Film Blitz

The Arcane Enchanter (Pupi Avati) – Startlingly tedious Italian ‘horror’ movie, which looks lovely, but has all the entertainment value of a drying fresco. The story, about a guy sent to act as scribe to a heretic with occult leanings, is worth about thirty minutes — at movie length, it’s near unendurable, and I came close to walking out. Said heretic appeared to spend large chunks of the movie asleep, and I can sympathise, every scene seems to go on twice as long as even fractionally interesting. It’s nice to be reminded occasionally of why I tend to the view that most Italian horror movies are vastly over-rated. E

Armageddon (Gordon Chan) – I’m a big fan of religious apocalypse films like The Rapture and The Seventh Sign, and this is an HK spin on the theme, with Andy Lau as a tycoon who finds himself caught up in…well, weirdness is perhaps the best word, including SHC and the re-appearance of his dead girlfriend, while sceptical cop Anthony Wong investigates. It’s stretched thin for a movie, but Wong and Lau are good fun to watch between plot elements. After a bad start (the worst English accent I’ve ever heard), the menacing atmosphere improves as the film progresses and a fair head of steam is built up. Definitely different — just when you think you’ve got Hong Kong cinema figured, along comes a curveball like this! B-

Beavis and Butthead Do America (Mike Judge) – In a year of strangely unsatisfying Hollywood blockbusters, it was at once scary and wonderful to find this among 1997’s best, purely because it succeeds at what it’s trying to do, which is simply be funny. I’m no fan of the original TV show at all, but it was a stroke of genius to turn their moronic music video commentary into a road movie, by making it about B&B’s hunt for their stolen TV. This broadens out the horizons to permit more than their usual “This sucks”, and it’s honest enough that you’ll know whether or not you’re gonna like it within seconds of the start: if not you can probably claim you’re in the wrong cinema and get a refund. As for me, I was creased double for most of the film, and very few comedies manage to do that to me. A-

Caged Fear (Fred Olen Ray) – A rather clunky retitling of Fugitive Rage, which, combined with the cover, is designed to play up the women-in-prison angle, despite the fact that only perhaps the first third of the movie takes place behind bars. It’s closer to Nikita, with Wendy Schumacher as the girl given the chance to get out of jail with pal (and Penthouse Pet!) Shauna O’Brien, providing she finishes off the mob boss she shot and injured – which got her in jail to start with – though her victim is keen to finish her off too. Fred’s best work is made tongue-in-cheek, and while competent, this one is played too straight, despite the amusing efforts of Toni Naples and Nikki Fritz. With the action lame and the sex mediocre (Shauna O’Brien doesn’t get her kit off nearly often enough), it definitely needs something more. D-

Caroline at Midnight (Scott McGinnis) – A Roger Corman production, with the usual cast of B-grade actors, headlined here by Mia Sara, who’ll always have a place in my heart for her black-lipsticked appearance in Legend. Seems to have rounded out a bit since then, though I detect the hand of silicone at work. Her and Virginia Madsen both make fine, smouldering femmes fatales, taking on double-dealing corrupt cops and investigative reporters in a risky game involving drugs and cash. Pity the direction relies too heavily on cliched techniques, and the script left me far more interested in Mia’s occasionally-exposed charms. A fast-forward job par excellence. D-

Conspirators of Pleasure (Jan Svankmajer) – Possibly the downright strangest feature film I’ve seen, Svankmajer’s third feature is almost entirely live-action, only the final quarter explodes into the sort of warped animation for which he’s famous. You want high-concept? Try this: “six people have a wank”. Any further description is futile, and it’s the world’s most un-pornographic sex movie. If there is a theme, it’s “different strokes for different folks”: one guy pretends to be a chicken, a postwoman snorts bread balls, a TV newsreader gets her feet tickled by carp. It all loosely ties together, despite the lack of dialogue, and I can’t fault the imagination on view, which is often very funny in a dreamlike way. Not so sure that it works on a more intellectual level, and despite having the long-term impact of a pop promo, it remains a refreshingly bizarre change. C

Crying Freeman (Christophe Gans) – This adaptation of the manga and anime is a faithful recreation, which fails to ultimately engage despite some well-handled set pieces. Mark Dacascos is Freeman, an assassin who falls in love with a girl he’s supposed to kill, amidst a web of betrayal and death. Y’know, the usual. The performances are pretty decent, though the director has an unnerving fondness for the hero’s bottom. It’s problem is one of pacing, the first half crawls past and it takes ages for the hero and heroine to get together. When they finally do, sparks fly, and both Freeman’s first hit and the final battle provide memorable moments, albeit too late. As straight-to-video fodder, better than average; as a cinema release, I’m less sure of its merits. D

Cutthroat Island (Renny Harlin) – After the disappointing Long Kiss Goodnight, I was pleasantly surprised by this – though admittedly wasn’t expecting much – as Geena Davis gets support from Matthew Modine, Frank Langella and a bunch of other memorable characters. It lacks the heavy-handed moralising which sank ‘Kiss’, and Harlin pitches it with the right level of tongue-in-cheek. Things getting slow? Let’s blow something else up. This attitude culminates in an explosion which is so large it tends to suggest pirates had access to nuclear weapons. A fast, flashy and unpretentious film, which substitutes things going ‘Foom!’ for a real plot. B+

Darklands (Julian Richards) – Craig Fairbrass’s three-film contract with Metrodome has churned up two of the worst British genre pictures ever: Beyond Bedlam and Proteus. This one isn’t quite as bad, but is amazingly unoriginal, being a remake of The Wicker Man set in South Wales. Fairbrass is a journalist who investigates a pagan cult and…you can guess the rest. Which is a major flaw: you know where it’s going, so there is precious little suspense, and what there is seems largely to devolve from sequences nicked from other films. This is a shame; given the half-million pound budget, it is technically fine, with good use of music to generate atmosphere. It’s just a pity the director didn’t have the courage to make something a bit less derivative. C-

Dobermann (Jan Kounen) – Dutch director, French film, mentality somewhere on another planet. The titular hero gets a gun as a christening gift; leap forward 20-odd years — he’s graduated to blowing up tankers and has embarked on a crime spree with his (equally weird) cohorts. To catch an excessive criminal, it takes an even more excessive cop, and no prizes for guessing it will all end a) excessively and b) messily. This is perhaps the most amoral film of the year; all the nice characters get ripped off, beaten up or killed — which is exactly the way it should be. Well-shot in both senses, it’s somewhere between Man Bites Dog and Delicatessen, and there are worse places to be. B-

Ed Wood (Tim Burton) – I can see why this bombed, big-time. It’s 127 mins long, in b&w, and the hero is a transvestite — not qualities that appeal to middle America. It also doesn’t go anywhere, being a biography of a life without true highlights, even though it almost skips Wood’s descent into alcohol and skin flicks. Despite this, for any fan of his movies, there’s a wealth of detail that rings true, regardless of whether it is or not. Johnny Depp plays Wood with much sympathy, putting him across as someone deeply cunning when it came to raising finance, yet remaining naive. Martin Landau also stands out as Bela Lugosi, and Burton pushes his usual themes of isolation and “being different”. A total mess of a movie, yet none the worse for it. B

Electra (Julian Grant) – One hoped this might be a spoiler of the oft-promised Elektra Assassin movie; it isn’t. Instead, it’s Shannon Tweed (a woman for whom time is clearly running out) as the stepmother of a young man who holds the key to a serum that gives its subject superhuman speed and strength, and who is consequently in demand by a lot of bad people. Far too restrained – it’s one of those films where people keep their clothes on while having sex, and even Shannon only gets ’em out once – with strictly low-rent production values: there are almost no extras, everyone in the film is in the film. Never actually dull though, and one of the evil henchwomen (sadly, not fully identified in the credits) has definite potential as a leather-bitch-goddess. D-

Felony (David S.Prior) – David Warner, Jeffrey Combs, Lance Henriksen, Joe Don Baker, Ashley (Hellraiser) Lawrence, Charles (Supervixens) Napier: truly a cult cast to die for, in this thriller where Combs is a cameraman who films Warner’s gang killing a SWAT team. As a result, everyone wants the video. Though double-crosses abound in this standard fare, the pedestrian action and plot are saved by the aforementioned actors who show why they are in the Hall of Fame: Joe Don Baker just sneaks the honours, as a CIA agent — or is he? Whoever was casting this deserves far more credit than the director. C+

Une Femme Francaise (Regis Warnier) – Staggeringly dull French film, which even actors of the calibre of Daniel Auteiul and Emmanuelle Beart fail to make even remotely interesting. Wartime soap-opera stuff, with Beart as a woman whose husband (Auteiul) returns from the war to discover her infidelities. Tedious beyond belief, I found myself reaching for the fast-forward in the hope of finding a) anything interesting or b) whatever provoked the ’18’ certificate. I failed. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie that failed to justify its existence so completely. Such is the life of a reviewer; we suffer so that you don’t have to. Many more turkeys like this and Beart is in danger of disappearing up her own art-house. E

Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters 1+2 (Jopi Burnama + Arizal) – This pair of Indonesian movies, catchily retitled by Troma, star the very lovely Eva Arnaz, and TC fave Barry Prima, last seen battling killer shrubbery in Special Silencers (TC 10). Only the first even partly lives up to its title, as a gang of women forced into prostitution fight against their captors with some of the worst kung-fu I’ve seen (Moon Lee will not be losing sleep), and also one of the most gratuitous mud-wrestling bouts. The second is bizarre: part melodramatic love story between Prima and Arnaz, part occult horror, part kung-fu, and Arnaz’s grip on the action (or at least, her stunt double’s) is notably better, which just gives it the edge. Prima is his usual square-jawed and heroic self, while Arnaz looks decorative and emotes a lot. Dumb trash, not without its charm. C- and C

The Frighteners (Peter Jackson) – Meatier than your average Hollywood FX-fest i.e. it actually has a plot, yet something of a disappointment as Peter Jackson movies go. Reminiscent of Mr. Vampire 3 (exorcist teams up with ghosts to make money, only to find himself facing a seriously peeved spectre), it lacks the strong, memorable characters which made his other films such classics. Michael J. Fox is almost forgettable as the exorcist and the superfluous heroine is severely underwritten; only Jeffrey Combsè saves the day on the acting front, playing an utterly mad FBI agent. The effects work well and the New Zealand locations are excellent, but it has a mildness (’15’ rating!) that’s a bit worrying, even if there have been far worse Hollywood debuts. Note: it’s his third consecutive film with a domineering mother. Tell us more about your childhood, Mr. Jackson… C-

Grosse Pointe Blank (George Armitage) – John Cusack makes the transition to action hero in this unlikely but likeable tale of a hitman who returns for his high-school reunion, only to find he’s the sanest man there. The action and comedy elements are great: good to see Benny Urquidez again, and Dan Ackroyd is excellent as a rival killer. However, Minnie Driver, as Cusack’s old flame, seems to have wandered in from a Nora Ephron movie; maybe she’s supposed to be the ‘straight man’, but the overall effect is more to deaden and slow the pace and a better (albeit incestuous) match would be sister Joan, who plays his wonderfully kooky secretary. An amazing gun-battle wraps things up admirably though, and the end result is slick and fun. B+

Howard the Duck (Willard Huyck) – Slagged off last time, Miles Wood insisted I re-view it: “it is a terrific movie”, he said, “you owe it to yourself and to Howard to give it a measly two hours of your life”. So I did. And? It still hasn’t a clue what it’s supposed to be: if it’s a comedy, it ain’t funny, despite leaving no “duck” pun un-utilised. Lea Thomson asking “Can I find happiness in the animal kingdom?” is satisfactorily perverse, and the hyper-extended, excessive climax almost makes the effort worthwhile. However, the novelty of a kid in a feather suit soon wears off, and Howard comes across as just plain unpleasant. Perhaps that explains the original title: ‘A New Breed of Hero’ means one you don’t like very much. What are people like Thomas Dolby and Tim Robbins doing in this? [save inane mugging in the latter’s case] Divide by the budget and you certainly have a viable contender for Worst Movie Ever, on a per-dollar basis. Sorry, Miles! E+

The Jerky Boys (Scott Melkonian) – Looks like a possible influence on Beavis and Butthead Do America, with two foul-mouthed layabouts getting mistaken for mob hitmen, after which things then spiral out of control. The main difference is that Johnny Brennan and Kamal Ahmed (noted American phone pranksters, as yet almost unknown here) are smart rather than dumb, constantly outwitting the gangsters led by Alan Arkin. Though I suspect it’d be funnier if you’re familiar with the New York borough of Queens, the Jerkys are nice characters, and there are a quite adequate number of laughs. Nice to see James Lorinz, of Frankenhooker – and interviewed way back in TC 6 – is still alive, playing a much put-upon associate. C-

Killer: A Journal of Murder (Tim Metcalfe) – James Woods playing convicted serial killer Carl Panzram may not be particularly subtle casting. But who can really complain? Woods, as usual, is excellent, overshadowing Robert Sean Leonard as the prison guard who uses a diary to try and understand what’s going on in the murderer’s head. The major flaw is that once the central concept (“Society’s to blame”) is made apparent, it is rammed home for the next hour or so without significant variation. It might have been more interesting to have made the guard question Panzram about taking responsibility for his actions – instead, there’s nothing here that will challenge anyone’s views to a significant degree. D+

The Natural (Barry Levinson) – On one level, this is your usual shallow baseball film: team of no-hopers fight for the championship. Yet there is rather more to it than this, from the moment when Robert Redford’s farmhand easily strikes out the era’s biggest superstar to win a bet, it’s clear that something special is happening. Even a somewhat curious shooting incident only delays the inevitable by a decade or two before this amazingly gifted “middle-aged rookie” hits the major leagues, an almost mythic figure in status, with a bat hewn from a tree struck by lightning as his Excalibur. This is the stuff of legend, and an excellent supporting cast (Glenn Close plays the Guinevere role, plus you’ve got Joe Don Baker and Michael Madsen in small parts) make it rewarding, probably even for non-fans. B-

Nick of Time (John Badham) – Why this went straight to video here, when so much dreck gets a cinema release, is a mystery; it’s a perfectly solid thriller featuring Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken. The former has his child kidnapped by the latter, who gives him 90 minutes to kill the governor of California, or his brat gets it. Aside from the fact that the kid is no nauseating, you pray for her demise, this works well, propelled by the effective idea of unfolding the film in real time. Badham is a past master at this sort of thing, and delivers tension by the spadeful, with Walken outstanding as ever. Implausible as hell, yet if you can accept the central premise, the rest runs like a Swiss watch. B+

A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell (Brett Piper) – Odds on that being the title before Troma got to it: slim. Post-apocalyptic prehistory, with the heroine fighting off mutants and dinosaurs, while trying to keep her top on — though the cover art bimbo is rather more impressive than the reality there. If you’re a fan of stop motion animation, this will be right up your street, with a lot of surprisingly decent (given the budget) work on view. However, the rest of the movie isn’t as engaging or appealing, and unless you have a keen interest in the works of Ray Harryhausen and his like, there are better post-apocalypse movies to be found. D

Once Upon a Time in China and America (Samo Hung) – Jet Li returns as hero Wong Fei Hung, only this time in the US, defending Chinese miners from small-town bigotry. Lighter in tone than the original, it really tries to cram in too much: there’s a sub-plot involving Indians (who switch between English and their native tongue semi-randomly!) that just peters out half-way. There’s also every cliché under the sun, which may or may not be sly parody. Oh yeah, and a great deal of fighting — it’s a surprise this hasn’t been done before, seems like an ideal combination, even if the result is bordering on a dog’s dinner. C+

Paganini (Klaus Kinski) – This is vanity film-making at its most excessive, with cinematic wildman Kinski writing, directing and employing his relations in this tale of a tortured artistic genius bonking his way round Europe; I imagine any similarity to Klaus is purely deliberate. Much of this is completely laughable – Paganini’s music apparently made women instantly go all squishy, and even starts horses shagging, in a scene reminiscent of Borowczyk’s La Bete – yet Kinski has the charisma to (barely) pull it off, assisted by some of the most berserk violin-playing you are ever likely to hear. I’m left wondering why anyone would give out money for this project but, let’s face it, would you be brave enough to turn the man down? C

The Prophecy (Gregory Widen) – Another entry in the “religious apocalypse” genre (see Armageddon above), Christopher Walken (again!) plays rebellious archangel Gabriel like a mobster, as he hunts the blackest soul in the world. Only people between him and it are a good angel (Eric Stolz) and a priest who lost his faith and became a cop instead. Gothic horror-fantasy, effectively driven by Widen, that uses FX sparingly on the whole, leaving Stolz and Walken room to act. After this, the finale is something of a disappointment, with dodgy optical work (Widen wrote Highlander, which had the same problem), though Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer almost steals the film. I suspect we might get more of this sort of thing as the millennium approaches… B- [Indeed, there is also in existence ‘Prophecy II’, which certainly comes into the category of “more of this sort of thing”. Sadly though, in this case more is less, and even the return of Christopher Walken can’t manage to save a very tired looking sequel, possessing little or none of the innovatively creepy stuff which characterised the first film. The Devil may have all the best tunes, but he also has some rather poor movies…]

The Razor (Misumi Kenji) – Seriously tacky Japanese film, from much the same team as Lone Wolf and Cub. The hero is a renegade cop, macho beyond belief, who interrogates women by bonking them into submission, having honed his technique on sacks of rice (and a training regime which adds a whole new dimension to ‘beating your meat’). After finding a conspiracy to cover up some high-level goings-on, he comes under pressure to drop the case. Three guesses whether he does. Body fluids everywhere and a script full of double-meanings, are wrecked by a tendency to go on and on, plus the deeply incongruous 70’s soundtrack (19, rather than 1770’s). A Shogun Assassin style edit of two or three entries in the series would be an improvement, and conceivably an undoubted trash classic. C-

The Relic (Peter Hyams) – In these post-Jurassic Park days, monster movies have changed. It is no longer acceptable to hide them in the dark, the odd claw peeping out, they have to be in your face. And, Mr. Hyams please note, in daylight, too — never has a film looked so murky. With a heroine who is self-centred and whiny, my sympathies were with the monster; some Amazonian DNA-fungoid-mutant-lizard-human, though its origins were obscured by copious technobabble, Rather gory for a ’15’, with a great decapitation, it is a stream of missed opportunities. When the monster finally lumbers into plain sight, it’s quite, quite lovely — you just wish it had appeared 90 minutes earlier. D-

Return of the God of Gamblers (Wong Jing) – A long time after the original, and choosing to ignore completely the Chow Yun Fat-less pseudo-sequels, this was a huge hit in Hong Kong, becoming the first movie ever to gross HK$50m. Despite this, it’s a strangely flat kind of film, which is simply just not as good as the original — for example, in it, the humour seemed to flow naturally from the characters, but in ‘Return’, it all seems forced in there, with some parts feeling like discards from a Steven Chow movie. It doesn’t take itself seriously, which leaves the dramatic elements flailing around aimlessly, especially a villain whose sheer evilness goes beyond caricature, and that’s before he kills Chow’s wife and unborn son. Speaking of Chow, he is, of course, charismatic and powerful as ever, yet even he ends up strangely unmemorable — there are hardly any moments which will stay with you once the movie has ended. C-

The Silencers (Richard Pepin) – An interesting counterpoint to what might be seen as the cynical pro-Conspiracy propaganda of Men in Black (“the MiB are your friends!”). Here they are the advance guard of an alien invasion, while a Secret Service agent and a dude from the Pleiades try and stop them. Owing quite a bit to The Hidden, though the heroes here lack the same chemistry as McLachlan and Nouri had there, The Silencers tries to make up for this deficiency with nifty whizz-bang action scenes — it’s 45 minutes before any significant plot turns up. The pyrotechnics are cool, but the stuff between them is facile and banal. At least you know you’re no more than ten minutes from another car flying through the air. C+

Swallowtail Butterfly (Iwai Shunji) – This Japanese movie is all over the place in genre terms, combining drama, blood-spattered action, comedy and musical numbers – if the end result is some way short of perfect, it’s always interesting to watch. The setting is the underbelly of Tokyo’s sprawl, peopled by gangsters, junkies, whores and migrant workers; a group of the last-named stumble onto a tape of computer data, and use it to forge money. Lots of money. Needless to say, the Yakuza owners are keen to get the tape back: cue mayhem (the fire-fight in a car is particularly impressive), intrigue, and a grunge version of ‘My Way’. While it’s at least half an hour too long, and sags badly in the middle, it’s buoyed up by a host of great characters, and is a glimpse into a part of Japanese culture that is rarely seen. B

Teenage Catgirls in Heat (Scott Perry) – Another Troma contender for Inspired Title of the Year, possibly too inspired, as it’d be hard for any movie to live up to it. This is basically a micro-budget comedy slant on Cat People, with an ancient Egyptian cat-goddess coming back and turning the local girls into cats (or was it the local cats into girls?). It reminded me of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, with worse production values – difficult though that might be to believe – while the producers must have had the gift of the gab, going by the number of women they talked into taking their tops off. I have to admit I did laugh out loud on a few occasions, though it won’t be replacing the Kinski flick in my affections, I was amused enough. C+

Underworld (Roger Christian) – One of the better Tarantino ripoffs, it clearly helps a lot to have someone like Dennis Leary mouthing your “amusing” dialogue, since he actually makes it funny. He is in full-on wacko mode, a psychotic psychotherapist (he got the degree in jail) now out to find and eliminate all those who put his Pop in intensive care, while dragging Joe Mantegna with him round a city virtually devoid of other life. Oh, and he sings selections from the work of Rogers and Hammerstein while he’s at it. Compared to him, every else in the movie seems to be operating at half-power, and while undeniably loopy, you can’t help liking his character. It all takes place over the course of a single night and thanks largely to Leary, comes over as an elegant, compact item. B

Wax Mask (Sergio Stivaletti) – Despite the limited resources, this is entirely acceptable as cheerful tack. Originally intended for Lucio Fulci, Stivaletti makes a decent fist of this remake, but ultimately falls down because he doesn’t bring anything much new to the old “waxworks using real people” story. Its looks do belie the $1.25m budget though, with the sets especially worthy of mention, and there are a few decent babes too, so it’s never tedious. However, it is hard to distinguish the actors from the waxworks, and ripping off the climax from Terminator probably wasn’t a wise move. C-

Wing Chun (Yuen Wo Ping) – A neo-feminist kung-fu flick? For here we have two sisters, neither much in demand by the local men — at least, not until they rescue a beautiful widow from bandits, and give her a home. The movie then teeters between bedroom farce, OTT kick-ass action, and something disturbingly close to a lesbian sub-plot for the rest of the way. Even if the action is too “fly by wire” for my taste, it somehow works: recent Bond girl Michelle Khan (no, hang on, if it’s Tuesday, it must be Michelle Yeoh) is perhaps the only female action star who could be mistaken for a man, as required here. It’s also nice to see Donnie Yen back, and the overall package is highly entertaining. B-

Trash TV #2: In Bed With Callisto

The Supplemental Delights of ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’

Back in the mid-80’s, there was a distinct sub-genre of films known as “barbarian bimbo”. These had titles like Warrior Queen and starred Sybil Danning, Lana Clarkson or some similarly formidable creature, who looked good wielding an F-sized sword. Watching Xena – Warrior Princess brings it flooding back: dodgy accents, small outfits pretending to be armour, and everything else that will warm the heart of a true fan of televisual tack.

Played by the delightfully named Lucy Lawless, Xena began as a spin-off from Sam Raimi’s TV show Hercules. Originally a minor character therein, Xena proved popular enough to merit her own show, also set in the nebulous time and space known as “Ancient Greece” (for which, 1990’s New Zealand is apparently a suitable stand-in). Starting off as a bad girl – in black armour, naturally – leading a horde of bandits, Xena switched to the side of good after rescuing a baby, of necessity swapping to a lighter shade of costume too.

In her own show, she acquired the traditional accessory of heroes: a perky, annoying sidekick, as personified by Monique Gabrielle in Deathstalker II. And, hey, Xena’s sidekick is called Gabrielle! A subtle in-joke? Could be: as a Sam Raimi production, anything’s possible. As far as influences go, they willingly admit HK movies, with Bridgette Bride With White Hair Lin a particular source of inspiration for Xena. Her every facet seems cunningly crafted to provoke awe. Hell, this woman had a spring-loaded cleavage dagger, and when she squeezed her (A-grade) mounds together, it shot out, oh, yessss… Rumours, sadly unfounded, abound of Lawless’s secret past as a porn star.

One interesting sidelight is the alleged subtext. Xena is a dyke icon, remarkably good taste on the part of the lesbian community, compared to their usual choices, such as Jodie Foster, and much panting goes on over the Xena/Gabby relationship, encouraged by unsubtle innuendo from the makers. However, it mostly relies on “meaningful glances”, and much as I enjoy a spot of hot all-girl action, I’m more inclined to point out one eyebrow-raising thing about ‘Hercules’: the quantity of young guys in skimpy leather outfits, hanging round the plot for no readily apparent reason.

Far better, of course, to have young women in skimpy leather outfits, and on her own, Lucy Lawless would be enough. Yet she is not the top-rated beauty on the show…

“Love is just a trick nature plays to get us to reproduce. I want no part of it”.

Every good show needs a good villain: Batman had the Joker, ST:TNG had the Borg, and Xena has Callisto. One of the strengths of Xena: Warrior Princess is its ability to get good performances from unknowns. Lucy Lawless had done little of note before, and the same applies to Hudson Leick (“like”), who plays Callisto: despite a minimal resume, she creates perhaps the most memorably evil TV creation of the 1990’s.

Her history dates back quite a while, to when Xena was still a bad girl herself. Her army rampaged through Callisto’s village, and while Xena’s rules were strictly Leon-esque i.e. “no women, no kids”, Callisto’s family were burnt alive. After growing up, Callisto dedicated her life to Xena’s extermination: starting with her reputation, moving on to her friends, and only then killing the warrior princess herself.

Callisto has even had a sword to Xena’s throat, and let her go, since she wants first to utterly destroy all Xena loves. Not the least of which is Gabrielle… Without wishing to give away too much plot, in the second series Callisto succeeds in changing the pacifistic Gabrielle into a revenge-driven harpy of rage. This feat forever endeared her to those of us who share Callisto’s opinion of Xena’s sidekick as an “irritating blonde”.

Such devotion to duty helps explain Callisto’s appeal — apart from the fact that Leick is a total babe! With cheekbones so sharp you could use them to cut glass, the blonde badness of Callisto does the unthinkable, and makes Xena look dowdy in comparison. Leick’s slimness is also the subject of some bitching, especially from fans of the relatively chubby Xena: but, hey, ‘Callisto: Warrior Anorexic’ has a nice feel to it.

They say the devil has all the best tunes, and in this show, she also get most of the best lines, as Callisto delights in playing mind-games with Xena, smearing her with bloody memories from the past. The quote above is an example of her philosophy, though it sadly puts paid to idle subtext-esque fantasies of Xena and Callisto, and never mind Xena and Gabrielle! But Leick doesn’t even need spectacularly excessive dialogue (“You created a monster with integrity, Xena — scary isn’t it?”), not when she can load up an innocent line like ‘Here comes trouble!’ with a deadly, insane edge, and make it ring like chipped crystal.

After one episode in the first series, it was no surprise to anyone when Leick was invited back for more in the second. And such was her success that not even death, smothered in quicksand, could stop her. She moved across to ‘Hercules’ and traded with Zeus’s wife Hera, agreeing to kill Hercules in exchange for life. Needless to say, she didn’t quite manage her side of the deal, but… Callisto is now godlike in the strictest sense, having eaten ambrosia — no, not the rice pudding, the food of the gods. As far as Xena is concerned, the phrase “Here comes trouble!” leaps to mind once more, with regard to the upcoming third season…

Despite her success, it seems unlikely that we will see Callisto in her own show. American TV is not ready for an evil heroine, and somehow the prospect of Callisto turning good like Xena has little appeal. Though this has been kinda seen already: after Lucy Lawless broke her pelvis in an accident with a horse, the makers used a range of tricks to finish filming — one of which was “Xena taking over Callisto’s body”. The result was… well, it’s an interesting place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Instead, to see Callisto in full evil flow is a wondrous experience: truly nothing succeeds like excess.

Some reckon the camera should merely spend 50 minutes panning smoothly up and down the firm, lithe bodies of Callisto and Xena, without unnecessary plot interference. Yet the makers insist on inserting stories and, worse still, making them imaginative and inventive. It’d be easy for the series to degenerate into a repetitive saga of “Kill the baddies, save the village”; that it doesn’t is a pleasant shock, even if it’s by wholesale plundering outside the Greek mythos, including Charles Dickens and Indiana Jones.

The characters, too, are often unexpected: Charon, ferryman of the dead, as a stand-up comic, or Sam Raimi’s brother Ted as an ineffectual wimp, and Bruce Campbell turns up as Autolycus, the king of thieves. But it’s Lawless herself who’s the biggest revelation, bringing a surprising amount of depth and colour to a role that could also have slid into the banal and cliched. In the episode Warrior… Princess… Tramp, she plays three totally different characters, and they are all perfectly believable. About the only weak link is Renee O’Connor; her attempts to bring variety to Gabrielle’s character are usually squirm-inducingly bad, and stand out all the more because virtually everyone else in the series is so good in their roles.

Oops. This sort of thing can happen to anyone. No, it’s not another “frankie”, this is the genuine article: Lucy was singing the National Anthem at an ice-hockey play-off match, and got a little, er, over-enthusiastic for her costume. That sound you hear is a million VCRs going “whirr” to preserve the moment for posterity! [2021 update: After her role in Spartacus, this seems rather redundant…]

Xena has succeeded where other female action heroines have been critical and commercial failures: Lori Petty, Pamela Anderson, etc. Before Xena, you have to go back to ‘Aliens’ for a kick-ass babe who made such an impact. And Sigourney didn’t have pop-up breasts. It’s become the biggest syndicated show in America, providing something for everyone: women can appreciate the strong female characters, men can appreciate the, er, strong females. It’s no surprise that it’s one of C5’s top ten rated shows — though, let’s face it, anything with an audience in double figures would probably qualify there…

Stitched Up

Pre-face… It suddenly occurred to me, as many things spuriously do, that I have a reputation to live up to. At least, a meagre one within the bounds of Trash City – let’s say the McLennan crowned King of High Weirdness.

Nominally, I don’t consider my exploits or persona weird in any way. True, at times, I remark on “how strange” recent events have been (1992-1997), or how “that person in the shop gave me a disturbed look as I walked past”. All things being relative, I think just about every other living being I chance upon is distinctly weird, a minor tremor of disconcerting reaction quivering through my mental ionosphere. I rarely analyse the circumstances I exist in, or the body blows and seductive caresses destiny deals me. I live pretty much from day to day, pausing only to discern some discernible linear structure in my world. This may be, of course, by examining a map, or taking a rough guess at which phase of the moon I’m in. Obviously, then I have to wait for nightfall to challenge my earlier celestial presumption. Usually, I am completely wrong, and if you were to see my glimmering face in the solar-neon-wash bouncing off a lurid full moon, you might think “Now there’s a man who looks confused”, expecting, as I was, to be staring heavenward at a pretty innocuous ‘first quarter’.

On to the chosen title of my latest piece. Luckily, for you, and for my organic psychosis, the previously mooted verbiage on Vomiting was never, well, spewed up. It could have been good, but we’ll never get to digest it.

‘Stitched Up’ is a passionate account of a sometime deranged flatmate, hospital insanity, film making, red-red kroovy and pigs trotters.

IN A CRAMPED STUDIO ROOM

Barnes north, suggesting itself to be a film crew, were four horrendously tired people. A camera lent crazily on insecure legs, teetering as we did, pointing in all directions, trying to follow just one. Midnight had slunk past like a junkie cat at the end of a fishing line, and everyone felt envious of the imagined sleeping masses around. The final shot in the short film – admittedly at my behest – was an explosion. I admit under questioning that I have a penchant for things that destruct amid brimstone and fire. For your benefit, I have included a copy of the storyboard in question [see fig. EXPLO #1. Minds are turning now, I feel your outcast mental processes shuddering – drug damaged neurons plaintively trying to connect with others – but there are no others! But one, lone neuron! Sorry, reading the psychiatrists report. You sick little monkeys – yes! Yes, I was injured! Wait, you gore fiends!]

That sketchy hand – my hand! It was my hand! That speaker? Fabricated, as was my future ‘reason for injury’ tale to interested parties. Even though it’s 2:29am, I am in a generous mood. I will provide a diagrammatic representation of the explosive used. I like to taste fear in my mouth, but not to have it piss down my throat. Therefore, I took safety precautions…….

  1. Crash Helmet! Good for deflecting flaming pieces of debris!
  2. Cardboard taped around waist. You never know!
  3. Bollock guard. Stuff me full of grapes, I forgot to bring one.

Spend two hours carefully placing the charge on a carefully angled metal plate, and very carefully placing both into a carefully constructed cavity. Carefully drill out sections of the wood sides of the speaker which aren’t in camera view, so as to hopefully manipulate the explosive force. Which will blow out the carefully positioned speaker cone, of course being held back at a distance of 0.14 inches by a carefully secured tension wire. The carefully weighted structure will ensure the desired energy transference, and a spectacular visual effect! Lovely!

Hmmmm! I smile when I think back. How cunning my plan was. How exacting my devious construction. How fucking perfectly it would all go. With the camera assistant crouched fearfully behind a bunch of boxes (“Don’t like loud bangs”), and the camera operator crouched fearfully behind that teetering camera, me stood bravely and without an ounce of pussy-whipped fear in his body before the awesome danger (alright, I was a little anxious) – Sarah, my sometime wild flatmate and director of said film, pushed the button.

At this juncture, it might be useful to tell you what that button was. Operating instructions on the explosive charge mention something about a pissing NINE VOLTS. I laughed with righteous scorn. Toys take 9 volts. Safety devices take nine volts. A glorious moment was not going to be born to a stubby-chunk of over-priced electro chemicals. No. I jacked the whole contraption straight into the mains. “There we go”, I grinned. “That will light a fire under it’s arse”.

Later, in hospital, I learned of regret. Two hours into NHS purgatory and mental insanity, I learned of hell. Charing Cross Hospital is a Mecca to the deranged. A terminally drunken, stinking woman in a wheelchair constantly shouting “Excuse me! excuse me!” to anyone that came near her, then “Where am I? What time is it?” OK, you take pity, you tell her what’s what. Not after two hours of the same monologue. You want to introduce her to a Remington 10 Gauge. Men walking into walls. Combat trained ants. Nodding cameras when you proffer your wound to its roving lens. Psychos. Crazies. The wounded, the dying. Sure, just like any New Cross pub – but when you’re in pain, sadistically denied any painkillers, blatant NHS travesties. One of many. At 2:30am, 2 hours after I had first limped thorough the foreboding doors, a meek and apologetic nurse emerged from the bowels of the protoplasmic hospital. “I’m very sorry, but we only have one doctor on at the moment. You’ll probably have to wait another two hours.” Spittle flecked my lips, but I was too tired for remonstration.

I went home. To nurse my sorrows and blast damaged arm. Familiar surroundings brought me to my senses. The next day, I found myself in St. Thomas’. Ah, yes. The sanctuary of a world famous hospital. As I checked in, at the incongruous reception for A&E, the outside doors nearby burst open and a stretcher was thrust in, hurried along by ambulance personnel and a few policemen, carrion like. The man on it didn’t look so good. In fact, somebody was heaving up and down frantically on his chest. For a fleeting second, I thought I was watching a staged theatrical version of Casualty. He disappeared with attendants through to the emergency ward. Minutes later, I laid eyes upon several despondent solemn faces as they emerged; another tragic loss. I had witnessed my first clinical death. The reality of the scene I had experienced hit home. With a lurching stomach, clutching at re-awakened mortality, I headed into the casualty to have my hand stitched up.

In a small cubicle. A small trolley laden with a practitioner’s tools was wheeled in by a disarmingly charming female doctor. I felt better already. “So, ” I started, “is it true you practice stitching on pigs skin?” She faltered for a moment, needle and local anaesthetic in hand, then replied “Yes. Well, on pig’s trotters actually.” She leant forward. “Sorry, but I have to inject this into the actual wound.” The length of steel ebbed into raw, open flesh. Hmmm. Fluid and blood leaked out like forced tears. Pain flooded into my cerebellum. Think of the pig, Andy, I reminded myself: Bacon, pork and post-mortem stitching practice. Some afterlife. Later, I carried myself home on the No. 88 to Clapham, nursing small plastic strands poking out from my hand. A small sacrifice for one’s art I believed, as I keyed my front door, and headed for the bed once more.

Wounds happen like chance meetings with disastrous consequences. Foolishly, I ratified the fact in my brain that this was the year’s quota of knotting together accidentally separated flesh. I can laugh now. How I can laugh. Not for the first time in my life, I was gravely mistaken. Playing with fire has always been my downfall – a spiritual hazard – my mind wanders back in time……..

A NIGHTCLUB! FREE VODKA! FREE BEER!

Am I dreaming some imagined paradise? No! It was real! A record label party. New toons, new faces. Acclimatise, listen without prejudice, fight the seething mass for another double Vodka. The top level of the Subterranea warms my soul, engages my emotive spirit. To drink, to forget, to enjoy, to have a bloody good time at someone else’s expense.

A certain tome by Milton ebbs into my consciousness. Sarah, sometime wild flatmate, something to do with that fire hazard I was talking about, was conspicuously drunk. Leaning strangely against the balcony railing, having left my misappropriated chatting up of a Chinese girl (boyfriend was there too – but, honestly, I didn’t mean anything – blah, blah, blah).

Suddenly, afore-mentioned flatmate cries my name; it registers in the dim void that is my consciousness Aaaa….. nnnnn…. dddd….. eeeee! The noise is lost in the inner tumult that is vodka drenched brain cells. She leaps on me. From behind. Charmed, I’m sure. My legs buckle, you can guess the rest. The scene, the moment of utter embarrassment, pain and loss of dignity – oh, how cruelly it is etched on my mind. The first points of contact with the floor, in order of descent: (a) chin (b) elbow (c) knee. None survived. My chin split open like (I want to say “ripe melon”, but besides being cliched, I have never imagined my chin as a large fruit) – like a rabbit’s side being hit by a Ford Granada doing 40 mph (how’s that?). I lay, dazed and confused, blood leaking around. Pain. Lots of pain. Staring at me was, amongst other people the manager of the record label who I had been talking to not 30 minutes earlier. I struggled to my feet, heavily concussed. I can’t remember the exact phrase hurled at Sarah, but she hurried off. I couldn’t see the wound, obviously. Hey, I’m a big man. Didn’t feel that bad.

The stares of horror I was getting seemed to contradict my diagnosis. I wobbled to the bar. The manager was concerned. The barman was concerned. “Christ, that’s really bad.” Shit. “Do you want a drink?” Yeah. Yeah, there’s a good idea. Goo dripped from my head. I knew what it must feel like to be hit by Tyson. Commiserations to the loser. “Vodka. Big vodka”. More vodka. The club manager had now appeared on the scene. Oh-my-God. The evening had turned well and truly sour. A medi-kit appeared, and I was ushered – supported – into the toilets. There, through an endorphin haze, I saw what had once been my chin. A fleshy, split beaver of a chin (well, it had to come, didn’t it?). I felt sick. A huge dressing was taped over. Thanking everyone, as you do, I had to make my way through the entire crowd, to the awaiting taxi.

Sarah came with me. Guess where we were going? Paddington Hospital. Enter. Triage nurse. Classification of injury. Sit down. Wait your turn. I knew the procedure. Meek, drunken apologies from my flatmate. Hmmm. Now, as you might be thinking, the madness must be coming to an end. Ha. Ha. Ha. Sitting to my left was Methadone Man. Junkie Man. Crazy fucking man.

“Alright mate. How did you get that?” I duly explained. “What are you in for, man?” I quizzed. He grinned and peeled back a suspicious dressing on his lower leg. I saw a festering hole in the muscle. “Heroin, man. Inject it, but can’t use any of the veins in my arms, or neck, ‘cos they’ve all collapsed….” – my stomach flipped – “so began injecting my cock.” What do you say? I merely nodded. “But that’s all fucked up, so I started on my leg. But as you can see……”. Jesus Christ. This is what they didn’t show you in ‘Trainspotting’. We chatted. Compared veins. That sort of thing. Still drunk, I found solace in personal amusement – as you have to. Even when he plopped a copy of The Guardian on my lap. A bleeding heart Liberal, eh? Underneath he told me, was a present. I looked. “100mg. of Methadone. Pharmaceutical. Don’t give it to your friend, because she’s drunk.” I didn’t understand. “Man, if she takes this when she’s drunk, she’ll die.” I clearly relived that scene from Pulp Fiction, and made a note absolutely not to give her any. Ever. “Ur, thanks.” I replied. “Something for a rainy day”, he grinned. “Great!”, I concluded.

Finally, I was in the work room. That room – with the stretcher, the overhead light rig, the surgeons tools. And with the gorgeous doctor. It works. It really works; the pain vanished before feminine radiance. I lay down. Putty. She placed one of those green surgical numbers on me. But over my head, with my mashed chin poking through a small rectangle! This is fucking ridiculous, I thought. “How did you get that?” she chirped. “Ah, urm, well, I was at this nightclub, and, well, free Vodka, and the girl I was with, well, she leapt on me, and, well, yeah, this is what happened.” We laughed together, until she jammed a thin bit of steel into my flesh. The smile vanished. 7 stitches later, I was uncovered like a medical display, fiddled with my new plastic stubble, and headed out into the night. I can shave properly now, just a small lump to remind me of that grim evening. But further bad karma-sutres lie ahead, I’m sure…

[Please, do not try and re-create any of these stunts at home, dear readers.
Remember, Andy Collins is a trained professional…
]

High weirdness by Mail

Tim Greaves, Eastleigh — “One major league disappointment, however. Where was the “frankie” of Gillian Anderson? I mean, the Phoebe Cates one was very nice, and quite by chance I’d seen the one of Meg Ryan that you referred to (some guy at work was showing a colour print-out of it round a couple of weeks ago, convinced it was real…yeah, like she’d pose for something like that). But I wanted Gillian Anderson!…To ask me in the text if I “fancy Gillian Anderson sucking a rather large dick” (eliciting a scream from yours truly) and then not deliver the payload is just too damn cruel.”

TC’s printers are a tolerant lot, but I suspect even they might draw the line at graphic oral sex. I merely plead cowardice, having no desire to pen this edition from Wormwood Scrubs. However, I noted with some amusement that a few months after we brought the topic to your attention last issue, the Sunday Sport had a series of articles on the same topic – naturally saying how terrible it all was while providing lots of examples! But for the sake of Tim’s health, I should mention that they didn’t print the Gillian Anderson one either…

Claire Blamey, Great Yarmouth — “I am now working at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, and at last have found somewhere that I can use the mine of useless information that is sloshing around in my grey matter. We have such intelligent queries to sort out e.g. “Where is the sea?” (this is mostly in the summer) — I say “Go to the window. See that wet patch with boats on it? There you go” — and the occasional “I want to sell my kidneys, do you know where I can go?”

I have also been trying to pass my motorcycle test – trying being the operative word:
    1) so nervous I couldn’t use the clutch properly
    2) the intercom they use didn’t work
    3) a car ran into me and I went bouncing down Norwich ring road at 40 mph
    4) the speedo cable came unstuck, so I had to guess how fast I was going. If I had stopped, I’d have failed for not having a roadworthy machine. I was failed for speeding
    5) the instructor’s bike broke down
    6) the instructor was taken ill and died of a heart attack later on
    7) I had flu and had to cancel

Then my licence ran out and I’ve got to wait a year before trying again. What annoys me is that I’m a really good biker and I see some appalling and dangerous people out on the roads who have got their licences.”

Claire, your problem is not that you’re too dangerous to be let loose; you’re just too unlucky. After the litany of woes above, who’d ever sell you any insurance?

Paul Burney, Prestwich — “Good to see Showgirls given a mention…any film which features Siouxsie and the Banshees, good choreography, Triumph bikes and produces a classy picture book can’t be all bad… Disappointed you didn’t mention its stars — or more importantly, feature any pics. Elizabeth Berkely (Nomi) appeared to take much of the flak – even her agent ditched her – but has managed to rebuild her career in The First Wives’ Club [Er, clearly a different definition of “rebuild” to mine!] Her new agent is the same one as Sandra Bullock; I think any chance of her co-starring in Speed 2 is just wishful thinking.”

Probably lucky for her given the box-office receipts. Bullock’s career is apparently riding the Winona-spiral down; maybe she could swap with Berkeley, and do Showgirls 2 instead?

Robin Bougie, Saskatchewan — “Normally, I hardly ever find anything you write that I disagree with, but this time I actually did…The third season of The X Files is the lamest one, not the best…in most episodes [it] works as the opposite of propaganda for the CIA + FBI. If anything, it shows how they’ll fuck you over and leave you dead in a ditch. That said, I don’t really like the show.

However, with one or two exceptions, little of the “fucking over” is done by the FBI, who seem to be presented mostly as guardians of truth, justice and the American way

Robin continues: ‘In defence of Showgirls‘ and the Barb Wire review reeked of “Look! I’m Jim McLennan! Look how different I am! I think the opposite of what everyone else thinks!” Both movies sucked shit. It’s okay to think Verhoeven is a maverick genius and still think ‘Showgirls’ blew, y’know. We don’t have to gobble up our idols’ faeces… Tell Rik his art is swell, but that girl’s hand on the cover is fucked…unless that’s supposed to be a grotesque mutated meat-hook on the end of her arm, and I’m missing the point.”

I had it down as a tribute to the “handgun” in Videodrome myself… As for Barb Wire and Showgirls, I genuinely enjoyed both. Deal with it. Robin does however win the award for ‘Best Decorated Envelope’, with the splendid illo reproduced on the previous page. Our postman hopes to come off Prozac soon.

Steve Midwinter, Scunthorpe — “…yep, I certainly did have some difficulty with the local police. In late October, the plain clothes police knocked on the door at this address, which is where I rent a room in a terraced house as my office. They had a warrant to search the premises and I was told to open the back door where there were more coppers waiting in case I did a runner! I was immediately arrested for ‘Obscene publications for publicational or financial gain’ and told to sit down while the 8 officers took my place apart. They basically cleared me out totally of stock, as well as my own mags, paperwork, computer, files, the lot. They wanted to search two locked rooms upstairs (my landlord’s bedroom and junkroom) but he was at work so they kicked the doors in (and found nothing, of course). I was then taken to my girlfriend’s flat which was also searched, and all my videos were taken from there… I was taken to the station, booked in, searched, and chucked in a cell, thankfully only for an hour before being interviewed (the usual stupid questions about snuff movies, stills from Cannibal Holocaust being real, selling video nasties, etc, etc). I was then released on bail until January 15th.

The good news is that when I answered bail, they said that they were not going to charge me, but that they wanted to keep some of the videos (titles from the banned list and hardcore porn) which I signed away. They also wanted some of the stuff they’d sent to London to be checked out by the Obscene Publications Squad which included: Darkside, Headpress, Divinity, Penthouse Comix, In the Flesh, Mondo Argento, Necronomicon Book, Killing for Culture, Uncut, Fatal Visions, Lord Horror and a load more [I’m disappointed not to make the list. Where did I put that pic of Gillian Anderson…?] I wouldn’t agree to that so they said that, if we couldn’t come to some agreement, it would have to go before a magistrate to decide, which I was quite happy to do. Finally, they let me have everything back except one copy of The Blackest Heart which had some stills from porn movies in showing erections, so I let them keep that. Apparently I was raided because some guy in Hampshire got the same treatment (he was selling banned videos) and they found a flyer at his home for Dark Carnival. They said it was a letter talking about videos, but I know that was a lie, [Lie? The police? No!!!] because I don’t know the guy and have never dealt with him before… And that’s the end of it apart from the fact that I’m seeing my solicitor about some sort of compensation, at least for the smashed door”. [Update: “needless to say, they won’t pay anything”…]

Nice to know crime is so rare that the cops can waste time fabricating charges against magazine distributors. I need hardly add that you should send off two quid for Steve’s (very impressive) catalogue; the man clearly deserves your support. The full story of how he “helped the police with their enquiries” may be found in #3 of ‘It’s Only a Movie’, also available from Steve. Details of both in the ‘zine section.

Mal Aitchison, Liverpool — “In ‘Against The X Files’, there was mention of the episode featuring a malevolent computer resembling a bad 60’s thriller. This is an outrageous, indefensible accusation. It’s quite blatantly a rip-off of a 1970’s episode of The New Avengers“.

I stand corrected – though at least it was deliberately stoopid. Oh, and if you wondered where Andy Collins had got to, after hijacking the letters column last time… See the next article.

Stoopid is, as stoopid does

“Psst, kid”: Don’t fall for cheap cig scam – UI student latest victim of con artist

A 20-year old University of Illinois student was the latest victim of what police believe to be a series of scams involving an attempt to buy cheap cigarettes.

The student told police Monday that he was approached three weeks ago by a man who offered to get cigarettes at $8 a carton and the student gave him $24 for three, according to a Champaign police report. They went to an apartment at Sixth and Healey, but the man never returned, the student said.

The student encountered the same man in a campus restaurant again on Wednesday, and the man claimed he returned but the student was gone, the report said. The man told the student he could get the money back from another person, and took him to an apartment in the 500 block of East Clark Street. The man came back from the apartment and said he needed $17, because all the other person had was a $50 bill. The student gave the man $18.

The man told the student he needed $20 more to make the correct change, so the student withdrew $20 from his bank account and gave it to the man. The man then said the person who had the student’s money was in jail and they could bail him out for $100. The student wrote a cheque for $40 and gave it to the man, according to the report.

The man again returned from the apartment, saying the bond had been raised to $200 and he needed $70 more. The student wrote another cheque for $70, cashed it and gave it to the man. The man said the other person had $300 in cash but needed $105 more, so the student wrote another cheque, cashed it and gave him $105, the report said.

The man asked if the student would like to make some money and the student agreed. The man and the student went to various stores, buying a radio and videocassette recorder and some groceries with cheques written by the student.

They then went to an apartment in north Champaign. The man told the student he would be right back with money for selling the radio and videocassette recorder, for more than the student had paid, but again he never returned.

The student waited a few hours and called police.

[News-Gazette, Champaign, Illinois]

The idiocy of certain members of the human race never fails to amaze. I know a guy, Kev, who staggered out of a casino in London, and was accosted by a stranger who offered to take him to a gambling joint, in exchange for a three-figure “deposit”. [You can see where this is leading, can’t you?] He took Kev through a maze of side-streets, and left him standing before a door, saying he’d go get the security key. Guess whether stranger, or deposit, were ever seen again…