and hostile to him, the starstruck and awkward Eddie takes a sweaty shine to Liz and hopes to wow her with his "talent" and thereby get an entry into showbiz. The attention Eddie shows to Liz does not sit well with the already racist Bertha (who has been in a long-term sex thing with him and will do anything to keep him because she knows he's the last dick she'll ever get) but her efforts to steer Eddie away from putting his cream in Liz's coffee amount to naught as Eddie sabotages Liz's car and, mistakenly under the impression that Liz fancies him, rapes Liz while a tender country song is heard on the soundtrack. The heinous act is tastefully interspersed with footage of good ol' boys watching a pair of hunting dogs fucking and, thankfully, the rape is shot in a surrealistically slo-mo fashion with no nudity. From that moment onward, Liz finds herself trapped in what amounts to a creepy David Lynchian version of Hooterville as translated into the hicksploitation genre (yes, there is such a thing, but that's a discussion for a whole other post).

At first, Liz seems nothing more than rather annoyed at having been violated, a state of attitude and composure that persists until it becomes clear that there is likely no way out of the forgotten redneck limbo. As the narrative progresses, the audience is "treated" to more of Liz's abuse and humiliation at the hands of Eddie, who thwarts her escape attempts, keeping her as his captive and more or less sex slave, the local sheriff (Slim Pickens) and the local justice of the peace (an exceptionally grubby-looking Dub Taylor), and it seems like our heroine may be losing her mind thanks to the perpetual horrors she endures as her chances of ever finding her way back to civilization appear slimmer with each passing moment. Things finally reach an insane and apocalyptic conclusion that reads like what would have happened had Sam Peckinpah — complete with signature slow-mo and guns-a-blazin' action — directed an installment of HEE HAW.

If any single image could sum up the sordid tone of POOR PRETTY EDDIE, this would be it.

Also known as REDNECK COUNTY (a much better title that communicates exactly what the film's about) and BLACK VENGEANCE, POOR PRETTY EDDIE is one seriously fucked-up and nasty piece of work and I intentionally left out describing the majority of the film's incredibly lurid content so you can witness it for yourself, but by anyone's estimation of such things, this flick is definitely one of the sleaziest pieces of cinematic vileness ever unleashed. Violent, insane in a very inbred way and toxically charged with casual race-hate, it's also surprisingly well-made for an unmitigated piece of utter trash. It has visual flourishes that are quite artsy and it conveys a sense of claustrophobic, white lightnin'-soaked hopelessness that places the viewer right there alongside the protagonist as she languishes in a nightmarish southern netherworld where no one else finds any of its horrors to be in any way out of line with the daily routine.

The performances are all far better than anything to be expected from a hicksploitation film, with my girl Shelley Winters leading the pack.

Shelley Winters as the boozed-up, desperately horny Bertha.

Once a glamorous young starlet, when middle age and its attendant poundage got the better of her, Winters wisely chucked the young hottie roles and embarked on a career reboot as a completely convincing horrible, fat old cunt who lived up to all the negative connotations of that particular extreme pejorative, most notably seen in her Oscar-winning turn as Rose-Ann D'Arcy in A PATCH OF BLUE (1965). I love Winters in sleazy, villainous parts, and as Bertha she's simultaneously pathetic and loathsome, in many ways providing the wretched center around which the story's events revolve.

Michael Christian as the titular piece of boondocks vermin.

Also of note is Michael Christian as Eddie, a man of almost seismically-detectable worthlessness whose Elvis fantasy and weird musical performance would be laughable were it not such an obvious precursor to Dean Stockwell's creepy crooner in BLUE VELVET (1986). At first merely uncomfortably awkward, Eddie is slowly revealed as a seriously deranged sociopath who is protected by the ways and culture of his backwoods home, with even the local authorities (such as they are) writing off his weird behavior and crimes as jes' some harmless good ol' boy funnin'. What lays just below his surface is a volatile sociopath whose demeanor can switch from a childlike and sincere need for kindness and approval to staggering acts of violence and cruelty in the blink of an eye. Christian is very good here and I would like to check out some of his other work.

Surprisingly, her character's plight notwithstanding, Leslie Uggams is easily the weakest element in the film. She at first portrays Liz as something of a bitch, but after the first rape occurs she acts like nothing much more serious than a purse-snatching took place, only occasionally registering umbrage with a slight bit of post-traumatic freaking out, and later still she kind of drifts from one scene to another with little protest over her treatment by all and sundry, which, when all things are considered, is incredibly unlikely, trapped among twisted hillbillies or not. By the end of the film she's kind of zombified, only springing to vengeful life during the final two minutes. But whatever the deficiencies in Uggams' performance, which I'm certain is largely the fault of the script, we still root for Liz and want to see her get the hell out of that alternate-universe Mayberry post-haste.

Bested only by MANDINGO (1975) and GOODBYE UNCLE TOM (1971) and only a notch more severe than FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE (1977) in terms of films that will absolutely send black folks into a full-on state of homicidal apoplexy, POOR PRETTY EDDIE can be read as DELIVERANCE for black people, and as such I fucking loved it. However, the DVD print that I watched looked like it was transferred from an old VHS tape (which I'm willing to bet was actually the case) and features the kind of washed-out look I remember from the much-rented used copy of PINK FLAMINGOS I owned back in the mid-1980's. Occasionally-dodgy sound is also on hand and I had to keep turning up the volume to catch dialogue I couldn't quite hear. Also, in some places the print is so murky that I could not discern exactly what the hell was going on. The film just ends abruptly; no "The End," no credits, no nothing, just an immediate return to the disc's menu, which consists solely of PLAY MOVIE and SCENE SELECTIONS options. Hopefully a distributor with more on the ball than 905 Entertainment will eventually release a crisp print (provided one still exists) with some much-needed extras, including commentary or even just the goddamned trailer, ferfucksakes!


This second (and arguably best) of the live-action films based on France's venerable ASTERIX comics series adapts one of the strip's most beloved story arcs, specifically the one where Gaulish warriors Asterix and Obelix journey to Egypt and meet Cleopatra (whose nose we are repeatedly informed is extremely pretty), and I'll be damned if it's not one of the most fun comics adaptations ever made.

The cover to the original printing of the excellent source comic.

Based on the graphic novel ASTERIX AND CLEOPATRA (1965), which itself was a spoof of the turgid and overblown Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton epic film CLEOPATRA (1963) and had previously been translated into a mediocre French animated feature in 1968, ASTERIX & OELIX: MISSION CLEOPATRA begins in 50 B.C. with Egyptian queen Cleopatra (played by the mouth-watering Monica Bellucci) pitching a fit as Julius Caesar declares Egypt to culturally be "so five centuries ago," and essentially the "armpit of the Roman empire. Cleopatra rebuts this with mention of Egyptian achievements like the pyramids and the Sphinx, and in her rage she declares that her people can still work such architectural wonders and will build Caesar a magnificent palace from scratch within the space of three months. If this impossible task is accomplished, Caesar will publicly admit that the Egyptians are the greatest people in the world, so the country's honor is at stake. Caesar takes his leave and Cleopatra assigns young architect Edifis to build the palace, and if he makes his deadline he will be showered with wealth beyond imagining, but if he fails he will end up as crocodile shit. Simultaneously, the royal architect, Arthritis (Gerard Damon), offers his services to his queen but is rejected because he's "too Rameses II," displaying an old-fashioned and conventional sensibility.

Arthritis (Gerard Damon) and Cleopatra (Monica Bellucci).

Greatly insulted at the thought of a young upstart usurping his role, Arthritis vows to do all in his power to sabotage Edifis' efforts, but let's face it, how the hell is Edifis going to complete a palace with the kind of opulence Egypt's structures were renowned for in three months? Remembering legends he'd heard of a Gaulish druid who knew the secrets of brewing a magic potion that grants men superhuman strength, Edifis makes his way to the village of Asterix and Obelix and begs the druid Getafix to lend him the potion to give his slaves the power to accomplish their impossible chore. Reluctant at first, Getafix is swayed by Edifis' sweet nature and the fact that the young man's father was a former colleague (a physician named Malpractis), so in no time the druid, with Asterix and Obelix — once more capably brought to life by Christian Clavier and Gerard Depardieu — as his bodyguards, is headed to Egypt to get the job done. But now, factoring in the time it took Edifis to get to Gaul and back, only two months remain in which to complete the project.

Our heroes: Asterix (Christian Clavier) and Obelix (Gerard Depardieu).

What follows involves the expected chicanery from the vengeful Arthritis (such as fomenting a worker's revolution among the slaves) but, as anyone who's ever read an Asterix story knows, our heroes inevitably come out on top after many close calls and an avalanche of silly humor and groan-inducing gags. Though adapted fairly faithfully from the forty-five-year-old comics template, the film seamlessly updates the proceedings to include the expected pop culture references and even manages to shoehorn James brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)" into the scene where the slaves ingest the magic potion and begin building the palace without breaking a sweat (the hieroglyph-based choreography and body language works quite well). The whole movie's a lot of fun, and some of the highlights include:
  • Monica Bellucci's letter-perfect beautiful and haughty Cleopatra. I've said it before and I will say it again: that woman is so fine, I would willingly eat her turds.
  • Gerard Depardieu again literally bringing Obelix to fully-realized life, only this time with the costume being perfected to make him look like his belly is enormous. Obelix is one of my five favorite comics characters of all time, a vastly powerful superman with a heart and soul greater than his strength, and Depardieu's portrayal of him is the Gallic equivalent in quality to Christopher Reeve as Superman, so take that statement for what it's worth.
  • A run-in with beloved series regulars, the always ill-fated pirates, who this time decide to save themselves the humiliation and sink their ship before Asterix and Obelix get the chance to do it. Denied their almost ritualized brutalization of the pirates, a disappointed Asterix and Obelix loudly berate them as cheaters.
  • The true story of what happened to the Sphinx's nose (which readers of the comics will already know, but it remains hilarious).
  • A truly staggering example of Obelix's super-strength, which renders Asterix slack-jawed in amazement while Obelix doesn't even realize the enormity of his feat.
  • A scene in which Obelix single-handedly engages the amassed forces of Caesar's army that is deemed too bloody, horrible and violent for a family film, so the action is instead replaced with an educational short on lobsters.
  • Obelix's dog Dogmatix's rescue of the heroes from a labyrinth within a pyramid, musically accompanied by "Yakkety Sax" (aka the chase music made famous by it's ubiquity on THE BENNY HILL SHOW).
  • (military chant) "Caesar's met his match at last. Cleopatra owns his...Hey, look!"
A live-action cartoon in every sense of the term, ASTERIX & OBELIX: MISSION CLEOPATRA is well worth your time if you're in need of a pleasant laugh, and especially if you're already a fan of Asterix and Obelix. This flick is the rare "family" film that won't make you spew like Mr. Creosote. RECOMMENDED.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Let's get one thing straight: Tarzan is not — repeat, NOT — James Bond. There. With that piece of information imparted, you, dear Vaultie, now understand more than the makers of TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD.

TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD is in my opinion the weirdest of the Tarzan flicks that I've seen by virtue of it coming out during the 1960's James Bond craze and the filmmakers attempting (unsuccessfully) to re-tool the venerable jungle lord into what amounts to 007 in a loincloth. Former NFL linebacker Mike Henry took over after Jock Mahoney's age and health issues rendered him no longer suitable as the heroic wildman, and before or since there has never been a Tarzan whose physical awesomeness came close to Henry's "body by Michelangelo" (as he's described in Gabe Essoe's invaluable book TARZAN OF THE MOVIES, which is in sore need of an update).

Mike Henry as Tarzan: now THAT'S a superhero's physique!

But while he looked incredible, Henry's Tarzan was done in by a script that removed all traces of his legendary animal nature, instead giving us a handsome guy who was indistinguishable from your accountant brother-in-law or a talking head on some TV sports roundup show.

Following opening credits that remind one of those seen in DR. NO (the first James Bond film), we see the jet-setting and very 007-ish Tarzan arriving in Mexico by helicopter — in a tan suit and carrying a briefcase, no less — at the request of the Mexican government.

A Tarzan for the 007 era.

Tarzan's been brought in to settle the hash of Vinero (David Opatoshu), a low-rent Bond villain knockoff who has discovered the existence of a lost city made of gold. This asshole has in his clutches Ramel (Manuel Padilla, Jr.), a lost boy from the legendary city and he hopes to use the kid to guide him to the treasure. The early part of Tarzan's investigation puts him in the sights of Vinero's incompetent assassins, one of whom Tarzan kills in an empty bull-fighting arena with an eight-foot plastic replica of a Coke bottle (no, seriously), and he learns of Vinero's penchant for sending explosive wristwatches to his enemies. When Ramel escapes (with his pet leopard) and makes his way to the home of a friend of Tarzan's (who just happens to keep exotic animals on hand for no explained reason), the bad guys trail and recover the kid, murdering Tarzan's friend and burning down his house in the process. Arriving too late to be of any use, Tarzan finally ditches his James Bond look and demands "a strong rope, a hunting knife and a piece of soft leather" (sounds like a fun Saturday night about to happen) and once in his familiar next-to-nothing duds, he frees the leopard so it can track the boy and he can follow the cat. He also conscripts Dinky the chimp as his scout and Major, a huge fucking lion, as his "army." Then follows a rather lackluster and plodding Tarzan adventure featuring our hero wielding machine guns, taking down a sniping helicopter with hand grenades and engaging Vinero's small military force with a tank, all while clad in a shorter-than-usual loincloth. In other words, it all adds up to TARZAN VERSUS GOLDFINGER.

Other than the sculpted masculine beauty of Mike Henry, there's really nothing to recommend about this film. It's paced slightly better than most of the legion of 007 ripoffs that plagued the cinematic landscape at the time and it is amusing to witness the insanity of Tarzan re-jiggered as a Bond clone, but that novelty wears of quite swiftly. The aforementioned helicopter sequence is unintentionally funny thanks to the helicopter landing behind an obscuring bush before the grenades blow it up, so we see the explosion take place behind the foliage, thus sparing the filmmaker's the budgetary output of actually destroying an expensive helicopter. That said, it's still preferable to the awful model work seen in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE two years later, when James Bond shoots down a bunch of enemy helicopters over the SPECTRE volcano base. That film had a mega-budget behind it, so shoddy model effects are inexcusable.

A few of the film's similarities to the Bond offerings that had been released up to the time of TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD's release, specifically DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and GOLDFINGER, are:
  • A titles and credit sequence reminiscent of DR. NO
  • A murderous and hulking henchman in the Red Grant and Oddjob mold
  • Gadgets, in the form of Vinero's exploding bling-bling
  • Vinero's obsession with gold (though admittedly not anywhere near as pathological as that of Auric Goldfinger)
  • The climax taking place in a vault full of gold
  • A would-be "cool" soundtrack that has no chance of competing with even three notes of a score composed by John Barry
Also of note is the presence of Manuel Padilla, Jr. as Ramel. The kid would continue as a part of the Tarzan universe when he was cast the following year as Jai, Tarzan's sidekick in the 1966-1968 NBC primetime series (which I would bet made it onto the air in the wake of BATMAN's ratings success). He was less offensive than most kid sidekicks, but I still could have done without him. Let's face it, a Johnny Sheffield only comes along once in a lifetime.

In his next film, TARZAN AND THE GREAT RIVER (1967), Mike Henry unfortunately ended up on the receiving end of Dinky the chimp, who, apparently uneasy with the shoot's Brazilian environment, tore open Henry's jaw with his fangs.

Mike Henry, after his run-in with Dinky the chimp.

Henry required twenty-three stitches and languished with a fever for three days, while his co-star was destroyed.

In summation, I only recommend TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD for Tarzan completists, James Bond knockoff aficionados and appreciators of quality beefcake. All others are advised to give it a miss.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Fondly remembered from my childhood is this early-1960's entry into the long-running Tarzan series, and I just got it through the Warner Archives program (where Warner Brothers will custom burn DVD to order from their catalog, rather than print a gajillion copies of movies that will not sell in mass volume). I was eager to see it again and now that I have, I like it even more.

An interesting departure from the usual Tarzan movies tropes, TARZAN'S THREE CHALLENGES can be seen as a sort of fusion of the jungle lord and Wu Cheng-En's literary classic, JOURNEY TO THE WEST (c. 1590's). In this story, Tarzan is summoned from Africa to Thailand by an old friend, a member of a holy order whose aged leader is on his deathbed. When the elder monk dies, he will be succeeded by a "chosen one," a rite of succession that does not sit well with the holy man's brother, Khan, an evil and sadistic warlord (played by Woody Strode, aka that big black badassed gladiator who chose to spare Kirk Douglas in SPARTACUS). Basically saying "fuck the peaceful ways of the monks" and hoping to take over and establish his son to succeed him, Khan and his forces must kill the chosen successor, a boy monk named Kashi, to make it happen, but first they must contend with my boy Tarzan. Attempting to assassinate Tarzan before he can arrive at the temple (and failing utterly), the bad guys kill Tarzan's monk pal, thus necessitating the titular three challenges to prove his identity since the one man who could verify who is lays dead on a river bank. Once he passes the tests of archery skill, strength and wisdom, Tarzan bodyguards the chosen one and his small entourage (including a cute orphaned baby elephant dubbed "Hungry") on the peril-fraught path to the location where his ordainment will take place, but after a number of casualties and some life lessons on courage for the boy monk, the party arrives, only to be confronted by Khan. Invoking the right to challenge the succession, something that has not happened in two thousand years, Khan engages Tarzan in mortal combat on a dodgy net suspended over a number of man-sized pots filled with boiling oil. As this is a Tarzan film, you can probably guess who wins, but the final battle is pretty intense for something you'd see in a family film.

What sets TARZAN'S THREE CHALLENGES apart from the rest of its sub-genre is that it's in many ways a gene-splicing of a hero's journey yarn with a martial/spiritual quest. Tarzan is here cast as the capable and wise warrior with great experience, and even though we go in knowing he's the baddest motherfucker around, he is never less than a polite and respectful stranger in a land and culture foreign to him, but he embraces his task with the diligence of the most disciplined samurai warrior. That's what most appeals to me about this film; Tarzan's formidable combat acumen was earned through day-to-day survival in an extremely violent and hostile environment rather than martial discipline, yet he eases into the role of a warrior without actually being one. Tarzan himself would tell you that he is not by definition a warrior (his connection to the Waziri tribe notwithstanding), but he acquits himself admirably as such.

Jock Mahoney, cinema's thirteenth official Tarzan.

This time around, Tarzan is portrayed by French/Irish/Cherokee veteran Hollywood actor and stuntman Jock Mahoney, and he's one of my favorites in the role. At age 44 when he shot this film — his second turn as the ape-man, following 1962's TARZAN GOES TO INDIA — Mahoney was the oldest actor to play the character, and so he remains. His Tarzan is clearly a thinker and the demands of the story place this thinking hero into an almost dreamlike Asian setting that reeks of myth and fairytale. Though taking place in the early 1960's, if not for the presence of motorboats, local garb and the parachute is seen using upon his arrival in Thailand, the story could easily have taken place in the previous century, and this pure wildman's connection to the natural world jibes with some aspects of the ways of the monks. I know I'm sort of reading these points into the narrative, but it's all there of you know how the culture works and if you've been previously exposed to this kind of tale.

The views of then-"exotic" Thailand are gorgeous and lend to the sense that this is a radically different milieu for our hero, and I would have loved to have seen it on the big screen during the days when I partook of certain psilocybin diversions. One thing that I loved was Kashi bonding with the orphaned elephant, not knowing his kindness is being observed by Tarzan, who smiles approvingly. Duty is one thing, but at that moment I knew with absolute certainty that Tarzan would have laid down his life for the kid without hesitation, and that realization has everything to do with Tarzan's appreciation of those who respect his animal brethren, but also because Tarzan is seriously down with the elephants, as is evident in many of the previous films. But most importantly, this scene tugs at the hearts of those who've read the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels and know of Tarzan's deep bond with his enormous bull elephant buddy, Tantor. In this movie, it's like Tarzan is seeing the seeds of another potentially great human-pachyderm relationship and that's okay with him.

Sadly, during the making of the film, Mahoney suffered from raging dysentery and dengue fever, which reduced him to around 175 pounds, a state that does not look good on a 6'4" frame. From what I've read, it took Mahoney a year and a half to recuperate, by which time his health issues and the producer's desire for a younger-looking Tarzan put an end to his all-too-brief reign as lord of the jungle. More's the pity.

If you're in the mood for a different type of Tarzan movie, then add TARZAN'S THREE CHALLENGES to your Netflix queue. It's not for all tastes, but it's definitely worth checking out.