Sunday, August 09, 2009


Bill Lustig (director of notable genre films, Maniac, Vigilante, Maniac Cop and owner of Blue Underground) is an exploitation film maven. Last year at Anthology Film Archives Lustig put together a series of vigilante films (which I missed unfortunately). This year he's back with "The Seventies - Buried Treasures," a series of gritty genre films, none of which are available on DVD. The series opened on Friday and I made a beeline to catch THE STONE KILLER, Charles Bronson and director Michael Winner's transitional teaming between THE MECHANIC and DEATH WISH, and THE OUTFIT, an adaptation of a Richard Stark/Donald Westlake novel, featuring Robert Duvall and Joe Don Baker. Before THE STONE KILLER, Jed of Anthology brought Bill Lustig out and they called up director Michael Winner in London on a cell phone. Bill put the phone in front of a mic and did a little q & a / intro with the director. Winner said he and Bronson were in a car on their way to JFK after wrapping STONE KILLER when he said to Bronson, "I have a script about a man who's wife and daughter are mugged so he goes out and starts shooting muggers," to which Bronson said, "I'd like to do that. I'd like to shoot muggers." Brand new print of THE STONE KILLER, which could be described as a good Dirty Harry knockoff. It's based on a novel called A Complete State of Death. According to Winner the producers didn't like that title, but they kept it as a line in the script. Not the greatest Bronson movie, but hard boiled and violent fun as expected. Stuart Margolin was great as the ex-army soldier hired by the mob to run an elaborate revenge scheme. I'm sure you all remember him as Angel in The Rockford Files. Towards the end of the film a big POP was heard when the projector bulb blew. They switched the reel to the other projector in five minutes, during which time Lustig said something like - 'this is part of the old 42nd St experience' and then started reminiscing with other folks in the audience about the grindhouses
back in the day ('guards with steel-toed boots' etc.). Since that bulb blew they had to move THE OUTFIT to the downstairs theatre. It was packed. Paul Giamatti sat behind me. THE OUTFIT was great. Same director as ROLLING THUNDER, John Flynn. Robert Duvall starred as the badass out of prison going after money he felt the mob owed him. It's from another Richard Stark novel, so similar plot to POINT BLANK. Joe Don Baker was Duvall's buddy / partner.
Cool cast also featured Karen Black, Timothy Carey, Robert Ryan, Sheree North and some other characters. Violent and mean spirited. Cinematically Flynn is very matter of fact, not stylized, tells stories well and gets good performances. One thing is that you'd think the mob would have more muscle at some of their undergournd casinos and so forth. It's kind of easy for Duvall and Baker to take what they want. Still, lots of fun, I recommend it.

ROLLING THUNDER is one of the top revenge movies. Dig the voice over in this great trailer.

Sunday, June 28, 2009



The dissonance accompanying the passing of the so-called King of Pop includes obituaries that have gone by all but unnoticed. On Monday June 22nd Yasuharu Hasebe died at age 77. Hasebe was a journeyman director of Japanese action and genre pictures, with a long career that included several inspired films, among them a few brutally transgressive and offensive pieces of exploitation. On his ascent through the ranks of the film industry, Hasebe worked as an assistant to Seijun Suzuki. Hasebe is well known internationally for his biker girl films, (a precursor to the pinky violence genre) the Stray Cat Rock series starring Meiko Kaji.

He will also be remembered for the ridiculous pop kitsch Black Tight Killers featuring a team of go-go booted ninja girls equipped with lethal bubble gum and deadly 45 rpm records! When Nikkatsu studios went exclusively 'roman-porno' in the 70's, Hasebe turned out some shocking roughies, like Assault! Jack the Ripper. Hasebe also helmed the fourth Scorpion movie (the last one featuring Kaji Meiko) Grudge Song. The great Nikkatsu action series at Japan Society featured Hasebe's 4th picture, the inspired Nikkatsu Action 'fun with dynamite' yakuza romp Roughneck (Arakure). Hasebe kept working up until his death (pneumonia).


Sky Saxon, legendary vocalist, bassist and songwriter of The Seeds, passed away on June 25th. A fateful day indeed. The story goes that Saxon wrote the proto-punk masterpiece "Pushin' Too Hard" on a 15 minute break during a recording session. You might not know the band name, but you've most likely heard this indelible 2 minutes of pulsing vitriol. The Seeds first album also featured another classic, the haunting "Can't Seem to Make You Mine." Saxon and the Seeds personified the image and sound of snotty, gritty psychedelic garage punk. Their far spread influence proves the unruly power of two chord rock. Saxon sounded like a weird, acid casualty, unstable and unpredictable. Freaky stories surround the man, perhaps mostly myth, but whatever the case, his music often proves compelling and inspired.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I got wind of the news that GHOSTBUSTERS III is in production. The Ghostbusters franchise is great. I'm afraid I can't say the same for this poster though. Now that really is kind of scary. I just saw Ernie Hudson in a Broadway production of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone. And he co-starred with Chad L. Coleman, who played one of my favorite characters on The Wire, Cutty (the ex-con turned boxing coach). Back to Ghostbusters, you can't really go wrong with Bill Murray. I just saw him in Limits of Control. I actually like Jim Jarmusch, but his last bunch of films have been lost in pretension and this script is no exception. I will say that he made excellent choices in production: cinematographer Christoper Doyle captures the beauty of Seville Spain and renders a fascinatingly modern universe - the envornments are more interesting than the script itself, like the industrial landscape they pass by on the train ride or all those ultra-modern airports. Plus he gets to shoot a great cast: Tilda Swinton, Gael Garcia Bernal, John Hurt, Kudo Yuki, an incredibly interesting face in Isaach De Bankolé, and an incredible ass (whole package actually) in Paz de la Huerta. Jarmusch is very much about homage and his use of de la Huerta reminded me a little bit of Bardot in Contempt. Anyway, it's been 20 years since the last Ghostbusters film. A lot of the audience for the new film were barely alive when the first two films were released. The nature of media is different now. I'm just imagining what it would have been like if they had released an Easy Rider part 2 in 1988. And the "I ain't afraid of no ghost" refrain reminds me of that comic genius Mantan Moreland. He was almost one of the Three Stooges! amazing for a black comedian in the 50's. He was in those Charlie Chan movies and East Side Kid pictures and he ended his career in the incredible Spider Baby:

One of my favorite Moreland performances is how I menatlly connected him to Ghostbuster - his show stealing turn in King of the Zombies:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Speaking of monkeys and rock and roll (the previous post), I remembered that great sub-genre Japanese GS (group Sounds): Japanese 60's garage and psych music. The Spiders largely spearheaded the sound of Japanese GS. Check out this opening of one of their many rock and roll movies: The Song is "Akai Dress no onna no ko wa" - The Girl in the Red Dress. A great prototype of psych/garage/powerpop with distinctly Japanese nasal vocals. The crazy thing about this clip is that the title "Road to Bali" comes up. Hey wait a minute! That was a Hope and Crosby vehicle! How uncanny that The Spiders had a single (pictured above) of a song called "Monkey Dance" b/w the dance floor mover "Furi Furi" (Shake Shake). There's actually a more frenetic version of Furi Furi than the one on the single. Notice the two lead singers on the cover aping the movements (couldn't resist) of primates to perform the monkey dance. In the 70's the more clownish of the two singers (the one slightly more upright on the record cover) Masaaki Sakai, would star in the super popular Monkey TV show, based on the Chinese classic Journey to the West about the mischievous monkey king Sun Wu Kong. Monkey was broadcast in Australia and the U.K. where it enjoyed almost as much popularity as it did in Japan. Meanwhile the states got Ultraman and Tesujim 28 (Gigantor).

Sunday, May 24, 2009


When I started up this little cyberspot I just gave it the first name that came to mind: Rockin' Monkey. I've always liked monkeys and rock and roll - the two go together so well. And we're talking real rock and roll - that means from Louis Jordan, Big Joe Turner and Bo Diddley to The MC5, The Sonics and The Mummies, NOT Huey Lewis and the News (although I love that story about how their sound truck picked up the hardcore band Impulse Manslaughter, who were hitching with guitars in tow after their van broke down). WFMU dj Dave the Spazz is a great testament to how real rock and roll and primates of all sorts (especially chimps) are a perfect combination. I remember being at Dave's house for a party attended by the late great soul singer supreme Nathaniel Mayer and he dug all the various monkey icons and decorations Dave had in his place. And I met Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown who saw the monkey cover art for a Dave the Spazz compilation tape (Monkey Fever volume 1 - volume 3 is pictured here and was his latest dj premium) and he started laughing hysterically and uttered something about a cartoon with monkeys in it. But the name "Rockin' Monkey" is a bit lame. Maybe it's the apostrophe, or just the crudity, or both. So I figured I'd switch it around, at least for the time being, to Monkey Rocks. I like that this configuration of the words is more ambiguous. And I also recall the early Australian punk band Rocks that I first heard on the "Feel Lucky Punk?" compilation. I showed it to my friend Mick from The Space Juniors and he laughed because he used to play shows with Rocks and made funny impressions of them, telling me how they had handlebar mustaches and were awkwardly macho. But while Rocks might be a great choice of words, the blog name is still kind of lame. Feel free to comment with suggestions, or hate mail, or whatever...

Monday, May 18, 2009


The first folks I saw when i got to the Born Loose show the other night were the blogmasters of Ivanlandia and The Otto Mannix Report. They told me about their spanking brand new blog collaboration on biker movies: BIKER MOVIE BLOWOUT. The ensuing conversation was a litany of title-dropping. "Did you mention Werewolves on Wheels"; "What about the one with Joe Namath?" (CC & Company - featuring a performance by Wayne Cochran); "The Wild Angels is the cream of the crop"; "That one with Harry Dean, The Rebel Rousers, was such a bore; "Is this one a biker movie?" (e.g. Mad Max - answer: no, it's a post-apocalyptic cop revenge movie. The outlaw bikers are only villains, and not the main characters); "Some of the best are actually hybrids" (Hells Angels 69 is a biker-cum-heist movie). I didn't even realize that the master of Ivanlandia had actually curated a biker series at Anthology in 1990. I'm sorry I missed it. I feel like such a dolt.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


The moment I met Michael Lucas I felt a brotherly kinship to him. He's one of the funniest people I've ever met, which puts him alongside Miss Vaginal Creme Davis. Their style of humor is somewhat different, but they share an innate ability to amuse off the cuff, never affected, but seldom out of character. Of course in Miss Davis' case, the characters are multiple. I haven't seen Mike for a few years, but you can imagine my excitement when I discovered he had published a novel via the display at St. Mark's Bookshop. I've known he was a writer since I met him, and used to read him in Maximum Rock and Roll, but this was the first I'd heard of him authoring a full tome. Topping it off was the wonderfully crude retro cover art that references luche libre wrestling. Mike's sardonic sense of humor and incredibly astute social insights are intact in this thoroughly enjoyable read. The tale is set in the 90's and concerns a film school grad who gets a job delivering modern furniture to a mostly insufferable shi shi clientele. His boss is a clueless queen and his partner in schlepping is a daft Englishman. I know that Mike was (might still be) a furniture mover, and wonder how much of the autobiographical bits extend to the extraneous characters. One choice moment is when our protagonist encounters a young coed from school, now a committed junkie. She pretentiously name-drops Burroughs, to which the main character asks "Edgar Rice?" It's a 'can't put it down' sort of read, with a dark overtone and depressing ending. Overall, it's a hilarious and biting commentary on how inane life can be. I know Mike is rather obsessed with South American garage music and pop culture in general, so the allusions to Mexican wrestling made perfect sense. The wry descriptions of San Fransisco in the 90's, especially the 'hipster' scene, brought on euphoric laughter. Mike published this on his own press, Rudos and Rubes. Rudos are the bad guys in Mexican wrestling. I believe Black Shadow and Blue Demon were both rudos, although Blue Demon might have switched sides at some point. A rube is defined as an "Awkward and unsophisticated' person. That of course maintains Mike's scathing sense of irony, since obviously us Rudos and Rubes readers are highly sophisticated.


The Candy Snatchers are one of my all-time favorite bands. Desperate, insane, balls out punk rock; they put on some of the greatest live shows I've ever seen. Just under a year ago we lost Snatcher's legendary guitarist Matthew Odietus. Now the Snatcher's just as legendary front man Larry May is back where he was born to be - on stage leading a raging band. They are Born Loose, though I wonder if they ever considered being The Born Loose. I wonder if there is a band called The Born Losers, named after the Tom "Billy Jack" Laughlin biker movie. Digressions aside, the band was part of Dean Rispler's latest great rock show at The Trash Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Unfortunately I missed The Mess Around, who friends said were tight and rocked the power chords. I went in as Larry was taking the stage with band beers in hand. The band includes Suke, a great guitarist who played second guitar with the Snatchers at some point, not sure how many gigs. He is a confident player and must have listened to lots of hard rock and metal judging by his screaming solos. The rhythm section were in a band called Nova Express that I'm not familiar with, but based on their heavy hammer style of playing they're obviously right for the part. They both looked pretty jovial. The drummer sported a Two Thousand Manics t-shirt and the bass player's hair sort of reminded me of Pedro Ramone's - in a good way. As the band finished tuning up and making the appropriate pre-set instrument noises Larry started to tell this story about his old friend Chris Kuchar (sp? I don't think the guy's name is really the same as that of the incredible Kuchar Brothers). Seems ol' pessimistic Chris once retorted to Larry's casual 'What a nice day' comment by saying 'Larry, if it's so nice, why don't you fuck the day.' Larry told the story in the way that only Larry can. He had a few drinks but was rather lucid at this point, yet still managed to elongate the simple tale in an amusing manner. At one point Dean yelled from the sound booth 'Hey Larry, that's really interesting. Tell us more.' A frustrated Larry responded to Dean by inserting the words god damn and fucking into a phrase of gratitude, then they launched into a great, straight-ahead uptempo number. The first song was a good indication that Born Loose retains the Candy Snatchers penchant for high octane music, but also showed a little more influence of 70's rock. I suppose The Faces are the source of some inspiration. They don't sound like Stewart and co. per se but did have plenty of breakdown parts that allowed songs to coast for a while with some guitar licks and calmer vocals and then explode once again in a rave-up ending. Not nearly as wild as a vintage Snatchers show of course, but they did keep the energy high and did too well picked Snatchers songs: I'm a Bastard, and Doin' Time (With you). As the show went on Larry's between song banter became more and more like that of James Brown. Apparently down in Larry's home town of Virginia Beach, when you're fucked-up and rambling on uninteligibly they call it 'speaking mayonnaise.' In any case, Larry Mayo rules. After the show I found out they'd only practiced five times before this impressive first gig. I look forward to more Born Loose.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Brooklyn Rail on Asian film and more...

Below are links to most (if not all) the film pieces I've published in the Brooklyn rail. Enjoy...
  1. Apoorva Lakhia with David Wilentz
  2. Gauze, Manga and Delinquency, Tadanobu Asano with David Wilentz
  3. Alex Cox with David Wilentz
  4. WATERMELON TIME! The Plastic Fantastic Universe of Tsai Ming Liang
  5. Brute Force
  6. More Freedom and More Shocking
  7. How Pink Got So Violent: A guide to Japanese female exploitation films of the 70’s on DVD
  8. DVD Culture: JIGOKU
  9. Dream So Real - An Interview with Miwa Nishikawa
  10. New York Asian Film Festival 2008
  11. Japan Cuts
  12. Johnnie To In Charge
  13. Pretty Poison
  14. Imamura Retrospective at BAM
  15. Elephants & Ass-Kicking: Tony Jaa & Jet Li
  16. Languid Winds and Daring Kimonos
  17. Dawn of Japanese Animation
  18. The Unseen and the Unspoken: The Films of Lee Chang Dong
  19. Silent Ozu & Late Ozu box sets
  20. Roman-Porno to Desu Noto - The Odyssey of Shusuke Kaneko
  21. KAWAII Unchained: Sailor Suit & Machine Gun
  22. French Noir and Flying Swordsmen
  23. Two Lane Blacktop
  24. Tatsuya Nakadai Retrospective
  25. Mavericks from the East and Last of the Independents
  26. Noir At the Film Forum
  27. Princes and Assassins
  28. The Absolute Cool of Death and Horses
  31. The Turntable Is The Cosmos: Asian Summer in New York
  32. Old Fashioned Gore and Familiar Tropes: The 2006 NYC Horror Film Festival
  33. Monsters and Madmen box
  34. Yojimbo/Sanjuro: Two Films by Akira Kurosawa
  35. Yakuza Films at the Asia Society
  36. Burst City
  37. Takashi Miike Takes New York
  38. Hausu Party (HOUSE from Japan is THE CRAZIEST MOVIE EVER)
  39. In League with Satan (House of the Devil)
  40. 10% True, 90% Lies interview with Sion Sono
  41. The Naked Heroes with David Wilentz
  42. Japan Cuts 2010