Saturday, 22 October 2016

German Film Programs

Some German film paper for the memorabilia junkies out there... I recently re-discovered these two film programs for The Night Porter and The Exorcist toiling away in obscurity among my stash of Films and Filming magazines. A quick Google image search for both yielded no results so I thought I'd post them here for posterity. I picked both up some years ago at a flea market in Vienna, the best of a huge selection of programs for vintage German films and not terribly interesting Hollywood imports. My lo-fi photos don't do justice to both programs but production wise, The Exorcist program is the classier of the two, printed on good quality paper and more professionally designed. The Night Porter by comparison is rather flimsy and the slab serif typeface is dull and unimaginative. Still, I wish I could stretch my rudimentary German a little further to understand the text. Apart from showing Charlotte Rampling semi-naked on 3 of the 12 pages, how does one sell a film like The Night Porter to a German audience ?

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things

Yesterday I chanced upon some mixed reviews of VCI’s 2016 BR of Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, and I was sufficiently enthused to revisit the film last night courtesy of VCI’s ancient DVD edition from 2000. I remember well the disc's Amazon product page which advised customers to view the film in a darkened room due to the transfer’s shortcomings. Watching the VCI disc again, the picture frequently melts into a soupy mess (much more so in the film’s third act) but somehow the discoloration and unstable blacks render the film even more unnerving. The film’s debt to Night of the Living Dead goes without saying, but there are some interesting parallels to look out for with Zombie Flesh Eaters – one is tempted to imagine Dardano Sacchetti having the film in mind when writing the screenplay but perhaps not. I’m so familiar with the film at this point, I devoted much of my attention on this pass to Carl Zittrer’s terrific electronic score, and I particularly enjoy the synthesized howling and wailing which adds tremendous atmosphere to those long dialogue scenes in the graveyard. The score rises to truly Industrial proportions in the sequence where the dead worm their way out of the ground - it must have been something to experience this in a well-equipped theatre. A CD collecting Zittrer’s experimental scores for Children, Deathdream, Deranged and Black Christmas is long overdue.

All this talk about Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things has unearthed a memory of two VHS copies I had of the film in the early 90's. My introduction to the film was under less than auspicious circumstances courtesy of True World Video, one of those dubious labels that seemingly sprang up overnight on UK video market like a bad fungus. True World put out the film as Revenge of the Living Dead, and came in a hideous cut and paste sleeve with some zombie graphics lifted from a mask advert that frequently appeared in the pages of Fangoria, and augmented with two unrelated film stills on back cover. This was the kind of junk that would routinely snare me in those carefree VHS-collecting days.

My second encounter with the film was even more memorable, this time thanks to the tiny Screen In Doors label which issued the film, under its original title, but crucially with one of the most bizarre sleeves from the post-certificate era. Mike Worrall's wraparound painting suggests a certain Giger influence, no doubt the artist had the creature from xenomorph from Alien(s) in mind although oddly enough the monster anticipates the hybrid creature from Alien Resurrection. Screen In Doors were so pleased with Worrall's work that they chose, rather enigmatically I think, to relegate the title of the film to the spine and back sleeve. I've uploaded a larger scan of the sleeve here for the VHS art junkies - this one is a keeper.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Throbbing Gristle - At the I.C.A., London, 18th October, 1976

"You see, we couldn't get a gig so we thought we'd play at the I.C.A. The Marquee wouldn't have us" (Genesis P-Orridge, Melody Maker, November 20th, 1976)"

After two low key performances during the summer of 1976, Throbbing Gristle made their official debut on October 18th at the opening of COUM's Prostitution show at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. The exhibition catapulted COUM, from obscure performance art group to notorious cultural terrorists, when UK broadsheets and tabloids vented their disgust at COUM's display of used tampons, anal syringes, framed hardcore photos of Cosey Fanni Tutti (pages from adult magazines she posed for) and other scandalous objets d'art. The strategy to officially launch Throbbing Gristle at the Prostitution event was a spectacular bit of self-promotion, even attracting attention from one unlikely source, Scottish MP Nicholas Fairbairn who called for the Arts Council to be scrapped and deemed all involved "wreckers of civilisation", a headline grabbing quote which has since become a byword for the group. Another unsympathetic eyewitness was Tony Parsons who wrote a sneering sarcastic account of TG's performance for the NME. In fact, TG's set dubbed Music From The Death Factory is one of their great early performances, the band surging with creativity, confidence, and fearlessness.

The opening number Very Friendly had been previously recorded at Death Factory studios but the ICA version is the definitive reading of the song, a dramatic (but factual) account of the final hours of 17 year old Edward Evans before his brutal murder by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Genesis P-Orridge delivers a tour-de-force vocal, antagonistic, outraged, even a little theatrical ("There's been a") amid great tendrils of synth whipped up by Chris Carter, a clanging percussive rhythm track (which had appeared at the AIR Gallery and Winchester shows albeit in fragmentary form) bursts of improv noise and snatches of cut-up dialogue lifted from news programs. Very Friendly segues right into the toxic We Hate You (Little Girls), an exercise in deliberate bad taste but showing a humorous element of TG, something the later wave of Industrial groups could never quite master. Following the relative calm of an eerie instrumental passage, the group embark on Slug Bait, one of TG's most unnerving pieces, led by a weirdly accented vocal by Genesis acting out a Manson Family style slaying. Dead Head returns from the previous show but here is presented in much more lugubrious, sinister form. The final song of the evening, Zyklon B Zombie bears almost no relation, music or lyrics wise to the track found on the flipside of the United single, and after 38mins (and not 60mins as promised by Genesis in his introduction) the ICA concert ends with a high pitched alarm, and polite applause from, one imagines, a bewildered audience. Incidentally, right at the end of the Industrial tape (and at the 58:46 mark of the reissue CD) there's a short clip from BBC Radio's Newsbeat about the Prostitution show, which includes a soundbite by Genesis.

Thursday, 16 June 2016


My annual Bloomsday post... Given the day that's in it, I took a wander over to eBay to check for those rare expensive editions of Ulysses that impoverished book junkies like me can only dream of owning, and I spotted this very nice 1967 Bodley Head edition which ties-in with Joseph Strick's film - the dust jacket riffing on the novel's more salacious content with an on-set photograph of Joe Lynch as Blazes Boylan and Barbara Jefford as Molly, presumably post-coitus. This would be a fine copy to own, Ulysses covers tend to either feature just the name of the book or unimaginative views of Dublin. Alternatively, if you've deep pockets you could also pick up the Unauthorized First American Edition from 1929, which will set you back a cool $1,999.95...

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Hitchcock Season

I can attribute this epic undertaking to Kate Bush… I caught the half-hour Sensual World promo film last week and listening to Kate wax lyrical about Alfred Hitchcock has inspired me to revisit the Master’s filmography, kicking off this past weekend with the Silent films, beginning with the 1927 proto-serial killer film The Lodger, thru to The Ring, Downhill, The Farmer's Wife, Champagne and The Manxman. The next film to see is the 1929 feature Blackmail, which I have in both Silent and Sound editions so this is a nice segue way into the Sound era. Apart from The Lodger, this has been my first pass at the Silent films and they have been something of a revelation, seeing Hitchcock’s remarkable command of the medium on such early films as Downhill and The Ring (the best of the Silents). It’s always a treat to watch a director’s early films and draw connections with later work and the Silent films are pleasingly filled with pre-echoes of familiar Hitchcock obsessions. One element in particular I honed in on, given my love for Rope, is the apartment set of The Ring which features a similarly artificial, illuminated citycape beyond the window. The later film features a much more elaborate design and production, but it’s nice to see Hitchcock adding these decorative details to his sets even at this early stage…

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Night of the Living Dead... In Color !!

I have Night of the Living Dead on my mind this evening. Earlier this afternoon Eureka posted news of a big announcement next week - "A film that can lay claim to being one of the most important American films ever made will be joining the Masters of Cinema Series". Eureka are inviting readers to submit their dream titles on their Facebook page, and having run thru various potential Paramount and Universal titles, I opted for George Romero's great film. And interestingly, a recent thread over at the Classic Horror Film board was speculating on the film getting a Criterion release augmented by a recently discovered copy of the workprint (under the title Night of the Anibus) and some trimmed footage. It all sounds pie in the sky to me but we live in hope. By the way, I stumbled across some fantastic color pictures from the Night of the Living Dead shoot and it's wonderful too see the cast in full living color.

I regret to say my first introduction to George Romero's great film was courtesy of the colorized version that Polygram put out in the UK and Ireland in the early 90's via the 4Front imprint. Colorization was still an imperfect science in this era and Night of the Living Dead looked especially appalling, the zombie faces given an unnatural and silly looking green pallor. Using one of the color photographs from the shoot, I juxtaposed it with a still from a colorized version of the film over at youtube and one can see where the decisions of the colorists depart from the truth so to speak. In fairness, the colorists were using their best guess in the absence of detailed color photo documentation, but Barbara and Johnny's car looks pretty jazzed up...

Friday, 10 June 2016

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome

The Kino Blu of Curtis Harrington’s 1961 film Night Tide arrived in the post yesterday and the plan is to catch the film (for the first time!) this weekend. To preface the screening, I revisited Kenneth Anger’s 1954 fantasia Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome yesterday evening, the connection being that Curtis Harrington and Night Tide actress Marjorie Cameron appear in Anger's film. Marjorie Cameron was cast as the Scarlet Woman, no doubt for her occult preoccupations, and she looks particular fantastic in the film, her red hair inflamed by Anger’s psychedelic lighting; while Curtis Harrington, appearing as Cesare the Somnambulist is straight out of Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. I made two passes of the film, the second accompanied by Anger’s commentary, in which he briefly mentions Night Tide and his admiration for the film, calling it the “nicest thing (Curtis Harrington) done”. Harrington followed Night Tide with a string of B-movies but a closer inspection of his filmography reveals some close associations with Underground Cinema – before Night Tide, Harrington made a number of interesting experimental shorts, including The Wormwood Star (1955), an excellent 10min portrait of Marjorie Cameron. Incidentally Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome includes a few images borrowed from Anger’s earlier film Puce Moment (which always reminds me of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet) and I mention this because Harrington is credited on the imdb and Wikipedia as cinematographer on the film Kennth Anger's film but I can find no evidence of this elsewhere, either in the booklets that accompany the Fantoma and BFI editions or Anger’s commentary track…

Marjorie Cameron as the Scarlet Woman
Curtis Harrington as Cesare the Somnambulist

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Minimal

Enjoying more adventures in minimal synth music this afternoon courtesy of the great Colin Potter and his 1981 album The Where House. If you’re looking for a taste of the independent electro scene, The Where House comes highly recommended, the album features terrific synth textures, vocal manipulations and other experimental sounds and devices. Dave Henderson, in the liner notes for the minimal synth compilation Close to the Noise Floor cites John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s soundtrack album for Escape From New York as a key influence on the DIY synth scene and several tracks from Potter’s album would sound most at home in Carpenter’s film. Grab it here. In the meantime, whilst searching for a suitable image for this post I chanced upon the fantastic Retro Synth Ads blog devoted to retro synth adverts and shamelessly stealing this appropriately minimalist 1982 ad for the E-mu Emulator keyboard, complete with Arthur C. Clarke quote. More synth porn to swoon over here

Close to the Noise Floor

For the past week I've been listening to Cherry Red's recently released Close to the Noise Floor: Formative UK Electronica 1975-1984, an excellent 4CD compilation of UK minimal electronics. Obsessively listening I might add, effortlessly cycling thru the CDs, such is the high quality of the music. Thanks to the blogosphere, I've discovered a wellspring of terrific music from the DIY electro scene of the early 80's - music that was previously the preserve of ultra limited cassette releases has been resurrected and made available for the digital generation. So it's a real treat to have some of this great music remastered for CD. The tracklisting chosen by Richard Anderson swings from obscure bedroom composers to well-known heavy hitters - there's stuff from an edgy pre-Dare Human League, OMD in its infancy, John Foxx, Throbbing Gristle, Chris and Cosey, Colin Potter, and if there are the some omissions - Cabaret Voltaire, or a sampling from the great Thomas Leer/Robert Rental electro classic The Bridge, would have rounded out what is a near-definitive compilation - it's entirely forgivable. Complementing the music is the excellent packaging, the CDs come in an attractive digi-book which contains 48 pages of terrific context setting liner notes. And if I may add my own note here, Horror fans will enjoy Malcolm Brown's track Sedation Strokes which contains a sample of Teri McMinn's blood-curdling meat hook scream from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which brilliantly mutates into a blast of free jazz...

Cut-up Penguins

There's an attention grabbing post title ! I’m currently reading Cut-Ups, Cut-Ins, Cut-Outs: The Art of William S. Burroughs, a wonderful collection of Burroughs’ cut-up art collages, and poring over the pictures put in mind Julian House’s terrific designs for the Penguin Modern Classics’ editions of Naked Lunch, The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded and Nova Express, improving significantly on previous editions, in particular the Flamingo, Harper Collins, and Fourth Estate editions which I never cared for having on my shelf. I’m quite sure Burroughs himself would have been very pleased. I’ve long been a fan of Julian House’s work, and the chances are you have something in your collection which features one of his designs – perhaps something on the Ghost Box label (which he co-founded), a Stereolab or Broadcast album, or one of Peter Strickland’s films... A fine overview of his work can be found on this flicker page

Friday, 3 June 2016

Zombie Holocaust

Some news landed in my Inbox yesterday announcing Severin's all-singing, all-dancing special edition BR of Zombie Holocaust due at the end of July, and to stave off the temptation to pre-order a copy (the first 5000 copies come with a free vomit bag!) I revisited the film last night courtesy of the 2002 Shriek Show DVD. I knew Fabrizio De Angelis' screenplay owed a debt to Zombie Flesh Eaters (when in doubt, follow the money!) but I'd forgotten to what extent - Zombie Holocaust raids footage, actors and character names from Fulci's film, so much so it occasionally feels like Zombie Flesh Eaters' Peter West has taken one of those alternative yellow brick roads to end up in another version of Zombie Flesh Eaters playing out in the cinematic multiverse. But considering De Angelis produced Fulci's film, one might argue that this was more a case of marshaling resources than plain daylight robbery. Aside from malfunctioning dummies and blinking corpses, the film has two startling moments - the jolting first appearance of the zombies (just as one settles into a cannibal film), and the gruesome surgical procedure on the sassy young reporter, which is genuinely unpleasant, and feels like it's strayed from a Nazi camp exploiter, another Italian subgenre the multi-tasking Zombie Holocaust can add to its repertoire...

Exploring the supplements last night on Shriek Show's DVD of Zombie Holocaust, I enjoyed revisiting Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out, Roy Frumkes' segment of the abandoned anthology film, and despite the rough embryonic state, it's a fine example of what can be accomplished with some rudimentary effects and a visually arresting location (in this case the grounds of a psychiatric hospital). What a strange quirk of fate that this surviving fragment of Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out is forever tied to Zombie Holocaust's alternative cut Doctor Butcher, M.D (some footage that Frumkes' shot for Tales was shoehorned into Zombie Holocaust for its re-tooled stateside release). Fortunately, Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out will also feature on the Severin edition, as will the 6min conversation with Zombie Holocaust's special effects artist, who seems most reluctant to discuss the film to the frustration of the ill-prepared interviewer. I would have elbowed this bit of grim business but in the special editions wars, it seems all extras count...

Thursday, 2 June 2016


I had the pleasure of revisiting Lindsay Anderson's film last night, my first time seeing the film in a very long time. Too long in fact, I had forgotten just how brilliant the film is - Malcolm McDowell's iconoclast, Christine Noonan's enigmatic beauty, those surreal touches - the chaplain in the drawer, the headmaster's wife taking a naked stroll; and the use of b/w, which once irked me for its apparent randomness now feels like a brilliant Brechtian device. Another remarkable aspect of the film was its matter-of-fact depiction of homosexuality which seems completely ahead of its time in an era when gay people were usually portrayed as outrageously camp. Reading up on the film afterwards, I discovered that Lindsay Anderson was a gay man who struggled with his sexuality, so in that sense, the affectionate moment between Wallace and Philips is rather moving.

Seeing the film again last night brought back of wave of nostalgia for the years I spend attending a boarding school, mercifully, as a day boy I might add, where I observed (from the sidelines) those same awful rituals. This was in the early 90's and some things it seems, never change...

One last idle musing on if... In the sequence where the boys are tasked with clearing out a basement, there's a shot of Wallace and Phillips throwing a large crocodile prop onto a bonfire, and it instantly recalled for me a shot from The Devils where Grandier uses a similar beast to defend himself against the enraged father of a jilted lover. I'm not suggesting Ken Russell devised the scene as an homage to if... but there can't be that many films with scenes of discarded stuffed crocodiles, surely !

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Penguin Horror

For sale ! Two rare Penguin paperback novelizations from the 70’s, slight wear to covers and pages, stored in a smoke-free house, open to offers…. These are faux-Penguins of course, I whipped these together earlier in MSPaint and will not stand up to close scrutiny, but you get the idea. There are plentiful examples of Penguin fakery on the web, but it was this page which inspired my fabrications...

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Target's Kezar

More Kezar stuff to mark the anniversary of Throbbing Gristle final concert, 35 years old today... The Kezar show was videotaped by Joe Rees of Target Video and later issued in 1983 as Live In San Francisco At Kezar Stadium. The historical significance of the Kezar show aside, the Target video was important as it restored all the cuts that were made to the concert when it was issued as the Mission of Dead Souls album in 1981 by Fetish Records. Still, there was one glaring anomaly on the Target video (and the later TGV edition) - the track Spirits Flying was not part of the film for reasons unknown - perhaps the segment of the film suffered from technical problems or maybe Target vetoed the track due to the presence of some X-rated dialogue in the opening moments. A shame as Spirits Flying features Cosey's most significant contribution to the Kezar concert when she takes up her horn. Despite the Target video getting an upgrade to DVD for the TGV set, the original Target VHS edition is worth savoring, as it features better picture quality, a unique mix of the concert, and includes some shots that are not on the DVD. Fortunately some good soul has uploaded the Target version albeit with sync problems. Incidentally, if you're watching the concert, look out for Jello Biafra in the crowd, seen bobbing along to Looking for the O.T.O

Incidentally, local noise rock group Flipper were the opening act on the night of May 29th 1981, and as per TG's set, Flipper were also videotaped for posterity, and fortunately the footage is available on youtube, finally dispelling the oft-repeated rumor that the band played a 90min version of Subhuman (?) The Flipper set is worth watching for TG fans as it features an impromptu appearance on stage by Genesis P-Orridge (at the 22.30 mark) to loan his bass guitar to Bruce Loose when his short-circuits...

Throbbing Gristle at Kezar Pavilion

"Thank-you and goodnight. That's the end of Throbbing Gristle" 
To mark the 35th anniversary of the dissolution (of sorts) of Throbbing Gristle, I've been listening to the Kezar Pavilion concert which took place on May 29th 1981 in San Francisco. The group's termination date had been predetermined in the weeks before the two US shows, by this point the sense of weariness within the group was palpable - the Los Angeles concert the week before had been one of TG's most shambolic performances, but perhaps recognizing the historical significance of the Kezar date, TG sound focused and cohesive, if understandably melancholic. Evidently the split was on Gen's mind, in his subdued introduction he quietly intones, "It's a strange experience to finish" and on the track Guts on the Floor (whose title reads like a statement on COUM's transgressive actions), Gen is heard singing the line "Ending it all this way, ending it all today". The influence of 20 Jazz Funk Greats is apparent at Kezar - Persuasion is given a humorous US slant ("I remember this story told to me by Jim Jones just before he went to Guyana"), and Circle of Animals and Looking for the O.T.O are essentially re-writes of Tanith and Still Walking. One of the more personally pleasing aspects of the Kezar show is the presence of a sample of dialogue from my favourite film Apocalypse Now, heard during Funeral Rites - "Terminate with extreme prejudice. You understand Captain that this mission does not exist nor will it ever exist", which neatly reflects TG's official statement a month later on the cessation of all activities, which simply read "The Mission is Terminated"