Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sights and Sounds :: B-Fest 2006












Sights and Sounds :: B-Fest 2005



 
When traveling through scenic Iowa City, be sure to
stop at the McDonald's at the Coralville Exit, where
nightmare-fueled things like this await you...


 
Dinner with the Legion of Doom or The BMMB?
You be the judge.


 
Drinks at the Hala Kahiki. And is it me, or do we
look like we're ready to play The Family Feud?


 
Finding a seat. And apparently, I'm lost already.

 
Josh simulates the slo-motion train wreck from The Swarm.

 
TOR!

 
B-Fest: an all out love affair with intestinal fortitude.

 
... And be wary of random surprise attacks of vintage
toon porn during the overnight hours.


 
Ya know, there is something oddly Shakespearean
about Ro-Man's tragic plight.
(Illustrated beautifully by Buckethead Tim.)


 
"Foolish Hu-Mans. You Cannot Escape From Me!"

Here's a full recap of the madness that was B-Fest 2005.

Sights and Sounds :: B-Fest 2004



 
Dinner with The BMMB.

 
The Calm Before the Storm, with Josh, Zack and Yours Truly.

 
B-Fest Mix-CD Alchemist, Tim Lehnerer.

 
Best View in the House?
 
 
The Wizard of Speed & Time summons his Acolytes?
 
 
"Wheeeeee..."
 
 
"WOHOO!"
 
 
Flying Saucers seen over Evanston.
 

Someone finally goes postal.
 

Apparently, God hates me.
 

And there's a funny story to be told about that plate.
And to hear it,
click right here.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hey, Rube! :: A Beer-Gut Reaction to John Rich's Roustabout (1964)

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

"Let's get one thing straight.
This is not a circus.
This is a carnival."

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

When his latest gig goes bad after losing his temper and brawling with Norm Grabowski, singer Charlie Rogers (the Big E) gets canned, dons his leathers, and hops on his rice-grinder motorcycle and hits the open road, where, of course, he spontaneously bursts into the song "Wheels on my Heels." After the song peters out, Charlie spots a pretty girl in a jeep (Freeman) and makes a pass at her -- all at about 40mph. But the girl's father, Joe (Ericson), doesn't like this greaser making the goo-goo on his little girl, Cathy, and promptly runs Charlie off the road, much to the consternation of his daughter, and his boss, Maggie Morgan (Stanwyck). By way of an apology, Maggie offers Charlie a job as a roustabout for her carnival. He accepts, but only until his bike is repaired.


As Charlie settles in, he learns the difference between a circus and carnival and the Secret Code of Carnies (-- which is very similar to Ape Law from Planet of the Apes when you really get right down to it.) He also works hard to romance Cathy, but her boozing father and her dedication to the life always seems to get in the way. And on top of all that, the Carnival itself is in some serious trouble. Under the financial pressure of a personal injury lawsuit settlement, Maggie's show is a one-lung operation and on it's last leg. Luckily for her, in his effort to win Cathy's heart, Charlie bursts into song and draws quite a crowd. He's a hit and the Carnival starts making money again.


Alas, things come to a head when Joe is wrongly arrested for allegedly stealing a customer's money, and after he's hauled off to jail, Charlie manages to find the lost wallet. But, due to some odd circumstances, never quite gets around to turning it in. Seems with Joe out of the way, he finally has a real shot at Cathy and takes it. But this is in clear violation of the Carny Code, and when the truth is realized, Charlie has a close encounter with Joe's fist, then jumps shows and signs on with a rival promoter. With Charlie gone, Morgan's creditors come a'calling and all hope seems lost.


Of course, this being an Elvis movie, our hero and heroine soon find out it was all just a big misunderstanding, that they truly love each other, and Charlie pokes his new boss in the eye and takes the money earned at the rival show and infuses it into Maggie's, making him part owner and a Carny for life.


Okay, so I'm a month to the day late in celebration of m'man's birthday. Better late than never I say ... Roustabout was the third film producer Hal Wallis managed to flog out of Elvis in 1964, making a sandwich out of it, Viva Las Vegas and Kissing Cousins. The odd thing about this film is it's fairly solid story wise, but, hands down, this has got to be the worst soundtrack to grace an Elvis Feature in my opinion. But, oddly enough, this was one of the best selling soundtracks when the film debuted. Go figure.


During the opening fight, Elvis, who insisted on doing his own stunts, managed to get dinged in the head, causing a quick rewrite, calling for him to get run off the road to explain the damage, Beyond that, a solid cast (-- rumor has it the role of Maggie was originally offered to Mae West, who turned it down), a solid story, and solid direction from John Rich (-- who apparently had a hand in directing at least one episode of every television show ever made), and a star who hadn't quite given up on his craft yet, results in an entertaining romp.



Roustabout (1964) Hal Wallis Productions :: Paramount Pictures / EP: Joseph H. Hazen / P: Hal Wallis / AP: Paul Nathan / D: John Rich / W: Anthony Lawrence, Allan Weiss / C: Lucien Ballard / E: Warren Low / M: Joseph J. Lilley / S: Elvis Presley, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Freeman, Leif Erickson, Pat Butrum, Norman Grabowski

Good Reads :: An Invitation to Slaughter.

Loyal readers are sometimes a little leery when their favorite authors stray out of their comfort zones. And as an unabashed fan of Karin Slaughter's Grant County series of books (-- five novels so far about small town coroner Sara Linton) I'll admit I was more than a little tepid when I learned her next book would be leaving those friendly confines for the mean streets of Atlanta. As a former a former Patricia Cornwell fan -- before she went completely off the rails about seven novels ago, when she ditched Scarpetta to go play in Lucy-Land -- you can understand the gravity of my concerns.

I needn't have worried.

Slaughter is about only one of a handful of authors of whom I would even consider buying in hardback. However, her latest novel, Triptych, was long ago relegated to "It can wait until paperback" status. That's when I found myself in the local book store, and I'd just polished off both of Jeff Lindsay's Dexter Morgan novels, and my reading pile was dangerously low, and it was 20% off and -- ah, what the hell:

When a series of brutal rape/murders rock the Atlanta area -- that are gruesomely linked by the fact that the victim's tongues are being bitten off -- Detectives Michael Ormwood and Angie Polaski, and a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent, Will Trent, are charged to hunt down and bring the killer to justice. Also along for the ride is recent parolee John Shelley, whose incarceration 20 years ago resulted from a grisly crime very similar to the ones occurring now.

As with her previous novels, the author unfolds events from several different character's perspectives. And one of Slaughter's greatest strengths is her ability to define her characters -- and all of them tend to be fundamentally flawed in some way. Triptych is no different. As the novel's title suggests, your views will change on these characters, drastically, depending on whose perspective we're viewing them from. And appearances prove to be very deceiving; no one seems to be as they first appear. And as you get deeper and deeper into the book, we don't know who to sympathize or empathize with.

We open with Ormwood and his marital problems -- and his resulting adultery (-- including a sour encounter with Polaski.) There's also history between Polaski and Trent, both damaged goods, and both bring a lot of baggage to the romance pile. And then there's Shelley, whose lawless teen drug-fueled days came to a screeching halt with him raping and killing a cheerleader, waking up out of his cocaine haze beside the corpse in a pool of her blood. He's convicted, and though spared the death penalty, retribution is soon coming from his fellow cons once he's in prison. (And I don't think I need to draw a picture here.) Shelley always claimed he was innocent and couldn't remember what happened that fateful night. Finally paroled, Shelley will do anything to stay out of prison. And things really start to get interesting when he finds out that while in prison he was the victim of identity theft.

Truthfully, all of these characters seem to have something to hide; and will these closeted skeletons torpedo the investigation and allow the killer to kill again? Who am I to spoil it. Anyways, as far as mysteries go, it isn't really all that hard to figure out whodunit, but I honestly don't think that's the point. The true strength of the novel is the Hitchcockian "Wrong-Man" set-up, where, as a reader, you know what's going on and read helplessly while clues are missed, a frame-up slowly clicks into place, and the truth is tantalizing dangled in front of characters who just need to ask one more question to unravel things. But what fun is that?

As Hitchcock himself once proposed ... What is more suspenseful to an audience? A scene were someone is searching a room for a suitcase with bomb in it; or a scene where someone is in a room oblivious to the fact that there is a bomb in the suitcase over in the corner?

Your answer to that question will gauge how well you'll enjoy Triptych as it barrels toward it's fairly predictable conclusion. Me ... I fall in the second category and enjoyed the heck out of it, and I can honestly say to all Slaughter fans that Triptych will definitely tied you over until her new Grant novel, Beyond Reach, debuts sometime in '07.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Second Annual Christmas Craptacular All-Night Movie Marathon


Have a Holly Gialli Christmas
(With all apologies to the late Burl Ives.)


Have a Holly Gialli Christmas
And with each strange mystery

I don't know who deals death though
By the end it will all be clear (maybe.)


Have a Holly Gialli Christmas
And when you see a P.O.V.
Say "Oh no!" 'cuz we all know
Death's comin' short and sweet.

Oh, ho, the blood will flow,
Hacked and slashed to bits.
Someone's a-stalking you,
Some psycho, good and pissed.

Have a Holly Gialli Christmas
And while the bodies stack in tiers

Say "What, whoa?" to plots that blow
And reveals that aren't quite clear.

Have a Holly Gialli Christmas
Just when you think it's solved

But you know, a late twist
they'll throw

Then nothing is resolved.

Oh, whoa, the boobs they show,

and lesbo make-out scenes.
Vile, crude and nasty-ee,

Three cheers for Euro-sleeze!

Have a Holly Gialli Christmas,
And in case we weren't clear.
Oh, by golly, avoid the black-
gloved giallis at Christmas,
This year.




Happy Holidays all.
Or Bah! Humbug where applicable

Originally posted on December 25, 2007

The First Annual Christmas Craptacular All-Night Movie Marathon

To help pass the holiday doldrums and celebrate the complete annihilation of my car last week (and to give my keester a little dry-run stress test before B-Fest), I settled in for an all day/most of the night marathon of disaster movies (-- it just seemed appropriate.) 20 straight hours of pure cinematic catastrophe -- and it started accidentally when I tuned in Turner Classic Movies and caught the opening credits for Airport -- the film that started the "We're Doomed and totally Screwed" genre that flourished for the next decade before it sputtered out in the early '80s. (Later revived by the likes of Bay, Devlin and Emmerich in the late '90s -- but, please, give me Irwin Allen any day.)

Most people credit Irwin Allen with the creation of the disaster movie (and they also mistakenly think he was behind the Airport franchise). Being the natural contrarian that I am, I'll give more credit to author Arthur Hailey. I think the roots of the modern disaster film can be traced back to a teleplay Hailey did back in the '50s called Flight to Danger, later remade theatrically as Zero Hour (and then spoofed into oblivion by the Zucker's Airplane!) This and his novel, Airport, set the template for love triangles, matrimonial humps, geriatric comedy relief, and disasters that exponentially got worse and worse as the minutes tick by until by some miracle or dogged perseverance the day/plane/mankind was saved.

Airport opens with the titular locale being pummeled by a snowstorm. Burt Lancaster runs the show and from a stuck plane blocking a runway, to noise complaints from the neighboring subdivisions, to the fact that Van Heflin has smuggled a bomb on board a flight to Italy to cash in on a Life Insurance policy for his destitute family everything seems to be going wrong.

And while swinging pilot Dean Martin takes time out from knocking up stewardesses to try and land the crippled plane, on the ground, George Kennedy -- the patron saint of disaster movies, hell yeah, Patroni will save us all! -- red-lines things to get the much needed runway clear for an emergency landing or the the tarmac will be littered with the corpses of every Hollywood actor and actress over the age of 65.

Next up comes my all time favorite -- The Towering Inferno, where we find out what happens when you cram 135 floors of steel and glass with polyester, tafata and every flammable accelerant known to man. Paul Newman designed it, William Holden built it, and then Richard Chamberlain screwed it all up, so now it's up to Steve McQueen to save all their sorry asses. And I try not to laugh while Newman and McQueen set the charges to blow the water tanks, when they pause to look each other in the eye, and I burst into a lively rendition of "We May Never Love this Way Again..." (And for those of you playing at home, this is the Love Theme from The Towering Inferno , used ad nauseum whenever two love leads express their affections for each other before one or both of them is turned into a charcoal briquette.)

Hee-hee, burn, baby, burn.

And you wanna know something? I think Los Angeles was lucky that the Richter went off the scale in Earthquake, leveling most of the city. Why? It left little or no furniture or scenery lying around for Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner and Marjoe Gortner to rip apart with the bare teeth.

To me, Earthquake is easily the weakest entry but it was also the apex of the genre -- it truly is an awful and laughable film-watching experience; it distilled the disaster movie back to its basic elements and the results is a very sour mash. The disaster movie was never the same again, and things quickly went downhill in a helluva hurry. But I still giggle, though, whenever I ponder how in the hell we were supposed buy Lorne Greene as Ava Gardner's father. (She appears to be at least thirty years his senior.) Who knew she was the lost Cartwright brother?

Next comes Black Sunday where Bruce Dern plays a deranged vet -- as only Bruce Dern can do a deranged vet, who is recruited by some terrorists to crash the Goodyear Blimp into the Orange Bowl during Superbowl X and detonate a bomb filled with ball bearings to aerate the crowd. Crusty Robert Shaw manages to untangle the plot and saves the day.

This one was a little more serious than I remembered and kinda derailed the mood, to be honest, so I took the opportunity for a much needed bathroom break and food run, but I made it back in time for the climax. And, for the record, Pittsburgh was beating Dallas 21 to 10 before things went awry.

Recharged by a couple of Taco John's grilled burritos and a gallon of Diet Dew, we jump back in with both feet, ready to duck and cover with American International Pictures last gasp, Meteor. Part disaster movie, part Cold War parable, Sean Connery, Karl Malden's hair piece, and Natalie Wood manage to bring detente with Rooskie Brian Keith to allow a joint attack on Orpheous -- the Texas sized rock plummeting right for us. Fragments have already struck the planet (-- allowing me to see part of Avalanche) until two orbiting "Peace Platforms" armed with four-dozen tactical nukes are linked up and launched, providing just enough TNT to get the job done.

Ever wonder where the "Star Wars" defense initiative was born? Could be here (-- and I can't help but wonder if the late Ronald Reagan had a hard on whenever he watched this movie.)

We venture back into airline disasters with the next flick -- Airport '77. I once composed a poem dedicated to Airport '77, and I think I'll repeat it here:

Wet Disaster
Lost in the Bermuda Triangle
Plane in the Water
Glub. Glub. Glub.
Petroni on the Prod
Red-Lining.

Yup, this is the one where the plane crashes into the ocean. Jack Lemmon's slumming, Lee Grant's gnawing on the seats, and Christopher Lee's cashing a paycheck. But, the real problem with this movie, as much as I love Darren McGavin as the flight engineer, the film needed much more than a five-minute Patroni cameo.

And that about wraps up the more conventional disaster movies that I have in my video library -- explaining the unforgivable absence of
The Poseidon Adventure and Airport '75 (-- and, no, I'm not forgetting Airport '79; even I have my limits). So, we move on to the little less conventional.

Irwin Allen makes a welcomed return as
The Swarm eases us from conventional disasters to nature gone amuck. Allen and his long time collaborator, screenwriter Sterling Silliphant, gleefully forewarn us of the ecological threat of KILLER BEES by killing off as much of the cast as possible.

Good grief ... I was around during the initial KILLER BEES scare back in the '70s, and believe me, all the KILLER BEE films spawned by said scare were more detrimental to my health than any bee sting imaginable. In the end, Allen rips off an old school killer bug movie -- Beginning of the End
-- with a false mating call, promising the KILLER BEES a little KILLER BEE nookie, only to lure them into the ocean where a butt-load of napalm is waiting. (And who got to fill out the environmental impact statement on THAT stunt.)

And our smooth transition runs right into a brick wall with the next eco-disaster flick --
Night of the Lepus.

BUNNIES! GIANT BUNNIES! GIANT MAN-EATING BUNNIES! A natural remedy to curb the rabbit explosion plaguing certain ranchers goes awry, resulting in a strain of -- wait for it, Killer Bunnies. GIANT Killer Bunnies. Giant Killer -- oh, hell, you get the idea.

The sheer absurdity of this movie is something to behold. The plot is a fairly generic '50s science fiction retread, and even the same styled gonzo-effects are lovingly recreated with the use of live bunnies made to look giant-size by having them bounce around miniature sets and amping up the thundering paws on the soundtrack. Believe me, that's nothing compared to the man to varmint hand to hand combat scenes using a stunt-man in a really bad bunny suit.

You just can't make this shit up.

As we approach hour 19 in this "seemed to be a great idea at the time" endeavor, I weigh the options between putting this marathon out of it's misery by either watching
Grizzly -- an almost verbatim, scene for scene JAWS rip-off, only this time with a really big bear -- or Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

Tomatoes won, mostly because it was shorter and I was running out of gas.

Fast and quick: tomatoes have become sentient and homicidal. All part of some government conspiracy that is eventually broken up, thanks to the work of Mason Dixon (--
imagine Doc Savage as the Man of Bologna) and his field agents. Man, it's gonna take a while to get that #&*@ "Puberty Love" song outta my head.

Personally, I think
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a lot better than people give it credit for. Aside from the nifty theme song, it actually made me laugh out loud on several occasions -- when it was actually trying to be funny. ("Anybody got any ketchup?" C'mon, that's funny.) No small task in these purposeful spoofs.

And that about wraps it up. That's it. I can't takes no more. So, until next year, time for bed.

Happy Holidays all.
Or Bah! Humbug where applicable.

Originally posted on December 24, 2006.
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