Conspiracy Corner: B-52 baby, way up in the sky

Ok, let’s get one thing straight. Whatever the Gulf war was about, it hadn’t got a great deal to do with protecting the integrity of a sovereign state. The Americans didn’t give a damn when Afghanistan was invaded a decade or so ago. They don’t give a damn about all the factions in Africa that attack each other with a depressing regularity. So why were they so fussed when one branch of the Salman Rushdie Depreciation Society tries to take over another? The theories mostly have to do with oil – the paranoiac need not restrict himself to these and with a little imagination can come up with some interesting alternatives:

The American Government

Most civilised nations find an outlet for national aggression in team games: the only thing that stops Scotland staging another rebellion is the opportunity to klck English ass at rugby once a year (whether we win or not!). As the American performance in the World Cup shows, they’re generally no good at team sports, save those they invented themselves like American Football. War is the exception but while Hollywood has fostered the image of a team that never loses, last time out under Coach Bush they were reduced to sitting outside the Vatican embassy in Panama, playing loud rock music at a middle aged drug baron. This is not exactly a fearsome reputation for a nation’s warriors to carry into battle.

The Defence Industry

If anyone really stood to benefit (the golden rule of conspiracism) from the war, it’s arms manafacturers. Now that the “evil empire” is busy coping with problems like famine and civil war (all since they let Paul McCartney in, but that’s another story), people were asking “Why do we need to spend $295 billion dollars a year on weapons?”, and weren’t happy with vague answers about future threats. There’s nothing like a war to boost business in everything from bombers to body-bags.

Nothing like a war to let you test things, either – before this year, the Patriot anti-missile system had been fired a mere thirteen times. Raytheon, the makers, must be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of the orders flooding in for their “battle-proven” weapon, while giving grateful thanks that the Iraquis never used more state-of-the-art missiles, against which the Patriot’s efficiency is a lot more doubtful.

The British Government

Remember the Falklands? The Argentinian junta went to war to divert attention from economic problems at home and Thatcher gleefully grabbed the opportunity to recover from the worst mid-term opinion poll figures since Julius Caesar. This time, we had both reasons: people started to realise that John Major wasn’t all that different from Mrs.T and as for the economy, the worst unemployment figures in ten years received 30 seconds coverage, even on a hyper-extended 9 O’Clock News.

This theory doesn’t take into account that Britain’s influence in world affairs is limited to irrelevancies like decreeing the laws of cricket, or to odd bits of the Commonwealth where the inhabitants are waiting for a big white bird to bring Prince Philip. It is difficult to believe we could tell Iraq to invade Kuwait when we can’t even get the French to accept our lamb without petrol-roasting it first.

The Media

ITN spent the first two weeks broadcasting six hours of solid coverage every night even though there was, frankly, sod-all going on. Six hours, double time, seven days a week for those at home, not to mention the massive expenses for those lucky enough to be sent abroad. Were TV reporters responsible for starting and fanning the war, so they’d be the only people able to afford a gallon of petrol? “…and President Bush said Saddam Hussein was the son of a syphilitic camel, who enjoyed interfering with small boys. This is Kate Adie, urinating in a mosque, Mecca”.

Things you could learn from the average news bulletin during the Gulf War

  1. There’s a war going on.
  2. It’s somewhere in the Middle East.
  3. We’re winning.
  4. Definitely.
  5. We’ve destroyed all the Scud launchers.
  6. Apart from the ones that we haven’t.
  7. Did I mention that we’re winning?

Lies, damn lies and things “compiled under reporting restrictions”

You may have noticed the whining and accusations of bias whenever TV showed coverage of bomb damage in Iraq. Conspiracy theory suggests you should worry more about what you aren’t being told than what you are. It doesn’t take much intelligence to work out that reporters on our side were just as liable to manipulation and censorship: our office has a newsfeed from Reuters and I’ve read hair-raising stories, not printed in the papers, about reporters with our troops getting arrested and/or beaten up. One curious side-effect of the censorship was that it makes the military look incompetent: the impression throughout was that it wasn’t the Iraqis that were killing our soldiers, it was accidents, and carelessness such as firing on them ourselves. Was this the same army supposedly capable of destroying over 3,000 Iraqi tanks without losing a single one of ours? It may be the first war where we’ve had reporters on both sides, but all this meant is that we got two sets of officially sanctioned propaganda and still hadn’t the faintest idea what was really going on. You’d be better informed watching ‘The Desert Song’.

The volume of news, however distorted, was admittedly impressive, for the first couple of days justifiably so: this was history in the making. However, despite them cramming 300 years of the best bits into nine months, History at school was dull and in real time it’s even worse. To be fair, it was surreally entertaining watching a city get the shit bombed out of it, particularly when they put on the night sights and the whole thing resembled a video game. Then the Iraqis got wise, and realised that it wasn’t clever having large numbers of journalists running round. Only allowing them to film undamaged parts of Baghdad didn’t help: one “this military communications tower appears to be totally unharmed” report and said tower rapidly becomes a novelty rockery.

Teach Yourself U.N-Speak: Iraq

  1. “Cease-fire” (as in “immediate cease-fire”) = Chance to get our breath back.
  2. “This senseless fighting is hurting both of us = We’re losing.
  3. “We have no reason to attack Kuwait” = What’s the Arabic for “gullible”?
  4. “God is with us” = Nobody else is.
  5. “We call upon all Arabs to join us” = Help!
  6. “We have it on reliable authority” = We made it up.
  7. “The question of Palestinian sovereignity” = The last chance to save face.
  8. “Prepare for the mother of all battles” = Sales of Nike running shoes have increased 500%.
  9. “We will withdraw without conditions” = …apart from these ones.
  10. “It was a civilian air-raid shelter” = A couple of civilians were passing at the time.

Otherwise, coverage was largely limited to shaky footage of Scud missiles not hitting Israel. With so much time to fill ITN got desperate and even had their anchorman reviewing the morning’s papers. By review, I mean “read out the tabloid headlines in a sarcastic tone of voice”: a gratuitous picture of a female squaddie on the front page was warmly greeted with “nice to see sexist journalism is alive and well”. Eventually ITN gave up, and left the blanket coverage to CNN and those lucky enough to have satellite TV. The American network has clearly been stockpiling pundits for some years and had enough to last a lengthy war.

Of course any programme that might conceivably cause offence were axed from the schedules. Monty Python, ‘Allo, Allo and Carry On Up the Khyber all bit the dust and it’s rumoured that the children’s serial ‘Five Children and It’ vanished because its story about a monster living in a sand-pit was considered derogatory to the Kuwaiti royal family.

To be perfectly honest, I’m glad it’s over. While I sympathise with the civilians caught up in it, both Kuwaiti and Iraqi, it all felt like someone else’s war – I never asked the Army to go in and fight. So it wasn’t long before I became fed up with endless repetitions of censored news, sick of politicians pontificating at length about the crisis and bored to tears by hour long interviews with ‘experts’. As far as I’m concerned we can now get back to more important things – now, where did I put that copy of ‘Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheikhs’?

Teach Yourself U.N-Speak: US

  1. “You have until January 15th to get out” = We have until January 15th to get ready.
  2. “Join forces” (as in “It is time for the countries of the world to join  forces”) = Do what we say.
  3. “Restoring the sovereign state of Kuwait” = Kicking Iraqi butt.
  4. “Friendly fire” = Sorry!
  5. “Flagrant breaches of international law…” = We don’t like it…
  6. “…abhored by all nations” = …and neither do our lap-dogs.
  7. “Multinational task force” = Our army, plus anyone else who wants a finger in the pie.
  8. “War crimes” = Killing Kuwaiti civilians.
  9. “Collateral damage” = Killing Iraqi civilians.
  10. “It was a legitimate military target” = A couple of soldiers were passing at the time.

The Incredibly Bad Film Show

Iron Angels (Teresa Woo) – Moon Lui, Elaine Lui, Hideki Saito.
a.k.a. Angel

If you’re not concerned about Oscars, and are just after a damn good time, there is nothing as much fun as a good martial arts movie (to be honest, there is also nothing as tedious as a naff one, of which there are plenty. The fast forward button will be used heavily if you get interested in the genre!). They are virtually by definition ‘bad’ films, relying as they do on more or less completely gratuitous violence -the number that have achieved critical acclaim could be counted on the fingers of one hand without putting down your pint of Guinness. However, who needs Meryl Streep when ‘Iron Angels’ delivers everything you could possibly want from a film: heady amounts of pretty Orientals kicking serious ass.

Don’t know if director Teresa Woo is related to John Woo, who did “The Killer” – if not, they ought to be introduced since I’m sure they’d make a lovely couple. There are a lot of similarities in (high) style and (manic) approach: while ‘The Killer’ used more rounds of ammunition, ‘Iron Angels’ doesn’t have quite as many sugary romantic interludes (boring!!!).

It’s drug war time: the opening shots show the army teaching the locals to ‘Just Say No’ by shooting everything that moves, and blowing up everything that doesn’t. This triumph is short-lived since it annoys the drug syndicates so much they bury their usual differences and start taking out the law enforcement agents responsible, as ordered by sadistic gang queen and martial arts mistress Madame Sue (Yukari Oshima, of whom more will be heard, mark my words!). One poor sod is neatly kebabbed by two motor cyclists, a sequence Ridley Scott would seem to have nicked for ‘Black Rain’, tho’ since he’s an “artist”, his graphic-ish decapitation is a ’15’ certificate. Iron Angels’, being mere exploitation, gets an ’18’ AND bits cut out. Someone should send Ms.Oshima round to the BBFC for a chat…

All this is too much for the cops. Fortunately, a visiting American drug agent, Bill Fong, offers to finance resistance: “Money is our speciality this year”. In come the Iron Angels: Kenji, a Japanese martial arts teacher, Helen, part-time nightclub singer and Mona, currently filling in time between jobs as a secretary. She’s clearly bored by her work, distributing post with a deadly eye around the office by hurling it shuriken-style without leaving her desk. This accuracy extends to other office supplies – Teresa Woo pulls off something of a first by having a camera accompany a Tippex bottle as it flies through the air.

The bane of all videos, the dreaded pan-and-scan, strikes ‘Iron Angels’ with some venom. No panning and very little scanning goes on leaving you with the middle 2/3 of the screen no matter what: one caption tells us we are at ‘Kong International Air’. This reaches it’s worst point during a scene in a bar: the characters conversing across a table are entirely missing, leaving the viewer with only the table and an empty chair as the discussion progresses. The stars’ names endured some mangling in the credits as well: Moon Lui became Mona Lui, Elaine Lui is credited as Eliane Lui, and Yukari Oshima does a back flip to Oshima Yukari. Somehow, I can’t see your average megastar happy to be billed as Streep Meryl.

It’s dubbed, but this is no problem as it’s well done and is infinitely preferable to subtitles. In Hong Kong films, these are usually written from an out of date dictionary and no real experience of English – “I will” always becomes “I’ll”, regardless of context – compared to C4’s series of Chinese Ghost Stories which used liberal, rather than literal, translation: I can’t believe ‘Mr. Vampire’ originally had the line “Don’t let smoke get in your rice” (think about it!). Back to the plot. Kenji cracks the case when he traps the insider who’s giving information on the drug agents and applies to the traitor to get him to talk. I should point out the pressure is applied with a scrapyard car-crusher. Understandably, the victim gives way cracks splits talks. The Angels then break into Madame Su’s office and photograph some papers in her safe, including an order for jewellery rabbits. When Madame Su finds out about this, she is slightly annoyed.

The next stage sees Kenji and Mona staking out a landing dock, where some “fish” are arriving. It should not be a surprise when I tell you these fish are white and powdery. Under the cover of a cunning diversion by Mona (namely, driving her car as fast as possible at anyone in the area), Kanji steals the drugs. Madame Su becomes mildly peeved.

Since she want her drugs back, a meet is arranged. The purpose of this escapes me, since she speaks to the Angels’ director on a portable phone but it does allow a tracking device to be placed on her car, despite some nifty work with a tailor’s dummy. Having found Madame Su’s headquarters, Mona and Kenji go in under cover of another diversion, provided by Helen this time, driving up and acting the lost bimbo (the dubbing slips into Southern belle mode for this scene), with Bill Fong in her boot.

Up to this point, it’s been pretty gentle stuff, nothing much more than an episode of “Charlie’s Angels”. Things explode into action when Bill and Helen get their asses kicked by Madame Su, while Kenji and Mona sweep through the house in search of the kidnapped drug agents. Oh, did I forget to mention them? Well, so did the film… However, since the hostages are killed by a misplaced burst of machine gun fire, it’s not important. At the end of all this mayhem, everyone escapes except Bill, who is left to face Madame Su, now best described as “seriously miffed”.

This turns out to be a clever ploy to keep an eye on Madame Su, since wherever Bill (and his tracking device) is, Madame Su will be. Sticking needles into him, to be specific. However, since he’s financing the whole thing, they go in and rescue him, accompanied only by a helicopter, a death slide and more small arms than your average Central American banana republic would dream of. There are many explosions, a lot of broken glass and Bill gets rescued. The mental state of Madame Su, I leave to your imagination.

Since Madame Su’s gang has been decimated, is this the end of the mission? No: to quote John King, “Money isn’t the only thing – there’s integrity”. An odd phrase coming from the leader of a team who two minutes previously were happy to dampen the explosive effect of a grenade by dropping one of the opposition on it. And even odder, since the next thing they do is kidnap the daughter of Madame Su’s lieutenant, in order to extract information from him.

All he can say is that Madame Su is planning something big and that four numbers are the key. After Helen casts aspersions on his loyalty, Bill goes undercover looking for Madame Su, to find out what the numbers are. Since this consists of him walking down the street shouting “I’m looking for Madame Su”, it rapidly has the desired effect and once again he’s taken prisoner. Ah, but this time he’s concealed a mini-pistol in his shoe. No luck. She distracts him with a flash of her chest (it’s no surprise this is a success given the rarity of female flesh in the genre – it does look suspiciously like a stunt breast, however) and it’s needle time once again. Madame Su makes the fatal mistake of telling him the numbers – 1, 9, 8 and 7 – and he communicates them to the rest of the team with a transmitter hidden in his other shoe.

But what does it mean? Kenji susses it, while sitting in a bunny bar: 1987 is the year of the rabbit so (an impressive leap of logic this) Madame Su is planning to rob a bullion van and export the gold disguised as little gilt bunnies (remember the invoice in paragraph 7?). And yep, this is exactly what happens, the van driver is in her pay and after the accompanying police have been disposed of i.e. blown up or shot, he drives the van to a building site. He’d clearly forgotten the old Chinese proverb “Never trust a woman whose chief entertainment is sticking needles into people”, and so he, and the van, end up at the bottom of a large pile of concrete, which baffles the police somewhat.

Kanji, accompanied by the usual tracking device, was hiding in the back of the van and when the thieves arrive to pick up their loot they find it accompanied by a slightly out-of-breath Iron Angel. The reappearance of his tracking device alerts the police and, hey presto, one half of the gang is captured. Helen and Mona, meanwhile, have tracked Madame Wu to a gold smelter and I’m sure you can guess what happens next…

Mayhem. Exploding buttons. Acid-squirting belt buckles. Forklift-fu. Unnecessary use of metal poles. The effective termination of Madame Wu in a fairly spectacular manner. And that’s about that, save the discovery that Bill Fong is still alive despite being turned into a human watering can.

This is really the third movie in a series, which is both a benefit and a handicap. On the plus side, scene-setting and character development are minimal, leaving more time for action. On the other hand some things, like the exploding buttons, are taken for granted, and the viewer is required to tolerate more plot inconsistencies than would be considered reasonable under normal circumstances. It’s a bit like seeing “A Nightmare on Elm Street 5” without knowing anything about Freddy Krueger.

Those of you familiar with Japanese comics may know the Lovely Angels, aka the Dirty Pair, a duo of agents notorious for solving problems with the maximum impact possible. ‘Iron Angels’ resembles a live-action version of this: fast-moving, possessing no respect for property and a bizarre sense of style and fun. Idiotic, ridiculous and mindless? Probably. But who cares?

A Moving Experience

You may have noticed this issue of TC is late. The main reason behind this is that it’s difficult to produce a ‘zine when all your stuff is in a garage near Crystal Palace about three miles from where you yourself are. Yes, an impressive series of cock-ups meant that for about three weeks I was yet again, if not exactly homeless, sleeping on a couch and living out of carrier bags.

We’d been given notice to quit Underhill Road and had managed to find a new place (despite the tendency of agents to define a “luxury kitchen” as anything that hadn’t actually been condemned by the local Environmental Health Officer – a lot of these places were immediately followed by a swift withdrawal into the nearest pub for a stiff drink). It hadn’t really been that tough compared to last time, when there’d been a nasty three week gap when I was of no fixed abode while we waited for the references to go through. This time, it was going to be smooth.

We should have realised that the only reason the Fates were rolling out the red carpet, was in order to let them pull it out from under our feet.

Moving Day arrived. The omens weren’t good. My employers have been shedding workers with deceptive ease, very slowly to avoid undue Press interest – every Friday, a few more people are called in to see Alison Fenn, the personnel department’s hit-woman, and are never seen again. This Friday, it was our department’s turn. At 5.25 pm, my phone rang.

I came down off the ceiling and answered it. It was Vic, our new landlord with a slight problem – the old residents, from whom he was buying the property, had left without giving him the keys. He was trying to contact them. Ok, no hassle, I thought – the keys will turn up before long. I went home, ignoring the twitches from my intuition.

We’d arranged for a van, and a friend to drive it since none of us had car licences. At 7 pm Bill, the driver, phoned. He hadn’t got the van, he’d been snared at work and was unable to reach the hire place before it shut. We began to frantically phone other companies, most of whom were shut, but finally found one willing to open their depot and rent us a van for a sum just this side of extortionate. While they were sorting things out, Bill phoned back – he’d got hold of a Renault 5, if we wanted to try moving our stuff in that. We looked at the enormous pile of cases, bags and boxes in the front room. We laughed hysterically. The van hire company phoned back to say they couldn’t get the depot open. We decided to go with the Renault 5. My intuition was doing things to the hairs on my neck.

Waiting for Bill and Renault to arrive, we indulged in a little more packing. There were still bottles lying around with alcoholic liquid in them so we decided to reduce the load a bit by putting the contents into larger containers – to be specific, our stomachs. Gradually, things took on a pleasantly rose-tinted aspect. My intuition washed it’s hands, went to bed and pulled the psychological blankets over it’s head.

The car arrived, and we began shifting the goods. Still no sign of the keys at the other end so we stacked things in the landlord’s garage instead – fortunately, he stayed next door to the place we were supposed to be moving into. Ten Renault runs and about four hours later, it was done, and 247 Underhill Road was totally empty of anything that might have connected it to us. This included bed-linen, so I spent an uncomfortable night sleeping on a bare mattress without any sheets.

It got even worse at about 2 a.m, when the peach schnapps and other drinks consumed earlier that evening, decided to make a return visit – they didn’t taste nearly as nice on the way up as they did when they were going down. It’s not pleasant to have your head stuck down the toilet while Reality taps you on the shoulder and says things like “Are you remembering you’ve got nowhere to sleep tonight?”. In the distance I could hear my intuition laughing.

Saturday dawned (hideously) bright and (far too) early. I peeled my eyelids off the floor and got up, ready to face the dreaded Inventory Check. This, the bane of all tenants, involves someone comparing what is in the house now with what was in it when you moved in – any difference comes off your deposit. Done on a room-by-room basis, it’s the residential equivalent of the three-shell game, as you try to shuffle furniture around at such a rate that it gives the impression of a full house. This doesn’t always work, leading to anguished screams of “Turkish coffee-pot? What Turkish coffee-pot?”

We signed away our deposit, handed over the keys, left and hung around outside. I should mention that the house came complete with a cleaner, who came in on Mondays and Fridays to make sure the place was habitable (Sunday and Thursday evenings, we went round the house putting beer cans in bins, restoring videos to boxes and trying to make sure the place was semi-habitable). She’d been very helpful, so we swung into Plan A: “begging for mercy”. “Please can we stay here for the weekend because we haven’t got anywhere else to go and we’ll be as good as gold and won’t make a mess at all and we’ll be out of the house on Monday morning and we’d be ever so grateful”. In the face of such concentrated pleading, there was only one possible result and we gained two days respite. I switched to the couch in an attempt to have a mildly less uncomfortable weekend, not too successfully because all my clean socks and pants were sitting in a garage some five miles away.

On Monday, we found out why the old owners hadn’t handed back the keys: they were still waiting to get the final installment of their money because of a cock-up between the two solicitors somewhere. In effect, Vic had rented us a place that he didn’t actually own, which would have been bad enough even without the fact that one solicitor was now in the middle of a three-week holiday. However, all was not lost. Vic was suffering from serious pangs of guilt at being responsible for all this (feelings we tried to encourage by whistling ‘Underneath the Arches’ and repeatedly asking each other for spare change) and arranged for us to have the use of a friend’s flat until things got straightened out.

The friend turned out to be Michael Thomas, a name that might be familiar to Arsenal fans – visions of tables piled high with South American nose candy, endless parties and appearances in court on drink-driving charges swam briefly before my eyes, until I was brought down to earth by the fact that Mr. Thomas didn’t actually stay there any more. He had been renting the place out but it was now free. And ‘free’ is the word – not only was it costing us nothing, the rent for the remainder of March was waived by Vic, leaving us each about 200 quid better off.

Which is probably about fair compensation for two weeks in Streatham. Not exactly the centre of the universe, it’s most renowned for having the biggest red-light district in South London. Could have fooled me – though not exactly short of underdressed bimbos, most of them seemed to be aged about 12 and were at the ice-rink or the bowling alley. Whether this constitutes a red-light district depends, I suppose, on whether or not you like the taste of puppy fat between your teeth.

Add to this that we were living in a flat where the most interesting thing was a television set with no aerial, and you’ll not be surprised to find we drank a lot of beer. The lack of plates too, meant a lot of junk food was consumed and overall it was a near thing whether we’d escape before cholesterol poisoning or cirrhosis of the liver took their toll.

Streatham on a Saturday night gives the impression of a place very much on the edge. Precisely what it’s on the edge of, I’m not sure. Tooting, or Balham perhaps. There’s a night-club called the Ritzy, but despite this it seemed to be popular judging by the long queue of blow-dried secretaries, no doubt called Sharon and Tracy, and their boyfriends, named Stig and Urk if their foreheads were anything to go by. As for the doormen, the famous joke :
“Got any concealed weapons?”
“Want to buy some?”
takes on alarming plausibilty in Streatham. I didn’t venture in.

A week passed, and the solicitor came back off holiday. Then the problems really started. The final payment was made. The sellers wanted interest on it, for the three weeks they didn’t have the money. They eventually got it. Then they waited for the cheque to clear. The result as far as we were concerned was that every day in the second week we packed, got ready to leave, and were told that it’d happen tomorrow instead. To quote J. Cleese in ‘Clockwise’, “I can stand the despair, it’s the hope”. And there was nothing we, or our landlord, could do but watch as the solicitors’ wrangled and raked in the fees. I took to making up solicitor jokes:

  • Q. How many solicitors does it take to wall-paper a bedroom?
  • A. Two – if you slice them thinly enough.
  • Q. Why do solicitors only make love with their wives on top?
  • A. Because all they can do is fuck up.

My response to the news we had finally prised the keys out of the solicitor’s grip and had a home to go to was unsurprisingly mute cynicism. I’d sunk into a numb single-mindedness, unable to think about anything else, yet going round in mental circles. “That’s nice” was about as far as I could get.

Early Greek philosophers adopted a spartan lifestyle to concentrate their minds – for instance Diogenes lived in a barrel. Having spent 18 days with no possessions, wearing the same tie to work thirteen days on the trot and living out of plastic bags, I can thus disclose the great truth revealed to me in a vision: INXS and Transvision Vamp are actually the same band. No, really – apart from Wendy James, how many members of TV can most people name? And apart from Michael Hutchence, does anyone know who INXS are? I rest my case. But do they just swap singers, or is Wendy really Michael in drag? And where did Eighth Wonder/Patsy Kensit fit in? Or was this all a hallucination brought on by too much Kentucky Fried Chicken?

In any case, I’ve learned at least one thing. My parents have stayed in the same house ever since they got married, thirty years ago. I am now entirely convinced they’ve got the right idea.

High Weirdness by Mail

It’s 12:10 on Sunday, April 14th. Arsenal are 2-0 down after 10 minutes of the FA Cup Semi-Final against Terry Venables’ bunch of bankrupts. I am not a happy man, which may be reflected in the tone of this column. Apologies if it sounds like Stefan Jaworzyn is editing this issue…

Mark Stevens, Rugby – “Blade Runner bit [TC8] ok if you’re into that over-rated borefest. The article shows up what seems to me to be a TC fault – only trying to look for arty subtexts in a film if it’s visually stunning  and entertaining  first  off  (and looks  as if  it’s meant to be deep, a bad sign). Any Dario flick, or even Cannibal Ferox, is worthier than Blade Runner…Your Driller Killer review illustrates my Blade Runner gripe. I find it to be of high artistic content and many respected critics agree (not that I thought of it first!) and just because it isn’t dazzling and doesn’t have N.Kinski in it doesn’t mean it’s no good. There is actually a good reason for it’s being shot in a dull tone (to reflect that way of live) and hence it’s deliberateness makes it not dull, for me at least (could you understand that sentence? Because I’m having trouble on re-reading it).”

Nope, no problems with that one – it was the previous sentence, with the quadruple negatives, that got to me… I feel that deep down, most shallow exploitation films are exactly that – shallow exploitation. However, I may have missed the ‘subtexts’ inherent in the bit where the bloke gets his dick cut off, the artistic content of the animal torture and the whole point of movies that, no matter how well done they are, remain for me just a series of atrocities strung together for a cheap thrill. Anyone can make a sick puppy film, but it takes skill to hold an audience’s attention by appealing to their brains rather than their psychoses – me, although I like both sorts, I never make the mistake of confusing them!

Tony Lee, Isle of Wight – “I can hardly believe you found Wings of Desire boring! Yes, a bit slow, but sometimes quite imaginative and easily the best thing Wenders has done! Transylvania 6-500 was at least mildly amusing, if not actually very funny. And as for saying Jeff Goldblum has “no talent for comedy at all” (!) have you never seen TV’s Tenspeed and Brownshoe? – and what about Buckaroo Banzai? Earthgirls Are Easy, and the latent humour of Into the Night? Or for that matter, The Fly? Goldblum is a master of subtle character based comedy”

Yes, I was rolling in the aisles at The Fly, just like the rest of the audience. From what I can see, where Goldblum’s films are funny, this tends to be despite, rather than because of him. Witness the recent series of adverts for Holsten Pils (there’s a novel idea, advertise a beer by getting a tall foreign actor to be weird!) – I rest my case. And now for a couple of people who seem a little unhappy with the state of fandom, starting with the sort of unsubstantiated insinuations that letter columns were invented for:

William Kilfeather, California – “This is an open letter to all movie zines. Please see the attached review of Michael Flores’s (It’s Only A Movie). If more zines were brave enough to print a review like this, fewer of us would have been ripped off and in some cases for a lot of money.”

The review mentioned is from an un-named publication and the bit highlighted reads as follows:

“We owe it to our readers who may wish to subscribe to It’s Only a Movie to mention that Flores has a reputation for not fulfilling orders on subscriptions and videos. Use caution!”

Douglas Angel, Gt.Yarmouth – “Funny you should be criticising Samhain in your pages, I quite agree that it’s going downhill, has been for a couple of years I’d say. I always laugh at their pretension of the horror zine scene being “healthy”, a lot of them are utter ****! One I paid £1 for had about ten single-sided badly photocopied A4 pages with almost no text and some badly swiped photos, all of which have been seen in lots of publications over the years. Take away **** like that and the foreign zines that appear and you don’t have that many left. I only feel that there are only a handful that are worth buying.”

Now, here are two nuggets of trivia that might be very important (on the other hand, they might be totally irrelevant), some comments on financing T-shirts and an entirely unjustifiable speculation on the reasons behind my change of address:

Alun Fairburn, Ammanford – “Did you know that when Ripley activates the launch sequence in the escape shuttle towards the end of Alien, the message that appears on the monitor (‘ENVIRON CTR PURGE 24556 DR 5’) is the same message (and in the same colours) as a message that appears in the police car as Deckard and Edward James Olmos lift off near the beginning of Blade Runner?…Did I mention the Robocop 2 ‘joke’? In a scene in which Belinda Bauer/Dr.Faxx looks at the broken down Robocop & we get a view from his point of view, a load of rubbish scrolls up the screen, among it a line of hex which when translated says ‘Peter Kuran is a great guy’. Kuran was one of the computer FX people. I must be bored or something.”

Daniel Cox, Greenford – “I have already begun to raise the cost of the T-shirt in three desperate ways:

1) a swear box. With this I have already amassed 6p, which only goes to show what a vulgar person I can be under pressure.

2) sponsored suicide. With this I was able to raise over œ12,000,000 but I chickened out and had to return the money.

3) by looking for money. A simple but ingenious idea. I have already found 42p simply by looking for it on the ground. What are the limits to this method I ask myself.

Anyway, to date I still only have 48p and some way to go for a TC t-shirt, and even though through self-awareness classes I have been able to reach a state of mind which allows me to view the piggy bank as being half full rather than half empty, financially that doesn’t seem to make any bloody difference…”

Glyn Williams, Derby – “Is this constant changing of addresses entirely innocent? It’s tempting to think that an incident involving a combination of your passion for French teenage girls and melted Belgian chocolate may have meant an enforced move.”

I deny everything. We simply ran out of room in the old house – there’s a limit to the number of chocolate-coated Euro-bimbettes one can keep in the fridge at the same time… Till TC10…

Do You Feel Lucky?

I know what you’re thinking, punk. You’re thinking, did he fire five shots or six? Well, to tell the truth, in all this confusion I forgot myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, and the most powerful handgun in the world – it can blow your head clean off – you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?

Since the late ’60s, audiences worldwide have been fascinated by Eastwood’s style. His no-nonsense approach to the most demanding of situations has fired the imaginations of millions. It has also been widely copied and caused much controversy.

So when you think of Eastwood, the first image conjured up is probably that of a superhuman cop or western outlaw with a thin snarl on his lips, a squint and a poor “punk” at the wrong end of some serious weaponry. Oh, and you want him to pull the trigger! Just what is it about Eastwood that makes his popularity so universal? In a strictly sociological sense, much of his success can be attributed to the era from which his type of “hero” arose. Stateside, the sixties were violent, reactionary and anti-establishment. The classic film formula of sex, destruction of property and abuse of authority was the inevitable result. At the time heroes like Paul Newman and Marlon Brando may have defined the “antihero”, but the backgrounds of the characters they played always excused them as either victims of their environments or lovable rogues.

Eastwood strode onto the screen in A Fistful of Dollars as a man seemingly devoid of the simplest emotions or sympathetic actions. He exuded the absolute certainty of one who stood above the rest of mankind, and that there was no-one he couldn’t or wouldn’t kill. Above all he was in complete control of his environment and completely certain of his actions. Here was a new kind of hero.

And therein lies his appeal to audiences. He was – and still is – the fantasy answer to our real life problems. People’s desires are reflected in the heroes they choose, and who wouldn’t want to possess the fast thinking and accurate decision making needed to take on the all pervasive society which renders us impotent. And to take it on and win! Go on, admit it – you’ve fantasized about delivering the line “make my day” with a Colt Magnum to underline it. Who hasn’t!

Sergio Leone’s remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, made with a working title of The Magnificent Stranger and financed by a German-Italian-Spanish production company, ran into problems when both Henry Fonda and Lee Van Cleef rejected the part of “The man with no name”. The story goes that when the production team met, the only suggestion raised was that they try out a tall soft-spoken American actor who had a supporting role in the long running black-and-white serial Rawhide.

Eastwood, a relative unknown, saw it as a holiday for himself and his wife Maggie, a break from the serial, a fifteen thousand dollar fee and a chance to demonstrate his independence from CBS, who would neither release him from his contract or allow him to direct an episode. Most tellingly, he was confident that the film would never be shown in the US, and as the only one on the set of The Magnificent Stranger with any experience of the Western (and the only one who could speak English), he decided to take his character to the limit. Marlon Brando wouldn’t even get out of bed for fifteen thousand dollars!

It was not until ’67, after The Good, the Bad and the Ugly had been completed, that A Fistful of Dollars was bought by U.A. and shown in the States to huge audiences and awful reviews:

  • A Fistful of Dollars: “Mr. Eastwood shows a talent for squinting and mouthing a cigarillo.” — Judith Crist, New York Tribune
  • For a Few Dollars More: “A treat for necrophiliacs. The rest of us can get our kicks for free at the butcher store.” — Judith Crist, NBC Today show
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: “… must be the most expensive, pious, and repellent movie in the history of its peculiar genre.” — Reanata Adler, New York Times

Eastwood’s friendship with Don Seigel (who directed Coogan’s Bluff and nominated Eastwood for membership of the Director’s Guild so he could make Play Misty For Me) resulted in one of the most controversial films of his career to date, Dirty Harry. The film quickly became a cause celebre with the media who felt that the film condoned fascist police actions, and the police who saw it as a sympathetic treatment of an honest man’s frustrations at police work.

Dirty Harry is pretty representative of Eastwood’s style, and the direction of his films subsequently. Filmed on location, on a low budget (well, low by Warner Bros. standards), under schedule and with Eastwood’s famous insistence on doing his own stunts, most notably the leap from a trestle bridge onto a moving school-bus. Its also a film in which the “hero” gets beaten physically. The first shootout (from which the above dialogue is taken) takes place outside the “Kwik Lunch” sandwich bar, which is next to a movie theatre. Have you noticed which film is playing? Incidentally, the poster copy for the film ran “You don’t assign him to murder cases, you just turn him loose”!

The critics were a little less hostile to the Dirty Harry series:

  • Dirty Harry: A fast-paced detective story. Eastwood is excellent.” — New York Daily News
  • Magnum Force: “All that Eastwood can manage is a frown that suggests tension. The excitement is mainly in the camera work, which is stunning.” — Nora Sayre, New York Times
  • The Enforcer: “The Enforcer is the third or fourth Dirty Harry movie with Clint Eastwood blowing people’s heads off and creating the kind of havoc Batman would find juvenile…It all went out of style years ago with Clint Eastwood’s mumbling.” — Rex Reed, New York Daily News
  • Sudden Impact: “Sudden Impact has all the action anyone could want..This movie’s a whirligig, an explosion, and absolutely senseless.” — Archer Winsten, New York Post

Eastwood’s Malpaso (false step) production company was founded as a vehicle to make Eastwood’s fast and cheap brand of escapism. In the mid seventies, among much talk of the death of the Western, Eastwood worked through High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josey Wales, films notable for their decidedly offbeat/supernatural character and the lack of a single likeable character! These are films where the quality of the direction stands out in generating atmosphere and terror in low key, disconcertingly normal situations.

Over the years, Eastwood has turned down starring roles in Apocalypse Now and The Killing Fields, preferring to experiment with scripts like Tightrope and Bird. He has been displaced at the box office by ’80s heroes (Murphy, Stallone, Cruise), but in the author’s opinion he’d blow them away in a straight fight!


  • 1955  – Revenge of the Creature (b/w)
            Francis in the Navy (b/w)
            Lady Godiva (GB: Lady Godiva of Coventry)
            Tarantula (b/w, uncredited – above)
  • 1956  – Away All Boats
            Never Say Goodbye
            The First Travelling Saleslady
            Star in the Dark
  • 1957  – Escapade in Japan
  • 1958  – Lafayette Escadrille (GB: Hell Bent for Glory)
  •         Ambush at Cimarron Pass
  • 1964  – A Fistful of Dollars (orig: Per un Pugno di Dollari)
  • 1965  – For a Few Dollars More (orig: Per qualche Dollaro in piu)
  • 1966  – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (orig: Il buono, Il bruto, Il cattivo)
  • 1967  – The Witches
  • 1968  – Hang ‘Em High
            Coogan’s Bluff
  • 1969  – Where Eagles Dare
            Paint Your Wagon
  • 1970  – Kelly’s Heroes
            Two Mules for Sister Sara
  • 1971  – The Beguiled
            Play Misty for Me (+ dir.)
            Dirty Harry
  • 1972  – Joe Kidd
  • 1973  – High Plains Drifter (+ dir.)
            Breezy (+ dir.)
            Magnum Force
  • 1974  – Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
  • 1975  – The Eiger Sanction (+ dir.)
  • 1976  – The Outlaw Josey Wales (+ dir.)
            The Enforcer
  • 1977  – The Gauntlet (+ dir.)
  • 1978  – Every Which Way But Loose
  • 1979  – Escape from Alcatraz
  • 1980  – Bronco Billy
            Any Which Way You Can
  • 1982  – Firefox (+ prod/dir.)
            Honky Tonk Man (+ prod/dir.)
  • 1983  – Sudden Impact (+ prod/dir.)
  • 1984  – Tightrope (+ co-prod.)
            City Heat
  • 1985  – Pale Rider (+ prod/dir.)
            Vanessa in the Garden (TVM)
  • 1986  – Heartbreak Ridge (+ prod/dir.)
  • 1988  – The Dead Pool
            Bird (prod/dir)
  • 1990  – White Hunter, Black Heart (dir)
            The Rookie