Tuesday, April 23, 2013

UP: Warhol Films

Andy Warhol Films
 
Paul Morrissey fans - calm down. I'll mention him, don't panic. This blog is dedicated to the 20th century's greatest pop-culture phenomenon. The platinum wunderkind that took the 1960's by storm, changed life on planet Earth and redefined the very concept behind what "art" meant. I think it's safe to say that most people (when they first think "Andy Warhol") think of his artwork - the painting, the stencils, the lithographs that made him a household name. It's still fair to say that a large percentage of those same people are aware that Andy also tried his hand at directing films. I dare say many of these people have actually had the pleasure of SEEING one of his films as they are impossibly hard to get your hands on.



These are not the types of films that would sell many tickets so theaters typically turn their noses up at them. Highly (and I do mean highly) artistic, these are less "movies" and more like moving pieces of art - consider the melding of his familiar painting work with the life of celluloid. Inadvertently, I found myself included in several "festivals" that screened some of Andy's harder-to-stomach films - so I've seen a great deal of this rare mess. A. Great. Deal...

While some of his films are astronomical with greatness - some of them are equally baffling. More than once, I shook my head and pondered why the hell anyone would have wasted precious film documenting what I'd just seen. No, really. A classic example of this would be his film Empire. You
will most likely never get the chance to see this - and if you do, run for your life. It's over eight hours long! That isn't daunting to you? Oh...I failed to tell you what you see during this eight hour film: just the Empire State Building. One, unmoving, static shot ... for eight solid hours. It's the equivalent of standing on the corner of 34th Street and staring up for 1/3 of your day. Thrilling? Riveting? Not really...yet...I sat there watching it for eight hours. Watching lights blink, clouds roll by, tourists flash cameras and somehow it stayed interesting. Maybe I was on some incredible drugs. Maybe I just like staring at things - the more I delved into the Warhol film canon, the more I realized this guy was a nutball...so thusly, this led to me loving him even more.

As his films became copious (and I do mean copious, he made hundreds), he recruited assistance from his "Factory" core players. Paul Morrissey stepped in as director and began filming Warhol's vision with a more modernistic, coherent eye. Flesh, Trash & Heat are excellent examples.

(Just a quick interjection - it's so hard to omit the Morrissey contributions. It's not that I prefer his direction of Warhol's ideas - it's just...so hard to separate the two. I even broke down and became weak in the #2 slot. I couldn't continue without also saying Bad is also an amazing film, even though this wasn't directed by Morrissey but by Jed Johnson. Maybe I should do a blog about Paul Morrissey soon. Hmm...)

Produced by Warhol and directed by Morrissey, the Warhol film phenomenon ended with a few moderate underground hits but nothing extravagant or impressive. It's kinda sad. He worked tirelessly for the entire decade and never really saw any giant pay off to his hard work. Sometimes that happens in art. Sometimes it doesn't. What we (as the living survivors) inherited was a gigantic body of work, some impossibly hard to watch, some extravagant examples of art-house cinema - but every single one of these films is a testament to the genius living inside Andy Warhol's freaky-looking giant, man-baby head.



5) "VINYL" (1965): Belive it or not - this is included in the book 1001 Films To See Before You Die and I think...for the most part...that's fair. Vinyl is the ultimate in "experimental" filmmaking. Approach this with an open mind, and you just might fall in love. This movie is credited as Edie Sedgwick's first screen appearance - despite the fact that she'd been in earlier Warhol films - and despite the fact that she has no lines ... you can see her! I remember this as being one of the first times I gave Andy Warhol a chance. I walked away really confused as to what I'd just seen. At 70 minutes, fluffed with a familiar soundtrack, familiar faces - this film barely has a cohesive plot at all. Supposedly, this was an adaptation of Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange and ... I'll admit, you can almost kinda see that (if you forget everything you know about Kubrick's version, take some powerful hallucinogenics and semi-lucid while you watch). This one earns a slot in the top five because more than anything else ... I remember Vinyl as the movie that gave me one of my favorite character names of all time. Scum Baby.



4) "EMPIRE" (1964): I already kind of exploded over this one a few paragraphs back. All I can do here is elaborate on how bland this movie is. Have you ever been in a museum and seen one of those digital projected images that changes very slowly? This eight hour marathon has the same appeal as one of those pictures - only you're staring at the Empire State Building. If you ever like to zone out and stare at images, giving your brain meat a rest - and simply sit back and appreciate the eye candy, this might be down your alley. This isn't really a movie. It's more like a rite of passage. One of Warhol's longest films, Empire occasionally gets a screening at MoMa. If you ever have eight hours to spare, give yourself a treat and go stare at a phallic object that twinkles for the length of a common work day. You'll be bored but at the same time - you'll find it kind of hard to stand up and march out. For some damn reason, it always feels like something is just about to happen when you watch Empire. Spoiler alert - it doesn't. It's still an incredible movie experience. Empire has actually been inducted into the Library of Congress' National Film Registry as well as being one of "The Thirteen Greatest Long-Ass Movies of All Time" by Nerve. Two odd tidbits - during three of the reel changes, Warhol and (legendary bad-ass, monster of moviemaking) cinematographer Jonas Mekas forgot to turn the lights out in the editing booth, so if you watch really closely during the split seconds when the reel changes - you can actually see Andy Warhol and Jonas Mekas reflected like ghosts on the screen. It's pretty hot really. Another special tid-bit you can look forward to, after 6 1/2 hours of filming the ESB, the flood lights atop the famous building went out (as they do every morning around 5am), so the final 90 minutes of the film ... as the sun slowly rises ... you're pretty much staring at a black screen. Enjoy. This is art.



3) "LONESOME COWBOYS" (1968): Gay Romeo & Juliet - starring Joe Dallesandro's fine self, Viva's bad ass, and an entire legion of other Warhol superstars. One of the best collaborations with Morrissey (who plays writer this time), this spoof of the western genre is actually a really decent movie. Not nearly as experimental and trippy as some of the other films, Lonesome Cowboys is full-on gay lust in the dust. Yeah, that was punny and a nod to another great flick. This movie has so much hippie penis in it - it's not for everyone. To me, this is the best film that Morrissey assisted with. Warhol was still manning the director's chair while allowing his BFF to handle the script, casting and cinematography. It's a really solid entry and a precursor to what this dynamic duo would go on to create as the decade turned into the corduroy-slathered 70s. This probably wouldn't make most people's top five lists, but I don't care. I like this movie and I'll fight anyone who dares to challenge me over this. You heard me tell you that Joe Dallensandro was in it, right? Enough said.



2) "FRANKENSTEIN/DRACULA" (1973/1974): I couldn't help it. This is a "twofer" - I've never ever ever ever watched one of these without immediately watching the other, so in my mind - these two campy horror classics are one movie. The first time I ever witnessed this disgusting trainwreck was at a Jr High party and someone had (scandalous!) rented the VHS to play in the background. It was a big deal because these two familiar remakes were rated Batman Dracula (which is just ... wow, you need drugs for that one) so he'd finally returned with a proper budget and cluster of adoring "Factory" superstars to complete his dream. These truly are bad-ass movies. Forget they have anything to do with Warhol and based solely on the quality of them as horror films - they still kick ass. Gorey, gross, demented, shocking, graphic and hilarious - don't you dare watch one of these without allowing another 90 minutes afterward to immediately view the other. If you do - I'll find you. You don't want that.
X. Woowee! We were wild, excited and drooling by the time these began. I was the only one left in the room after ten minutes. It was simply too weird for anyone else - however; I couldn't get enough of them. Between the two, and if you twisted my arm in a way that caused me agonizing pain - I'd have to say Frankenstein is probably the better film. Simply based on the editing, script and production value. They were filmed back to back, almost over the same weekend - so the look of the film (as well as the stars, sets and costumes) were repeated. Directed by Paul Morrissey and produced by Andy Warhol - these two movies were a pet project for Andy. He'd once attempted the Dracula story years earlier in his experimental flick



1) "THE CHELSEA GIRLS" (1966): God, yes! What is the ultimate of ultimates? The weirdest of the weird? The juiciest of juicy? There is absolutely nothing better than The Chelsea Girls. Inspired by Nico's Chelsea Girl album, Warhol decided to make a movie based at the Hotel Chelsea that juxtaposed the idea of black and white, good and evil - using his friends as stars and various locations in the landmark hotel as background. No - it gets better: Warhol and Morrissey filmed different sections (around 33 minutes each), each was a semi-experimental, almost avant-garde type recitation, staring contest, close-up of a single person. The images were compiled until they had six and a half hours of footage - then the bad-ass part comes into play. To juxtapose the B&W theme, Warhol wanted to project the film in two halves simultaneously. The screen on the left would show the "white" (or happier, optimistic, pretty) things, while the screen on the right would show the opposite. Also taking into consideration the frame rate - this meant that everytime the two movies were projected, since they were using different machines - each screening would be slightly different from the next. It's really hard to explain and I pretty much just botched the Hell out of it - but for those of you who've actually sat in a theater watching the 210 minute spectacle, you'll agree - I nailed it. Roger Ebert's review stated it eloquently, giving it one star out of four "...what we have here is 3 1/2 hours of split-screen improvisation poorly photographed, hardly edited at all, employing perversion and sensation like chili sauce to disguise the aroma of the meal. Warhol has nothing to say and no technique to say it with. He simply wants to make movies, and he does: hours and hours of them" He says it like it's a bad thing - I don't understand. That's why I loved the damn movie! Since the nature of The Chelsea Girls is so unique - the home video options are almost nil. One Italian company did release a DVD of it, but it's not really the type of movie that works on a television, so it's out of print now. The Museum of Modern Art and the Andy Warhol Museum are the only two realistic places to catch a screening and when they announce one - you'd better go. It's the only chance you'll ever have to see something like this. And you should see something like this. The result is something beautiful.



Monday, April 22, 2013

UP: Faerie Tale Theatre

Shelley Duvall's: Faerie Tale Theatre
 
As if I didn't already love her enough after playing the roles of Olive Oyl in Robert Altman's Popeye, Brewster's girlfriend in Brewster McCloud and Sissy Spaceks' object of affection in 3 Women, the next thing I knew - my tiny hometown got Showtime, and lo and behold - there is Shelley Duvall in all her glory, eager to teach me about fairy tales. I'm sorry? Is there anything better in life? Fairy tales? Who doesn't love fairy tales? Come on ... who doesn't love Shelley Duvall? Just ... come on ...
 
 
 
This was a weekly series and anyone who grew up during the early 1980s should remember. My big draw (besides Miss Duvall's introduction to every episode) were all the guest stars. I was a pop culture addict all the way back then, and each of these hour-long tales were stuffed with the creme de la creme of television deliciousness. You also never knew who was gonna turn up where - and don't forget ... they're acting out beautiful rendered versions of some of our most cherished fairy tales.
 
 
"Hello, I'm Shelley Duvall and welcome to Faerie Tale Theatre."
 
When it dawned on me to write about something as well established and well adored as this television series, I wasn't sure how I should approach it. There are twenty-six individual stories we could break open and devour. Who would want to read 400 pages of that, though? Then I thought I would simply retreat to the familiar format and select my favorite five episodes, all countdown style. That's what I'm going to do - but it was by no means easy. Was I selecting them based on how much I loved the particular story involved? Was I selecting them based on who the stars were? Was I selecting them based on chronological airdates, seasons or production values? When I cracked open the booklet and started reading off exactly what was included (and who starred in each episode), I realized I was basically approaching the entire decade of the 1980s with a magnifying glass. So I took a step back and remembered being twelve years old, face full of Doritos and watching my old VHS copies of these. Then it was easy...
 
**Honorable Mention**
 
(1/2) "THE BOY WHO LEFT HOME TO FIND OUT ABOUT THE SHIVERS" (Episode 307): Starring: Peter MacNichol, Christopher Lee, Vincent Price and Frank Zappa. I'll admit that during the initial run of the series - this one creeped me the hell out. I didn't like it. I didn't buy it on VHS and it wasn't until years later when I realized how un-cool I was not to like this episode that I checked it out anew. I'm glad I did. It's the oddest, darkest and weirdest of all twenty six episodes of FTT. Peter MacNichol I was familiar with, and I enjoyed his performance as a kid who sets out in search of the feeling of fright. I liked the things trying to give him the shivers. And enter Vincent Price and Frank (mfking) Zappa! This episode is much heavier than any other - but I believe that's why it developed a mini-cult following. After you see all the others in this list, check this one out for a new spin.
 

 
(2/2) "THE THREE LITTLE PIGS" (Episode 401): Starring: Billy Crystal, Jeff Goldblum, Doris Roberts, Fred Willard, Stephen Furst and Valerie Perrine. This is cuteness as hard, raw and beautiful as cuteness gets. The costumes and makeup are just - hilarious. This episode was a big time favorite of mine back in the day. This came out in the series fourth season, so they had more cash to play with and it really shows. The different houses of the little piggie pig pigs are so precious you kinda want to reconstruct them in your backyards. Goldblum's costume as the Big Bad Wolf is seriously ... one of the best in the history of the show. Not only that - those pig snouts are something I've been envious of my entire life. I still want one. I want one forever.
 


5) "PINOCCHIO" (Episode 303): Starring: Paul Reubens, James Coburn, Carl Reiner, Michael Richards, Vincent Schiavelli, Lanie Kazan and James Belushi. You should probably assume that I'm the world's biggest Pee-Wee Herman fan, so naturally - when Paul Reubens played Pinocchio, I was all 'bout it bout it. This is old school. Pre-Pee-Wee-Reubens delivers a fantastical performance as a character we all know well. This is a good example of how FTT sticks with the original source material (rather than the more familiar Disney versions of things), and gives its audience the dark side of the stories as well. I especially love the scenes with Reubens and Reiner (as Gepetto) inside the whale. This is one of the highlights of the third season. These people knew what they were doing, they had hit their stride and were off on a whirl when it came time to film this episode of FTT. Cherish it. See it. Adore it in all it's giggly goodness.
 

 
4) "GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS" (Episode 301): Starring: Hoyt Axton, John Lithgow, Carole King, Tatum O'Neal and Alex Karras. This one belongs in the "cute" category. With two of my all-time favorite ladies, Tatum and Carole - this familiar story is in leagues with the Three Little Pigs when it comes to costuming, acting, cuteness, and makeup. The third season episodes are all exemplary contenders and Goldilocks holds her own. You can still see traces of Tatum in Little Darlings in this episode as she was young and spunky as Hell. Also, let's reiterate the fact that Hoyt Axton is in this one. To those of you who are unfamiliar - Hoyt Axton was the best thing about watching television from about 1970 until 1987. His voice, his face - he was America's favorite Dad. He assumes the Dad role once again and blows it out of the water. You'll see this one more than once. It's also a favorite for kids under the age of five. I think it's the shiny colors. It might be the porridge.
 

 
3) "THE TALE OF THE FROG PRINCE" (Episode 101): Starring: Robin Williams, Teri Garr, Rene Auberjonois, Michael Richards and Eric Idle. The pilot episode. I've probably seen this one more than any other episode solely because it was syndicated to death, always available on VHS so what I'm really saying is - by the time I was 13, I could recite it. This tale was directed by Monty Python star, Eric Idle and is one of the sweetest of the stories in the series. When I was young, I'd never heard of this fairy tale. Robin Williams and Teri Garr's performances won me over and renewed my fascination in tales of olde. The special effects (shrinking Robin Williams into an annoying little froggy loud-mouth) look raw and pitiful by today's standards - so overlook that and let yourself enjoy the product of a whole bunch of people who put their hearts, souls and wallets behind trying out a new idea - modernizing and filming fairy tales for the snooty culture of the 1980s public. It worked. Because of the success of this (and the second and only other episode of the first season), Shelley Duvall got her dream and the series won a slot on Showtime for the next four years. It's that good.
 

 
2) "JACK AND THE BEANSTALK" (Episode 204): Starring: Dennis Christopher, Elliott Gould, Jean Stapleton, Katherine Helmond, and Mark Blankfield. Let it be known - if Jean Stapleton is in something, I love that something more than my own flesh. I've watched the everloving Hell out of this episode. Every-single-thing about Jean Stapleton as the Giant's wife, completes my soul. She is hysterically funny. Dennis Christopher is perfection as Jack. Katherine Helmond is at an all-time Who's The Boss-y high as Jack's mother. And then there was Gould. The fee-fi-fo-fumming Giant that we all know and love, who else could have nailed it so ultimately that from that point on, everytime you hear or see an adaptation of this story - you picture Elliot Gould's face. That nose. Those warts. Now - back to Jean Stapleton. You guys know I love her, right? As I type this, the episode is playing and some of the best moments of television history can be captured in the subtle snorts and spats that this woman slurs out in the role of the cantakerous wife. You owe it to the fact that you eat beans to see this episode. It's hard to beat. So hard ...
 

 
1) "RUMPELSTILTSKIN" (Episode 102): Starring: Ned Beatty, Shelley Duvall, Paul Dooley and Herve Villechaize. The second (and only other) episode of season one, this humdinger stars my girl Shelley and my Forbidden Zone star Herve in the absolute best episode of the entire six season run. The value and quality is just as cheaply done as the other episode from the pilot season (The Tale of The Frog Prince) however; it doesn't even f*cking matter. That's how great this is. To see Herve Villechaize play Rumpelstiltskin is indescribable. Shelley Duvall as his tormented captive - also ... one of her finest roles. It simply never gets better than this. Devoted and loyal to the original Grimm Brothers story - this hour-long tickler feels more like a solid twenty minutes. I've seen it more than any other. Back in the original days when this series debuted on VHS, it came either in single episode cassettes. I owned this one from the age of thirteen until today, so I guess you can say I'm a lifer for Rumpelstilskin - as you will be once you see it the first time.
 
 


Sunday, April 21, 2013

UP: The Forbidden Zone

Richard Elfman's: The Forbidden Zone
 
Remember back when I was talking about that guy who handed me an unlabeled copy of John Waters' Pink Flamingos back in 1988-ish? Okay well - the same guy also shared with me something else. I was saving this story. It's worth it. Cuz um...
 
 
 
In the wee small hours of the morning, he whispered to me and my friends, "Do y'all want to see something really weird? Really cool?" Who says No to that? Anyway - he tip-toed off to his (no, really) safe and pulled out a nondescript VHS cassette tape. I was thinking more than likely I was about to have to watch some really freaked-out porn ... but no. I had my life changed instantly.
 
 
As he got the tape ready to play, he told us the story of how he'd managed to get a copy of this film. It was a cult classic. A drive-in masterpiece. A midnight movie landmark ... and I'd never even heard of it! I was suspicious. He hyped it up so hard and heavy - I thought to myself, this old fool doesn't know anything about anything...and then the credits started to roll.
 
It sounds exaggerated to say this, but it's the truth - sixty seconds into this movie, I knew I'd fallen in love. I knew I had to always have this film close to me in my life ... and subsequently I knew one of us had to snatch this damn VHS and run. It was really smooth and classy of us - especially considering had we simply waited and investigated further, we'd have realized this movie was due for a VHS release just a month after this fated night. But whatever, I finally owned my own copy of The Forbidden Zone and I was ready to get married to every single frame of this movie. Still am. If you doubt the power of those opening moments - I dare you to succumb yourself to the experience. Go on, click it and you'll see ... oh, you'll see alright ...


First off - we need to talk about The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, the driving force behind this film. Back in the good old 1970's, there was a performance-art type band that went by that name. They were surreal, beautiful and led by brothers Richard and Danny Elfman. Toward the end of the decade, and as their stage shows became burdensome and complex - they decided to disband the group ... in a manner of speaking. Danny and some of the guys went off to form the band Oingo Boingo (insanely famous during the 1980's ... yeah, you know 'em) and then become an Academy Award winning composer. Richard - the older brother - wanted to capture the magic of the Knights of the Oingo Boingo as they were reflected in their stage shows before it was too late, so he grabbed a camera, some 16mm film and got busy.

Twelve musical numbers threaded together by Danny's score and an original script by the man who plays Squeezit in the movie - The Forbidden Zone was an instant cult classic. To prove the power of this film - I've actually forced it upon numerous (and I do mean numerous) people who typically abhor this type of thing. Each of them found something wonderfully engaging in this movie and have gone on to remember our time together fondly. I become "the guy who showed me that movie...the weird one...with the frog," which suits me just fine. I steadfastly believe this film is for everyone. NOT KIDS (because it has cursing and boobies), but pretty much everyone over the age of 16 will absolutely love this movie.

The appeal is so broad. Even within the musical selections you have jazz, blues, classical, blues, rock, R&B and even a smidge of gospel. The sets were designed (and painted) by Richard's wife (at the time) who plays the role of Frenchie in the movie. This was a 110% family affair - and those who aren't related to the Elfman's are either part of the Oingo Boingo knights or lifelong family friends. Not only that - the damn thing has animation as well...I know I just blurted that out at random, but so what? Deal with it. I'm talking about The Forbidden Zone up in here. At only 71 minutes in length, this movie is a one-of-a-kind testicle punch to the world of film. There had never been, and shall never again be - anything like The Forbidden Zone. It is a unique, spontaneously created product of two of the greatest imaginations of the 20th century ... and that is all you need to know. That's all anyone needs to know. This is art. It is not a film, it is not a musical, it is not animation, it is not high-quality stuff ... but what it is ... is genius.

Let's talk about the cast.

Susan Tyrell - shortly after her Academy Award nomination, she's responsible for the contribution of Herve Villachaize in the role of the king (prior to becoming a superstar on Fantasy Island, thank you very much). On the special features, epic bad-ass SuSu explained this decision happened organically. "Richard wanted a little person. I was living with Herve because a few months before we started filming, I discovered I really wanted to f*ck a midget." Thank God she did, too. SuSu as the Queen and Herve as King rule over the rest of this cast with sticky fists of greatness.

Matthew Bright as Squeezit and Rene Henderson. No ... that's all I have to say about Mr. Bright's performance. He's so damned incredible in these two roles, I don't even need to describe it. I have such a boy-crush on Squeezit. I can't even talk about it. Oh, great. See what you did? Now I've wet my britches...



Danny Elfman - as the Devil. One of the few times you catch this legendary performer on screen, former lead singer for Oingo Boingo rocks my face off as a Cab Calloway/Satan character during the climactic ending of the film.



Viva - yeah, the Andy Warhol superstar plays the ex-Queen and also does a pretty impressive job of trying to fend off wild, biker-crazy Susan Tyrell in one of the best cat fights ever put to film. Star of Warhol classics like "Blue Movie," "Bike Boy," and "Lonesome Cowboys," Viva also might be memorable from her roles in "Midnight Cowboy," or "Play It Again, Sam." She is the one who coined the term "Warhol Superstar," as she was the one who began it. It doesn't get anymore epic in terms of indie film. Viva Viva!







Marie-Pascale Elfman as Frenchie makes me cackle with delight. This movie wouldn't be the same without her goofiness parading through 90% of the scenes. I adore her.










This is one of several movies that will always have a home on my shelf. You will always find me willing, eager and happy to welcome you into my home if you want to view The Forbidden Zone. I've seen it thousands of times and it's not nearly enough.



Did you see that shit? Okay, if you haven't already purchased your copy here ... check this shit out:



That is all. That is all there needs to be. You'll own this soon.


 
 


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Unappreciated: The Circus Contraption

The Circus Contraption
 
Some of the things I talk about under the guise of this "Unappreciated" moniker are actually highly appreciated. This one might actually be something you've never heard of - something far unDERappreciated ... something amazing as hell. The "band" The Circus Contraption.
 
 
 
When I went online digging for information about this group - there wasn't very much. When I dug a little further (while rapidly falling in love), I realized most of what they did was live ... soooooo ... if you didn't happen to catch one of their performances - you were basically S-O-L. It sucks because had I been able to go - it would have looked something like this...I'm not sure who wouldn't absolutely adore a show like The Circus Contraption but ... hey ...
 
 
Lucky for me, I came across them randomly about six months after the "band" disbanded. Go me! Always on time for the party, I'd never gotten the opportunity to sit in a tent (or wherever) and watch one of these shows unfold with my own two teary eyes. But still ... their music ...
 
 
 
I couldn't stop listening to the CDs. Armitage Shank's vision and voice was as infectious as a bad case of herpes - there was no escape. Like - it was bad, y'all. I think one of them was on a loop for about six days at one point, but I won't tell you about that. It's embarrassing. Suffice to say - I got really into their sound. Which brings me around to their sound (and why I put quotes around the word "band"). This is less a typical musical band and more a performing troupe of people who also just happen to play instruments. I think that's a more sufficient explanation. Listening to one of their CDs is like sitting in a tent and watching a weird carnival act play out - in your braaaaiiiiinnnn.
 
You think I'm exaggerating? You think such a thing is hardly possible? How can someone capture the feeling of being at a circus - with sound? What about the smells? What about the cotton candy, nipple piercings and sawdust? I honestly cannot explain how they managed to pull it off, but The Circus Contraption do it on such an epic level, no one walks away unscathed.
 
Now - the facts. Rather than prattle on like a geeked out fiend, the following is taken from their website (and says it far better than I ever could).
 
In classic circus fashion, Circus Contraption performances feature live, original music. The Circus Contraption Band plays quirky-jerky loony-croony gypsy carnival opera music, both to accompany our full-circus shows and to aurally ambush patrons at finer musical establishments far and wide.
You want us to describe what we sound like? Sometimes spooky, sometimes strange, sometimes raucous, and sometimes sweet. Imagine an off-kilter carousel accompanied by Halloween music gone wrong. At any given moment, you could hear accordion, banjo, clarinet, musical saw, trumpet, marimba, trombone, tuba, guitar, bass, theremin, 3 lead vocalists, washboard, violin, saxophone, drums, beer bottles, rusty junk and elbow grease.
 
That's precisely what it is, too.
 
I'm not going to break down each of the five albums because I like to think of them as a whole. There is no possible way to rank one over the other - so I won't even attempt to be so foolish. What I will say is that if you like odd, quirky music - or if you like circuses - or if you like uber-indie musicians - or if you like cotton candy, torture, acrobatics or kazoos...you should check them out.
 
Gone but not forgotten - I hope they perform together again one day in the future ... and I manage to catch it.
 
Here is a 75 minute documentary on just how incredible The Circus Contraption is - I dare you to watch it and not rush out and buy all five of their available recordings. I ... dare ... you.
 
 
 
Sigh...
 


Friday, April 19, 2013

Unappreciated: The Tiger Lillies

The Tiger Lillies
 
I got so excited over TV, movies and books ... I almost forgot my fourth love in life: music!

Where would I even begin? My eccelectic music tastes pretty much run the gamut from classical to punk so I was utterly stumped when it came to which band (or musician) should be the first to take the music throne on the blog. Then it hit me like an accordian drenched in clown makeup...
 


There are so few bands around that I could call myself a groupie of - but at the top of the list is The Tiger Lillies. So few people in the USA appreciate this amazing trio of British guys - but hopefully this little write-up will whet your appetite for a little more of their dark chanson brilliance.
 
If you try to compare The Tiger Lillies to any other musician - you'll fail miserably. This is one of the major contributing factors as to why they are so incredible. There simply is nothing else that sounds remotely like this. The fact that it's just three men makes it even more incredible. Let's break it on down now.
 
The Tiger Lillies were formed in 1989. Their unique sound has been called Brechtian punk, dark cabaret and chanson - but with lyrics focusing on the seedy underside of human life (most of the time focusing on rape, murder, incest, molestation, death and kicking babies), they came out like a roll of thunder. The falsetto, operatic voice of Martyn Jacques (who is operatically trained and a former resident of a real-live brothel) is a one of a kind experience. The Independent called The Tiger Lillies "a provocative and avant-garde three-piece band that combines cabaret, vaudeville, music-hall and street theater," while Tim Arthur from Time Out Magazine did a better job with, "Imagine Kurt WEill conjuring up images of prewar Berlin while a falsetto vocalist screams, squeaks and squawks his way through every number like some rambling madman, and you've got the picture." Are you in love yet? Meet the boys...
 
Martyn Jacques - lead singer, accordian, piano, ukelele










Adrian Stout - singer, double bass, musical saw, theramin










 
Adrian Huge - drums, whoopee cushion, cowbell, rubber duck












**Honorable Mention**

"SINDERELLA" (2009): Written and performed with the legendary Justin Vivian Bond, Sinderella is one of the most entertaining albums in the TL canon. A mock-up of the classic Cinderella tale, Martyn reworked this one into a much darker, filthier and utterly fabulous musical sensation. Not theatrical, while being totally theatrical - this double disc performance is something worthy of everyone's ear holes. Mx Bond's voice is a perfect compliment to the lilting, melodic anthems of the TL as they retell the classic fairy tale where Sinderella is the abused daughter of a cocaine addicted, pimp-mother (played elegantly by Martyn). Some of the best songs are included on this set. Unfortunately, my favorite - is not really the best song to go around singing to yourself in public. "Motherfucker" has one of the catchiest hooks on the entire CD - but you'll get stones thrown at you if you breathe a word of this out loud. Vulgar, biting, snippy, dark and downright filthy - this album is an amazing work of art. (Side note - if you guys could all get together one more time and perform this, I'll come - I don't even care where you do it...I'll be there).



"FREAKSHOW" (2009): This is the hallmark of what the TL are all about. Thematic, sensational, dirty, dark, funny, catchy - and if you were one of the few lucky ones to catch the stage show, you also realize there was a huge acrobatic, freak-festival, performance-art thing attached to it as well. Freakshow to most TL fans - is the creme de la creme of what they're all about. I'll agree - this is one significantly bad-ass record. Damn-near every song on this double CD is worth memorizing. I really admire how most of their albums are held together with a recurring theme. They tell a story. It reminds me of the old days when albums still did that sort of thing. The gist for Freakshow is pretty simple - come to the Freakshow, see the freaks! Each song on this album tells the story of one of the performers in this fantastical troupe - not one happy story in the bunch, this album should be dipped in gold. The best songs are: "Avarice," "Three-Legged Jake," "Together Forever," "Flipper Boy," "Rosa With Three Hearts," and (of course) "Together Forever." If you are remotely interested in this band, this would probably be the best place to start really digging into the bizarre world they inhabit. Not the ultimate album to me personally, it's still one flawless piece of musical goodness. Get your ears ready, the Freakshow ain't no damn joke.



5) "THE BROTHEL TO THE CEMETARY" (1996): To select my top five, I had to turn to my iPod and research which of their albums I tended to play the most. Thanks to Apple and they're nifty iTunes magic, that was simple as hell. The Brothel To The Cemetary did however; shock me to see that I played it more than say - Freakshow. The reason is fairly simple once I gave it some thought - this is one of the oldest TL albums, containing some of their earliest songs. I really really really really like some of their old stuff that vanished once the boys began their thematic, storytelling records. A classic example would be "Tiger Lilly Line," which might just possibly be their best song. I'm not sure. I shouldn't say that. Apparently I have listened to that song over 4,000 times. That's nothing compared to "Alone With The Moon," which has been played almost 7,500 times. Other classics to check out on this album are: "Slough," "Banging In The Nails," and "Gypsy Lament." This record is slightly unique in the catalog. I wouldn't suggest starting here unless you like doing things in chronological order. I would suggest giving some of the tracks a listen. The writing, the lyrics, the melodies ... are simply intoxicating. If you're a real hardcore fiend - check out the DVD which contains almost all of the songs on this album, documenting the TL's meager rise to fame in the early 1990's. It's just all so great. I'm happy I'm alive to experience this band.



4) "SHOCKHEADED PETER" (1998): This is so great. Based on the old German children's book (which I highly recommend) Der Struwwelpeter (1845) by Heinrich Hoffmann, I have a hard time knowing where to begin to describe just how awesome this album is. Lemme start with a description of the book - which is an illustrated, rhyming children's book - just like we all have seen a thousand times. There's a catch, however; apparently in 1845 it was considered a smart idea to terrify the shit out of your children, so each of the little rhymes in the book (meant to teach children things like - avoid fire, be careful on stairs, etc.) ends with the child dying in some horrible, graphic way. Not just dead but decapitated, set on fire, embalmed, disemboweled. It's really something to behold - while at the same time, oddly endearing? Years later, there was a musical attempted and then the Tiger Lillies stepped in and rocked it to the ground. If there was ever a more perfect melding of a musician and their source material - this is it. You almost feel like Hoffmann knew the Tiger Lillies were coming and gave them this gift. Each song on this CD is perfection. Commissioned by the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, this stage show eventually went onto a world tour. Establishing the Tiger Lillies as a major force of theatrical wonderment. Nominated seven times and winner of four major awards, Shockheaded Peter is less an album but a piece of performance art recorded for your aural enjoyment. If you only get the opportunity to hear one album - pick this one and listen from beginning to end. You'll be grossed out, you'll laugh until you crack a rib, and you'll end up humming the hell out of some of these tunes.



3) "THE GOREY END" (2003): This was the first Tiger Lillies album that I actually went out and bought. It's such a perfect piece of music. Teamed up with the Kronos Quartet (who can blow your mind all by themselves) this album is thematic, haunting, lyrically flawless and as dark as Grandma's basement. The songs were penned by Martyn with inspiration from the author Edward Gorey, who was such a fan - he sent a collection of unpublished short stories which were then turned into the songs on this album. It's extremely hard to pick "best" songs on this CD because all of them are great. It's like trying to select your favorite chapters from your favorite book. How do you even do such a thing? So I turn back to my iPod stats to find the most played tracks to be: "Learned Pig," "Trampled Lily," and "Jesus On The Windshield." This album is slightly different from the others in that the band is backed by such an incredible string quartet. The insane accordian playing and Adrian's downright stupid saw-work are downplayed and orchestrated beautifully in this amazing thematic album. Highly, highly recommended. Buy this. Hear this. Fall in love.



2) "URINE PALACE" (2007): Okay, honestly ... it's not gonna get much better than this. When I try to describe how great this album is, I start shaking and pee comes out. Eleven of the most delicious pieces of ear candy ever recorded, Urine Palace is the Tiger Lilles and the Symphony Orchestra of Norrlandsoperan. This was recorded as a one time event, and thank GOD it was! This record contains four tracks that I've played over 8,000 times each. The cover of My Funny Valentine ... has replaced the original for me. The orchestration is absolutely salacious. This is one of my most super-duper, all-time, best-loved albums of the century. Each of the songs contained will send chills down your spine, make you laugh until you gag or leave you humming like a fool. This is a landmark recording for the Tiger Lillies. They were made to make this. What's that? The four songs I obsessively play, you wonder? Oh, sorry - of course, "Drowning," "YELLOW ANGEL," "She's A Whore," and "ETERNITY." The caps are reflective of me getting so excited, I just scream the titles at you and quiver. They're that good. I would love "Eternity" played at my funeral. Not to sound morbid, which I am, but ... has there ever been a more beautiful song about rotting in hell?



1) "CIRCUS SONGS" (2000): So yeah - this is it. Placing Circus Songs higher than Urine Palace upset me, but there's a valid reason for doing so - this is simply the quintessential Tiger Lillies album. The incorporation of their stage personas, the performance art, the incredible writing, the orchestrations, the melodies, the darkness, the humor - it's all 128%, full-throttle, in-your-face on this album. To me, Circus Songs represents everything there is to love about this band. This is an imperative recording for any living human being. They don't even break you in gently - they begin the CD with "Souveniers," one of their best songs...ever. "Danced All Night," will surprise people - but not nearly as much as Martyn's version of "Send In The Clowns." As a Sondheim fan, I cannot tell you how much I adore this recording. His voice reaches angelic heights. I don't even know how he hits those notes - but wow, does he ever. "Pretty Lisa," is one of the most glorious songs about domestic violence. "Over You," is like sailing alone on a sea of hopelessness. "Cheapest Show," will make you tap your foot so hard you'll break a toe ... you just really deserve to treat your ear holes to these eleven songs. Sad clowns. Diseased jugglers. Kinked out gigolos and "scabrous" circus freaks, this is one of the greatest albums ever recorded.


I could continue going on and on about this band. I've left out about 200 fantastic songs. There's just no end to it really - so I'll just quit while I'm on the brink of a seizure, with their music blasting out my windows. The Tiger Lillies do not tour in America very often. They're constantly on tour, however; but you have to be overseas to catch them live. If you do happen to get the chance to attend one of their performances (whether at home or abroad), you simply must.
In the off-chance that you don't fall in love with them solely based on their music - their live performances will solve that for you. The tickets are usually very reasonable, they play in beautifully atmospheric venues and the small crowds lead to an intimate experience with these three delicious maniacs of sound.
They have recently lost Adrian Huge (drums) due to some health issues, he's taken a leave of absense for the time being. This is sad as hell, but my fingers, toes and teeth are crossed in the hopes that he feels better soon and gets back on stage where he belongs - with his snare drum and rubber chicken.

God Bless The Tiger Lillies for making music so wonderful you just want to pack up and live your life inside one of their albums.
 


Yours Truly & The Tiger Lillies @ St. Anne's Warehouse, Brooklyn 2011
 
 


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Unappreciated: The Neverending Story

Michael Ende's The Neverending Story
 
Oh, you think you know this story? You can sing the theme song and draw the luckdragon's nostrils, no problem? You think because you've seen the movie - that means you have full knowledge of what's in this book? Lord have mercy! Girl...you crazy! You just don't even know!



In 1983, the guidance counsellor at my Jr. High School spotted me reading like a fiend and struck up a friendship with me. He had originally planned on teaching English, but like many things in life - shit changed. A ravenous reader himself, he exposed me to many fine volumes of literary wisdom but none stood out any greater than his original copy of The Neverending Story.

I was eleven years old. The book is written in two different colors - green for Fantastica (not Fantasia, they changed it for the movie), and red for the real world. Each chapter begins with an astounding color plate of a single letter - illustrated all to hell and including scenes from the upcoming chapter. Not only that - the damn things are written in alphabetical order! My budding OCD was so happy about this book even before I'd read the first word.

Why would a book/movie as popular as this one make it onto the "Unappreciated" blog? It's simple: the movies suck when compared to the book. Not that it's a bad movie by any means - Lord knows, I've watched it thousands of times and still chuckle when Falcor groans - it just pales in comparison with the experience you get from reading the novel. For this reason - I included this in the blog. It's important that people realize this story doesn't end the way they think it does. What if someone told you The Wizard of Oz doesn't actually end with Dorothy returning to Kansas but rather - prior to her return, embarked on an entirely new adventure - just as long and involved as the plot to kill the witch? You'd get excited, right? That's exactly the situation with The Neverending Story. If you've seen the movie and never read the book ... you've only heard half of the story.

This is important because the second half of the book kicks major ice. Warner Brothers actually filmed two sequels to the original movie - I apologize if you're one of the eighteen people alive who actually saw those films - but they are horrible representations of what happens in the book. So many elements were screwed with in order to adapt this book into a screenplay - what's left to watch is like a half-breed, dirty-cousin of the original tale. This is frustrating, so you must go read this book at once. Michael Ende wrote several amazing novels but none (to me) shine brighter than this one. (However; Momo is pretty damn hot - so if you like this, try that one next. It's bizarrely-delicious).

The story doesn't end with Bastian being given a single grain of sand from the Childlike Empress but rather - Bastian uses that single grain of sand to create an entirely new Fantastica! The imagery and adventure that happens in the second half of the book is unmatched in fantasy fiction. It's a horrible shame that Ende never went further with this saga, but then again - he really didn't need to. It's all here. A perfectly encapsulated fantasy - this book stands alone as one of the premier examples of the genre ever penned.

The first half of the novel is pretty much what you get in the original film. Lots of extra subplots are tweaked for good movie-making, but the bulk of the plot is sound. You're not really missing too much. You'll quickly realize how little of this (fairly thick) novel in your hands was used for the film
- and smile a little. It's what happens next that makes the book so much better. When Bastian (the child from the real world) meets and joins the hero from the first half of the book - actively diving into the story itself, that things become beautiful.

Bastian is given "the gem" which allows him to create things of permanence from his imagination, new Fantastica. The catch is - the more wishes, the more of his own memories of home disappear. Atreyu realizes this and leads a rebellion against Bastian as he begins a search for his True Will. Things get really twisted and philosophical over the final one hundred pages. I could break it down, but it would ruin it for anyone who hasn't actually read it. It does, however; have a happy ending - where Bastian returns to the real world, redeems himself to his father and closes with one of the greatest closing lines in all literary history.


"This is another story and shall be told another time..."





Monday, April 15, 2013

Unappreciated: Jean-Pierre Melville

Jean-Pierre Melville
 
Y'all - seriously. Hitchcock ain't got nothing on JPM. Unfortunately for those of you just gaining interest in this fantastic French director - you'll have a hard time finding his stuff as most of it just went out of print in North America (last week).



I'd never heard of Melville. I'd never even heard of the titles for any of his films so when I joined the Melville party - I came as a virgin. And boy - am I glad I did! Each of Melville's films is a wholly new experience. I don't know how anyone could top the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, but Melville pretty much nails it. If you don't believe me - check out the first ten minutes of ANY of his films, then let's see what you've got to say.

I'm so thankful for the Criterion Collection allowing these films to make an appearance in North America. Had it not been for their fully-loaded DVD's - I'd have missed most of the works by this incredible French master. Born Jean-Pierre Grumbach - Melville donned the last name of his favorite author (Moby Dick, y'all) and joined the military. He participated (loosely) in WWI and as soon as the war was over, he applied for work as an assistant director and was declined. With his dreams in his palms, Melville didn't take rejection well - and set out to make his own films - seperate from the studio system that rejected him. He was spunky, okay?

Melville did not churn out thousands of films like Fassbinder, Bergman and Fellini - but of the handful he created, each one is a rival for the top slot. Melville (and a very few others) are one of the directors that you can watch "blind." Don't read the back. Don't check Wiki. Just stick the DVD in and press play - you're about to fall in love. Each film is a masterpiece in its own right, which makes selecting my favorite pretty much impossible. You'll need Xanax or a good weed connection if you plan on watching more than one movie at a time. Some of Melville's films are so suspenseful they give me heart palpitations. Let's just jump in and get this over with.

**Honorable Mention** 
"LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES" (1950): ("The Terrible Children") Eh...you're supposed to love this one, and since I didn't utterly despise it (and I'm told it's insantly important), I placed this one as Honorable Mention. What makes this film watchable is twofold - firstly, you're given Melville at the beginning of his career, not yet sure of his signature "style" - he willingly adapts a classic French novel for the screen just a year after his first feature Le Silence De La Mer. The second reason you're supposed to admire this film - the author. Jean Cocteau is one of the biggest names in French history. What didn't he do? Who didn't he sleep with? Why did everyone find him so sexy? I've pondered Cocteau for many years - seen all his films, read all his books - read all the books that inspired him...I still don't quite get it. The story is a little on the shady side - a brother and sister spend 99% of their time locked in their apartment where they slowly become more and more crazed and isolated from reality until the dramatic conclusion. This is a good film. I'm just persnickety when it comes to Melville. In his defense - this is one of the few times you'll ever see his directorial hand involved in something that doesn't require guns, gangsters or chain-smoking thugs. A standard dramatic story from surrealist Cocteau is how Melville greeted the world. This film was a huge success and pretty much everyone alive loves it. Maybe one day, I will too.



5) "BOB LE FLAMBEUR" (1956): ("Bob, The Gambler") This film is considered two things: one - it is one of the inspirations for the French New Wave (due to it's jump cuts and use of handheld camerawork - never before used solely to shoot an entire film), and secondly because it is one of the best examples of film noir ever put to film. The story is one that Melville really liked. A retired crook gets out of jail, tries to stabilize himself into his new life - then all his nasty, old friends resurface and try to lure him back into a life of crime. While Melville would nail this scenario a few years later, Bob Le Flambeur is a fantastic, thrilling, gut-wrenching, rollercoaster ride through the misty shadows of Paris. I really love this film. The acting is very gentle, almost as if you're watching non-professionals whisper out their lines. The storyline works seamlessly and also allows Melville his first opportunity to get his feet wet when it comes to increasing tension. I feel that had it not been for the raving success that this film garnered - Melville would have made less suspense films. Thank God for Bob Le Flambeur, this is the movie that starts it all. As the story moves along, you (as a viewer) definitely get the sense that you're in the hands of a master. Melville removes your ability to tell time, answer phones or care why your baby is crying...all you care about for 90 minutes is: will Bob get away with it? The answer will rock your world...



4) "LE SAMOURAI" (1967): ("The Samurai") Hailed by many as Melville's ultimate masterpiece - this film is still growing on me. I will agree - it's one of the best damn movies you'll ever see, I'm just hard-pressed to describe exactly why. I suppose we should begin with the devilishly handsome Alain Delon who plays the lead role. Nearly mute - and I think he only has about 10 lines, he keeps the viewer riveted as he creeps around Paris and rural France in preparation for his next crime. There is so much to love about his movie - it's really challenging to try and explain it in a paragraph. Suffice to say, the opening shot is one of the sexiest things I've ever seen (and not for the reason you'd suspect), it's one of the most potent of all Melville's gangster films, the color cinematography is so beautiful it's just plain stupid and it's a nail-biter on the level with Psycho or North by Northwest. What makes this film so seductive to me is the pacing. It's as riveting, gripping, explosive, intriguing and wild as anything Tarantino could create - yet the action on the screen moves at this methodical, agonizingly slow pace ... somehow ... (and I can't explain it), the slower this film moves - the harder it becomes to turn away. It's magnetic. It's hypnotic. It's mandatory viewing for anyone with a pair of lungs ... because, wow ... French people smoke a LOT.



3) "LE DEUXIEME SOUFFLE" (1966): ("A Second Wind") Remember when I said to check out the first ten minutes of ANY Melville film? This is the one to check out if you want to have your mind blown. This film opens without any dialogue (a trademark) and instantly you watch as a man and his prisoner are led onto a train for a trip...somewhere. They slowly check in. They check out their cabin. They admire the view. The guard handcuffs his prisoner into the top bunk, turns out the light and - glass explodes. The next thing you know - the two characters, the camera and you are all running through the forest in a hectic tracking shot the likes of which you won't see very often. How do they not hit a tree? Someone please tell me how long it took Melville and the crew to block these shots? It's ridiculous. But that's just the first ten minutes. The character of Gu (the escaped prisoner) is one of the best ever created by Melville and team. He rejoins his girlfriend only to realize she's being blackmailed by the same people who had him arrested, Gu sets out to tackle one last heist in order to get them all out of danger - and ... the heist, is some of the most gripping film you'll ever glue your eyes to. Completely silent and almost thirty minutes long - I've never...in my life...screamed at a movie to "oh my God, just run" but...I did it here. If you want to see a primo example of the Melville touch (suspense, atmosphere, jump-cuts and stroke-level tension) then this is probably the one to see first. You don't hear much about this one as Army of Shadows and Le Samourai pretty much eclipse the world. Then there's Le Cercle Rouge to consider ... but should you happen to be able to avoid the accolades surrounding those three films - you should explore this one because in my professional (and very handsome) opinion - this is one of the best Melville films ever made, possibly even one of the best French films - period. I've babbled enough here. Moving on...



2) "L'ARMEE DES OMBRES" (1969): ("The Army of Darkness") I liked this film before I could even see it. Repressed in the United States for FORTY YEARS - The Army of Darkness made its debut at MOMA in 2009. A restored, resurfaced print was discovered in France and after years of work, the world was ready to finally see the film that Melville considered his greatest achievement. Due to the events of 1968, the Cashiers du Cinema decided that since this film glorified Charles de Gaulle, they would sit on it - and they did. The story of a band of renegade vigilantes fighting the Nazis during the occupation of France in WWII, this is one seriously bad-ass film. When you watch this (and you will), notice how timeless it feels. It's hard to believe a movie of this magnitude could be shelved and hidden for almost half a century - but what a gift to unwrap?! I went to the MOMA exhibition and after the three hours, I walked out of that gallery with a new appreciation for a director I knew very little about. This film established my love for Melville in a big way. Simone Signoret appears in (mmm, lord) a fantastic role and keeps the crew motivated as all hell breaks loose around them. The torture scenes are shocking (even moreso considering the age of this film). The action, heist, and finale are so tense you won't breathe very much until the credits roll. This is one of the longer films in the Melville canon - but don't pay any attention to that. It honestly won't matter. After the third hour of this - be prepared to feel shorted. This is one of the best films to ever come out of France and I don't care who says differently. I'll fight you with my teeth.



1) "LE CERCLE ROUGE" 1970): ("The Red Circle") Want to rob a jewelry store? Sure? Hot damn! Three strangers join forces to deliver the greatest film ever directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. There is no better film. Trust me on this - Alain Delon, Yves Montand, Bourvil ... seriously folks. There is so much going on in this movie, you'll want to watch it over and over. This single film is better than all twenty James Bond films put together. Oh...yeah, I just said that. If you don't believe me, then you haven't spent thirty six minutes of your life robbing a jewelry store in darkness and complete silence. The best way to see this is in a theater. Unfortunately - unless you live in NYC or LA, you probably won't get that opportunity. This is required viewing for anyone who enjoys thrillers. It's slightly dated in the fact that you're in late-60's Paris, but somehow you stop noticing these things as the plot thickens. Melville and his gift for cinching a tense situation into something damn near fatal is unmatched. Nowhere does the master deliver his subtle, quiet, aching than in Le Cercle Rouge. Also - I think it's one of the best movies with Alain Delon, even better than Le Samourai and that's saying a lot. If this movie were a human - I would slither up behind it at the bar, whisper filthy things into its ear and try my best to seduce it into some seedy behavior. Either that or I'd just drop to my knee and propose. I'd marry the hell out of this movie.




A side note - while writing this, I was constantly reminded of Melville's leading competitor in the world of suspense, Jules Dassin. To anyone familiar with Dassin, before you mail me a snarky letter about why I'm overlooking him - rest assured, he's coming. I do not feel that Dassin delivered nearly the same thunderpunch of suspense and tension, however; Dassin did establish a far greater reaching body of work, ruled the film noir world for a decade and led an incredibly eventful life. I did not forget him. I am saving him for another time. Be patient and in the style of a Melville film - HUSH UP!