Very few series succeed in generating the sort of mass fan hysteria seen so quickly with regard to ‘The X Files’. Even ‘Star Trek’ took a relatively long while to build up a cult following, but within two seasons, Chris Carter’s baby acquired a horde of rabid, devoted fans, the “X-philes”, endlessly poring over fine details of the show, down to the colour of Dana Scully’s underwear. But is the show worth it? Frankly, no. It may be the best thing on American television, but that’s scarcely saying much. And while there have undeniably been memorable episodes (The Erlenmeyer Flask, E.B.E.), the vast majority are far more forgettable, with some pure dreck.
Let’s take a look at one such, possibly the worst to date, ‘3’, dealing with a group of modern-day vampires, which showcased some of the major weaknesses in the series. This was the first episode after Dana Scully’s abduction which, as any sad bastard will tell you, was caused by her pregnancy. The producers had to spend several shows trying to conceal it, with amusing, escalating desperation: first, baggy clothes; then, only close-ups; and finally, she had to remain stationary, her walk presumably too much of a waddle. This ludicrous farce eventually ended, though one can imagine Chris Carter’s anguished squeal as they wheeled her into the delivery room: “Come back, Gillian, we’ve still got five scenes to shoot!”. It’s understandable why they kept her on; the relationship between the two agents is the show’s strongest element. In ‘3’, and indeed most of the partner-less episodes, Mulder flails around like a landed fish, operating in a vacuum when no-one says “But surely there must be a rational explanation for all this”.
At least Mulder’s solo pursuits made a nice change [though the series’ heavy debt to ‘Kolchak’ was clear]. The series has been remarkable for sheer predictability, the majority of episodes follow a single form: Scully and Mulder investigate something; he comes up with a way-out theory, she doesn’t believe it, but he is inevitably shown to be right. With this hyper-natural ability to solve cases, you wonder why the FBI have him looking at Forteana. Give the man a week, he could probably catch every serial killer going. It would be nice, just once, to have a prosaic explanation. For instance, researchers estimate at least 95% of UFO’s are misidentifications of normal objects, so you think Mulder would stumble across J.Allen Hynek’s “swamp gas” now and again. The other series cliché is the final five minutes: the evidence will be lost, destroyed, stolen, bent, torn or mutilated, and Mulder has no proof of what happened. It strains credulity way past breaking point.
The vampire episode was a perfect example, albeit with a sceptical LA cop replacing Anderson’s sceptical FBI agent. The finale has the blood-suckers conveniently incinerated — what a surprise. The only unexpected twist was that we didn’t get the near-compulsory torch-lit forest ramble, and the most entertainment was watching the struggle to make a small fragment of Canada look like Los Angeles. [In the earlier episode allegedly set at the Arecibo telescope, all the signs had ‘Puerto Rico’ at the bottom — a touchingly naive attempt to convince us it wasn’t just the same coniferous woodland with a tape of tropical insect noise added].
Our vampire episode also demonstrated the tendency for the series to seek “inspiration” from classic SF/horror films; anyone who’s seen ‘Near Dark’ will have spotted bits of the film poking out. One vampire was even a Kiefer Sutherland look-alike! This fondness for homage is frequent, notably in ‘Ice’, with an alien life-form insidiously taking over a polar base, a cast member at a time, and no-one knows who is infected. Er, John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’? Right down to one victim being a dog, just without the stunning FX which made the movie so memorable. In comparison, The X Files were pallid, and toned-down for TV in every way.
Perhaps the poorest section in ‘3’ had Mulder discovering an ink stamp from a club on the skin of a dead vampire. He went along to the “wittily” named Club Tepes (as in Vlad Tepes, a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a. Dracula, hoho), where the music was nice ‘n’ quiet — mustn’t interfere with the dialogue — and at the same volume regardless of where he was in the establishment. Have these guys ever been to a night-club? Wheel on the tired Goth clichés, and lo, the first person Mulder talks to, happens to be the episode heroine. Having a character called “Spooky” apparently lets you get away with any ridiculous plot twist you want to foist on the audience.
This failure to get details right pervades whole episodes; one involving a malevolent computer provoked hoots of derision here for its wildly inaccurate portrayal of technology, harking back to bad 60’s thrillers. Makes you wonder just how much bull they spew with respect to the fields of parapsychology and UFO research. Basically, Carter and team can cook up anything they want to, and do — I imagine many viewers now think the New Jersey Devil looks like Daryl Hannah did in ‘Clan of the Cave Bear’, a cutely smudged wild-girl.
I admit the show has strengths. It’s nice to see paranoia and it’s adherents, portrayed in a good light, and labyrinthine, tenticular government has never been so well demonstrated. Plus the in-jokes are amusing [I’ve heard rumours that Duchovny and Carter are big porn fans…]. But — for the real paranoiacs — is the whole thing a PR exercise for the FBI? It’s not the first such whitewashing by a long way; from ‘The Untouchables’ on, the FBI have been the bastion of truth, justice and the American way. Compare and contrast how the CIA are portrayed in the media: inevitably, scummy and hateful. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson follow the Kyle McLachlan tradition of cuddly, lovable FBI agents. No-one would have qualms about letting them into any aspect of their lives. The X Files works, very nicely thank you, as propaganda for a police state. Bear that in mind next time you watch it.
Pleasant dreams. And remember, The Truth Is Not There…
Washington, DC – twelve hours before a massive, extensively-planned drug raid was to take place, the D.C. Department of Public and Assisted Housing issued a press release praising its role in the raid. Officials thus had to call off the operation, rendering practically useless eight months’ planning, co-ordination among four law-enforcement agencies, and a large number of arrest and search warrants obtained by thousands of hours of investigation, surveillance, and undercover drug buys. (Washington Post, 23-3-95]
A jury in Pensacola, Florida, awarded nearly $600,000 to Pedro Duran, 56, in his lawsuit against the CSX company. Duran lost his left arm and suffered a broken back and leg when a CSX train hit him as he lay on the tracks, passed out from a round of drinking. According to trial testimony, an engineer spotted what he thought was a lump of trash on the tracks and sounded the whistle as a precaution for 54 seconds before the collision. However, the “lump of trash” — Duran — didn’t move. (Orlando Sentinel-AP, 1-5-95]
The Army issued the Bronze Star for “meritorious achievement” to seven soldiers of the 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment firing (mistakenly) on stranded U.S. troops during the Persian Gulf war. The Army had originally awarded three of the men medals “with valour,” but revoked that distinction after criticism by the General Accounting Office. The medal-winning soldiers killed one American and wounded another before realising their mistake. (St. Petersburg Times-Washington Post, 5-5-95; Greensboro News & Record-AP, 16-4-95]
Judge Philip Mangones in Keene, New Hampshire, declared unconstitutional a drug-producing search of the dormitory rooms of two Keene State College students. The students consented to the search, and more than six ounces of marijuana was found, but the judge said that the men were too stoned to know what they were doing when they consented. [Exeter News-Letter, 3-3-96)
[A tip of the hat to Chuck Shepherd and News of the Weird, for many of these stories — see the editorial for details on how to order it]
[This freakin’ machine just died for the Nth time today. England beat Spain in a penalty shoot-out. I’ve to be in work on Monday by 07:30. I am thus in a mean mood; a perfect time to hack, cut, tear, shred and edit Lino’s reviews. 14 pages submitted. The (naively optimistic) target is eight. It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it…]
Started 15/1/96!![…delivered 22/7/96] Hmm, funny old world isn’t it? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Funny old world? I don’t think so! What was that all in aid of? Who knows. I think I’m just stating a case, that when I actually sit down to “write” (HA!) the ‘zine reviews I don’t have the first idea what I’m going to write, OK, that’s not strictly true, Jim gives me a bag full of ‘zines, I take them home, lose them, find them, read them and review them, but all the other stuff… [what, the intervening six months?] It’s not as if I have a set plan, or visions… [I have visions. Mostly involving Lino and a band-saw] Why am I telling you this? Well, for a start it fills some space, and the unconscious stream of thought that you are reading will undoubtedly be hugely funny when put into print…then again…
OK, It’s 1996, brave new world and all that junk. Odd, isn’t it, that although I have a PC and have spent a retarded amount of money on software, the game I find myself playing over and over again is Solitaire?!!?!! What’s the story there then? I don’t know…weird… I’ve bought into the hype and connected to the Internet [Gentlemen, this could be the end of civilization as we know it. Time to buy shares in BT, certainly] – this happened at the start of ’95 but it’s taken me a year to find enough stuff to bore you rigid with. I’ve been totally sucked in by Internet Relay Chat: it really is quite remarkable… I can spend hours of my time, without an anorak on, cruising through different channels. Myself and a few friends (when not indulging in stupid games like joining the Alcoholics Help channel and asking in block capitals for ANOTHER FUCKIN’ PINT PLEASE MINE HOST as many times as we could before being booted off the channel – the record being 13 times – it’s amazing how easy going alcoholics are!!), carried out an experiment the other day, gave ourselves the most ridiculous girls names we could think of (I christened myself Babette) and set up a channel called (cover your eyes now if you are even a little PC) #WETPUSSYLOVERS. Within a matter of minutes the place was swarming with guys all looking for a little action, and the more people that arrived, the stupider we got, to the point of reverting to guys’ names…to no effect, they all still jumped up and down wanting to talk to hot babes…try it…
Otherwise, I can be found in #GB and #gasman along with several sordid channels whose names I’m not going to tell you about now! 🙂 (oh look, a smiley! you can now start calling me Mr Anorak). IRC also has quite a few points, but I might tell you about those later! (you know who you are!). At the end of the day though, when all is said and done, what good is the Internet? [Sorry, Lino – I had to cut out all your comments about the delights of Internet pornography] Yes, you can download 5th generation sound bites from your favourite band or a 30 second commercial for some idiotic Hollywood blockbuster (this is after you’ve spent up to an hour trying to connect to the site then another few hours trying to download the clips)…but is it any good for anything else? Nothing that I’ve found yet, if you do use the Internet for anything useful, do me a favour would you? E-mail me and let me know what you do?!!! [Personally, I use it to nag slacking columnists about these things called ‘deadlines’] And while I’m moaning about slow download times… You’d think that a company the size of Microsoft would have European mirror sites…I’ve spent at least 5 hours connecting to it’s US site and trying to download the Microsoft Explorer V2…!! ARRRGGHHH!
Enough of my rambling, I’m not here to tell you what I think of life, I’m here to tell you what I think of some photocopied pieces of paper that have been stapled together and sent to Jim! [I was beginning to think you’d forgotten about that! The ‘zines have probably died of boredom and decayed into some form of peat bog by now] So, finally, if you’re still awake, here we go…
Cashiers du Cinemart 1-4 Four issues, we really should pull our fingers out Jim (Insert caustic comment by Scotsman about this issue being ready AGES ago, but not going to print through lack of ‘zine reviews…it’s a lie I tell you, a lie!![Nice of Lino to do my editing for me]). Detroit, that’s the Motor City isn’t it? Yes, you know the one, features at the beginning of True Romance, yes, that film written by Quentin Tarantino …interesting links, I’ve got ’em! [Not by the time I’ve finished!] It’s nice to see the first four issues of “Cashiers…” side by side, for no other reason than to see it pull itself together layout wise. Mike Barnett, the editor is obviously stricken down with Tarantino-i-tis (See Jim McLennan) but I can’t as yet work out if he’s pro or con! Written by film fans and Blockbuster Video employees, #1 sees the unearthing of the Reservoir Dogs/City On Fire links, an article on cinematography in S&M videos (?!!!!) and all sorts of potted reviews. #2 is instantly more reader friendly (and the staples stay in!! Hooray!). We’re straight back to Tarantinoland, this time covering his fixation with toilets amongst other things! There’s a wonderful piece about the Sundance Festival, a small but well written review section in the back includes a book review of the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (huh??!) and some top ten lists.
#3 is the nicest of the lot, the layout has settled down (and one of the guys on the front cover looks a hell of a lot like me!!). The letters page features a letter from Jim McLennan (Yes, another ‘zine with his name in!) and Jim, surprise, surprise, vents his Tarantino hatred yet again (A tip for readers, if you ever meet Jim, start whistling “Stuck In The Middle” or start going on about that really funny Madonna scene and watch him twitch!). The whole Tarantino/Reservoir Dogs /City on Fire thing goes into overdrive in #3 (I’m not about to explain it all, write to Mike and buy yourself copies of the first three issues). There are a couple of (in my opinion) very funny full page cartoon strips, more potted reviews and a promise of a Blacksploitation special for #4 …which is just as good as the other three. Now in handy digest size, don’t be fooled by the purdy cover, the inside is still as manic and unorganized as ever. GET IT FOOL! And it’s also got an article on Rudy Ray Moore who came to London in August for a film festival and one night live act!! Oh oh oh Mr Peavley!! All in all bloody lovely! Write to Mike for issues and tell him we sent you!
Linda Hayden: Dracula And Beyond Huh, huh huhhuh, boobs Beavis…huhhuhhuh… Tim Greaves comes up trumps yet again with another pictorial ‘zine, this time dedicated to that great piece of skirt (PC? What’s that?) Linda Hayden. Nothing I can say here will stop you buying it, and hell, it’s probably already sold out so tough!! but I was horrified to see the haggard tyre-like face of Ingrid Pitt grinning insanely at me, to quote Harry Enfield, “Oi, Pitt, Nooooooo”, but then, one man’s meat is another man’s mad cow. (Please note that as you read this you are probably already infected with Mad Cow disease and will be dead or barking mad in the next 10 days…according to the Daily Mirror…but then they are the same paper who promised the same thing with the horrifying flesh eating Ebola virus last year so I wouldn’t worry too much if I were you…)
Ingrid Pitt, Queen of Horror Queen of horror? Too bloody right, one look at her is enough to give anyone the shits… OK, my hatred (totally unfounded of course) of Ingrid Pitt is well known…in fact at a recent Eurofest I was shaking with anger when she arrived…so much so that I had to leave the bar (WHAT!!). Having said that she does has a large fan following (with a bloody big axe I would hope) and they will lap this up. By now, you know what to expect from Tim Greaves and he doesn’t let the side down here..full of wonderful photos (of her!!). Tim does mention in an epilogue that he was disappointed with the way that his Linda Hayden 1 shot ‘zine turned out… I have to disagree with him…Tim…stop it!
Bakya WHAT???!?!!?! Oh right, it’s a word that did mean wooden sandals and now means crass in Filipino, there, now don’t tell me we don’t teach you anything! This is a fanzine dedicated to… Hmmmm, it’s only 4 pages long, and covers everything from…Hell I don’t know, as I said, it’s only 4 pages long, I’ve been through it 3 times and I still don’t know!! It’s got a letters corner, a what to do in San Francisco section, and well, that’s it, odd, small, compact and ohhh, fuck it, recommended!
Hitomi Takaya Well, it’s a UK drawn manga, with some nifty artwork, and loads of manga type doings… You like manga and want to support home grown efforts? Well, buy it… You think manga and anime in general is really incredibly boring don’t buy it, simple huh?
Ariel High School Devil Girl Gaijin Press strikes again, from the home of Hitomi Takaya (see above) comes Ariel…Read what I said about Hitomi and it will follow for Ariel, what I will add though, is although some of the artwork is a little rough around the edges (Who am I to talk, my happy faces look like someone’s nightmare) You can tell that the artists are fans and they are drawing for fans so bloody good for them!
Tinsel City Gajin Press AGAIN! Geez, it’s getting difficult for me to be objective now…but hey, what the hell, I don’t get paid for this gig so you can stick “objective” right up your arse!! Tinsel City is a bleedin manga…UK drawn…It’s really pretty damned stinky…BUT if you’re a completist and a fan it’s only £1.50 so get yourself a copy. Me? I’m getting really VERY tired of the whole thing… Jaded? ME!! NO!!!
Bio Mecha Ok, it’s ANOTHER Gaijin Press comic…I’ll keep it short (that way I can’t offend anyone). Of the GP stuff I’ve seen so far, it’s by far the best drawn and written… On the other hand anime does really leave me cold so…make your own minds up!
Dark Star Gaijin Press strike…THUMP…what? ohh, sorry, it’s not Gaijin Press at all! I was getting into a habit there…! Dark Star #12 is (putting my reviewer’s cliché hat on) a mixed bag… I loved the Alex Winter interview and the Godfrey Ho interview…on the other hand (and these are both personal things) I hated the anime feature and the X-Files write up. Don’t let that stop you getting your hands on a copy though as other things in there (book reviews and something called “Strangely Dismissed”) more than tip it into the readable section.
Red Leopard III Not another damned anime ‘zine! Well no, actually, it’s a little more than that… While Red Leopard is essentially centered around anime, it’s by no means as anal as some of the other genre ‘zines around, it has a sense of humour and shoots off in all sorts of different directions (Rocky Horror Show, a piece on Pinky and the Brain and an A-Z of cult movies …although how they can have Police Academy and not Summer School in there is beyond me…). Chunky fun and 50p cheaper than Trash City…which is really funny when you think about it, because by the time you read this it’s too late as you’ve already bought TC!!! HA! The jokes on you!! YES, YOU!!
Interesting! OK, I’ve got to get it out of my system… Hmmm, this is Interesting! (Thank you, I needed that). Richard Sagall has sat down and written a ‘zine about the stuff he finds interesting, that’s about it really… I’ll give you an example shall I? (Yes Uncle Lino YES!!) “Restore crispness to soggy potato chips by wrapping them in a paper towel and zap them in your microwave for 30 seconds”. See, interesting! Question is…how the hell did his chips get soggy? It’s almost impossible to give you an opinion on this one as one mans interesting is another mans ZZzzzzzzzz, but for $3 it’s worth a shot and you can get a sample copy of the first issue for free to see if you like it!
How to Become a Successful Serial Killer More great work from Robin Bougie (artwork) and Arthur Slade (writer) this is a world away from HEARTBURNING [Is that a different world away or one going back in the same direction?] Basically a damned funny comic with loads of hints and tips for budding serial killers ranging from which tools to use (the Sword of Trauma or the Filing Cabinet of Pain?) to hints on how to avoid capture and some handy serial killer horoscopes (Capricorn…Today you feel very paranoid, just lock yourself in your house and order a pizza, don’t eat it of course…it could be poisoned!). Order this when you order the rest of Robins stuff…OR ELSE!
True Teen Crime Stories : Heartburning Only last issue I told you about Robin Bougie and his excellent Article 19 comic, now he has True Teen Crime, again excellent, a whole world away from most of the other stuff Robin does, very chilling (more so when you consider it’s based on a true story) I’ve just finished reading it and I’m so stunned by it that I can’t even think of anything stupid to say! Very highly recommended, as is all of Robins work…
Rabid If it’s not bloody Anime (I *do* hope I haven’t offended anyone there) it’s ARSING Fantaco. Rabid is a collection of short comic strips with a horror sci/fi theme and, hand on heart, the only one I can recommend is “The Feasting” the rest of the ‘zine is pretty worthless… Stick with Weird West Tales!
Weird West #1 OK, this is published by Fantaco (see last issue for my rambling hatred of them). That’s a bad mark… BUT, really the only bad mark I can give it. It’s a comic based around ancient Red Indian legends but throwing in all sorts of other references, werewolves etc. It’s set in 2093 (ish) after a large portion of the Southwest United States has been evacuated due to “earthquakes” I’m not going to go into any more details as it really would take me hours… I’ll put it this way, if you like the X-Files (Argghh another ‘zine that mentions the programme! Sorry Jim!) You’ll like Weird West. Two unrelated stories per issue, great art and spooky stories. Recommended.
Streetmeat #1 This is cracking stuff too… Gritty, well written, nice layout… Not much else to add really! Oh yeah, it’s got tits in it! (Please note I will be 30 this year!). And you can use the above for a quote in the next issue if you like guys! <grin>.
Sierra Heaven A new fiction ‘zine that tries very hard to impress…but when your first story is a rehash of an old Hammer House of Horror story you know you’re probably going to waste your time…In fact the best part of the whole thing is a short story section towards the back (just before another ZZzzzzzz-Files piece).
Michelle Mystique Michelle Bauer….ahhhhhh there’s lovely isn’t it……Full on tits out entertainment….. recommended.. WHEHEY!! [We apologise for the break in transmission. Normal service will be resumed, as soon as we can find a bucket of cold water to throw over the reviewer. Thank you.]
Invasion (of the sad, man-eating mushrooms) Except they’ve dropped the mushrooms… Hey…this is BIG…and it’s all lovely and it’s got colours and everything! And it’s only £3.50. Hmm, the thing with having two editors to a ‘zine is that the whole thing turns very schizo…the one editor not knowing what the other is doing… (Here at TC we have the opposite problem…half an editor knowing what he’s doing but not being tall enough to reach the pedals…) This issue has a 13 (count ’em 13!!) page article on Bruce Lee, one Jim McLennan singing the praises of Quentin Tarantino and a cracking article on cameos in movies (I love these because you can sit there picking holes in things: “He didn’t mention Bill Billson’s uncredited appearance in Willywarmers II”).
Things I didn’t quite like as much was the “What is a laserdisc” section…if I want to get bored rigid learning what THX means I’ll go out and buy What Hi-Fi thank you VERY much. Also running at 99 pages I think it’s a bit rich that their fanzine review of the last issue of TC says and I quote “The contents? A different ball game entirely, there’s enough worthwhile material to keep you entertained but its mostly a mixed bag and pretty much hit ‘n’ miss…(Lino says..Screw you buddy!!)…There’s just too much going on at once for anything to make a lasting impression”..(Lino says…Screw you buddy AGAIN!)…he then goes on to say “Not crap by any means…but slipping a little”. So…in closing…the new issue of Invasion is not crap by any means but slipping a little…EXCEPT for the fanzine setion which is bollocks. OK?
Hmm that gives me an idea…we’ve got WWF, WCW and Ultimate Fighting…how about a fanzine Ultimate Fighting competition? I reckon we could take ’em. COME AND HAVE A GO IF YOU THINK YOU’RE HARD ENOUGH!!! [All beatings, knee-cappings, dismemberments and associated unpleasantess to Lino, please. I’m a coward]
Here…that BBC programme…with all those soap people in it…”BUGGERME” or something …God, isn’t that shit? And what’s the story with Shane Richie? He’s shit too… And as for that arsehole Anthea Turner…Do me a favour…
(I hear the Guardian are looking for a new TV reviewer…what do you think then?? Hmmmm?)
Eastern Heroes #5 I’m getting really tired of Hong Kong movies…(As someone keeps asking me..”Do you like horror more, or kung fu more.?” “Horror, mate!”)…that said you have to say that the latest issue of EH is packed full of information, reviews and articles (Including the first part of a “Teach yourself Cantonese” course!). While some people might accuse the magazine of being there only to sell EH’s own product there is no denying that everyone involved has a love for the genre. Me? Well…gimme some more cat III product and I’m happy…
Mansplat It’s newspaper sized…it’s FREE and anything that has “Bathroom litter-ature for men…but chicks can read it too!” on the front cover gets my vote. Funny funny funny…from it’s handy, home made vomit guide to it’s pisstake UFO article…Will they send free copies to the UK? I don’t ruddy know…find out for yourselves you lazy gits! #3 has the “1st Annual Barbarella Awards for loose standards and loose pants!”, Male bag (letters from men!), Ma’am-o-gram (letters from chicks) and a look at the 100 great moments in horror/sci-fi (No 69 <snigger> is Cocoon just in case you were wondering)… Hell this thing is free.. what are you waiting for!!!! NOW GO ON!! NOW DAMMIT!!!![Actually, it’s no longer free, but what the hell. Still worth it]
Brains on Toast Robin Bougie has a wife called Rebecca Dart…and the good news is she draws as well at Robin does!! Brains On Toast is a preview issue of a comic being published by Phoenix Press…and is basically a bizarre twist on the Alice in Wonderland story…it’s got some really bizarre, disturbing images in it…holy cow, I didn’t know Canadians could be quite so twisted!
Flesh and Blood Ahhhh…this is more like it, a beautifully put together horror ‘zine that has stuff in it you actually NEED to know…and it also boasts a picture of Marilyn Chambers so it’s a must have! (Talking of 70’s porn stars…did you see NYPD Blue last night? Damn my eyes if Vanessa del Rio wasn’t in it! And boy did she look goooooood!). Give the editor Harvey Fenton a break and buy this NOW!!! And just so I can have a quote in the next issue I’ll say “I’ve seen the future of fan publications and it’s name is FLESH AND BLOOD” [As in Steven King’s “I have seen the future of horror and it’s name is Clive Barker” — so, horror’s going to piss off to Hollywood, develop an American accent and start writing crappy fantasy novels, eh, Steve?] Damn that’s good!! #6: GREAT IT’S GOT AN ARSE ON THE FRONT!! Damn, I’m getting too old for this you know (insert aserbic comment by editor here no doubt [what, about how to spell “ascerbic”?]). I should really call this latest issue of FAB the Eurofest issue as most of the interviews contained (Joe D’Amato, Catriona MacColl etc) were conducted at the Eurofests…
The British Horror Filmography reaches 1981 and as usual you get a extensive review section. Add a Tinto Brass interview (TITS BUMS!!) and a look at Jezebel video and there you have it. Nicely put together and a bloody interesting read. My only complaint would be that they didn’t like Jezebel videos title “Au Pair Girls” — Harvey, sort it awwwwwwt, Au Pair Girls is without doubt one of the finest films ever made. And the theme song?!! A-bloody-mazing: “They come from here, they come from there, no matter where they may come from…they’re always welcome everywhere… Au pair…” GREAT STUFF! E-mail me now for a full song sheet…in fact I think I’ll have to dig a microphone out and make a .wav of it! Available soon!!
Right, that’s about it for another issue. If I had a dream, it would be that all Anime ‘zines would join forces and bring out one big issue…that way I wouldn’t have to spend my entire life trawling through pages and pages of the same stuff… Oh, sorry, thinking aloud there… Right, this won’t be out till after the Eurofest on the 1st June with Jean Rollin…so if you were there you would have seen me and bought me a drink (I would have arrived late as my gitty brother decided to get married on the same day…swine!) And hopefully this issue will be out before the Rudy Ray Moore festival in August. It will won’t it Jim? Eh? So, I’ll see you there and you can buy me another drink!!
Let me think…who shall I thank? Well, because they’ll probably be reading this and I’ll be in all sorts of trouble if I don’t, I’d like to say hello to Jaime. There are quite a few other things I’d like to say to her…but I’ll leave that to another time!! Also, hello to the mad woman in Camden who causes three normally sane humans to throw themselves behind doors, under counters etc. whenever she show up… (Sample of one of the conversations I’ve had the misfortune to have with her: “Hello.<pointing to a pack of Camel cigarettes on the counter>Can I have a dromedary?”; at this stage I was unaware of her exact mental state. She then asked “Have you seen Paul?”, “Paul?” I replied, “No, sorry I haven’t.” This is where it started getting a bit bizarre. she said “No, no-one’s seen him. He’s special forces you see. He used to be a singer. I saw him in a church then it blew up and he was in a cafe in 1940’s Germany.” Being the intelligent sort, I knew then that she was barking, so I suddenly remembered something very important I had to do, and started ignoring her. I later found out it was the same woman who had walked into the shop and asked if we sold knickers, then stood in the doorway for five minutes shouting at the top of her voice for someone to, and I quote “FUCK ME”. Yes, madness is a wonderful thing. I embrace it, in fact, I’ve been eating beef non stop in the vain hope of catching BSE. Fingers crossed, eh! Right…
Well this is just typical isn’t it? I get all the reviews done and Jim decides to land some more ‘zines on my desk at the last possible minute (The previous statement is there only to gain me sympathy…truth be told..I found the following fanzines in my bag and decided that I’d better review them). So, once more crushed by the fascist boot that is the editor, I am pleased to announce. MORE ZINE REVIEWS (aka Son of the Zine Reviews…aka The Anime Free Zine Review section…aka Zines: The Reviews)
Vex #1 Did you see OJ on Richard and Judy the other night? Sweet, wasn’t he? Anyway, do I care if he did it or not? Well if he did, he’s been acquitted and has gotten away with it. If he didn’t? Well, he’s free now… VEX looks at the films of OJ Simpson with a filmography and listing of his movie deaths (It also has a GREAT picture of OJ in full Rambo mode complete with a knife in each hand!!) Other stuff included in the first issue are: fav fat actors (Highly offensive if you ask ME!) and a look back at the life and movies of everyone’s favourite murdered director Al Adamson. VEX, if it keeps being as entertaining as the first issue will, be a ‘zine to watch out for!!
Headpress 11 Offers no real surprises but that’s not a bad thing. As usual, Headpress is packed with extensive reviews and articles. My favourite has to be Simon Whitechapel’s look at the darker side of the Bible (Yes, I’m a Catholic…how COULD you tell!).. Also worth mentioning is Andrew Darlington’s article which covers celebrity junkies (Just say NO!). Recommended.
Video Junkie 1 It’s new, it’s American and it’s got a picture of Godzilla on the front.. (What? read it? Hmm ok, I will…) This is actually quite good you know! As well as being available in print form VJ also have a web site (http://www.isle.net/~vidjunki/index.html) although as yet I haven’t had a chance to check it out. The first issue covers all sorts of bases from the most recent Godzilla movies (get a clue…it’s a puppet!! <grin>) to a great article covering Hammer Studios output in the 70’s. Also included is a look at the directors cut of “Hard Target” and a whole bucket load of video reviews. And the best part? No bloody mention of Jim!!! Look up the address at the end of this ramble and order yourselves a copy!
This draws to a close our fanzine review for this year. [I trust that’s not sarcasm, Lino] I do hope you all enjoyed it… I’d like to say thank you…to no one really because I’m a selfish bastard!!! And if any anime fans that I might have offended would like to drop me a line, you can… Any complaints (just you try!) can be e-mailed to me on the following: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org (yes, 3 different addresses, don’t ask me why!) You can also send offers of work, and interesting JPG’s to the same addresses… So until next time, remember, don’t be offended by any negative reviews, you have to understand I don’t actually read any ‘zines, the reviews are based solely on my moods at the time!! (Now is that a joke?) Second thoughts, be offended…be very offended!! (heh!)
Ohhh before I go just a little hello to JB… you know who you are and look!! You are now officially famous… well… not REALLY famous… not like me… but you know what I mean! Great!! And it’s only taken me 6 months! Till next time… byebye…
Right, aren’t we glad that’s over. The hot news is that Harvey Fenton has asked Lino to also do the ‘Zine reviews for ‘Flesh and Blood’. Ah, where TC leads, others follow… This means two things; a) Lino will be writing reviews reviewing his own reviews, and b) Flesh and Blood will rapidly slip to a 18-month schedule. Are you sure about this, Harvey?
Robin Bougie is now doing a ‘Mind’s Eye Presents…’ series, which showcases a wide range of talents from humourous to the deeply gross. Look — why don’t you just send the guy some money (probably in US$) and you’ll be kept amused for life! Much the same goes to the guys at ‘Mansplot’, who’ve now got Joe Bob Briggs aboard. A marriage made in heaven if ever there was one! On the electronic front, check out Survival Kit e-zine – they cover a lot of weird at heart stuff, and are good tor several hours phone bill, purely for a list of links to other places, even disregarding their review section. Hopefully the TC web site will look as nice!
Back in the land of the printed, there’s Delirium 4, with a comprehensive look at 1981 Italian trash cinema (er, it looks comprehensive to my ignorant eye!) and interviews with directors Cozzi, Soavi, Margheriti and D’Amato as well as (inevitably!) David Warbeck, and some truly eye-popping colour stills from ‘Cannibal Ferox’. Hooray! Looks like ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is still alive, with #13 apparently on the way (maybe out by now — they talk of a ‘spring release’, but it’s unclear whether they mean 1996 ot 1997! I can sympathise…), and they’re already planning number 14. Tim Greaves is also looking ahead — while both mags reviewed by Lino are now out of print, there should soon be his Lisa Romay file which will be good as ever!
Finally, was sent a very odd CD ‘Thing and Nothing’ by Tasm Lab It’s sort of an opera, for want of a better word, about a future world where the hero buys a simulated woman and tries to rescue her from her creator. It’s not exactly easy listening, but is worth the effort; always intriguing and challenging. Imagine a musical version of ‘Brazil’ perhaps.
The Info: prices given below do NOT include postage
It’s time once more to trawl through the nineteen (count ’em!) months worth of letters, and find out whether anyone has said anything a) interesting and b) still relevant as we scream towards the end of . My, some of these letters are so old, they appear to have been written on papyrus… But, wait! Next to a scroll from William the Conqueror asking why I haven’t returned my Domesday form, we find that golden treasure chest which can only be a letter from Andy Collins. In fact, here’s two of them! Sorted — and this way, I don’t have to give him a contributor’s copy…
Andy Collins, October 29th, 1995 — Firstly, I must comment on this. Roswell. Bollocks… now into my third week of the Canterbury College Radio, Film and TV course. A major shock to the system. As suspected, the usual clutch of Eisenstein questions, the pricks in the lecture hall – “Ur, yar, ur, that particular piece of footage had amazing mise en scene, and extrapolated the characters from the objective to the immensely subjective.” Fuck off! Guy in question has been dubbed Schumacher (both of equal popularity)… Apparently, he entered the quiz, and took being a wanker from a mere personality trait to a full-time professional vocation. He is littering the campus with enemies. A Christmas lynching might be in the offing. “Analyse that, you bastard!”
On the whole it has been a very positive move… Impossible to get lost, obviously, as there is a huge, great Landmark, which seems to be giving itself standing ovations every time I look at it, gazing down awesomely at everything beneath it… With a nod to the Vatican, Canterbury Cathedral seems to have amassed quite a coinage (perhaps the law of Tithes is still in effect round these parts!). The clergy all drive top range motors, slowly, through the tourists into the Cathedral grounds. Now, if that is not indicative of what it’s all about…
Autumn…winter…spring…summer. Cue pictures of pages being torn off calendars, clouds across the moon in time-lapse, buds bursting into bloom. And then:
Andy Collins, July 2nd, 1996 — Canterbury has gone all wrong. I feel like I am undergoing Caesarean Section, and am being organically removed from this highly precocious, somnambulistic place. I started here with good intentions – as we do with every endeavour – but mentally and spiritually, this self-delusionary bourgeois pretty-city has suffered crucial disfigurement. And I don’t much like looking at it anymore…
Disappearing for a month to Mexico gave me a beautiful taste of the other-world, the special life that there is out of Britain, away from Trainspotting tide and perverse materialism. Mexico was a magic place — certainly not the garden of Eden or a third world spiritual Mecca, but a total shock to the system. They are a bunch of macho bastards and have enough American products to make them even more corrupted. But the society has a proud stance, and a weird innocence, a great sense of community. Mexico is what you make it…you can mould your experiences accordingly – it’s not set – a country still changing.
Memorable moments, apart from actually being there. A bar manager forgetting himself for a moment, and running after us down the street as we had left due to closing time, apologising for not offering us any drugs… Another bar, in Palenque, near the famous ruins. Apart from trying to get antiseptic cream in a vet’s (I somehow missed the huge picture of a dog), this bar was one of the few places worth visiting. Sleaze has never been so cultivated. There were huge iron grilles over the windows. The drinks were housed in cheap shelving, a little compartment for each bottle. Unbelievably tacky decor assailed my eyes — yeah, the mirrors, small coloured bulbs as the sole illumination (the 10W candle bulbs, that is). Somewhere over towards Hades was the deep blue-lit ‘dance floor’. Empty, of course.
Including the Australian guy my brother and I had hooked up with, there were about seven of us at the bar. The bartender, a cross between the underground club manager in ‘Vamp’ and your worst disco bouncer nightmare, was not so much imposing as infuriating. One would expect such a lack of passion for your work from egg-sorters, or Co-op cashiers. But this man put them to shame. I mean, you felt guilty asking him for a drink. And what drinks! I was surprised, somewhat, not to see an optic or measuring cup. Starting out with a tequila, of course, by pointing and merely saying uno, por favor (what else could I say to Marvin the Bartender) — he plonked a tumbler on the bar and freely poured the spirit in. Not gently, or carefully, but slugged in a hearty measure of brain-damage juice. The quarter of a pint stared at me, as did the large, suspicious Mexicans to my left. And the bartender who wanted paying. I was anticipating a phenomenal ticket, a bastard giant bill for this shot which would have knocked out the Jolly Green Giant.
Ten pesos, he said. Ten, I repeated. Si, ten. One pound for the lot.
Needless to say, two hours later (or around that), I had visited most of the compartments behind the bar, and was clinging on to the wooden structure for dear life. Now, I couldn’t even see the bar tender. Who cares if he’s a miserable fucker! I was trying to crack jokes with him in fractured Spanish and drunken English. The posse of dodgy Mexicans? Fuck ’em! I’ll take them all if it comes to it… Alfonso, the resident piss-head also befriended me. Though this geezer was a little worried. He wasn’t quite sure about my nationality. “American?”, he kept saying, and grinning madly through crooked teeth and deranged mental processes. “No, no, Inglaterra. England!” “Ahhhhhhhhh! England that in America?”
By this time, the bar entrance was shut. I could barely move or think. I decided to get some soft drink inside me, a bid for survival. “Coke, por favor”. Well, that was that. Julio practically lunged at me, offering a gram for £30, “good sheeeet!”. Alfonso was still trying to get my nationality out of my other arm, the bartender still doing his impression of an Easter island statue…
Well, if anyone wants to make a bid to knock Andy off his position as reigning TC Heavyweight Letter Champion, you know what to do. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll will enhance your chances of success. As will bribery. Go for it!
‘Mr. Vampire’ is one of the most enduringly popular of Hong Kong films, still winning fans over more than a decade after its original release. This applies in Britain as well, thanks almost entirely to Channel 4’s screening as part of its ‘Chinese Ghost Stories’ season. Less well known are the myriad of sequels it inspired which have yet to appear on our shores; plus countless spin-offs on a similar theme.
There are two common elements in most of these films: Ricky Lau as the director, and Lam Ching-Ying as the star. The original movie made Lau’s name, and he has since wasted no opportunity to cash in, with three direct sequels as well as other films with titles like ‘Ultimate Vampire’ and (appalling pun alert!) ‘The Vampire Strikes Back’. He’s also directed more straightforward action pics, though the titles of even these seem to resound with supernatural overtones – ‘Nocturnal Demon’ is actually a straightforward serial killer film. Lau plays to his strengths admirably in the ‘Mr. Vampire’ series, with a restrained use of special effects; the films are firmly rooted in a real world, even if not quite this one. Stunts and action, naturally, play a big part in the series, but they’re never allowed to overshadow the characters, who are far less two-dimensional than in most of their Western genre counterparts. Even in the sequels, while many would happily to ride the same tracks again, Lau pushes the envelope, twisting and modifying the genre further, changing locations and era at will.
Lam Ching-Ying has a long and honourable career, going right back to perhaps the original horror-comedy, ‘Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind’ – even before that, he was a noted stuntman, appearing in ‘Enter the Dragon’ as the main double for Han in the ‘hall of mirrors’ end fight. He’s especially noteworthy for an exceptional screen presence, in his perpetual role as “sifu”, or master. When things go wrong – as they inevitably do – it’s only his knowledge of folklore and legend that save the day, especially when the films are set in the modern day. When this is the case, his major problem is often not the vampires, it’s trying to convince other people to take them seriously. The audience doesn’t have this problem, since Lam Ching Ying projects such a resounding air of authority that whatever he says must be right. Unfortunately, this competence did not extend to his directorial debut, a remake of “The Green Hornet”, which set new record lows at the Hong Kong box-office.
Apart from these two, many other performers who appeared in the first movie returned later in the series: Wu Ma (part 4), Pauline Wong (part 2), Billy Lau (part 3), and even Moon Lee, who appears in both of the first two entries. Though you’d be hard pushed to recognise her, especially in the original film, since it was before the “eye-widening” cosmetic surgery which left her with that trademark and highly distinctive wide-eyed look, like something out of ‘Project A-ko’! You can also spot Sibelle Hu, Yuen Biao and Samo Hung, making the series something of a Golden Harvest All-Stars production.
It’s important to be relaxed about the rules of engagement depicted in these movies, because we’re dealing with something totally unfamiliar. Everyone knows to use garlic & crucifix if dealing with Western vampires, but for their Oriental “blood brothers”, a new set of rules are in play. Some examples:
a) Vampires can’t see you if you hold your breath…
b) …or are covered in tar.
c) If “infected” by a vampire you need blood from it to cure you…
d) …or maybe sticky rice.
e) You know someone is possesed if their heels don’t touch the ground.
Ok, fine. Of course, there are some similarities. Vampire corpses don’t decay, their bite will turn you into one, and if anything is attached to them — such as stakes or magic spells –removing them generally rates low on the IQ scale. Not that this stops most of the characters in the Mr. Vampire series, which shows another point of similarity between East and West – regardless of location, participants in all horror movies are inevitably cerebrally challenged!
Mr. Vampire – Lam Ching-Ying, Ricky Hui, Moon Lee, Chin Siu Ho, 1985. This first entry remains a landmark in the genre, and introduces many of the ingredients that recur repeatedly in the series: well-intentioned but bungling assistants, femme fatale spirits, lots of fun poked at authority figures (though I’m not claiming any subtle political subtexts!), and the inevitable “Lock the door and don’t open it whatever happens” gag. Lam is a ‘spiritual advisor’, whose attempts to rebury a corpse go horribly wrong when it turns out to be a vampire. His knowledge lands him in hot water with the constabulary, who suspect him of the murders it commits, and he has to handle both them, and his two assistants, one of whom has been bitten, and the other of whom is trysting with a beautiful lady ghost. The amount of invention on view is impressive, with subplots spiralling away in all directions, though the whole fits together beautifully. Major silliness: lady ghost, with head which can detach itself, grow hedgehog-like hair, and attack independently of her body. B+
Mr. Vampire 2 – Lam Ching-Ying, Yuen Biao, Pauline Wong, Wu Ma, Sibelle Hu, 1985. After the historical stance of the first film, it’s something of a shock to discover the sequel is firmly rooted in the present day. It starts with grave-robbers stealing a “family” of corpses, but before long, the vampire kid has escaped, taking up with a local family. This subplot is strangely reminiscent of ‘ET’, a similarity which is invoked during the inevitable song while the vampire and human kids play together: “You’re ugly but your heart is not. They take you for an E.T.”; fortunately, the child actors are not too unbearable, making it sweet rather than sickly. Meanwhile, mummy and daddy blood-sucker are looking for their son, and Lam Ching Ying turns up as a pharmacist, called in to treat a vampire bite, who realises something is going on. In what has to be an all-time classic euphemism, he isn’t going to kill the vampires, but “help them to an early and successful reincarnation”. Bet they’ll be chuffed. At time of writing rumours suggest this may be shown as part of an imminent second C4 season, so keep an eye out for it (knowing TC schedules, it’s probably already been on by now…). Major silliness: slow-motion fight sequence after vampires and grave-robbers are accidentally dosed with sedative. B
Mr. Vampire 3 – Lam Ching-Ying, Billy Lau, Richard Ng, Lui Fong, 1987. Back in time again, though it’s not immediately obvious for the first 15 minutes. Here, the central character is a Taoist priest who’s got a nice exorcism extortion scam going, thanks to a pair of accomplice spirits who haunt places at his behest, until he exorcises them. Life is fine until he meets honest Taoist Lam Ching Ying who captures the spirits in jars; and adds them to a mega-collection. Their human friend releases them, but also accidentally frees a less amenable female ghost. In fact, the words “seriously” and “pissed-off” come to mind. This is my least favourite of the films; it fails to provide any new angles or approach; there’s not much here that wasn’t seen in part one. While Lam Ching Ying is his usual forceful self, the other “hero” just can’t quite cut the mustard, being neither interesting nor amusing. It all gets terribly manic, needless to say, but it’s just smoke and no fire, which not even a cameo by producer Samo Hung can save. Major silliness: possession by invisible spirit leads to bout of self-wrestling. D-
Mr. Vampire 4 – Wu Ma, Anthony Chan, Yuen Wah, Chin Kar Lok, Loretta Lee, 1987. Shock! Horror! Probe! No Lam Ching Ying! He was presumably too busy working on one or other of the many Mr Vampire clones in which he appeared, so we get another actor with enormous eyebrows, Wu Ma (anyone know if they’re real, or stunt doubles?). The set-up continues to vary; from the previous entries’ urban setting, we’re now out in the country, with two neighbouring priests, one Buddhist, one Taoist, and their acolytes. The first half of the movie is devoted to their bickering and perpetual attempts to make the other look foolish, which is amusing, although scarcely anything to do with vampires. Things perk up notably in this department later on, when a passing funeral procession spills an especially unpleasant example of the genre. We’re then treated to a spectacular display of physical comedy which, for me at least, makes this the most purely enjoyable of the series. While the ending is a slight cop-out, as far as methods of killing the unkillable goes, this doesn’t detract much from a thoroughly entertaining ninety minutes. Major silliness: a conga-chain of limbo-dancing hopping vampires. A-
After this, the series went into something of a decline, and neither ‘Mr Vampire 1992’, nor ‘New Mr Vampire’, did anything new or remotely interesting. There is, however, one further entry in the genre worthy of comment. While not an official part of the canon, it has been listed on occasion as ‘Mr Vampire 5’ (though some claim ‘Mr Vampire 1992’ is a more likely contender for the title). Its release here, and overall high quality, mean it deserves some consideration:
Magic Cop (dir. Stephen Tung Wai) – Lam Ching-Ying, Wilson Lam, Miu Kiu-Wai, Michiko Nishiwaki, 1989. The film starts with a puzzling case where an arrested criminal is found to have died some time before being arrested. With Mulder and Scully presumably unavailable, Lam Ching Ying, a cop and part-time exorcist from the provinces, is brought to the big city to investigate. After initial disbelief from his partners – rapidly changed after an encounter in a mortuary – he discovers that corpses are being re-animated by sorceress Nishiwaki to act as minions in her crime empire. Viewers may be reminded of ‘Dead Heat’, which took a similar line – though Western policemen had much more trouble coming to terms with the concepts! Nishiwaki delivers another excellent supporting performance (as ‘God of Gamblers’ and ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars’ showed, she can steal a movie with one scene, and she gets a little more here) and provides a fine foil for Lam, who also helped out as action director. Director Tung Wai had himself graduated from that role on ‘A Better Tomorrow’, so it’s no surprise this is perhaps the most effects-laden entry, especially in a spectacular final battle. Sadly, the version released in this country features some of the most illegible subtitles ever seen, destroying the atmosphere somewhat. Major silliness: magical battle between hero and villainess, using a rather confused cop as an intermediary. B
Lam Ching-Ying Selected Filmography
The following is a list of some of the most important or entertaining entries in Lam Ching-Ying’s long career (a full filmography would be at least twice as long!). Titles in bold are believed to be currently available in this country…somewhere.
1980 – Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind
1982 – The Dead and the Deadly First Mission (cameo) Prodigal Son Winners and Sinners
1985 – Heroes Shed No Tears Mr. Vampire Mr. Vampire 2 My Lucky Stars Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars
1986 – Eastern Condors Shanghai Express
1987 – Mr. Vampire 3 | Ultimate Vampire
1988 – I Love Maria (aka Roboforce) Last Eunuch in China Painted Faces School on Fire
1989 – Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind 2 Magic Cop (+ action dir.) Pedicab Driver
1990 – Swordsman
1991 – Crazy Safari Lover’s Tear (+action dir.) Red and Black Slickers vs. Killers
1992 – Forced Nightmare Martial Arts Master Wong Fei Hung Mr. Vampire 1992 Pom Pom + Hot Hot (UK title: Curry & Pepper)
1994 – The Chinese Ghostbuster The Green Hornet (+dir/prod)
It seems there are times when stupidity is a revered trait rather than a handicap. Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with stupid people. Who else could do the tedious tasks which would send intelligent folks round the twist in an hour? We need people to work in McDonald’s. We need checkout assistants. We need night-club bouncers (ok, strike that last example). If nothing else, they provide amusing clippings for TC… In modem life, idiocy often goes unpunished, people aren’t responsible for the consequences of their actions, and intelligence is no longer cherished, rewarded, or necessary. Back in primitive days, if you were dumb, you died. The stupid didn’t live to pass on their genes to any offspring. Thus, the gradual improvement in humankind, through the slow but steady process of evolution.
Certain individuals still bravely sacrifice themselves for the gene pool. The “Darwin Awards” honour those who do away with themselves in spectacularly stupid ways. This year’s winner came after the Arizona Highway Patrol found a pile of smouldering metal embedded in a cliff above a curve on the road. It looked like a plane crash, but turned out to be a car, though it was impossible to tell what sort until the forensics had been over it. It appears the driver had stuck a Jet Assisted Take Off unit — used by heavy army transport planes taking off from short runways — onto his Chevy Impala, found a stretch of desert road, and put his foot down…
The facts as best as could be determined are that the operator of the 1967 Impala hit the JATO ignition at a distance of approximately 4 miles from the crash site” said the report. If the JATO worked properly, it would have reached maximum thrust in five seconds, causing the Chevy to hit well over 350 mph. The driver, “soon to be a pilot” as the report puts it, would have felt G-forces of the type experienced by dog-fighting F-14 jocks under full afterburners, “basically causing him to become insignificant for the remainder of the event.” The car remained on the tarmac for 2.5 miles before the driver tried — and completely melted — the brakes, blowing the tyres and leaving thick rubber marks on the road surface. It then became airborne for an additional 1.4 miles, hitting the cliff face 125 ft up and leaving a blackened crater 3 ft deep in the rock. Most of the driver’s remains were not recoverable; however small fragments of bone, teeth and hair were extracted from the crater and fingernail and bone shards were removed from a piece of debris believed to be a portion of the steering wheel…
Winners in the ‘team’ category were the six people, including four from the same family, who drowned when they jumped into a well to save a chicken in South Egypt. According to al-Ahram newspaper, the chicken had fallen into a farmer’s well in the village of Nazlet Emara in Sohag province. The farmer’s son (18) quickly dived in to try and save it, but slipped and drowned. His two brothers and sister, aged 20, 16 and 14 respectively, jumped in one after the other to save him, but all met the same fate. Two neighbours who came to the siblings’ rescue also drowned. A police team which removed the corpses from the well found the chicken alive and floating in the water. [Reuters, 1-8-95]
Steve Aylett – Bigot Hall, Serif, £8.99, pp153. Aylett’s first book, ‘The Crime Studio’ was reviewed last TC, and was a highly enjoyable selection of hyperviolent splinters in a fast, loose style. “Bigot Hall” replicates the short vignette approach, but is notably less successful. The hero remains nameless, a child advanced for his years, trapped in a family of misfits and weirdoes. That’s it, which is the main problem. While “The Crime Studio” had enough characters to mean the interplay between them offered sufficient variation for latitude, here the restrictions prove too much. There is no detectable character development; at the end, something happens; precisely what is impossible to say.
On the bright side, Aylett’s technique remains as sharply infectious as ever, his ear for the English language is great. Someone should hire the man to beef up movie scripts; if it’s sharp word-play that you want, he can out-Tarantino Quentin, with one frontal lobe tied behind his back. I mean, “the lake was infested with boss-eyed cartoon characters which ghosted up, stared like lost souls and dipped away again. Inbetween were swirling volume levels and swarms of seahorses with tiny training wheels“. So what you have here is a book where the sentences are pretty good, and anything beyond the paragraph is on shaky ground. More rigour needed, please.
John McCarty (ed) – The Sleaze Merchants, St.Martin’s Griffin, $16.95, pp211. It’s interesting to compare and contrast the style of this book with ‘Immoral Tales’, as both cover the world of exploitation film. ‘Immoral Tales’ deals with the European flavour, and this one mostly looking at its American brother — the only common name is Jess Franco. Apart from him, it’s a trawl from the early pioneers, David Friedman et al, through those McCarty describes as the “Honorable Practitioners” (Franco, John Waters, Al Adamson and Ted V.Mikels) up to those who’ve carried the torch for sleaze in the 1990’s.
Some of the choices seem slightly arguable, and appear to be a case of, “well, we can talk to them, let’s give them a chapter”. Why else does Bret McCormick (yeah, who?) get one of his own, but not Roger Corman? Generally, the best sections are those that divert from the standard interview technique — though Fred Olen Ray comes over as well as ever — and go into more analysis. Lots of illos, ad-mats and photos (David DeCoteau looks exactly like you’d expect) enhance the flavour, though it’s nowhere near as groundbreaking as McCarty’s earlier ‘Splatter Movies’ book. It’s a solidly researched and interesting book, which never attempts to attach artistic pretensions where none were intended. Given the near-death of the B-video here, this is sadly as close as most people will get to the recent works of Jim Wynorski!
Edward Margulies + Stephen Rebello – Bad Movies We Love, Plume, £8.79, pp330. There’s a great book waiting to be written, about the ethos of bad movies, their appeal, how and why they become that way, and so forth. It’s still waiting: this book proves even worse than the much-loathed Medved Brothers’ ‘Golden Turkey’ works. It shares a common meanness of spirit: the authors don’t appear to actually love bad movies, They love being snide about them, trying to prove a superior intellect through vapid insults, they love to poke ‘fun’ at them. Ho-ho-ho: it’s a good measure of how effective their criticism is, that they spent an entire chapter trashing Sharon Stone, and she still writes their foreward! She clearly doesn’t give a damn what they think, and neither should anyone else.
Worse still, writing about bad movies should be fun, reflecting the enjoyment they offer. This book fails even on that score. What might have been entertaining as one-off articles — the book started off as a magazine column — rapidly becomes grindingly repetitive. With no variation in style, the authors have all the imagination of a literary pit-bull. There is not one single movie in the book where reading the review makes you want to see it.
There’s little challenging about their targets: the movies in their “Hall of Shame” had an average age of over 30. Taking the piss out of old films is like stomping on puppies, no measure of skill is needed at all. And once you’ve read their opinion on ‘9 1/2 Weeks’, why bother with their views on ‘Zandalee’ (we get the point), ‘Two Moon Junction’ (We Get The Point), or even both ‘Wild Orchid’ and ‘Wild Orchid 2’ (WE GET THE POINT!). Dreadful, truly dreadful. About the only thing in its favour, is that it makes you want go and do better yourself. In which case, expect the ‘TC Book of Badfilm’ before this year is out.
Michael Sauter – The Worst Movies of All Time, Citadel Press, £11.99, pp342. After the above debacle, this book came as a breath of fresh air, mainly since it’s written in a far better spirit. The central thread is a look at fifty films, from 1932’s ‘Sign of the Cross’ to ‘Christopher Columbus: The Discovery’ from 1992; there’s also a random grab-bag of almost bad-enoughs, and a broad selection of B-movies, including the usual classics from Ed Wood and others of his ilk.
The book is not perfect. To start with, it’s far too American-oriented, with all 50 of the “worst” coming out of Hollywood. No book about bad film can be thought of as complete unless it includes something by Jess Franco. The author also has a tendency to twist facts to fit his views: misattributing dialogue from ‘Faster, Pussycat’, and claiming that the spoof ‘Casino Royale’ “was the Bond spoof to end all Bond spoofs”, forgetting perhaps the best of them all, ‘Top Secret’. However, it covers a broad spectrum of eras, without any obvious axe to grind against specific genres, and, most importantly of all, you come away from the reviews actually wanting to see a lot of the films (though there are exceptions to this, it would take a better writer even than myself to make anyone want to see ‘Howard the Duck’).
Most of the targets are obvious ones such as ‘Ishtar’ and ‘Heaven’s Gate’, though many of the older titles were new to me; I’ll be scanning the daytime TV schedules for ‘The Fountainhead’! But if you want coverage of turkeys from major Hollywood studios, this book is hard to beat.
David Kerekes and David Slater – Killing for Culture, Creation Books, £12.05, pp286. Now issued in a revised second edition, bringing it up to date with recent developments — though embarrassingly, since the first edition never made it off my “books I ought to buy” list, I can’t give any specifics about new material. What I can say is that it remains a comprehensive review of that mythical creature, the “snuff” movie, in all its forms from mondo to mainstream.
The book is at it’s best with a clinical deconstruction of all such alleged snuff films, calmly and logically pointing out the factors which prove they are faked or staged. The authors do so with a clear critical eye, unhesitatingly scathing when they feel it’s deserved. Copious footnotes and references back it up and give some much-needed authority, in a field dominated by the hype and the gory. On the down side, the book sometimes slides into a catalogue of atrocities, listing the nastiness in films whil avoiding much comment on why these films are made, or remain so popular. This is especially true with some of the pictures: blurry, b/w screen shots of state treasured Bud Dwyer committing suicide are a pointless exercise in geek-show mentality, and almost turn the book into mondo of its own. Otherwise, it’s immeasurably useful, essential reading for anyone who wants an informed viewpoint on the topic. Sadly, those most in need of reading it — certain MP’s, media pundits, and indeed Hollywood stars like Charlie Sheen — are unlikely to do so.
Geoff Davis – Nnn goes mobile, Juma, £3.95, 114pp. Sent to me by TC’s ex-printers, with a “this seems like your sort of thing” message, Davis writes parodic cyberpunk characterised by a charming, deliberately incoherent depiction of what the world might become i.e. a total mess. The hero, Nnn, has risen from the gutter to become a technical innovator specialising in nanotechnology. He’s just invented a living zipper, but is then kidnapped by guerillas keen to use his talents. His employers send out two hitmen, Fluffy and Kitch, to get him back before he does something they might regret. In this future world, Prague has been successfully duplicated, and the Old Kent Road has relocated to cyberspace.
And it’s in there that Davis’s strength lies; none of Gibson’s sleek data blocks exist in Nnn’s world, VR looks more like a drug trip animated by crazed Nintendo employees and directed by Ed Wood, Jr in one of his more enthusiatically ambitious moments. There are a lot of madcap characters here, and warped imaginings of self-propelled computers with personality disorders, public domain cultural icons based on Mickey Mouse, and eyepopping virtual sex. This is hideously plausible, as futures go — can’t wait, personally. Flashy, fast and effective. [Juma, 44 Wellington Street, Sheffield, S1 4HD]
Where I work, I don’t tend to go out at lunchtime, preferring to relax in air-conditioned comfort instead of sweating through the City fug. But people tend to assume that if you are at your desk, you should be working, so it’s necessary to adopt an elaborate set of rituals to convince people that this is actually your break that is being disturbed, and would they please go away and find someone else to do it. Icons used in the process may, for example, include an open pack of sandwiches, to indicate that You Are Not Available. Another possibility is some form of reading material: a newspaper, book or magazine, obviously not work-related. The ideal publication would, I suppose, be ‘Doggie Love’ but failing this (I like my job. No, actually I don’t. But the pay-packet is curiously appealing), the next most viable is one of the plethora of ‘male interest’ magazines now on the shelves. In the interests of research, I stacked up on a pile of these, thereby turning my desk into the office reading room. When I eventually prised them from the hands of my colleagues, I was able to read and review ’em…
Arena #59 – “The original men’s magazine”, it calls itself. S’funny then how it’s managed fewer issues than most of the competition. Maybe it refers to their writing? Not going by the relentlessly Anglophile footie piece (tenuously linked to the European football championships), a feature of every magazine surveyed. Ah, I guess what it means is the term “New Lad” was first used here in ’91. Zzzz. Gets the Best Pictures award for a gross portrayal of the effects of a land-mine (another reason not to want to live in Bosnia, should you be considering it) and some striking pictures of Demi Moore as a bloke. The articles lack the same punch, though there’s occasionally a well-written paragraph which salvages things by hitting the nail squarely on the head. Slightly interesting, and certainly makes an attempt at intelligence, even if it sometimes ends up so wide of the mark you wish they hadn’t bothered.
Highlight: the I-Spy guide to anti-personnel mines.
Lowlight: Sean O’Hagan’s whining, complete with excessive use of the word “ironic”, or rather “”ironic””, complaining that “New Lad” doesn’t mean what he wants it to mean. So what? Is he going to hand back the money he’s made from pontificating on the topic?
Esquire Vol.6 No.5 – For quality writing, this one is probably the winner, with a huge range of pieces on everything from Nelson Mandela to jungle survival and corruption in the Yemenese British embassy. This variety is the stand-out feature, there seems no editorial philosophy, though this does mean it feels like “Reader’s Digest” occasionally and it does come over as being dry, like a hard-copy version of Radio 4. Subdued babe-count makes it a safe bet to leave around at home. One interesting sidelight is the lack of any real review material; while most of the others delight in telling you what they think about the latest book, film, CD or whatever. Esquire avoids this, demonstrating either a commendable desire to avoid freebie whoring, or a complete lack of personality. It says something about Esquire thatI’m not sure which is true. Like a bottle of Evian, it’s good, but ultimately bland and tasteless.
Highlight: a piece on dominatrixes, in which for once the reporter doesn’t make his excuses and leave. And regrets it.
Lowlight: four pages of Tarantino’s latest screenplay. Oh, joy.
FHM #77 – Hadn’t realised this one has been around for over six years, but even after so long, there appears to be a ferocious internal struggle for control happening. Half the magazine is terribly earnest – there are two female columnists and readers’ problems include tooth discolouration and shaving rash (the free gift is a sample tube of face lotion) – yet the picture editor is clearly trying to compete with Sports Illustrated, given the number of bikini shots. Nary a nipple in sight, but undeniably chauvinist, this side of the magazine reached a glorious high in October ’95, with their “100 Sexiest Women” supplement, which my girlfriend rapidly reduced to confetti. [It therefore joined the ‘Tokyo Decadence’ laser-disk, two posters of Nastassja Kinski — eyes gouged out — and an issue of Cameron Scholes’ She magazine, all of which have met similar fates. A higher compliment is hard to imagine.] However, overall, the useable content of the mag is too diluted to be of regular interest. Browse carefully.
Highlight: “Annoy that customs officer: strap your midriff with six sandwiches wrapped in tin foil. Imagine how pleased the man at the Blue Exit will be when you reveal the novel way in which you chose, quite legally, to transport a packed lunch”.
Lowlight: an article where women discuss what they don’t like about their men — the correct response being, of course, “Who cares?”.
GQ #84 – The thickest of ’em all, thanks to paper carved from mahogany slabs, and a massive triumph of style over content. More ads than anywhere else, including a 20-page property supplement of Belgravia flats and country estates (anyone got £2.75m?), and lacking a single article of any interest. Not one. An interview with Burt Bacharach? Nein, danke. They did get rapped by their publishers a while ago for getting too sexy, and certainly this issue lives up to it’s ‘Gay Quarterly’ nickname by having few babes, beyond four pages of “Nicole” from the Renault adverts in a push-up bra. Had a free gift: a teeny paperback of short stories which I lost inside 24 hours. I’m not heartbroken. The target audience for this issue appears to be millionaire homosexuals with no sense of humour.
Highlight: Er…a page on sporting alternatives to the European championships?
Lowlight: Most of it. Particularly dire “single lad’s diary” was neither plausible nor amusing.
Loaded #26 – This is the upstart which blew the Y-fronts off the competition, pioneering the New Lab spirit of beers, steers and leers. It still remains the most politically incorrect of all the mags, with more actual breasts than any of its competitors. It’s all a bit relentlessly drunken though, an attitude which pales eventually and you yearn for a slightly more intelligent approach to life. There is more to New Laddism than alcohol induced vomiting, and boasting about it after. Half the articles seem to be “We went to Sydney/South Africa/a Scottish island, and drank till we puked”. Perhaps the closest in spirit to TC, and mercifully free of articles on skin care, though still with too much fashion i.e. any. In terms of volume, the pick of the bunch, you’re looking at three lunch-hours minimum to get through it all.
Highlight: the ongoing comic adaptation of ‘Get Carter’, done in true 70’s fashion. “Your eyes are still the same, Eric. Piss ‘oles in the snow.” Anyone remember ‘Hook Jaw’?
Lowlight: A pointless article on Demi Moore illustrated by blurry screen shots from a David Letterman appearance. Arena did it much better.
Maxim #14 – New kid on the block, barely a year old, and nearly missed from this survey since the July issue turned up before I got round to buying the June one (a tip of the TC hat to Pascale at work, who supplied the missing link). A slim creature, at a mere 160 pages, yet it fights back with a lot of good, solid content. The interest in health is worrying – the only mag to give more space to it than to clothes. Yet here there is a nicely ironic approach which helps defuse the tedium: the main fashion item is a selection of Greek statues in shorts. Sleaze factor moderate: gratuitous swimwear and women talking about masturbation – the former with lots of pictures, the latter regrettably without. Steers a difficult path with some skill, managing on the whole to be intelligent and entertaining and on this month’s showing, the best read.
Highlight: Probably the blackline racing piece, about the real speed kings, but lots of good stuff.
Lowlight: A well-intentioned but pointless article on sexual harassment.
Conclusions: So, after £15.30 and 1140 pages, what have we learned? I know more about overpriced clothes than before. I am aware that the European Football Championships are on, featuring England and a load of foreigners. I own a Danni Minogue poster, some facial scrub and enough scratch-and-sniff after-shave ads to stock a Turkish whorehouse for years. And ‘Fargo’ is a good movie, apparently (actually, didn’t like it much myself). I detect hints of a New Lad backlash, which is odd, given the whole thing is pretty much a backlash anyway. Some questions remain, such as why Arena has a large ‘E’ on the spine. But what was perhaps surprising was the differences rather than the similarities; while undoubtedly male, each had a personality and could be matched to, say, movie stars. The following chart does this, in order of TC appeal, shows the pages each gives to various areas, and provides other useful statistics:
Gena Lee Nolin
– And that’s a not-exactly-serious piece on, er, constipation.
My overwhelming feeling is relief. I’ve stared into the drunken, impeccably well-coutured face of New Laddism, and will not be taking out a subscription. While they all had their merits, the last thing I’m in need of is a magazine to tell me what to wear, watch and do. That’s what girlfriends are for, isn’t it?
Empire is one of the few publications I regularly buy. But this once-decent magazine has collapsed into a self-parody, which each month takes less time to read. Gradually, Empire has less and less to do with films. Each issue seems to have a new irrelevant section, reviewing CDs, computer games, or god help us, beer. Is this freebie whoring at its most pathetic? If I want to read about music, I’ll buy ‘Q’.
The editor must take the blame for this dysfunctional deviance, happy to commission and publish tedious, opinion-based lists of “100 best”, letting his writers stuff their views down our throats. Pieces such as “100 best opening sequences” grind film into snippets for multiplex idiots with no attention span. Almost inevitably containing the complete works of Tarantino i.e. both movies, Empire (The Mag That Believes The Hype) and Quentin (The Man That Believes The Hype) jerk each other off with tiresome regularity. He says what a great magazine Empire is; they reciprocate, using some feeble excuse to tell him what a great film-maker he is. The January 1996 issue (“100 Greatest Films Ever Made”) does both: “Empire readers salute their favourite movies”. Note the logic: “favourite” = “greatest”. No actual film criticism here in Empire, populism rules. The “Greatest Film Ever” is, surprise, surprise, ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Reservoir Dogs’ is #3. If these people picked the England football team, Tarantino would be captain, striker and manager. Then there’s the quote from him, completing the circle-jerk: “I’m thrilled that ‘Pulp Fiction’ has been voted the best film ever by Empire readers”. Yeah, me too.
However, it tells us about the reader to whose tendencies they pander. The sole concessions to world cinema were five foreign-language movies in the top 100 — and I suspect most who voted for ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ didn’t know it was Italian. These handful damningly highlight the readers’ ridiculously Anglocentric view. But how should they know otherwise? When Empire sent a reporter to Japan to write about ‘Ghost in the Shell’, he demonstrated his ignorance by interviewing a ‘Byuichi Tezuka’. Bad news, guys; Tezuka died years ago. Do they perhaps mean Byuichi Terasawa? Seeing such slipshod journalism in an area I know a bit about, gives me no confidence in their accuracy elsewhere. Screw facts, let’s have another list.
Such as “Top 100 Sexiest Movie Stars of All Time” — or rather, “Top 100 Sexiest Hollywood Movie Stars Now”. Bar token Eurobabes like Beatrice Dalle, that list again spurned everyone off the London-LA axis, illustrating the obsession with current hip (it’s amazing QT wasn’t #1), and regardless of the fact that cinema just had its’ centenary. Have the 90’s seen an exponential beauty surge? Suggesting Johnny Depp has more anything than Marilyn is ludicrous, even allowing for personal taste. Needless to say, being neither from Hollywood nor currently fashionable, Kinski didn’t merit a place. Harvey Keitel did. But he helped Tarantino get his big break, which must make him very sexy in Empire‘s eyes.
It’s relentlessly predictable: January rolls around and there will be a review of the past year; February, they will look forward to the next one, and six months later, there will be a summer preview. Plus (yawn!) inevitable reports from Cannes and the Oscars. Perpetually pushing the Hollywood publicity wagon, you can usually guess who’ll get the cover. The only mild interest is when megahype movies open simultaneously: Judge Dredd or Batman Forever? Zzzzzz…
A further example of their editorial courage happened when the Empire editor had the last interview with Hugh Grant before his evening out. This could have provided an important insight into Grant’s mental state but their chat mysteriously only appeared when Grant’s movie, ‘Nine Months’, needed the hype. Things like this give the impression Empire has its tongue jammed right up the bum of the marketeers, and runs scared from doing or saying anything that would upset or annoy them, for fear of (shock!) not getting any more interviews.
Frankly, this’d be no loss: their technique is so blandly non-confrontational you might as well read the press releases. “How much is a pint of milk?” may be a ‘joke’ question but is no worse than many they ask. These ‘profiles’ have been occupying increasing space but if all else fails, they reprint a transcript of a press conference. This scores high for lazy journalism, as does the ‘classic scene’ feature: an easy way to fill a page by copying dialogue from a script.
There are occasional flashes of honesty and wit: publicising Tarantino’s theft of ‘Reservoir Dogs’ from ‘City on Fire’, a sharply aggressive demolition job on the plot of ‘Waterworld’, though these hardly repay the acres of publicity both got. Some writers do know what they’re talking about, with Kim Newman an especial aberration in this department, but this makes things worse, showing what Empirecould aspire to. Few of the rest display any individual personality or approach, churning out nothing but homogenised pap. Anything slightly more challenging than the latest studio product is ignored or treated with feeble attempts at sarcasm.
The very first issue I bought had as its cover stars two relatively unknown actors, starring in a quirky low-budget film, with a no-name director, from a minor studio. Those young newcomers were Christian Slater and Winona Ryder; the film was ‘Heathers’. If that film was to be released today, the chances of it making the cover would be very, very slim indeed.
Empire is the leader in its field, undeniably, but that’s only because of the lack of competition. Take Premiere, a hodge-potch of elderly reprints from its American parent, held back until the film’s British release. Beating that should be at best a light thrill, like taking your grandmother on in a bout of full-contact karate. I’ve little doubt that there is a market for a film magazine that would provide intelligent criticism, without toppling into the self-indulgent masturbation too often found in Sight and Sound. I’m 100% certain that I’d buy such a publication. And I’m just as sure that Empire isn’t it.