Monday, October 6, 2008

"Darling, You're Letting the Flies Out," or Ed Wood Month, Part III.

"Pornography. A nasty word for a dirty business."

What can one say about The Sinister Urge? It's got everything - sex, violence, bad dialogue, gangsters, bar fights, gams, booze, the porno racket, and good cops out to sever the jugular of the seedy criminal underworld.

Ed Wood's hilarious and retarded "expose of the pornography industry" was basically an excuse to show tits, gams and ass to a public that really didn't care. This was Ed Wood's last legitimate film before he really slid into the downward spiral of pornography loops and wretched topless films like the almost unwatchable Orgy of the Dead.

I love The Sinister Urge with all my heart. Its "serious" look at the "ugly business" of pornography is hilariously over the top. When a "tax-payer" comes to scream at the detective in charge of fighting pornography or this "silly dirty picture business," as the citizen puts it, the detective goes off on a rant in which he connects every single crime in the world to the pornography industry. Break up porno and save the world, he says.

The leader of the "syndicate" in town is a loud-mouthed, horrid dame named Gloria who lures unsuspecting young girls into showing their legs on film. She lounges around her glamorous home and barks orders to her various toadies, believing herself to be untouchable. Of course, after a little over an hour of gams and bosoms, she gets her just desserts and gets shipped off to the big house.

This movie's difficult to find, for some unknown reason. The best place to look for it on DVD is Sinister Cinema - yet another DELICIOUS outlet for all sorts of exploitation, horror and b-movies.

Take note - Ed Wood himself makes a cameo in this movie. In one of my favorite scenes, one of Gloria's workers, a bullet-bra-wearing tramp who runs the porno racket at the local high school, goes to one of her distributors and roughs him up. "I'm gonna cram that ice cream down his throat," she treatens, and then does just that. Later, she's at a restaurant where a fight breaks out for no apparent reason. One of the combatants is Ed Wood himself, sliding down into the dirt and beating the crap out of some schmegeggy.

I'm not the only fellow who loves this movie - Rob Zombie named one of his albums after it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Why I Love New York, #1.

What is it? Bloody stool? Spaghetti sauce? The contents of a lanced boil? Your guess is as good as mine, but there it is, unabashedly on display at the Lafayette Street subway stop here in good ol' Fort Greene, Brooklyn. You never know what you'll come across when you venture out into the streets of this wonderful city - bum piss, defecation, dead rats, syringes, vomit, discarded wigs, missing limbs - they're all here! You've just got to look for them!

New York City - a place of charm and grace. A place where you can find anything.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

"Yes, there's a name for a girl like that..."

What record from your past did you hear for the first time and know - there and then - that your life was changing?

I think the record that has had the longest, deepest (dang that sounds dirty) impact on my life has been "Forbidden City Dog Food," a compilation bootleg made from tapes Lux Interior and Poison Ivy played as the pre-show warmup for Cramps concerts.

The music on this album was of tragic, schmaltzy quality, and that was what attracted me to it. Rockabilly, exotica, lounge - the lowest-rent of each of these genres was featured. Here's the tracklist:
  • The Screw - Crystals
  • The Bee - Kenny Henkle's Friends
  • Do The Pig - Mercedes & Blue Notes
  • O-Ma-Liddy - J.J. Jackson
  • Forbidden City - John Buck & the Blazers
  • Ungaua - Kingpins
  • China Rock - Florence Pepper
  • Noisy Village - Rod McKuen
  • Wow Wow Yea Yea - Dynamos
  • The Lamb Shake - Sliders
  • Sour Biscuits - Wes Dakus
  • Dog Food - Wes Dakus & the Rebels
  • Now, that tracklist in itself would make for a pretty good listen. But you wouldn't want to hear it more than a few times. "Not that again," you'd say if someone wanted to play it.

    There are a few things that make this compilation special. The first is the cover - it's a collage of ultra-sleaze advertisements from the 1950s and 60s making statements like, "Unusual... Clubs, fotos, films, bondage, discipline, wrestling, fetishism, nudism, etc. ADULTS ONLY! Send $1." and "Sun-bathing movies. European girls - Natural, Unretouched!" and "Raised Skirt Movies!"

    The second is what's in between each of the tracks listed above. Whoever whipped up this little number placed in between each song a radio spot - a 30 second commercial - for sleazy exploitation movies from the 60s and 70s. "May I say 'yes' to you?" a trampy teen coos. "The traffic is murder in Death Race 2000!" an announcer yells. "Breaker one-niner, this is bedbugger out of BR town..." a CB-talkin' trucker yodels. Yes, this LP is ALL ACTION ALL THE TIME.

    I heard this record at a time in my life where I was just learning about the oeuvres of such sinematic geniuses as Herschell Gordon Lewis, Russ Meyer, John Waters, Ed Wood, and the like. This record's passing my musical threshold was NOT an accident; I was meant to find it.

    Because of this album, my love of trashy cinema grew and grew and grew. I started to collect exploitation movie radio spot 45" records and the films that accompanied them. Yes, it's true - most of the films are too terrible to watch, but the radio advertisements make them sound so sexsational and blood-drenchingly horrific that one simply HAS to see them!

    This album, and others like it, is best when listened to with a red lightbulb (or blue) as your only light source. Lie back and remember when sex and violence were taboo and why stuff like this was shocking and so much fun, and why the people who dared to create it back then were the TRUE mavericks.

    The two audio playlists are of some of the exploitation movie radio spots I've collected over the years. If you want to hear some of the songs that are on this LP, you can find them on the exceptionally brilliant CDs called Songs The Cramps Taught Us or the Frolic Diner series. They are worth seeking out; they are gems packed to overflowing with rare and awesome music.

    Friday, October 3, 2008

    "You've all got guns! Get 'em into action." or, Ed Wood Month, Part II.

    My introduction to Edward D. Wood, Jr. came at a very early age, thanks in part to local horror movie host, Dr. Paul Bearer. Dr. Paul, each and every Saturday for the majority of my childhood, would play one, two or three cheesy horror movies from days gone by, interspersing them with short skits and ramblings. Yes, he was a childhood hero, and he even had a real-life glass eye.

    Dr. Paul showed Plan Nine From Outer Space when I was a young'n. Of course I thought it was deplorably bad. I was only interested in Godzilla, Gamera, Rodan, and Gigan - who cared about these space jerks reanimating dead people to show humans that their military ambitions were taking them on a trajectory that would lead to universal doom?

    At the time, I didn't get the "bad = good" thing. Years later, a friend at Warren Wilson College in Swannannoa, North Carolina, gave me a copy of a book that would change my life - Incredibly Strange Films. Within was an essay regarding Edward D. Wood, Jr. As soon as got home from my freshman year of college, I made it my mission to find and memorize every single one of Ed Wood's films.

    This task, back then in 1989, was a little more difficult than one would imagine. The internet had not yet come into play, nor were DVDs yet available. Down home in St. Petersburg, we had a Blockbuster Video on Fourth Street that actually, before they became a reactionary and censoring "family" corporation, contained a 'cult films' section, featuring everything from John Waters' X-Rated films to the campily revolting Criminally Insane, a film about a fatass who goes on a murderous rampage after her mother puts a padlock on the refrigerator to keep her from eating so much. There, nestled in amongst all of the glorious perversion, were three Ed Wood films, and one that had Mr. Wood had written, but had received no credit for.

    This was the one that immediately attracted my attention.

    The Violent Years opens with a narrator letting us know, "This is a story of violence." As this disembodied voice rambles to us about the tragedy of juvenile delinquency in America, girls pass by the camera, giving hateful glares at a chalkboard on which are written words espousing good behavior and courtesy.

    The movie is an exploitative "JD" film, trying to cash in on the frenzy whipped up by the "menace of teen gangs" people experienced in the 1950s (if they only knew what was to come), and Ed Wood's influence is seen throughout, though as I said, he used a pen name when writing the script.

    The movie is hilarious. It's about a Teen Queen who, when ignored by her socialite mother and newspaper mogul father, decides to go "for kicks" and forms a girl gang, terrorizing her local community, raping men, selling purloined jewelry through fences, and ultimately, thrill-killing. It's got it all - Teen Pregnancy, pre-marital sex, tight outfits, sluts, drunks, crime, and "vulgar jazz words." It's all topped off with a morality speech by "the judge" that is so cheesy and revolting that it might just make you barf.

    Trust me when I tell you that this is a life-altering movie. I've watched it over and over again; I give it as a gift (our friends at Something Weird video have it as a drive-in double feature DVD with the equally ludicrous, but non-Ed Wood, film Girl Gang - take a gander here. This DVD is CHOCK FULL of extras - trailers, radio spots, short subjects. Something Weird never disappoints in their DVD presentations, and this is a shining example of how lovingly these nerds preserve this genre).

    Ed Wood's script-writing skills flourished in this film. Imagine the most inane dialogue possible, and then multiply that by 200, and you'll have this script. Let's just say it's all part of a well-organized foreign plan.

    Please promise me you'll watch this movie. Ed Wood worked his ass off so we could make fun of him (lovingly) for eternity, and he got nothing in return but a life of alcoholism, abandonment and destitution.

    Thursday, October 2, 2008

    No glue, no mess!

    For some unknown reason - way back in 1985 - I got addicted to General Hospital. When I say addicted, I mean ADDICTED. Like a heroin junkie trembling in a puddle of his own filth, if I missed an episode I was beside myself with grief.

    At the center of this maelstrom of idiocy was Anna Devane, as portrayed by Ms. Finola Hughes. I connected with Ms. Hughes IMMEDIATELY, despite her role in the tragic sequel to Saturday Night Fever. I cut her pictures out of magazines. I hung on her every word. I wrote her fan letters.

    On the program, she had a daughter with Robert Scorpio. At one point in the drama, her daughter, Robin, was kidnapped and held captive in the "Asian Quarter" of Port Charles. In a touching scene, Ms. Devane and Robin were reunited - briefly - and let me tell you what. I had a nervous breakdown.

    My cousin Kathy had come over to pick me up so we could go shopping at John's Pass Boardwalk, home of Florida kitsch and tackiness, including an Official Red Skelton Art store (who wants paintings of that fuckface dressed up as a clown? The mind reels), but I couldn't move. I was so distraught over the scene that I stood there with my hands over my mouth, unable to talk, for at least ten minutes.

    I found out years later that my mother had considered placing me in a home after witnessing that particular idiocy. Here's the scene:

    I never heard back from Ms. Hughes, even though I wrote her on numerous occasions. Devastated, but not one to admit defeat, I decided to write to another star of the show and get HER autograph.

    "Who! Who was it!" I'm quite sure you're all asking. Well, it was none other than Leslie Charleson, also known as Dr. Monica Quartermaine. ("Monica likes to have her fun - that is why she had a son. She told Rick he was the dad! Soon found out that he'd been had," the famous 'General Hospi-tale' rap, as performed by the Afternoon Delights, states).

    Unlike her coworker, Ms. Charleson actually wrote me back. "Dear Ben," she wrote, "I'm thrilled you enjoy our show. I'm also very excited about my new product - Magic Mud! Enclosed is an ad for it. I hope you enjoy it. Love, Leslie."

    Now, in the letter I wrote to Ms. Charleson, I stated very clearly that I was a fifteen-year old BOY - one who, although obviously of questionable sexuality since he was writing soap opera stars, most likely was NOT in the market for "Magic Mud." But whatever. I got an autograph from one of Ms. Hughes' coworkers, and that's what counts.

    I watched General Hospital through the whole Asian Quarter mess and then through that endless Laurelton story line (none of which I can recall at all, except that it was dull). My adoration of this dreary shit was replaced by goth and industrial music, Andy Warhol, John Waters, and Philip Glass. I don't know if my parents were relieved or more taken aback by the switch, but whatever. It's their genes' faults, after all. They ain't got no one to blame but themselves for this shit up in here.

    The only thing I have retained from all of this nonsense was the everlasting memory of the Lee Press On Nails commercial, which aired about seventeen times during each episode. They REALLY wanted their viewers to wear press on nails! I would recite this commercial to all of my friends at school, like a mantra of stupidity, and they would repeat it back to me. We all loved it. And I still do.

    It pops into my head at random moments - "No glue, no mess!" People stare at me like I'm retarded, and they're probably right. But it's just one of those things, like listening to the Grease soundtrack or watching Star Wars, that reminds me of simpler, gentler times.

    Wednesday, October 1, 2008

    Marky Mae Declares October as International Ed Wood Month

    It's October, y'all! Let's celebrate the best month of the year by honoring one of cinema's best and worst directors. Yes, I am talking about my friend and mentor, Mr. Edward D. Wood, Jr.

    As a filmmaker, Ed Wood sucked. But he sucked AWESOMELY. I invite you to view his films this month and realize why he has been immortalized and imitated for the past several decades. If you're unfamiliar with Mr. Ed Wood's oeuvre, may I suggest starting your celebration of this genius by viewing the wonderful, though factually inaccurate film, Ed Wood, directed by Mr. Tim Burton:

    Once you've watched Mr. Burton's homage to Ed Wood, you simply MUST move on to the director's actual films.

    His most famous, of course, is Plan Nine From Outer Space, with its inane dialogue like "The saucers are up there. And the cemetery's out there. But I'll be locked up in there" and "We are all interested in the future for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives."

    You'll marvel as actors stumble through a graveyard set and trip over the headstones, which wobble and fall down. You'll gasp with wonder at the "Stunt double" for Bela Lugosi, who died while the film was being made. You'll applaud Vampira's dialogue-free depiction of a ghoul from beyond the grave, and swoon at Bunny Breckinridge's queeny / campy role as "The Ruler."

    Observe a small sample:

    This guy has been one of my heroes for almost as long as I can remember. I hope y'all appreciate him as much as I do! I'll drool about more of his films as time permits, because while Plan Nine is his most famous, it is far from his "best."