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Monday, September 27, 2010


So I saw Nina Paley's SITA SINGS THE BLUES and I loved every second of it. I intended to have a review of it ready for today's post but I found most of the images available from it online kind of lacking, so I watched the movie for a second time and have decided to make my own screen captures from it to serve as examples of its fun and occasionally psychedelic aesthetic. I hope to have the review up by tomorrow, but until then here's the trailer.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


When I got back from spending Saturday with my squeeze, the lovely Sweet Tea, I opened my mailbox in anticipation of SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND. Well, that didn't show, but the copy of SITA SINGS THE BLUES I ordered was there instead. I ordered it sight unseen due to the universal acclaim it received over the past year, and I'm dying to watch it. It's a supposedly oddball animated take on the RAMAYANA, the classic Hindu epic that's loaded to the rafters with heroism, monsters, gods, and all the other stuff that I just eat up, and I'm curious to compare and contrast it against the ultra-cheesy Indian-made, 78-episode live action TV version from 1987/1988.

When I was living with my excellent roommates Mark and Patrick on Manhattan's Upper West Side during the early 1990's, I used to wake up every Saturday morning, get blazed, and tune in to the week's installment of RAMAYAN (as the show was titled; all other versions I've encountered are spelled RAMAYANA) and groove on its heady mythology, kickass music and narration that was nasally sung in Hindi (a sound that I love, but that drives most people I know insane), and special effects so cheapjack that they made the pre-reboot DOCTOR WHO look like AVATAR by comparison. I never saw the whole series, but what I saw stuck with me, leading me to read a translation of the work. It's a rich and genuinely vast tale that held me riveted throughout, and it displays none of the often dull text found in Snorri Sturluson's The Prose Edda (the most extensive source for what we know of Norse mythology), so I urge you to give it a shot.

Anyway, I'm psyched for the animated version, so has anyone out there seen it? Please write in with your thoughts.


It's time once again for our Sunday dose of filthy fun!

The DON'T TELL MY WIFE I ASSFUCKED THE BABYSITTER series keeps on rolling, but what amuses me about this is the title's sub-header of "Because She Will Fucking Kill Me!"

It fills me with a profound sadness to note that we've reached a point where natural tits are rare enough to have become a novelty. I weep.

Okay, I get that there's a market for foot fetishes. But volume 66??? Then again, there are literally gazillions of straight-up conventional porn, so I guess it's all the same when you really break it down.

This four film parody pack is notable for its variety and two great, ludicrous titles. HORAT: THE SEXUAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT BEAUTIFUL NATION OF KAKAFUCKISTAN should win some kind of award for being such a mouthful, and I just have to applaud the simple, utter vulgarity of CUNTOURAGE.

In case you were not aware, apparently Boobzilla has gone black and ain't "cumin'" back. And by "cumin'," they don't mean the essential chili ingredient.

This next one gets the runner-up prize for "Most Subtle Title of the Week."

It was a runner-up because you just can't beat this entry in the "old chick" sub-genre from White Ghetto Films, I WANNA CUM INSIDE YOUR GRANDMA VOL. 7.

This fascinates me for a number of reasons:
  • The fact that there is clearly a demand for porn catering to the fantasies of those who want to fuck senior citizens.
  • The fact that this is volume seven in a series, no doubt with more to come.
  • I was previously unaware that there is apparently an authority somewhere out there that certifies the authenticity of these post-menopausal cream pies. (For those who aren't familiar with the fetish, "cream pie" refers to a pussy visibly overflowing with some bohunk's spent DNA. Who says this column isn't educational?)
  • If the releasing company's name is any indication, we've finally reached a point in American culture where white people can apparently claim "ghetto" status and be proud about it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


If you’re a fellow aging child of the STAR WARS generation, you no doubt remember the sci-fi mania ignited by that landmark film’s from-out-of-nowhere arrival and the subsequent avalanche of movies and TV shows that appeared in an attempt to scratch that itch (translation: “cash in”). Studios and distributors scrambled to release anything that might ride the coat tails of George Lucas’ lightning in a bottle, scouring the planet in search of product, and more often than not their efforts yielded mixed-to-lackluster results. However, one of the unforeseen side-effects of this trend was the second wave of imported Japanese cartoons — the first wave occurred during the 1960’s, bringing ASTRO BOY, SPEED RACER and several others to these shores — and one of the cult juggernauts that hit the U.S. during that period was STAR BLAZERS, a military science-fiction epic that originally aired in Japan starting in 1974 under the title SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO.

The series had a well-conceived and detailed visual style — the signature look of manga artist Leiji Matsumoto — that bolstered its 26-episode narrative, and it has since gone on to become a landmark in anime and Ground Zero for a seemingly endless series of sequels and a cornucopia of merchandising that continues nearly forty years after it kicked off. There’s even a soon-to-be-released live action adaptation on the way, so before I see that film I figured I’d revisit the series that started it all. I was a fan of STAR BLAZERS when it first aired, but I didn’t get to see as much of it as I would have liked, thanks to the Monday-through-Friday logistics of dealing with adolescence, ninth grade and homework. STAR BLAZERS ran at a time when I might make it home in time to see it, depending on whether our questionable school bus driver was bombed again, but more often than not I was shit outta luck. It wasn’t until over ten years later that I finally got to see some of the theatrical films in uncut, subtitled versions, and what I saw was terrific, so I longed to see the original series as it was intended, and not in the edited-for-content American version that also featured annoying and ridiculous names for the characters (“Derek Wildstar?” Oh, puh-leeze…). That opportunity finally presented itself recently when an anime site that I occasionally purchased uncut/subbed DVDs from announced a fall clearance sale. I checked to see how much the first two YAMATO series were marked down to — along with 1979’s CYBORG 009 reunion movie, THE LEGEND OF THE SUPER-GALAXY — and when I saw that both were priced at under $25 each, I pounced. The transfers look very good, although I would not say they are remastered, and they display the expected signs of age that would be evident in a show that’s nearly four decades old, but that in no way detracts from the overall strength of the series. The subtitles are better than most fan-subs and it’s clear that the translators have a genuine grasp of the English language, but at times they have a tendency to over-formalize in their translations, which results in the English-speaking viewer having to do a little contextual linguistic juggling to fully get what’s being said. Anyway, that’s the specs. On with the review!

NOTE: I’ll be using the original Japanese names for the characters, so if you’re already familiar with this series, it will be pretty apparent whom I’m talking about. I’ll also mostly be using the Japanese names for assorted bits of tech, with the exceptions of the few American re-namings that in some cases are more appropriate translations into our idiom.

The mysterious planet Gamilas. Why do its inhabitants want to destroy the Earth?

The story begins in the year 2199, as the Earth is being saturation bombarded with massively radioactive asteroid bombs that have reduced the planet’s surface to an unlivable, scorched expanse of sheer desolation. Why this is happening is unknown, but it’s the work of hostile aliens from the planet Gamilas and as a result humanity has retreated to underground cities in order to survive. Nonetheless, the vast doses of radiation are seeping into the cities and the total extinction of life on Earth is estimated to occur in approximately one year. As the Earth’s space forces wither beneath the swarms of Gamilas spacecraft, help unexpectedly arrives when an unidentified vessel crash lands on Mars, where Earth Defense Force cadets Susumu Kodai and Daisuke Shima are dispatched to investigate. They find the body of the ship’s pilot, an alien later identified as Sasha, and in her hand is a strange object.

Message from space: Sasha sacrifices herself for strangers in a galaxy nearly 300,000 light years from her own.

Upon analysis, the object is revealed to be a message from Sasha’s twin sister, Stasha, queen of the distant and dying planet Iscandar, who offers the Earth the means to reverse the effects of the Gamilas’ bombing with a device called the “Cosmo Cleaner-D.” (Exactly how she is aware of the Earth’s peril is left unclear, so just go with it.) The problem is that in order to get the device, an expedition must be mounted that will require a spaceship to travel from Earth to Iscandar and back before time runs out, a journey of 296,000 light years (!!!). Fortunately, Stasha provides the plans for a faster-than-light engine, and once built it gets incorporated into the refurbished remains of the Yamato, the legendary flagship of the Japanese fleet that was sunk during WWII.

From the ashes: the remains of the Yamato, soon to be refurbished and emerge as a science-fiction landmark.

Led by combat-hardened veteran Captain Juzo Okita, the all-Japanese crew takes off on a damned near hopeless mission in the hastily-assembled space-battleship, bearing an untested warp drive and the potentially devastating “ripple cannon” as their firepower trump card, with a round-trip deadline of 363 days. Standing between the crew of the Yamato and their goal are the innumerable and more technologically advanced fleets of the Gamilas and their ruthless commanding officers, led by the smug Leader Dessler, so any way one cuts it, things look pretty goddamned bleak.

The Yamato leaves the Earth and the countdown begins.

One of the things that made SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO a timeless classic is that its 26-episode length affords the creators time to give the story room to develop, allowing the viewers to get to know and care about the characters and their plight, and it's simply impossible not to want the crew to win and save their — our — homeworld from a slow and horrible death. The seeds for what was to come are firmly planted during the first nine episodes, a run that introduces all of the principal characters, shows us the gathering of the crew and the building of the ship, their solemn departure from Earth with the realization that theirs is a do-or-die quest and that the final fate of humanity hangs on their shoulders, several harrowing space battles with the Gamilas, and assorted interpersonal angst, all before they even get out of our solar system. There's a lot going on and it's all fueled by a compelling cast:
  • Susumu Kodai, Daisuke Shima and Yuki Mori
(L-R) Daisuke Shima, Yuki Mori, Susumu Kodai: as classic to Japanese sci-fi fans as Kirk, Spock and McCoy are to us Yanks.

The show's protagonist is young cadet Susumu Kodai, a hotheaded pilot who burns with anger and grief over his older brother Mamoru's death at the hands of the Gamilas while under the command of Captain Okita. We see him grow and mature over the course of the series, and he is accompanied through all the horror and tribulations by Daisuke Shima, Kodai's best friend and the ship's helmsman and chief navigator, and Yuki Mori, initially the ship's nurse — and one of the apparently minute number of female crew members — but also filling multiple roles, including scanning, making calculations and other aspects vital to the success of the mission. She's also Kodai's love interest, but she conducts herself as a total professional.
  • Captain Juzo Okita
The aging, battle-hardened ship's captain who is wracked with guilt over the death of Kodai's elder brother during an early skirmish with the Gamilas near Titan, one of the moons of Saturn; the elder Kodai's sacrifice allowed Okita's flagship to return to Earth and therefore live on to possibly defeat the enemy. Now leading the mission to Iscandar, Okita vows to live to once more see the planet of his birth, but while his heart is stout, his body is old and his time is running out...
  • Doctor Sado
The sake-guzzling ship's physician and chief source of comic relief, Dr. Sado does what any sane person would do when faced with a scenario as bleak as this: he stays perpetually drunk and is virtually never seen without a huge bottle of sake in hand. He even memorably gets sloshed in deep space while the Yamato is stopped for repairs, actually managing to imbibe while clad from head-to-toe in a space suit.

Dr. Sado, boozing it up while in orbit above Pluto.

Sado's drunkenness was altered for the American version by stating that he was constantly guzzling soy milk for health-related purposes, but we all knew better. Though drawn in a wildly comedic style that has him resembling a shaved gorilla, Dr. Sado is the rare comic relief character who is never annoying and instead frequently comes off as an understandably sad everyman whose drunken excesses cushion his crushing fear and melancholy. He's pretty much my favorite character.
  • Analyzer
Also mostly comedic but played utterly straight, Analyzer can be seen as the direct antecedent to R2-D2. Capable of many functions and possessed of great bravery, this robot is another in the long line of very "human" automatons, even going so far as to volunteer his services on the mission to Iscandar with the intent to "prove" himself. His fatal flaw, however, is his uncontrollable lust for Yuki, and his frequent molestation of her is flat-out sexual harassment that some may find quite offensive. (Needless to say, that aspect of his behavior did not survive in the American edit.) Often paired with Dr. Sado, Analyzer's progress during the series is both intriguing and heartbreaking.
  • Shiro Sanada
The Yamato's science officer and the resident "big brain." The guy's a serious thinker whose ideas frequently pull the crew's fat out of the fire, but he doesn't make much of an impression until the ninth episode, when he suggests the kickass "asteroid defense" (more on that shortly). There's a lot more going on with Sanada that will be explored in subsequent episodes.
  • Leader Dessler
The smooth military commander of the Gamilas forces, Dessler is a smug prick who is utterly sure of his own power. Unfortunately for him, time and again he severely underestimates the human spirit and will to survive (and kick ass), much to his chagrin and growing frustration. But what is this guy's beef with the Earth, and why is he out to wipe out the human race? All will be revealed in subsequent installments...NOTE: the shot of Dessler seen here is from the first nine episodes, during which there was some sort of mixup on the part of the show's cel-painters, so the familiar blue skin tone of Dessler and the other Gamilas was rendered as conventional Caucasian pigment. I'm curious to see if there's any attempt at explaining this away in the later episodes.

The thrust of the first nine episodes is getting the mission off the ground and each step in that goal holds the viewer riveted. Among the highlights:
  • A jingoistic flashback to the Yamato's WWII glory days that was deleted from the U.S. version.
  • The introduction of what's essentially a holodeck, some thirteen years before STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.
  • The parade of the crew as they embark on the mission, an event met by the public with equal parts hope and fear that the soldiers are simply running away from a slow death to be shared by the rest of the populace.
  • The explanation of how the "ripple engine" works, namely that space can be perceived as a series of ripples like waves — hence the English translation as the "wave-motion engine" — and that space between the peaks in the ripples can be warped and skipped over, vastly reducing travel time. For example, when the ripple drive is first attempted, the Yamato makes the jump from Earth's moon to Mars in roughly a minute. The one snag is that the jump can only be made when the two points in space are in perfect alignment, otherwise the Yamato may end up stuck between dimensions forever.
  • The first deployment of the completely fucking devastating "ripple cannon" — known by the far more butch moniker of the "wave-motion gun" in the U.S. version — is spectacular and shocking, to both the crew and the viewer.
Look no further than this for the roots of the Death Star.

Clearly meant as an analogy for nuclear weaponry, the cannon's initial deployment completely annihilates a floating continent over Jupiter, an effect so devastating that Captain Okita decrees that it only be used when absolutely necessary, because no one has the right to destroy the universe's wonders willy-nilly. Appalled by the weapon's power, the crew wholeheartedly agrees with his order. Coming from the storytelling point of view of the only culture ever to experience the horror of nuclear warfare firsthand, this sequence is very effective and genuinely chilling.
  • The first nine episodes end with a harrowing three-chapter faceoff between the Yamato and a Gamilas base on Pluto as the ship prepares to leave our solar system. Initially intending to avoid combat that may slow down the mission's progress, Captain Okita changes his mind when he discovers that the Pluto base is the source of the radioactive meteors that have been killing the Earth, so he orders that base destroyed. But once again things are not easy for the Earth Defense Force: they have to destroy the base without using the ripple canon, and that will be a stone-cold bitch, largely due to the opposition having the "reflector cannon" — translated in the U.S. version as the "reflex gun" — a beam that is focused and amplified by a planet-wide series of mirror-equipped satellites. During the course of that sub-mission, the Yamato sustains heavy damage and several casualties before a stealth assault team led by Kodai manages to sneak down to the planet's surface, infiltrate the base through a ventilation port and blow the shit out of the weapon and the base. When the surviving Gamilas flee, including base leader Shiru, Leader Dessler makes it clear that they'd better not even think of coming home unless they engage the enemy in what will obviously be a potentially suicidal face-saving conflict. Resigned to his fate, Shiru orders his men into the fray, only to face complete and utter defeat when the Yamato employs Sanada's brillaint "asteroid defense." This entails remote controlling the asteroid field the Yamato had hidden in (to evade the Gamilas sensors and buy enough time to effect repairs) and use it to form an adjustable, rotating ring-shaped shield that can handle the enemy missiles and ray-weapons while the Yamato unleashes a barrage of its own.
The start of the "asteroid defense" strategy.

After vanquishing the Gamilas forces at Pluto, the Yamato survives its first true gauntlet and takes its voyage beyond the solar system, leaving 338 days in which to get to Iscandar and return with the Cosmo Cleaner-D. And so ends the first third of the seminal space-epic.


I'd forgotten just how good this show is, and I can't wait to get back to it. Though suitable for those age ten and up, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO is by no means a kids' show and it's one of the bleakest examples of TV anime out there, perhaps the chief aspect that appealed to those of us who discovered it thirty-one years ago. Even censored, the material was quite strong, and it's a gas to see it un-neutered.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

MACHETE (2010)

"Exploding houses? Bodies falling from the sky? Jesus Christ, Machete! You're a walking shit magnet!"
-Santana Rivera (Jessica Alba)

Sometimes you just have to check your brain at the door and enjoy an out of control roller coaster ride of a movie, and that's certainly the case with Robert Rodriguez's balls-to-the-walls non-stop actioner, MACHETE. And the true beauty of it is that it doesn't take itself seriously for even two seconds.

MACHETE sprang from a fake trailer that preceded the PLANET TERROR half of 2007's GRINDHOUSE (the most fun I had at a movie that year), a coming attraction that really made the viewer want to see the flick in question. Judge for yourself:

Audience reaction was strong and favorable, so Rodriguez actually rendered it into feature length, utilizing some of the footage from the trailer and spinning a wild, gore-drenched "Mexploitation" flick that's a delight for old school aficionados of 42nd Street-style fare and the uninitiated alike. (I took my girlfriend to see it, a woman who had somehow managed never to see an exploitation film before, and she loved it.)

Our hero.

MACHETE stars my man Danny Trejo as the title character, a completely badassed Mexican federale who dishes out evisceration and dismemberment like Halloween candy. Following a bloody encounter with vicious drug lord Torrez (StevenSeagal ), who's pissed at Machete not allowing himself to be paid off to look the other way, Machete's wife and daughter are killed and a seriously injured Machete is left to die, presumed burned alive when the bad guys torch the house. Skip ahead by three years and we find the grizzled badass eking out a living as a low-paid day laborer near the Texas border, blending in as just another illegal immigrant.

Don Johnson at his most villainous.

It's a bleak existence marked by hatred for illegals, an animosity personified by the likes of vigilante sheriff Von Jackson (Don Johnson) and his pack of redneck scum who patrol the border an kill wetbacks, an activity they lovingly capture on video.

A scenery-chewing Bobby D as the loathsome Senator John McLaughlin.

Also along for the murderous ride with those assholes is Senator John McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro in a scenery-chewing turn), a politician who's up for re-election and riding a campaign platform based on stringent anti-immigration policies while secretly being funded by drug lord Torrez. From out of nowhere, Machete is approached by Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey ), a businessman who claims to feel that the Senator's point of view fails to realize that the country, and more immediately the state, runs on illegal labor and cutting that off would fuck things up bigtime.

Machete takes aim, only to find himself royally screwed.

Booth offers Machete $150, 000 to assassinate McLaughlin during an outdoor political rally and Machete accepts, unaware that he's being set up himself; Booth has one of his own men shoot Machete as Machete wings McLaughlin in the leg, intending for the whole thing to be witnessed by the media and made to look like a conspiracy to stop the senator, thus garnering sympathy votes. Unfortunately for Booth's plans, Machete does not die easily, and once he susses out what's up, a hardcore odyssey of gory vengeance begins. That bloody trail also brings Machete into contact with two beautiful sides of the immigration issue:Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Santana Rivera (Jessica Alba) and work site taco truck proprietress Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), who is actually the head of a network that smuggles illegals into the country. With all the pieces in place on the chessboard of hate and retribution, all hell breaks loose and it soon becomes hard to distinguish between splattering sanguinary spew and salsa picante.

MACHETE is packed to the rafters with crazy, ultra-violent set pieces, some amusingly heavy-handed political commentary, and a cornucopia of tongue-in-cheek exploitation movie fun. In fact, if it were up to me I would classify this film as a completely straight-faced action comedy, and a very funny one at that.

Assorted notes and observations:
  • At age 66, the leathery Danny Trejo makes for a grizzled and Charles Bronson-like protagonist, a man of few words and positively lethal badassery, and I hope to see more from him as Machete (which may happen if Rodriguez is serious about making two sequels).
  • We get the welcome return of the toothsome Avellan sister, Elise and Elektra, aka "the babysitter Twins" from PLANET TERROR (who also happen to be the director's nieces).
Robert, give these gals a movie of their own while they're still hot, for fuck's sake!
  • Lindsay Lohan appears in the role she was born to play, namely a drug-addicted, spoiled rich kid who gets into a lurid threesome with her mother and Machete before having a change of heart and becoming a vengeful, gun-toting badass in a nun's habit.
Lilo's best role next to MEAN GIRLS.
  • Steven Seagal's sadistic and assholish Torrez is a fun bad guy with plastic hair like something out of the Devo merchandise catalog, circa 1981, and he's a scary antagonist in many ways. It's a hoot to see Seagal ditch his good guy badass image to essay a bad guy badass, one who used to be a fellow federale with Machete, so you just know the guy's beyond deadly.
Torrez (Steven Seagal), living the pimp life.
  • Also on hand is the the always welcome Cheech Marin as Machete's brother, a priest whose line "God has mercy...I don't" pretty much defines his role.
Cheech: a long way from his days with Tommy Chong.

To sum up, MACHETE is the kind of film whose enjoyment factor is contingent upon the kinds of films the viewer digs. If you love old school exploitation excess, ultra-violence, gratuitous nudity and general mayhem, this film is right up your alley. If your taste runs toward Merchant Ivory films of genteel ruminations on the human condition, this ain't for you. Ya pussy.

Machete and his army of kickass day laborers!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


My latest article for PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, a Q&A with comics historian Craig Yoe regarding Dan DeCarlo's JETTA — a sort of prototype for Judy Jetson — can be read at the PUBLISHERS WEEKLY site.


I first heard of this flick during high school when my friend Kenny told me about the trailer, which was included in the theatrically-released coming attractions collection THE BEST OF SEX AND VIOLENCE and when I saw that collection for myself years later, I was greatly intrigued. Then came my college days and the exchange of sleazy films with fellow connoisseurs, and TERMINAL ISLAND fell into my hands thanks to a freshman who would later gain deserved renown as writer/critic Selwyn Harris (at least I think I got it from him). I remember watching the film (admittedly through a thick fog of bonghit smoke), but if truth be told it happened during the first of what I now refer to as my "lost years," a period where I was perpetually drunk and/or stoned, so my memories of it remained spotty at best until a few days ago, when I got my hands on the film now that it's out on DVD. So was it worth revisiting after over twenty years?

A knife fight over one of the few available females. Just another day on Terminal Island.

TERMINAL ISLAND takes place in what was then the near-future (an element that adds nothing whatsoever to the plot) and brings viewers to its titular location, the San Bruno maximum security penal island, where the most vicious of convicted murderers are sent for life, there to eke out a meager existence or perish, or as the film's trailer so matter-of-factly states, it's "where we throw our human garbage." We watch as Carmen (Ena Hartman) is sentenced to the island, where, to her horror, she discovers she is only one of four females in the place, and is thus doomed to slavery — sexual and otherwise — under the iron hand of the psychotic Bobby (Sean Kenney) and Monk (Roger Moseley), his huge black enforcer. From the moment she arrives in the camp, Carmen is brutalized by Monk while the other female prisoners look on with mute resignation, each having no choice but to accept their status and service a minimum of four men per night on a semi-regular basis (the men outnumber the women roughly ten to to one).

Carmen's arrival: "Welcome to Terminal Island, baby."

After what appears to be a few days of such degradation, Carmen and the rest of the women are stolen from the bad guy murderers by a small group of nomadic good guy murderers who live on the other side of the island. Once among the new group of men, the women are (mostly) treated as equals and no longer forced to give it up on demand. Meanwhile, Bobby and Monk send out men to track down and retrieve the women and kills the dissident good guy murderers in the process. It all builds to a head and the good guy murderers pool their skills to organize themselves into a smart guerrilla army.

The "good guy" murderers.

With casualties on both sides, when the smoke clears it's a brand new day on Terminal Island as the good guy murderers take control and embark on a more pleasant, equality/cooperation-based way of existence.

In answer to my earlier question, TERMINAL ISLAND was not really worth coming back to after twenty-some-odd years and was very much a disappointment after its classic bombastic trailer. For a story with such sleazy potential, surprisingly little is made of it and its gore, nudity and violence are tepid at best. All of the sexual slavery takes place off-camera — which suits me fine, but the audience that came expecting it was certain to be disappointed and pissed off — the characters are pretty much all murderers, so it's kinda hard to root for any of them, and the thrills are quite tepid, especially when measured against the across the board excesses of the film's contemporaries in the exploitation field.

The only thing that's really of interest here is the cast, several of whom cane from or went on to careers in TV. For most viewers, TERMINAL ISLAND is interest for early appearances of Roger Moseley and Tom Selleck (as the sole innocent on the island), who would go on to co-star on MAGNUM, P.I. some seven years later.

A pre-MAGNUM, P.I. Tom Selleck (with Barbara Leigh).

For a geek like me, this film is of interest thanks to seeing two childhood favorites and veterans of Irwin Allen kids' sci-fi TV shows from the 1960's appearing in a potentially-sleazy R-rated flick. Both Don Marshall, who played Dan Erickson on LAND OF THE GIANTS (1968-1970), and the lovely Marta Kristen, who launched many young lads into puberty as Judy Robinson on LOST IN SPACE (1965-1968), are both on hand and of the two it's Kristen who has the more interesting character, specifically that of a radical bomber whose political rampage resulted in the accidental deaths of innocent civilians. During the climactic coup, her character's skills at creating homemade munitions come in very handy and she proves to be the polar opposite of the stereotypical dumb blonde. She's really cool here and displays a presence that was never allowed to flower during her days among the Jupiter 2 gang, and it's a shame that she's only been seen sporadically ever since.

Irwin Allen refugees in da house: Don (LAND OF THE GIANTS) Marshall and Marta (LOST IN SPACE) Kristen.

And just so we're clear on this and to spare you any disappointment upon rental, at no point does Marta Kristen get nekkid or fuck Don Marshall. Pfooey.

So the bottom line on TERMINAL ISLAND is that I don't really recommend it unless you're curious about what the aforementioned TV actors bring to the table. It's only 89 minutes long, so if you choose to see it at least you won't be wasting too much time. Oh, and some critics have made much of the film being directed by a woman, Stephanie Rothman, and how the film allegedly has some sort of political message, but neither aspect helps make TERMINAL ISLAND anything other than a footnote in the annals of '70's exploitation cinema.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I may disagree with the film sucking, but this review is fucking hilarious and all of the ludicrous stuff he describes is actually in the movie.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


It's that time again, so here we go!

Read the synopsis of SANATORIUM and tell me if it rings any bells:

Porn star icon Tabitha Stevens embarks on a journey to recover her sanity after wrestling with the hypocrisy of the anti-porn crusaders who condemn her, discovering that these lawyers, politicians and priests are far more twisted than the sex business could ever be. Their wicked deeds send Tabitha on a personal vision quest fraught with sexual illusions and wildly erotic dream states that turn her into a sexual warrior. Armed with her new power, she's ready to take down the establishment that drove her to the brink of insanity, and prove that there's nothing evil about a beautiful woman who simply loves sex.

While not exactly the same, this sounds a hell of a lot
like the 1981 Dorothy LeMay classic, NIGHT DREAMS.

Simple and direct, a title that spells it out for the consumer.

This next one would have been brilliant if they had lookalikes for Mike and Marsha Brady.

Lastly, here's the winner for "title or the week":

Saturday, September 18, 2010


This is sheer genius.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


While laid up sick here in the Vault, I was certainly not at loss for DVD entertainment, but while looking for something to watch I realized I had a growing pillar of flicks and TV shows that I have not yet gotten to. Some I have never seen, while others await a re-watching for purposes of being reviewed here, and that stack includes:
  • FIST OF THE NORTH STAR Vol. 1 (which I can write about in my sleep, but I want to check these new subtitles)
  • TERMINAL ISLAND (the '70's exploitation classic)
  • TRUE LEGEND (a recent HK kung fu opus directed by genius choreographer Yuen Woo Ping)
  • CYBORG 009: LEGEND OF THE SUPER GALAXY (the uncut/subbed version of the 1980 CYBORG 009 reunion film; it's long and dull but very pretty to look at)
  • THE BIG LEBOWSKI: Collector's Edition
  • CLERKS: 10th Anniversary Edition
  • FEMALE SLAVE SHIP (the 1960 Shintoho exploitation classic)
  • OSS 117: LOST IN RIO (sequel to the superb OSS 117-CAIRO: NEST OF SPIES)
  • STRAY CAT ROCK: SEX HUNTER (a classic of Japanese exploitation, starring Meiko Kaji)
  • THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE (a '70's crime drama starring Robert Mitchum)
  • COME DRINK WITH ME (the 1960's Shaw Brothers kung fu landmark, starring Cheng Pei Pei)
  • SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO (the uncut/subbed first arc of STAR BLAZERS)
  • SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO 2 (the uncut/subbed second arc of STAR BLAZERS)
  • RETURN OF THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (the sequel to the seminal Shaw Brothers film that codified many of kung fu cinema's tropes)
  • TITUS (Julie Taymor's take on Shakespeare's bloodiest work)
  • THE SHADOW WHIP (another Cheng Pei Pei classic)
  • EL CID Two-Disc Deluxe Edition
  • THE BATTLE OF PUSSY WILLOW CREEK (a film written, produced and directed by an old friend and schoolmate)
  • THE OMEN (original version)
  • THE JUNGLE BOOK (1940's live action version starring Sabu)
So I've got my work cut out for me. Plus I have to get around to reviewing MACHETE. Phew...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


How much do I love Adam warren's EMPOWERED? So much that I shoved a cork up my flu-decimated bum and hit the comics shop to pick up the latest volume on its release day.


Picking up right where the previous volume left off, we find Emp understandably shaken after the double-awfulness of blazing, literally skull-fucking villain Willy Pete's attack on her Super Homeys teammates — that gruesomely kills off the majority of them — and the destruction of the team's satellite, which consequently led to the self-sacrifice of newfound friend Mindfuck, a powerful telepath who was Sistah Spooky's secret lesbian lover. Now, Sistah Spooky's a near-catatonic mess who's cast spells over herself that keep her in a false state of happiness while inside she's beyond torn up over her lover's death. As this volume progresses, we see Sistah Spooky's sanity sliding very close to the edge and falling straight off, and it is not pretty to watch...

Empowered, meanwhile, has to deal with yet more abuse and ostracism from what remains of the Super Homeys, some of whom believe her to be fully responsible for the decimation of the team. But it's not all bad because during her time stuck out of the way at team headquarters on monitor duty while the rest of the team is off indefinitely taking care of assorted loose ends, she bonds with cross-dressing badass Maidman, who proves to be a pretty good sounding board and unexpected source of good advice and analysis. Things get even more interesting when the Superdead arrive, a gaggle of re-animated fallen heroes who seek the Super Homeys' help in hiding out from the horrible Deathmonger, a vile being who revives and enslaves dead superheroes for his own sinister purposes.

Enter the Superdead.

After initial tensions, the Superdead prove to be much kinder to Emp than her own douchey crew, and thus are connections made that will figure strongly in this volume's wild ending. The Superdead also hip Emp to some of the secrets of how some of her colleagues get their abilities and the price they pay for their gifts, and those revelations raise a number of questions that are certain to be addressed in future installments.

That's the real meat of what can be found in the volume's six stories, but there's other stuff going on, including:
  • More looks into the relationship of Emp and Thugboy, the most realistic romance in comics.
  • A talk radio show about people's "Superhero Fantasy League" picks.
  • The rise in media notoriety of Willy Pete, including a very funny look at Yaoi ("boy-on-boy") manga depicting the blazing bad guy raping the living shit out of various male Super Homeys or forcing them to have gay sex with each other so he can watch.
  • Wait a minute...Isn't Mindfuck supposed to be dead?
  • We learn a lot more about Sistah Spooky's demonic pact for power.
  • The non-awesomeness that is Empowered's origin.
  • Ocelotina returns, drafting Emp for an instructional video on being a superheroine and handling the inevitable bondage that comes with the territory. (The finer points of the use of knots and gags display a knowledge of this sort of thing that raises a few questions in my head about the author.)
EMPOWERED Vol. 6 features all the elements that made it my favorite comics series in at least a decade, but I have to say that this outing cannot help but pale in comparison to Vols. 4 and 5. Those books both served to greatly advance Emp from the pathetic laughing stock of the superhero community to a hero with great potential (even if only her friends realize it), especially during the literally apocalyptic rampage of Willy Pete, and the tragedy of finding a friend in Mindfuck only to lose her in so heart-wrenching a way add up to very strong narrative gold, providing a goofy super-burlesque with powerful emotional resonance. That's all a very hard act to follow, so Vol. 6 can be appreciated as an interim installment meant to provide some fun while also setting up material for future arcs. I'm totally into the Sistah Spooky subplot and can't wait to read more of that, but the one item in this volume that I didn't necessarily dig was the one with Emp taping the video for Ocelotina. It wasn't particularly amusing, and that's surprising because Ocelotina's usually very funny, but here she's barely a presence in her own oeuvre. But that one mildly-disappointing chapter is still worth sitting through and I will definitely be back for the next book.

Let the agonized waiting commence...


Here's the last installment of my adventures at Dragon Con 201, so here we go!

Following another one of those excellent heart attack breakfasts at the Hyatt's buffet, I once more set forth into the swirling maelstrom of costumed humanity and captured many a fine specimen via photography. This time my morning's objective was the "Servo Vs. Servo" panel that featured both J. Elvis Weinstein and Kevin Murphy. Needless to say, the path to the lecture hall was peppered with yet more costumed fun, but this example stood out like a radioactive dick at a kabuki play:

Parked in front of the liquor store — a good stand-in for the Quick Stop — were the best Jay and Silent Bob I've ever seen. A solid 10 out of 10.

The Servo panel was just as much fun as the previous day's MST3K gathering, only much more intimate thanks to it being the two Servos and the moderator.

Josh Weinstein (L) and Kevin Murphy (R): the two voices of Tom Servo.

Tom Servo groupies represent.

After the show, I mixed and mingled with most of the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 gang who'd shown up yo attend and occasionally heckle, and I even got photographed with them backstage.

(L-R) Josh Weinstein, Frank Coniff, Mary Jo Pehl, Yer Bunche, Trace Beaulieu. The bag Trace has over his head contained one of the actual Tom Servo puppets used on the show.

With my limited budget already mostly eaten up buy autographs and what was left being reserved for drinks at the Hyatt's bar later in the afternoon, my acquisition of other geekish items fell by the wayside, but I did check out the various dealers of shirts, books, bootleg "gray area" DVDs, and other assorted tchotchkes. I snagged a few shirts — most notably the one seen at the top of this post — and finally found a vintage issue of PLAYBOY that I've been after for a while. It was the October 1969 issue, featuring the first twin Playmates, the adorable Collinson sisters.

The landmark issue in question.

If the name of Collinson rings a bell, that's probably because the winsome Maltese lasses later went on to star in my favorite of the Hammer Studios' Karnstein vampire trilogy, TWINS OF EVIL, where they worked the old "good twin/evil twin" trope to very entertaining — and hella sexy — effect.

The now-legendary Collinson Twins centerfold: ah, the lovely symmetry...

The issue is also notable for comics geeks as well, because it contains the photo spread that Jack Kirby cited as the inspiration for my all-time favorite superheroine, the awesome Big Barda. I snagged my copy, in very good condition with that delightful old magazine smell, for a total of eight bucks; the same magazine was going for over three times that in NYC collector's venues, so "Score!"

After dropping off my newly-acquired vintage porn back at the suite, I headed out again, checking out of costumes at Artists Alley and eventually meeting some friends from last year in the Hyatt's bar.

The best of the many Hunter S. Thompsons I've seen at cons, by virtue of him having plastic bats circling his head and warding them off with a fly swatter.

I love geek-girls and their t-shirts. The one of Princess Leia is genius.

I had a long chat with this Lone Ranger about how odd it is that when we grew up nearly all the heroes on TV were gunfighters and yet we grew up as firm believers in justice and the practice of non-violence, while today kids are blowing each other away left and right, every day. Makes ya think...

A fellow Misfits fan represents. "You betta think about it, baby!"

The best Godzilla shirt ever!

A fetching Maria Hill, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. This outfit has really caught on over the past five or six years, and this lovely was one of several that I saw over the course of the expo (I was too slow in shooting the others).

Agent Hill and fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. operative (and Captain America's squeeze) Sharon Carter.

An exhausted Amanda Conner, following two nights of being unwillingly kept awake by the inconsiderate cock-monkeys (and monkettes) whose uber-loud drunken caterwauling and non-stop partying kept us all awake for the better part of each night we were there.

A favorite from last year, Dolly Death Star, only now with a slight costume upgrade and a website.

Old school Star Sapphire.

Hermes (in mortal traveler garb) and Hephaestus. As a mythology nerd since the age of seven, I loved this and they were quite pleased that I identified them by name when asking them to stop for the photograph.

Cowboy from THE WARRIORS.

Gotta love the Christian geeks. And you'd be effin' metal too if you did even a quarter of the stuff Jesus did. I'm partial to the sorting out of those money-changing assholes.

Oh, HELL yeah.

The Straczinski Wonder Woman represents.

I'm not a fan of the whole steampunk thing, but I do like this guy's take on the Green Lantern.

I never expected a DEATH TO SMOOCHY tribute, but here it is.

Geek parents: breakin' 'em in young. The look on that little girl's face just says it all.

Former colleague from my Marvel Bullpen days Tim Tuohy and his family.


A definitive portrait of the excellence that is A.C.

I can't believe this was not a pre-planned pairing: Gwen Stacy and Death (comics geeks know what I mean.) I saw these two coming down the escaltor and flipped out.

A fan of THE MONSTER SQUAD represents.

A Kubrick Thor. He said he had the whole blocky bodysuit, but opted not to wear it due to the heat.

Mary Marvel and Lady Blackhawk.

By the time I hit the bar, things had gotten into full swing and the place was the perfect spot for costume-watching.

Must-have geek item: the yarn Infinity Gauntlet.

A dead-on Barf from SPACEBALLS.

"Blue Screen of Death."

Prometheus is alive and well and stalking the floor at Dragon Con.

Zap Brannigan, as embodied by a Brit who flew over from Devon.

Of the many Zap Brannigans I've seen over the years, this guy gets my vote as the best of the lot.

From RANMA 1/2, Shampoo and P-Chan.

The only way this look could be any geekier is if he were wielding a bat'leth in his left hand. Well done, sir!

The bar at the Hyatt Regency, 5PM. (photo by Anne-Marie Whisnant)

Dragon Con: where the minds meet.

As previously stated, the army man gag just does not get old for me.

Gettin' my drink on with noted author John Ringo (who's a fun guy to party with, BTW).

FUTURAMA's Dr. Zoidberg.

It's good to know that I'm not the only Mon-El booster out there.

Representatives from IRON MAN 2 and WATCHMEN.

Gotta love Tony's arc reactor!

METALOCALYPSE's William Murderface.

Impromptu and hilarious geek theater: Captain Sisko plays with a xenomorph who acted like a happy and excited dog. Note the Tribble squeak toy and the Brain Slug on the xenomorph.

The real Tooth Fairy makes a political statement.

A fantastic idea for a couples costume: the Black Queen and Mastermind.

Spider Jerusalem.

She-Go and a wee con-goer.

Some of my Atlanta peeps.

Old school ROLLERBALL, not that remake bullshit.

Proof that not everything about SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW sucked.

Kickin' it old school.

An awesome Hawkman.

A case of perfect timing: Hawman and Harvey Birdman.

As a lifelong Legion of Super-Heroes fan, I was psyched to see this excellent Brainiac-5.

A very enthusiastic cosplayer rocks an incredible Ditko Vulture.

A parting gesture from the Doctor.

The poor bastard who built this — and hauled it to Atlanta from Australia! — waited for over an hour in hope of getting this thing onto one of the packed elevators. He was still waiting when I finally got on one of them.

And with that, I attempted to get some sleep before I left the hotel at shortly after 6AM for my connector flight back to LaGuardia, an ultimately failed quest thanks to the continued loud and wasted shenanigans of the attendees. By the time I made it back to Brooklyn, I was an exhausted mess who had somehow managed to function on approximately fifteen to twenty hours of sleep over a period of four days. And that state of being was prolonged by my having to wait until just after midnight from a driver from U.S. Airways to drop off my luggage, which had been lost in Philadelphia during my stopover (I was one of about ten people that happened to). But that's what I get for booking my flight so fucking late...