Thursday, August 9, 2018

Giant From The Unknown


My career has been using the rest of my life as a speed bump, so I'm kicking out some freaked out jams, pushing myself to the limit physically with yoga and T25 as a distraction, burning too much incense to dispel rancorous vapors, getting my diet straight (no more snack cakes?), and trying to plan several family vacations because if I don't take a vacation soon I might flip my gourd. Again. I've been saying this too much lately.


After being nominated to do one of those "10 Films in 10 Days" twitter things where I commented that I'm probably the worst person to do that because I 'have crap taste, the attention span of a two-year old, and a complete inability to follow simple instructions', my dodgy memory was jogged, and  I remembered that I never finished watching Giant From The Unknown because I collapsed in a heap in my chair from physical and mental exhaustion, and I never finished writing the review.

Full disclosure: I never plan on watching this film to its conclusion, and you can't make me. My memories of the film are foggy at best, so just try to keep up. 

Two archaeologists I guess and a typical 50s female love interest with no visible personality whose only attributes seem to be the ability to cook and clean for the male leads hunt for a giant murderous conquistador supposedly in this desperately awful horror film.

The male archaeologist points at a map and says "It should be here" which is where he found some sort of Spanish cross on his expedition, and the map has a big X on it that reads "Cross found here", which is always helpful. Meanwhile the love-interest daughter stays behind at the camp to cook and clean because what else could she possibly be good for except the pivotal discovery of the plot point of the film?

After sweeping the area with a metal detector, the daughter checks her appearance in her compact because accidental archaeology demands a crisp lip-line. After she leaves the compact on a log, a conquistador helmet is found under a thin layer of soil. Science!


After a montage of found artifacts, a conquistador skeleton is found with a gasp. No, a gasp didn't find it, someone found it and gasped. I just said she used a metal detector. Jeez. Please stay focused.

Some stock thunder and lightning effects are shown, then the giant conquistador which is not at all a decomposed 400-year old skeleton rises from beneath a suspiciously convenient log. More easily-accessed metal artifacts are found beneath some fallen leaves because I think that's where the art director left them.

The male lead archaeologist and the love-interest daughter stand in front of a matte painting of a lake for romance because when true love strikes like a stock effect bolt-from-the-blue, no expense is spared except in this and every other aspect of this movie.

The giant conquistador gets an eyeful of the daughter's bullet-brassiered silhouette as she changes clothes in her illuminated tent (va-va-voom, you saucy conquistador!), which causes her to accidentally shoot a hole in her cot with a gun.

At this point, I fell asleep, and wandered away forever from this film. I'm assuming everything turned out for the best, but I really don't care that much, and I'd rather you didn't tell me the ending.





Thursday, July 12, 2018

New Wave: Dare To Be Different



Long-time readers of this blog will note that it is often my modus operandi to obfuscate and distract from my complete absence of knowledge on any number of subjects, my lack of human emotion, and my obsessive need to avoid reflection and contemplation through the act of posting a music video. Expect an abundance of the same with this review.

Let's get this whole business about the phrase "New Wave" out of the way. An appropriate catch-all misnomer applied to a disparate number of musical groups, it seemingly describes a genre no band was ever a part of. If used to describe the biggest wave of British groups to hit the Billboard charts since the Beatles, and the wave of North American acts shrugging off the shackles of classic rock tropes, the term fits. Unfortunately, the term has also been saddled with an implied insignificance, and coupled with unfortunate sexism and bigotry: New Wave artists dressed in frilly shirts and adorned themselves with outlandish hairstyles, and they produced lightweight pop tunes filigreed with synthesizer embellishments, which were marketed to young girls and homosexuals. If they embraced the term, the artists' careers were a race against the clock, set to expire and molder like white bread. Even the radio station at the center of the film is quick to say it never called itself a New Wave station. In defense of its stance, the film notes the station broke 700 "new music" artists to the tune of 500 million albums sold. Abandoned, neglected, and ridiculed, New Wave is the Rodney Dangerfield of music genres; never getting any respect.



In operation since the 1950s, WLIR shed their classic rock image, and according to their tagline, dared to be different by buying British import records and playing them on American airwaves, exposing many now-legendary groups to US listeners for the first time. A tiny 3000-watt radio station on Long Island, WLIR was in competition with much larger radio stations in New York, but was miles ahead of them, predicting progressive musical trends and breaking new ground.


Consisting of classic music video clips and interviews with superstars of the era, music producers, industry insiders, and former DJs, New Wave: Dare To Be Different misses very few iconic groups from the era, and features some interesting first-hand stories of making it big from the music groups WLIR helped make world famous.


Some spoiled grapes with interviews from classic rock groups that were cast aside with the new format helps provide a humorous touch of balance.


 New Wave: Dare To Be Different is an fascinating, nostalgic look at an oft-maligned musical genre.



Although not at all relative to this subject, check out my review of the speculative documentary Discovering Bigfoot here:

https://culturedvultures.com/stabford-deathrages-netflix-nasties-discovering-bigfoot-2017/





Saturday, June 23, 2018

Yellow Submarine



We live in strange times. I'm not talking about current events, where seemingly nothing is real. What I'm talking about is that we are currently in an epoch where the young people consider The Beatles to be over-rated.

I just wasn't made for these times.

I was going to list some of the achievements of The Beatles. Between 1964 and 1970, they released 11 Number One albums, 20 Number One singles, held the Top Five positions in the Billboard Charts, appeared in five feature films, and has the most covered song in history with "Yesterday". The list goes on and on, and it's staggering. So I decided against it.

From Wikipedia: Writing for AllMusic, music critic Richie Unterberger recognises the Beatles as both "the greatest and most influential act of the rock era" and a group that "introduced more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century". In Rolling Stone magazine's Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (2001), the editors define the band's influence as follows: The impact of the Beatles – not only on rock & roll but on all of Western culture – is simply incalculable … [A]s personalities, they defined and incarnated '60s style: smart, idealistic, playful, irreverent, eclectic, ...no group has so radically transformed the sound and significance of rock & roll. ... [they] proved that rock & roll could embrace a limitless variety of harmonies, structures, and sounds; virtually every rock experiment has some precedent on Beatles records. Four of their albums are in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time's Top Ten.

Someone might cynically claim that that's "being over-rated", and I would just as cynically recommend that person learn a little musical history further back than last week.


Surreal, hallucinatory, and Dadaesque, Yellow Submarine is filled with zany, nonsensical adventures, as The Beatles travel in their eponymous vehicle to save Pepperland from the Blue Meanies. Cheeky wordplay, double entendres, and sight-gags abound.

Strangely enough, this sinister, terrifying, kaleidoscopic, and joyful film was for children. Could have fooled me. But then there's this:


Referential and self-referential, with snippets from the French National Anthem, Glenn Miller, Greensleeves, and Bach, only a world-conquering creative force such as the Beatles would have the guts to reference themselves, not just once, but twice. Let me remind you this is a pop tune. And how can one not collapse into ugly-faced weeping at the beauty of the harpsichord, the brass, the strings? Impossible. 

And don't get me started on this clip. Gorgeous and revelatory.

*Eleanor Rigby Youtube Video From Yellow Submarine*

Whoops, sorry. Looks like I'm unable to embed or link to a 40-second clip of Eleanor Rigby because I suppose a 40-second clip will keep you from purchasing either the remastered Blu-Ray of Yellow Submarine, or adding another to the 5 million copies of Revolver sold as of 2014. Just imagine the tune. Hum along if you'd like. Relax, and float downstream.

Here's a link to the trailer, as the film is hitting UK theaters for a 50-year anniversary run.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Countess Dracula




I'm thrilled to be contributing to Barry_Cinematic and Realweegeemidget's Great Hammer-Amicus Blogathon. It's an honor to be considered worthy for inclusion in the blogathon, and by "considered" I really mean "allowed after embarrassingly pleading and wringing my hands in desperation to be included".

In typical Stabford fashion, I'm cramming my review in at the last minute in spite of nearly three months lead-time because I've been terribly busy reliving my past by being Goth-As-All-Get-Out. Instead of buckling down and writing my review, I've been listening to frightful musics lately, and it feels pretty good to feel this bad.


Thanks to Youtube's algorithms, this disquieting record was introduced to me. According to The Quietus, Ksiezyc (which translates to Moon in Polish) contains a 'magick that imbued their mix of ancient slavic folk music and 20th century minimalism with a melancholy ambience', and it's pretty darn sweet.


I also recently did my morning T25 exercise routine to this album by early-70s freak-folk outfit Comus, again thanks to Youtube's magickal algorithms. Described as "notable for its unique blend of progressive rock, folk, psychedelia, and elements of paganism and the macabre", it's perfect for 25 minutes of sweating to T25 Speed 2.0, since it's akin to the sound of being chased through a skeletal, autumnal landscape by torch wielding villagers. The 70s certainly were freaked out.

However, it's been difficult to listen to any music lately that isn't "The Wheels On The Bus" because the grandchildren have been shrieking to watch Sarah And Duck. They keep shouting, and I quote, 'I DON'T LIKE THIS MUSIC PAHPAH, IT'S DEGENERATE ART!', and I don't need four diapered fascists pointing their fingers at me.


Anyway, Sarah And Duck is an animated cartoon for children, and I've seen every episode 100 times but couldn't tell you what happens in any of them. From what I gather, Sarah is a human child who has adventures with her duck sidekick named Duck, and it's gentle and quiet and rather surreal, with plotlines that often involve baked goods, talking planets, lemons, and shallots. Unfortunately, I fall asleep in my chair watching this program, and it's infuriating because I'm no Martin Crane.



What does this have to do with Countess Dracula? Nothing really. Anyway, on to the review.

To choose a film for the blogathon, I had to Google "Worst Hammer film", and honestly, I wasn't exactly successful. The Hammer studio churned out quite a bit of quality product, and even its less successful films wouldn't exactly fit onto a Worst Films Of All Time list. So I picked the worst reviewed film I could find, and here we are.

The film opens as a peasant gets runs over by the mysteriously-veiled Countess's horsedrawn carriage. Another peasant screams "Devil woman!", at the carriage, and I can certainly relate to that and this seems like a pretty solid way to begin just about any film. At the reading of a will, the Countess is annoyed that her daughter gets half of her husband's estate. The daughter is en route to the Countess's castle, much to the chagrin of the Countess.

It's a good a time as any for the countess to take a bath because it's only been about 30 seconds into the film, and the Countess scalds a wench who couldn't manage to cool her bath, then makes the wench peel a peach. The wench is cut by the knife, and the Countess is splashed by the wench's blood. Through some sort of sorcery, the blood makes the Countess appear decades younger. That sounds like an awful lot of work, when everyone knows all one has to do is keep a portrait of themselves in an attic that ages for them, and save themselves the hassle of gory cleanup. Easy-peasy.


Since baths aren't much to keep the plot moving along, the wench goes missing and so does the Countess's undergarments, and the Captain who has been giving the Countess the old humpty-dumpty tells the wench's hysterical mother to check the whorehouse, causing everyone much consternation.

A bunch of movie happens. At the 26-minute mark, the Countess assumes the identity of her own daughter, even though her daughter is on the way. I had to watch this part three times to get it, because I kept pulling a Martin Crane and fell asleep. Meanwhile, the daughter is kidnapped, and held captive in a filthy hovel. I'm not sure why.

The Captain and some old wizard dude fall asleep playing chess, which is where I fell asleep again. The Countess tries to go all Harlequin Romance Novel with a younger man, but the youth-enhancing effects of virgin blood wears off, turning the Countess into an even uglier, older hag. Suddenly, there's a dance routine in lieu of plot. After a tarot card reading, the Countess stabs one of the  dancing girls in the neck with a large hair pin, so I guess the dancing really did have something to do with it. After regaining her youth, The Countess gets a literal roll in the hay. We're only 40 minutes into this film, and I've fallen asleep at least 3 times, but I was too drowsy to keep track.

The daughter weakly tries to escape her kidnapper, and gets her ankle kissed through the wall of the shack she's held in, because why the heck not. Children discover a nude body. The Countess gets uglier every time the virgin blood rejuvenation wears off.

The Countess has a nightmare as winds and werewolves howl outside her window. Another bellydancer stretches for time. The Countess wanders around her bedchambers shrieking and wailing. I keep falling asleep. My chair is not comfortable.

After applying the blood of a prostitute with an enormous puff to her face, the rejuvenation fails, causing the Countess much distress. The Captain goes to town and purchases a goat and gets an ugly virgin for free. The daughter escapes her captive, and abruptly falls in a creek. Someone finds piles of nude, bloodless corpses hidden behind barrels. The film ends, and I get a terrible crick in my neck.

Featuring extravagant head wear, high collars, plunging necklines, labyrinthine sets, facial warts, a dead protstitute in a closet, and a couple of goats, Countess Dracula resembles a period romance that just happens to have hints of horror, which would disappoint viewers looking for some classic Hammer vampire action. Containing lots of dialogue, some dancing, minuscule amounts of horror, and zero Draculas of any variety, someone at the very end of the film says the phrase Countess Dracula, which is the only time Draculas are acknowledged at all, as far as I can recall. Still, it's atmospheric, but that doesn't quite make up for the slow moving plot.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Phantom Cemetery



He seems like a nice enough fellow. He just happens to look a little like The Phantom Stranger, except not nearly as cool. Who, you ask? Just hold your horses, we'll get to that.


Phantom Stranger is one of my very favorite comic book characters who never seem to ever really do anything (See also the original Mr. Terrific, the original Red Tornado). Spooky and omnipotent, PS lurks in the upper corner of his own comic books, narrating the goings-on, but rarely getting his gloves dirty.



When worlds are threatened, he spontaneously shows up, spouts some heavy mumbo-jumbo, and splits. It's pretty cool, but frustrating. 


Amazon is being haunted by a whole slew of speculative documentaries with alluring titles such as Medieval Paranormal Activity, The Legend Of Borley Church, Paranormal Confessions, and Castle Of Lost Souls, and they all seem to be hosted by this guy who looks like Phantom Stranger, paranormal investigator Chris Halton.

See what I mean?

Castle Of Lost Souls has the intriguing synopsis of an alleged haunting in Saint Briavels Castle, built around 1075, which apparently has dark corridors and dank dungeons where all sorts of tortures, hangings, decapitations, and other horrors have occurred. In spite of watching a majority of the documentary, I don't recall seeing any of corridors, dungeons, or tortures. Paranormal Confessions features a synopsis surrounding a double axe murder at an ancient water mill in the year 1698, where the victims were hog tied to a beam and then butchered. Again, no recollection of seeing any of that.

Anyway, Chris Halton goes to all these supposedly haunted sites, talks a lot, and very little happens, then I fall asleep, slumped over in my chair, usually with a belly full of macaroni and cheese.

So back to the doc, The Phantom Cemetery features Mr. Halton investigating the infamous Bachelor's Grove Cemetery in Chicago, which is said to be haunted by a lady in white. He walks around in the woods, talking about various feelings and impressions he receives. At one point he complains about a negative smell. (Side note: I watch these programs with subtitles, and the subtitle said, "Crossed their pants" which seems to allude to the smells, and that seems fine to me). After many scenes of walking through a forest, he looks at an algae covered swamp, said that the swamp is dead, and a bullfrog jumps out of the water. In spite of the sudden appearance of the frog, I fell asleep.

Chris Halton seems genuinely interested in the history of each location, and in spite of a similar appearance to a certain spectral comic book character, seems like an affable guy. His delivery is profoundly dry, which could prompt a late-night audience with a full belly in a comfy chair to unexpectedly nod off.

Sorry, can't seem to locate trailers for these documentaries, but here's a little something.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Love And Saucers




A VHS enthusiast creates explicit paintings of his multi-decade romance with an extraterrestrial in this disturbing documentary.

Between clips of the classic horror films Son Of Frankenstein and the Uninvited, rather alarming, crudely rendered oil paintings of alien encounters are shown which explores the alleged, unconventional relationship between the painter and a sturdy female extraterrestrial. Some of the highlights include a painting of a figure in the woods surrounded by classic aliens wearing blue jumpsuits, another painting of a young boy looking through the foundation of a house to the legs of aliens wearing blue jumpsuits lurking outside, and one of a woman inserting a rod into the artist's nose.




Difficult to watch but nearly impossible to turn away from, Love And Saucers explores a disquieting viewpoint of a UFO enthusiast subset, one which claims ongoing extraterrestrial contact and arguably "beneficial" inter-species physical relationships, where each encounter grows more outlandish and elaborate with each rendering. Fans of outsider art and Forteana may enjoy the documentary, others will find it off-putting. 




Speaking of Forteana and off-putting subject matter, I said a bunch of stuff over at Cultured Vultures about the speculative documentary Discovering Bigfoot, where I made several jokes about apples and Bigfoot excrement. Check it out if you're into that sort of thing.



Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Gamma People


A car uncouples from a train, and curiously overalled children divert it to an isolated, mountainous country named Gudavia, a land where no trains ever come. The only two passengers on the train car, a boorish American and a stuffy Brit, are apprehended and thrown into a dungeon-like prison for being spies. Meanwhile, scientists in satin jumpsuits armed with an enormous laser gun scientifically impregnate human subjects dressed in odd military garb with electricity, turning them into idiots.

The two men are abruptly released, but they cannot leave the country because Gudavia's sole automobile is being used for official Gudavian business out of the country, which sounds fine. The Brit attempts to send a telegram, but it can't be sent because telegrams are only sent on special occasions. A young girl plays the piano as an oddly Aryan young man scowls.


Suddenly, there is a hubbub in the streets, and an old dude says, "In the end, the murdering will cease", because of course he does, and a guy with an extravagant hat chalks it all up to hysteria. In spite of the hubbub, the hysteria, and the murdering, the Brit wonders aloud about identity of his milliner. Somnambulant figures sneak up on the Brit, and they scatter after someone blows a whistle.


The pair meets up with a scientist with a double identity. This mysterious scientist pulled a disappearing act some time ago due to some sort of political thing (hint-hint, nudge-nudge), and he says some stuff about gamma rays. They then meet a Frau, who has children making monster masks for an upcoming festival, and there's almost nothing sinister about that at all.


Some stuff happens. The Brit chases a boy and falls in some water, the zombie guys throw rocks, a mule makes an appearance, and several people fall off a cliff.

The carnival that is certainly not a special occasion and that was forbidden to happen happens, and it's pretty freaked out, which means it's pretty cool, and the festival-goers wear giant monster heads, which I'm always a big fan of. Don't worry, since it's not too bad it only lasts a couple of minutes.

The Gamma People is a comic thriller, and it isn't particularly comic or thrilling.