Escape To New York

Much of my life is governed by bizarre ideas that get out of hand – you’re reading one of them at the moment! However, even as such concepts go, the idea of flying across to New York for a weekend is a little hard to take. There was some logic behind it; my main holiday this year is going to be two weeks spent learning to drive, not my idea of fun, so I thought it’d be cool to throw all caution (and rather more money than I care to think about) to the winds and head for New York on an ultra-cheap Virgin flight.

Arriving at the airport clutching my weekend bag (socks, toothbrush and a wide range of unpleasant T-shirts), I discovered one of the perils of cheap airlines, the inevitable delay in the flight. Paranoia was soothed on discovering that every Virgin flight was late, some of them by up to 12 hours, which made our 90 minutes seem almost bearable – Gatwick airport isn’t somewhere I’d hang around by choice. In desperation I hit the book-shop, hoping to find something to kill time with and after some time rooting among Harold Robbins and Jeffrey Archer novels (and, oddly, P.J.O’Rourke’s ‘Holidays in Hell’), I went for ‘Slaughter of the Lambs’ by Thomas Harris, the nearest thing to a good book available.

We were eventually allowed onto the plane. “Hey, this is a lot roomier than I expected”, was my first thought. Then we were left the Upper Class i.e. expensive section into the Economy i.e. our area. Sit down, belt up and wait for take off. I had to stifle giggles throughout the demonstration of the safety drill, being unable to forget the piss-take – “the emergency exits are situated over the wings of the plane, which means you people here, here & here have no chance”. I was impressed with the power of the plane at take-off, which showed high acceleration and maintained it for a long while. I was also impressed with the Virgin stewardesses; an aisle seat meant I couldn’t see out the window but who wants to see the top of clouds when you can gaze wistfully after long, stocking encased legs… I began to wonder for whose benefit the safety belts were provided.

The main in-flight entertainment was a film – on leafing through the flight magazine, we could have been lumbered with ‘When Harry Met Sally’, which made ‘Black Rain’ a relief. Interesting to note no-one at Virgin gives a toss about showing 15-rated films to an audience of all ages. Seven hours after leaving, we struck land, not too gently, at Newark. Since they’ve abolished the visa requirement for UK citizens, I was hoping for a quick passage through immigration, but it was not to be. After filling in a form that had intriguing questions like ‘Are you a member of a Communist or other subversive group?’ and warned me that I might be refused entry if I was mentally handicapped (into the nation that elected Ronald Reagan president?), queuing for 45 minutes and being quizzed to make sure I had a return flight ticket, enough cash and a hotel, I was in. So much for “give me your poor, your huddled masses”.

Having taken the bus into New York, the next step was to get to the hotel. It was Bedlam outside, so a wise move seemed to be to take a taxi. This was fine until we arrived at the hotel – on pulling up at the curb, the taxi was approached by a bagman who suggested to the driver that he should move his fucking cab. The driver responded in kind, and the two began a contest to see which of them could cram the most swear-words into a sentence. The vagrant yanked open my door of the cab – was he going to get in next to me? He reached inside his pocket – ohgodhelphesgotagunletmeout. He got bored and drifted away. Welcome to New York. My state of mind wasn’t improved when I went for a burger to calm my nerves. I’m sitting there eating it, when in walks a policeman. Second Chance body armor, large semi-automatic weapon, the works. At this point, I rated my chances of getting out of the city alive at about 50/50.

Saturday morning dawned bright & early, jet lag working in my favour this way. Watched a bit of American TV before getting up – great sports coverage, everything else was dross. Some of the adverts had a horrible appeal, like the programme (sponsored by some diet plan) resembling a revivalist prayer meeting with people telling their tales of how said diet had saved their lives, before bursting into tears and having to be comforted by the presenter, who resembled Russell Grant, only a lot more effeminate.

Much of that day was spent walking down Fifth Avenue, and up Broadway. I was impressed with how clean and quiet the streets were compared to London. Even on a Saturday morning, there were about one tenth of the numbers you’d see on Oxford Street. Most people drive enormous cars, I expect – I thought the SUX-6000 in ‘Robocop’ was a joke, but it’s hideously close to the truth. It was great to see places like the Chrysler building, home of ‘Q – The Winged Serpent’ and the Empire State Building, climbing frame for large anthropoids. The latter was slightly disappointing, in that it’s tiered nature meant that by the time you were close enough to appreciate it’s size, it seemed to go up only twenty stories or so, compared with other slabs of glass-steel, which rose vertically up from street-level six or seven hundred feet without a pause for breath. It’s the only place you can get vertigo standing on the ground.

Spent a fair amount of time in book shops, or rather running back and forth between them. There is no fixed price for books in the States, so you have to comparison shop between places to get the best price. Picked up some interesting bits and pieces, most notably Klaus Kinski’s autobiography, ‘All I Need is Love’, following which he is now facing several libel suits. Had a quick drool in a couple of video stores, too, cursing the invention of the NTSC system!

Broadway goes on and on – I eventually gave up at Macy’s, the world’s largest department store with a turnover of $5 million per day. Eight floors, five of which sell nothing but women’s underwear. After heading back to the hotel, I got a call from Michael Gingold, the editor of Scareaphanalia and the only person I knew within striking distance – he came into town and after one drink in the hideously expensive hotel bar, we headed out. Hit something of a problem in the first place we tried – they demanded to see our ID, to prove we were over 21 (the drinking age in New York). Having been asked to prove my age once in the past six years, I naturally hadn’t bothered taking my passport, so after a brief delay, we found another bar, ready to prove our right to bear drinks. Naturally, they didn’t ask. However, they served a mean steak sandwich, a good pint of Guinness and the juke-box occasionally played tracks from ‘Blue Velvet’ which kept us happy, though our Dennis Hopper impressions got the odd funny look!

Continued in TC7

A Guide to Western Civilization, or My Story – Joe Bob Briggs (Penguin Originals, 5.99)

Published in the US in ’88, this is the second book from Joe Bob, his first being ‘Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-in’, one of last year’s Penguin originals, first published in ’87. ‘Western Civilization’ is a very different book, containing little about his favourite films (apart from a brief mention or two about ‘The Trip’, ‘Night of the Blood Beast’, ‘Maniac’ or ‘Bell, Bare & Beautiful’ or stars such as Steve Reeves or Annette Funicello), and more (much more) about his real-life exploits.

His first book was pretty much unreadable at one sitting (as you’d expect; it was, after all, a collection of columns in a newspaper), but enjoyable nevertheless. This second book, detailing such things as his earliest girlfriend Dede Wilkes, or how he invented the Titty Bar, his marriage to his star attraction and his exploits in Mexico helping the locals across the border and into America, land of the free.

There are a few occasional chuckles to be found but the rest is a bit of a strain, in parts even embarrassing. You’ll have to read some of his first book before you even consider embarking on this one, and then only if you’re really that interested in hearing about his (fantasy – Joe Bob, or Jose, as they know him in Mexico, is after all more of the writer’s character than his true self) life, without the info about the many trash and exploitation movies covered in his previous publication.

It’s hard to slag off a book which manages to come up with more than ten different phrases to describe the female breast in the space of two pages, but at times it just degenerates into plain silliness. The highlight of the book is his point-by-point description of the Kennedy assassination, so check this out if you see the book on a rack somewhere – page 165! For those who read ‘Joe Bob Goes to the Drive In’ in one sitting. (AF)

Black Sunday 3

June 1990,
Ashton-under-Lyme, Manchester

“Manchester? That’s North London, isn’t it?”
— Phoebe Legere

Miss Legere, star of the Toxic Avenger sequels, wasn’t a guest at Black Sunday 3, tho’ whether she wasn’t invited or was wandering around London looking for it is not known. Making ‘Back to the Future 3’ look positively slow, Malcolm and Dave put the next show on the road just 3 months after BS2. Thanks to the GPO, however, I only found out three WEEKS beforehand. No matter, the tickets were bought (I must be the only ‘zine editor who actually PAYS!) and we sat and drank in a nearby pub, meeting all the people we’d not seen since last time. When we got in, the place was mostly empty, probably due to the relatively short notice given to most people, which meant a pleasing amount of space to sprawl out in.

We began with ‘The Boneyard‘, a world premiere, and quite possibly the last time anyone will see it at the cinema. Spam-in-a-morgue, with rabid grannies (well, a rabid granny – Phyllis Diller, of all people!), rabid kiddies and a rabid, fifteen-foot high poodle. Tacky and not quite unwatchable. ‘Bride of the Re-Animator’ followed, now called ‘Re-Animator 2’ (see TC5 – improved slightly on a second viewing).

I confess to having slept through ‘Black Rainbow‘; but those that watched it enjoyed it. So far no running order had been given (as it turned out we never did get one), which left us annoyingly uncertain when to snooze so as to be wide awake for the best films. I woke up for most of ‘Halloween 5‘ and liked it far more than I expected to. The final 30 minutes with Michael stalking his young niece are very tense, thanks to Danielle Harris as said 8-year old girl. I’m a little worried about her – she’s either one hell of an actress or is now totally traumatised! Otherwise, standard fare, slightly lacking in the flesh department (teenage female). The first half ended with ‘Never Cry Devil‘, the first Society clone I’ve seen, had a boy convinced that his history teacher was a Satanist – the teacher and his retarded brother (nicely played by Michael J. Pollard) were a lot more interesting than the plyboard hero & heroine. The film was unremarkably average save some unsubtle editing – it seemed that the BBFC provided a list of frames to remove and the company removed them, regardless of how rough the result looked.

Overall, a disappointing first half. None of the new films would merit a second look from me, with the possible exception of ‘Halloween 5’, though at 1.75 a shot they were passable. For me, the second half didn’t get off to a much better start… I missed half the promo reel for ‘Revenge of Billy the Kid‘, because the promised interval was halved in length while I was out! What I saw of the promo looked interesting, however. ‘Communion‘, based on the ‘true story’ by Whitley Streiber, opened the second half and took too long to get to the I-was-kidnapped-by-aliens bits. I remain unimpressed with his tale.

Six films in, still nothing memorable – fortunately, this was all about to change. Next up was ‘Basket Case 2‘, a worthy successor to one of the classic low-budget films of all time. Hennenlotter places his hero Duane (played again by Kevin van Heytenrynck) and Belial, his mutant half-brother (in the literal sense!) in a sanctuary for freaks and then throws in a muck-raking journalist in order to get things going. Surprisingly passed uncut by the BBFC+, it is a stream of vicious inventiveness from beginning to (typically twisted) end.

After much fanfare, David Bryan announced one of their star films; ‘Miracle Mile‘. Mass audience response: “Miracle what?”. Despite having no ‘names’ connected with it (save a Tangerine Dream soundtrack), being gore-free and only borderline genre, it was almost unanimously voted THE hit of the festival. After a quiet opening, it becomes an astonishingly powerful film about… well, I suggest the less you know about it the greater the impact it’ll have, so avoid the reviews but SEE IT. No film in the past dozen years has had me closer to tears. Bloody brilliant and worth the cost of the weekend on it’s own. Following this anything would have been a let-down, so it was surprising that ‘Fear‘, another world premiere, was still well worth watching. It stars Ally Sheedy as a psychic who helps the police track down serial killers – things go fine until she comes across a psychotic psychic. Some lovely set pieces but spoiled for me by a weak ending.

To finish off, they gave us the second surprise film. A cunning double bluff – showing the trailer earlier on – fooled everyone so no-one really guessed it would be ‘Frankenhooker‘, the other new Hennenlotter film. More sleaze as you’d expect from the man. ‘Frankenhooker’ is about a guy who decides to rebuild his girlfriend, after she has an accident with a lawnmower, using local hookers to supply the missing pieces. Tongue totally in cheek, we have sex, violence, drug abuse, surgery and exploding bimbos. Lovely.

That’s as much of a review as the deadline permits – very much a festival of two halves, Saint. If the second half had been like the first, I’d be very wary of returning – however, if all the films had been as good as the last four, it would have been the best weekend I’ve had in a long time. The organisation is improving each time (although a running order would have helped!) and they’re beginning to worry the organisers of (the hideously priced) Shock Around the Clock, which has to be a good sign. Roll on BS4, and go see ‘Miracle Mile’!!

Bimbos-behind-bars – The women-in-prison film

In the 80-odd years since the cinema began, roughly 3,000 films have had at least some significant scenes set inside penitentiaries, reform schools or good old-fashioned jails. Though not all of these centre on female characters, bad girls have long been a staple of B-movie production. Why do film-makers have a fascination with this genre?

Firstly, they’re cheap to make – not many genres allow you to get a quantity discount on the costumes. Sets are also easily obtainable, a few old prefabs and a couple of rolls of barbed wire are all that’s needed. Secondly, the moral tone of them ( and few exist where the naughty bimbo doesn’t repent by the end ) allows them to get past the censors more easily than movies with an ambiguous moral stance. Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, it’s a good excuse for a lot of T & A.

The earliest candidate yet tracked down for the title of First Female Felon Film is ‘Ladies of the Big House’, made in 1931 where the heroine ends up in jail after getting set-up when she Just Says No to a gangster. The 1950’s saw any number of teenager-in-trouble movies, but few actually spent much of their running time behind bars; ‘Untamed Youth’ and the original ‘Reform School Girl’ (both 1957) are two that did, though in the former, prison was rather like summer camp, even down to Eddie Cochran being there to play the odd guitar solo. The next burst arrived in the 1970’s when Roger Corman’s New World Pictures were at the fore-front of things, with a battery of films nearly all of which can have their titles re-created by perming any two from ‘Women’, ‘Heat’, ‘Cages’ and ‘Chained’, then adding an appropriate preposition to taste. Few were shot in the States, partly to save money, partly (no doubt) to avoid law-suits from the American Correction Association. Tom de Simone, a name that should be familiar to regular readers, has become the Master of Misbehaviour, for films like ‘The Concrete Jungle’ (1982), a film once described as “a movie of staggering ineptitude”. I can give it no higher praise than that.

Although often highly similar in plot (thin), characters (stereotypes) and raison d’etre (though inclined slightly more to violence than nudity) men-in-prison films have never had the same appeal for me. Despite ‘Prison’ and ‘Ghosts of the Civil Dead’ both being good films, they’re a little too restrained and, well, SERIOUS to be in the same league as ‘Reform School Girls’, a film well documented in a previous issue (TC2). And the more exploitationary ones haven’t a great deal to interest me…

This point of seriousness is something that does divide the female side of the genre as well. On one side you have deep, social comment such as ‘Scrubbers’; at the other end of the rainbow you have Fred Olen Ray’s ‘Prison Ship Star Slammer’, the most ludicrous sci-fi film I’ve ever seen, which used items from films as diverse as “Logan’s Run” and ‘Flashdance’ – in between, you have a full range of serious disguised as exploitation (‘Caged Heat’ directed by Jonathan Demme, who went on to do ‘Stop Making Sense’ and also New Order’s ‘The Perfect Kiss’; they had another of their promos, ‘Touched by the Hand of God’, directed by Kathryn Bigelow of ‘Near Dark’ fame who has not, as far as I know, had anything to do with any women-in-prison films) and exploitation pretending to be serious. The best way to tell the difference is to look at the characters; if there’s no doubt about ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’, you’re almost certain to be watching an exploitation film.

A fine example of the pseudo-serious is the utterly appalling ‘Red Heat’. No, not the Arnold Schwarzenegger one, this had Linda Blair as an American in an East German prison whose boyfriend mounts a rescue mission from the West. Sylvia Kristel was on the staff and the film was remarkable only for it’s total lack of redeeming qualities to make it worth watching. Unfortunately, this was the first bad bimbo pic I ever saw and it did just as impressive a job at putting me off the genre as seeing ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ when I was 15 did for horror films. It was not until a triple bill of ‘Caged Heat’, ‘Jackson County Jail’ and ‘Reform School Girls’ at the Scala that I realised the breadth of the genre. The second mentioned is something of an anachronism as it’s really a WOMAN-in-prison film. Yvette Mimieux has one of those weekends when everything goes wrong and ends up in jail. It contains a scene where she is raped by a guard, which is one of the most unpleasant such assaults I’ve seen. Exactly how it should be.

It’s interesting to note the self-cannibalism that goes on – certain scenes and incidents from ‘Caged Heat’ appear, almost frame for frame, in ‘Reform School Girls’. The line between homage and plagiarism is very thin. Similarities to the girls-school film also mean it’s possible to consider one as a sub-genre of the other. Both have women without men, uniforms and a large number of opportunities for shower scenes. This is more marked in some films than others – ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, which oozes repression and sexuality from every frame, is clearly more closely related than ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’.

At the other extreme, we have the concentration camp sub-genre, the reductio ad absurdum of the prison movie where nothing is left except the violence and the sex. Films like ‘Love Camp 7’, ‘SS Experiment Camp’ and ‘Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS’ could almost be considered liberal, in a warped way, since they’re about the only place where the sexes get to mix, more or less freely. These are unwatchable affairs with heavy sadistic tendencies, ‘Ilsa’ being salvaged, at least partly, by Dyanne Thorne’s manic over-acting. Unsurprisingly, these have come in for a fair share of flak from regulatory authorities for a variety of obvious reasons – on the other hand, ‘normal’ naughty nymphette movies usually escape via the moral and inconsistently illogical loop-hole that considers violence by women on women to be more acceptable than violence by men on women. Run that by me again, will you?

As we head into the 90’s, the market for all these films shows no signs of diminishing – any halfway decent video shop will stock several chicks-in-chains pics, though whether you’ll find them on the adult, action/adventure, comedy or horror shelves depends on the whim of the owner. Admittedly, you might rent a ‘Red Heat’, but on the other hand, you might get a ‘Prison Ship Star Slammer’ or some similarly surreal epic, with sex, violence and humour. What more could you possibly want from a film?

The Section With No Name

A sudden influx of American ‘zines this quarter; it’s interesting to reflect upon the differences in both style and content, though perhaps six isn’t really a representative sample! ‘Gore Gazette’ *101 demonstrates these differences admirably, being a small (7 sides A4. $2), no-nonsense ‘zine with an off-centre sense of humour. Not for overly sensitive liberal wimps, I enjoy it.

Taking GO’s attitude to it’s obvious, if somewhat ludicrous extreme, we have ‘Chunk Blower’ *0 and ‘A Taste of Bile’ *8. both hailing from good of Waco, Texas. Both revel in deliberate offensiveness: the tatter (8 AS for an IRC) says of Linnea Quigley. “Someone ought to rape/murder this bitch”, while the former (12 1/2 A5, ???) has “Next time your parents, boss, cops. etc give you shit about drugs, just tell them: l don’t do drugs, I just sell them to elementary school brats for see. – AToB is the better written and layed out. tho’ CB openly acknowledges it’s deficiencies!

At the other end of the spectrum is ‘Scareaphanalia’ 87 (8 AS, $1), which is sober, sane & well written, with a lot of inside info, as you’d expect from a F*ng*r*a employee (tho’ a nice bloke despite this!) and a chat with Frank Henenlotter, ‘Basket Case 2’ director. *88 has a good list of American ‘zines to help me use up the dollars left over from the NY trip. Also on the suaver side is ‘It’s Only A Movie’ *I (32 A4ish. $4??), with a column by Joe Bob Briggs. an interview with John Menaughton and pieces on The Cramps. comics. Argent() and some comedy group called Monty Python… Finally, there’s ‘Murder Can be Fun’, which I invested a fistful of dollars in. *11 (32 A5. $2) digs up some forgotten American accidents (the Great Boston Molasses Flood) and earlier issues cover similar topics: death. destruction and Karen “She’s skinny, she’s sexy, she’s dead’ Carpenter. Worth a look.

British ‘zines are a little scarce, but regular as clockwork appears ‘Strange Adventures’ – *14-16 12,16.16 A4. 95p) do their best to cover everything in the fantasy genre from SF to ‘Field of Dreams’ and is a damn good try. tho’ it’s tendency to LIE HEINOUSLY about TC should be discounted! The forthcoming *17 includes a piece on ‘Twinkle’: at least that’s what I assume Tony means by comics since he has a distressing inability to count to 48. Go on, support the innumerate!! Sheer Filth’ •8 (32 A5, 75p) proves again that real ‘zines don’t need page numbers with a large chunk on Cicciolina, David Friedman. Coil and many reviews of things you probably don’t want to know about. The ‘Racconti Sensuale’ review includes phrases like ‘compositions and bizarre setups allow people and objects to blend into organic entities veritable glowing with delighted sexuality’. Er. yes… ‘Creeping Unknown’ *13 slithered onto the door-mat, having lost it’s staples on the way. In it’s 36 AS pages (75p). there’s news, competitions + a lot of reviews – almost made me want to rent ‘The Abyss’. Almost. Last, but not least is ‘Green Goblin’ (20 A5, 50p + postage). * 13 is different to * 12, consisting of 2 short stories (one SF. one sword-and-sorcery-humour) + a letter column, all of which I enjoyed reading. –

‘Black’ *5 (16 A4, $1.50) is undoubtedly fl clearest layout of any ‘zine this quarter and Mikael’s unique English is a bonus! Reviews and a couple of rants about life & Sweden. ‘Fanzines’ (28 A4, 2.00), originally done as a college project, which reviews in depth 20 odd hottor ‘zines. Perhaps trying too hard to avoid insulting anyone. it’s still interesting and you’ll even learn about the origins of TC! It’s a limited edition, so… ‘My Pants are Made of Welded Steel’ *1 (20 A4, 30p) deals mostly with music, but plans to widen out. Great title, shows promise beneath an occasionally rough-edged look. Finally, received this morning, another new ‘zine: ‘Subterrene’ *1 (20 A4, 60p) – clear layout covering a lot of familiar ground so far but we’ll see how things develop: certainly no worse than TCO!

  • Black – Mikael Bomark, Aspv. 28. 14141 Huddinge. SWEDEN
  • Chunk Blower – Jason Beck, 3737 Campus Dr.. Apt. 203. Waco, TX 76705. USA
  • Creeping Unknown – Nick. do 33 Maltby Road, Mansfield, Notts. N018 3BN
  • Fanzines – Paul Mallinson, 12 Daneshill Road, Leicester. LE3 6AL.
  • Gore Gazette – do Sullivan, 469 Hazel St, Clifton, NJ 0701 I. USA
  • Green Goblin – John Breakwell, 170 Caversham Road. Reading. RG I 8AZ
  • It’s Only A Movie – PO Box 14683, Chicago, Illinois 60614-0683. USA
  • Murder Can Be Fun – John Man-, Box 640111, San Francisco, CA 94109, USA
  • My Pants are Made… – Simon Owen, Fieldside House, London Road, Blewbury, Oxon. OX11 9NY
  • Scareaphanalia – Michael Gingold, 55 Nordica Drive. Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520. USA
  • Sheer Filth – David Flint. 39 Holly Street. Offerton, Stockport. SKI 4DP.
  • Strange Adventures – Tony Lee. 13 Hazely Combe, Arreton, Isle of Wight, P030 3AJ
  • Subterrene – Anthony Cawood. 6 Daleside Avenue. Pudsey, Leeds. LS28 81-1D
  • A Taste of Bile – PO Box 7150, Waco, TX 76714, USA