Tuesday, September 01, 2015

ELECTRIC BOOGALOO Limited Screenings

In advance of its DVD and VOD release later this month, Warner Bros. is holding limited theatrical screenings of the much anticipated doc ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS from filmmaker Mark Hartley (MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED, NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD).

Check out the Warner Bros. site to see if your town is one of the lucky venues for what's sure to be a fun night of Cannon love.

If your town isn't included or – like me – you probably can't make a screening, the flick will drop of September 29th and will be available as a standalone disc or as a bonus disc in10 flick Cannon set being issued by Warner Bros.

Check out the trailer below...

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ultraman X on Crunchyroll

Was adding and deleting some Roku channels last night and thanks to Crunchyroll started watching ULTRAMAN X, which appears to be the 27th (!) and latest entry in the Ultra Series. Definitely kid-oriented as Daichi (Kensuke Takahashi) carries around a communicator that lets him talk with Ultraman X and plug in different cards to get the right armor and powers to fight the monsters. Fast moving, city smashing fun with some occasional deep thoughts about good and evil.

Anybody else watching this latest Ultra series?

Monday, August 17, 2015

THE DAMNED: DON'T YOU WISH WE WERE DEAD (2015)

"We had everything we ever dreamed of... everything. And somehow the band managed to fuck it up."

Oh sure, the Pistols, Clash and Buzzcocks get most of the press as far as legendary UK punkers go, but if we're going to talk legacy, longevity and sticktoitiveness in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, the lovable lads who have made up The Damned through the years surely deserve some sort of reward.

And, quite frankly, their true reward might be the excellent documentary DON'T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD (a line cribbed from the tune "Love Song" off the sublime 'Machine Gun Etiquette' LP), which celebrates the band and documents the chaotic ups and downs they've experienced over the course of almost four decades together in one incarnation or another.

I'd wager that a majority of today's punk fans have no idea that the original lineup of The Damned – Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible, Rat Scabies and Brian James – were not only the first UK punk band to release a single but were also the first to play New York's CBGB, release an LP and tour the USA (influencing a generation of West Coast punks like TSOL and The Offspring in the process). But while others on the UK (and US) punk scenes flamed out, repeated themselves to the point of self-parody or simply cratered under the weight of infighting and increased expectations, The Damned never seemed to care, jettisoning founding members (like James, who would go on to form the underrated Lords of the New Church with ex-Dead Boy lead singer Stiv Bators), dabbling in psychedelia and goth, and somehow surviving long enough to find themselves celebrating a 35th anniversary tour with Vanian (the charismatic and somewhat mysterious lead singer) and Sensible (bassist turned punk guitar god turned novelty act turned guitar god again) at the helm.

Naturally, this sets up an "us vs. them" dynamic with the nattily attired Vanian and crass but lovable Sensible bashing out the band's hits with hired guns while James and Scabies – looking like a zillion miles of bad road between them – tear through the band's early days with Texas Terri screeching the vocals.

To be honest it's hard not to side with Vanian and Sensible. They clearly seem to be having more fun doing what they're doing and appear at peace with whatever legacy The Damned have carved out for themselves. Though Scabies and James bring an undeniable energy out in one another, you can't help but wish the band members would let bygones be bygones and appear together again for fans to get a taste of that UK '77 energy one last time. (I was pretty envious when my buddy Dave realized he had seen the last gig the original members played together at DC's 9:30 Club, an event marred by Sensible's snide crack about Guns and Roses covering the James penned "New Rose" on 'The Spaghetti Incident' covers album.)

LEMMY director Wes Orshoski does a great job of assembling a group of rock icons – Jello Biafra, Chrissie Hynde, Lemmy (a onetime member of the band), Clem Burke, Jack Grisham, Keith Morris, Duff McKagan, Glen Matlock and Mick Jones to name a few – to wax poetic on what The Damned meant to them, though I would have liked to hear a bit about their political turn on albums like 2001's 'Grave Disorder'. And while I still don't need to know what Fred Armistead (?!) thought about them – or anything – I would have loved to hear Glen Danzig describe how he cribbed Vanian's vocal style.

Even if you've never heard of The Damned I implore you to give this doc a chance. If you watch this thing and don't immediately want every Damned track – from "Neat Neat Neat" to "Eloise" and beyond – on your iPod, iPad, Zune or whatever you listen to music on, well, maybe you need to be reading a different junk culture blog thingie. – Dan Taylor



Friday, August 14, 2015

No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of City Gardens

I'm not sure what was the first show I saw at City Gardens, the legendary Trenton, NJ punk/rock club, but I do recall rolling up the windows and locking the doors as we made our way through what looked like a recently demilitarized zone filled with abandoned buildings, broken down storefronts and garbage-filled lots.

And this was during broad daylight, when the area looked its "best".

Little did we know that one of those garbage-filled lots with an abandoned-looking building was the rock mecca we were in search of and that – despite the crass nickname "Shitty Garbage" – it would become a home away from home for the next decade.

An old car dealership sitting in the middle of a not-so-great Trenton neighborhood (as opposed to all those great Trenton neighborhoods circa 1984), City Gardens was basically a concrete block whose dank, dark insides had shrewdly been cleared of anything that could be broken before promoter Randy Now began booking the legendary bands that ceaselessly toured the country during those halcyon days.

Black Flag. Bauhaus. Dead Kennedys. Minutemen. ALL. Sloppy Seconds. Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Motorhead (well, almost). Husker Du. Replacements. Ministry. Nirvana. PiL. Joan Jett. Dickies. Social Distortion. Lords of the New Church. Green Day. Afghan Whigs. Hoodoo Gurus. DOA. TSOL. Meatmen. Fear. Violent Femmes. Rollins Band. Slayer. Danzig. GWAR. Tesco Vee's Hate Police. Ramones, oh yes, the Ramones (a City Gardens record 20+ times!). They all plowed through the crowd and hit the City Gardens stage, sometimes in front of a crowd of 50, though 5000 people will tell you they were there "that time when..."

While CBGB gets the Alan Rickman headlined biopic (can a bar get a biopic?) leave it to the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction essence of City Gardens to be captured in the exhaustive oral history 'No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens' which I devoured on the beach over a recent holiday weekend.

Sure, it seems sorta incongruous to be sitting on the Jersey shore beach reading about the place where Jello Biafra kicked me in the head during a Dead Kennedys show, but incongruity was a benchmark of the shows Randy (a mailman that Biafra accurately describes as looking like "a catfish") would book on a regular basis. Metal met punk met ska met rockabilly met dance met grunge on a regular basis thanks to Now's eclectic bills and love of music, and while I always leaned towards attending a show at one of the closer Philly clubs like Khyber Pass, Chestnut Cabaret or JC Dobbs, there were times when a band would skip the City of Brotherly Shove and make its way to Trenton instead, requiring that hideous car ride and equally bleak surroundings.

Reading the book took me right back to my high school days when I was first introduced to "punk" via some friends who let me borrow records like the NY Dolls' debut, the Misfits' seminal 'Walk Among Us' and several so benign it's hard to believe it was considered "alternative" slabs of vinyl like The Alarm's initial EP and even 'Subterranean Jungle' from the Ramones.

Within seven months of graduating from high school I was a DJ at the legendary Philly college radio station WKDU, slowly finding my way musically and drooling over the City Gardens bills we'd promote on the airwaves. (One of the funniest stories in the book prominently features friends from 'KDU and I laughed as hard reading it on the beach as I did when it was first told to me three decades ago.)

While it can't capture every legendary show that took place within its walls (I was shocked the 'Frankenchrist'-era DKs/Raw Power show didn't make the cut), I was nevertheless pleased that 'No Slam Dancing...' accurately captured how the vibe of the club changed over the years we were semi-regulars at its shows.

What started as just a cool place to venture to and see amazing (and, on some nights, not so amazing) gigs, eventually became a venue where you could cut the tension with a knife. By the time I stopped making the trek – a 1994 show headlined by the Afghan Whigs on the day Kurt Cobain died stands out as the last time I went there – you had to have your head on a constant swivel, always conscious of the moment when some knucklehead was going to decide "you" were the lucky recipient of a well-timed punch in the back of the head or headfirst shove into the pit.

Some Memorable City Gardens Shows:

Dead Kennedys 'Frankenchrist' Tour: We got there super early for this one and established a foothold at the front of the stage, even if it meant suffering through the hideous Italian thrash band Raw Power. Biafra dove off the stage and planted a boot squarely in my forehead during the show and I think I still have bruises on my thighs from being squashed against the stage for hours on end. It was all worth it.

Green Day, January 1993: Freezing cold January day and one of the band's first ever East Coast shows. I remember standing amidst a sea of much younger pop punk fans and realizing just how fricking old I was.

Fear, 1993: One of the scariest shows I ever attended (Lunachicks at Philly's Khyber Pass also springs to mind). Some lone hippie seemed to attract the most attention but we eventually retreated as far from the floor as possible so as not to be involved in the inevitable melee.

Sloppy Seconds, circa 1992: I'm a big time fan of these Indianapolis punk poppers and we share a love of trashy movies and junk rock. They stayed at our house in NJ after the show but what I remember most is the City Gardens stage creaking under the weight of Sloppy vocalist BA and then-guitarist Danny Thompson. Junk Rock Rules!!

Afghan Whigs, April 1994: I'm pretty sure this was the last time I ever set foot inside the doors of City Gardens. News broke that day that Kurt Cobain had killed himself (or been killed by one of The Mentors in a murder for hire orchestrated by Courtney Love, depending upon who you want to believe). 18 months later I'd moved to Pittsburgh and was going to shows at places like Graffiti and Bloomfield Bridge Tavern.

Lords of the New Church, May 1985: You tend to remember things when the mayor of Philadelphia drops a bomb on a city block in an attempt to eradicate a radical group called MOVE. We could actually see the flames from the radio station parking lot but it didn't impede my one and only chance to see the former Dead Boy and one time Martha Quinn paramour.

The Ramones, Winter 1989: This wasn't so much memorable for the show itself as it was for the pre-show. For some reason, my parents insisted that I bring my friends from WKDU to our suburban NJ house for a pre-Ramones meal (my parents' house was on the way from Philly to Trenton).  I don't actually remember the show at City Gardens but I vividly recall the show on Princeton Drive as my parents fawned over my ex-girlfriend while they completely ignored my then-girlfriend. – Dan Taylor

No Slam Dancing is available from Amazon.

And check out the trailer for RIOT ON THE DANCE FLOOR, a documentary about City Gardens...



Thursday, August 13, 2015

THE MINION (1998)

“You’re a long way from home, stranger.”

Not to be confused with this summer’s blockbuster starring the little yellow dudes from the DESPICABLE ME flicks, this MINION is actually a slice of pre-aughts Millenniumsploitation starring Dolph Lundgren as a member of the Knights Templar.

Charged with the sacred task of keeping the Anti-Christ locked up in a bottomless prison at their stronghold, the Templars must spring into action when some NYC sewer workers unearth the key to said prison on the eve of the new millennium. So Lukas (Dolph) heads to the city that never sleeps and begins punching people in the head with a big spiked glove that is supposed to kill the titular minion.

Unfortunately, the minion won’t rest until its master is free and when Lukas kills a demon-possessed cop it sends him and a sexy archaeologist (Francoise Robertson) on the run.

Jean Marc Piche – making his first feature film outing – delivers a sorta lazy actioner that’s never as much fun as something with Dolph Lundgren as a priest punching people in the head with a spiked glove should be.

Bonus points, though, for a TERMINATOR-inspired police station assault. – Dan Taylor

THE MINION is available from Amazon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE (1978)

"Do you still go in for a lot of lovemaking?"

Laura Gemser returns as the famous reporter with a nose for news and a bod for steamy lovemaking – with all comers! This time out our intrepid newshound is hot on the trail of an international gangster and winds up at a white slavery auction.

After going undercover as a poor girl, Emanuelle gets shipped off to Madame Claude’s brothel (hence the alternate title EMANUELLE AND THE GIRLS OF MADAME CLAUDE) where she learns the dreaded too much and has to be lobotomized, but not before a hot nurse strips down to get it on with our super duper snooper in a hospital room featuring a giant cabinet of drugs.

Paced and structured like the sleazier EMANUELLE IN AMERICA (1977), WHITE SLAVE TRADE is a bit more erotic than the usual Joe D’Amato fare and packs more plot into its first 12 minutes than all of the excruciating BLACK EMANUELLE/WHITE EMANUELLE.

Includes: sex in exchange for car repairs, auto-eroticism, safari montage, dancing natives, tranny, Chinese Joe. – Dan Taylor

EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE is available at Amazon.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY'S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (2015)

I remember a time when just the word "documentary" would almost put me to sleep. These days, though, it seems like you can't swing a selfie stick without hitting a half-dozen docs on weird, wild and interesting subjects (be sure to check out THE SHIEK, REWIND THIS! and PLASTIC GALAXY just to name a few). Personally, I'm digging the emerging micro-genre of docs which explore the burning question "what happened?!" behind the scenes of films that never were, like Tim Burton's SUPERMAN LIVES starring Nicolas Cage or, as new contributor Kris Gilpin covers today, Richard Stanley's legendary ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, which started as a modestly-budgeted horror, sci-fi, adventure mash-up and ballooned into a big-budget disaster of epic proportions. – DT 

IMHO: I liked Richard Stanley's HARDWARE and I loved his DUST DEVIL, it's wonderfully atmospheric even on a low budget. In David Gregory's fascinating, sad documentary LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY'S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU you see Stanley's dream of filming an adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau get taken away from him bit by bit. In the process, Val Kilmer proves what they say about him – he acts like a total, pretentious prick to everyone (as an ex-character actor wannabe I loathe hearing about overpaid, overrated, ungrateful prima donnas!) and was also the first to start tearing apart Stanley's thoughtful script. Then Marlon Brando came on board, wearing thick whiteface makeup and an ice bucket on his head (!), just to fuck things up (and subsequently ruin more of the script). At least when Brando messed with people on set he seemed to do it with some affection (unlike Kilmer). For instance, Brando had great affection for the little man who played his assistant (genre icon and baseball good luck charm) and insisted he be with him in every scene in the film. I've noticed that, in his last years, Brando seemed to become a kinda sweet old guy (as Dustin Hoffman seems to be now) and not just some nasty aging actor (also see Don Juan DiMarco). Eventually the studio kicked Stanley off his own labor-of-love project and brought on John Frankenheimer, who proved to be another bullying prick to everyone (and destroyed what was left of the original screenplay). At this point the entire production became one big clusterfuck. See this doc if you're interested in how big-budget films are ruined by too many cooks. It certainly makes you feel sad for the very talented Richard Stanley who, to date, has never been able to attempt another feature film after the way he was treated here. – Kris Gilpin

LOST SOUL is available from Amazon.

Kris Gilpin wrote/interviewed film people for dozens of vintage film zines (see theaterofguts.com and templeofschlock.com) and was interviewed for John Szpunar's great Xerox Ferox zine book. At least solve the fun film clues on Gilpin's 145 free movie crossword puzzles (!) at tinyurl.com/3seq3cc.