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Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR #368  (Vol. 8, No. 15) This edition is for the week of April 2--8, 2007.

The Sunscreen Film Fest '07:  My Personal Encounter  by Chris Woods
"Perfect Stranger"  by Mike Smith
Horror Director Bob Clark Has Been Taken From Us....Grindhouse Sneak Preview....Johnny Hart's Passing  by Andy Lalino
Don Imus....The Masters of Horror....Congrats, Nol  by Matt Drinnenberg
Black and White....Grindhouse....Passing On....Whatever Happened To..? Chapter 15: James Woods  by Mike Smith
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Oddservations by Andy Lalino

Horror Director Bob Clark Has Been Taken From Us
Thursday morning I was hit with the unfortunate news that famed cult movie director Bob Clark had died on Wednesday, April 4th, after being hit head on by a drunk driver while travelling the Pacific Coast Highway. Clark's 22-year-old son, Ariel, was also killed. Both were pronounced dead at the scene, which closed the PCH for eight hours. The "accident" occurred at 2:30am PT.

Many remember Clark fondly as writer/producer/director of the holiday favorite "A Christmas Story" (1983), however horror/cult movie fans know him best as creator of such subversive cinema classics as "Porky's", "Porky's II: The Next Day", "Black Christmas", "Dead of Night" and "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things". In fact, Clark was planning on directing a new version of "Children...", currently in pre-production. Fans may not know that Clark produced "Deranged" (with Roberts Blossom) & the excellent horror film "Popcorn" and was the Executive Producer of the recent ill-fated remake of "Black X-Mas".

Bob Clark was indeed one of my very favorite directors. My first exposure to his work, like many other horny male teens of the time, was the incomparable "Porky's" - perhaps the king of teenage sex comedies. We couldn't wait for a sequel, and Clark soon delivered, by releasing "Porky's II: The Next Day". Maligned by critics, "Porky's II..." was a laugh-riot well-received by fans of the first film. The success of the "Porky's" films let loose a very welcome barrage of imitators, making the teenage sex comedy one of the greatest genres of '80s cinema.

Andy Lalino on Illegal Immigration and the Death of Bob Clark:
In light of this tremendously sad occurrence, I hereby, as a Republican, withdraw my support for George W. Bush on any and every one of his policies. Those of us in the party have been sharply critical of his stance on illegals, and he's gone ahead and done absolutely nothing in the struggle to keep these goons in their own godforsaken countries, where they belong. Instead of struggling to cross our borders, their time and energy would be better spent trying to improve their own country, but that takes courage, will, and determination - which seems to be in very short supply in the Turd World. Their ethics evidently involve getting plastered and swerving their vehicle into oncoming lanes - right in the path of good family men and talented artists. Don't think I'm going to leave the party of pussy willows - the Democrats - out of the blame game. They've proven to be far worse than Bush could ever be, and have plenty of blood on their hands as well in aiding the human debris from coming here illegally. I hope every single member of that political party stumbles across this article and assumes at least partial responsibility for Bob Clark's death. Were it not for your support of illegal immigration your party is famous for taking a stand on, Clark would still be alive and making horror films in the future.

As far as our fiends in the useless world of "politics" on both sides of the aisle who have supported illegal immigration, you may escape blame and responsibility for Clark's death in this world, but I sincerely hope that you and your insensitive policies, which contributed to the death of this well-loved director, are reckoned with when the time comes to meet your maker, and furthermore I hope you are hurled into the darkest depth of hell, and given lava enemas 24/7 for all eternity. When my time comes to pass, I hope God commands me an arch angel, and allows me to drag your asses down there where I'd so gladly banish you for good. We don't like you, we don't want you, and viciously resent the illusion that you somehow "lead" us.

--Andy Lalino

I was an admitted late bloomer when it came to "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things". I recall renting the VHS video probably in the mid-to-late 1980s, and lamented the fact that I was too young to have seen it back in the old drive-in/grindhouse days of the wonderful 1970's. It also held a special memory for me in that it was the first movie my what-was-to-be-my-future-wife rented together (I knew she was cool when she tolerated my weirdness). I was a fan of both Clark and Alan Ormsby's from "Porky's" and "Cat People" respectively, and "Children..." was a great, fast-moving zombie film that did not disappoint. I do recall, as a little boy in the '70s, being chilled to the bone seeing the "Children..." trailer & movie poster. Just the title alone made me cringe!

I confirmed today, Friday (4/6/07), that Clark was indeed killed by an illegal alien. I ask you as, fans of horror and cult cinema who have made your love of movies practically your religion (as I have), to pause a beat and let sink in the fact that one of the great directors of our beloved genre was taken from us by an individual (and I use that word loosely) who has chosen to sneak into this country in an entirely underhanded, unwelcome manner, and who did not have one shred of common decency to obey a simple moral and legal stipulation which resulted in the death of a great man and his young son. Now, as a result, both the citizens of California and probably we are inflicted with the burdon of imprisoning, feeding, and providing legal counseling for this no-good, sub-human piece of human fecal matter who should have been gunned down before crossover. Now that he's gone ahead and killed a beloved U.S. citizen and a well-loved horror director, there's talk of deporting him, after the damage has been done.

To Florida horror fans, Clark holds a special place, as both "Children..." and "Dead of Night" were both shot in the sunshine state. It's nice to know that in addition to H.G. Lewis and Bill Grefé, Florida was, for a time, served as the birthplace of the career of another great horror director.

Mr. Clark, I hope you find yourself a better place, where your very life is not at the mercy of so-called 'leaders' and followers who engineer a machine fueled on bad decisions and inexplicable self-destruction in the name of feeling good about themselves. For the record, I'm in no way part of that very lousy crowd of crapmouths, and had they listened to the pleas of those like-minded individuals akin to myself, you'd right now be in the director's seat helming a remake of "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things".

Grindhouse Sneak Preview
I know this edition of Oddservations is a week late (I wanted it published for edition #367), but I have to rub in that I managed to see the highly-anticipated "Grindhouse" four days before it opened...for free! Thanks to Creative Loafing, I scored a pass for two in which filmmaker Andrew Allan accompanied me. We were both highly jazzed about seeing it, though Tarantino and Rodriguez are not tops on our list as favorite filmmakers.

We arrived about an hour before the show, and took our seats. The crowd was inexplicably more sparse than the usual giveaways shows, which could have been the location (at far-flung Citrus Park Mall) or a possible lack of publicity - but who cares - it was nice being seated without bumper-to-bumper bodies around us. Familiar friends and Horror + Hotties patrons Steve and Diane Persall were present, and we had a chance to briefly talk to them (Steve's "Grindhouse" review was published in the St. Petersburg Times today: 4/6/07; an A-) about horror films and new events in the Tampa Bay area. The screening was sponsored by a local FM radio station (can't recall which one), and the DJ's handed out "Grindhouse" chachki's to those who answered trivia questions correctly. Can you believe I answered wrong about what a "grindhouse" was?!?

So here we were, about to experience a set of movies claiming to live up to the tenets of authentic '70s "grindhouse" cinema - that wonderful era of sleazy, run-down downtown theaters which screened exploitation/cult films for those with a lust of the bizarre and weird. The stakes were high, however we weren't going to give these films a pass just because we deeply wanted to see a resurgence of this type of filmmaking.

So did "Grindhouse" live up to the hype/promise? Yeah, I'd say so. Though far from perfect, I admired the countless instances of originality spattered throughout the presentation. First up was Robert Rodriguez's action-packed "Planet Terror" a mish-mash of zombie Armageddon, military action films, and "El Mariachi". A top-secret noxious gas that turns humans into infected zombies escapes into the air from a military base during a showdown between two armies of weapon smugglers. Nodding to Romero, Rodriguez intersperses the action among different factions of survivors who eventually come together in their quest to stay alive. Though an admirable effort, it becomes clear early on just how superior Romero is/was in incorporating believable characterization into a zombie Armageddon scenario. "Night of the Living Dead" conveyed more shocking confrontations between survivors and loved-ones-turned-undead utilizing simple glances, whereas Rodriguez's zombies had to resort to dialogue to achieve the same effect. Accolades to Rodriguez for casting genre faves Michael Biehn, Michael Parks, and Jeff Fahey, who are all terrific. Tom Savini's there too, playing a crusty deputy who has a run-in with a group of infected zombies. One big surprise was Josh Brolin's performance - he was outstanding. The resemblance to his father really took me back to the '70s, and he even looked a bit like Kurt Russell (also in "Grindhouse") in his younger, "Escape from New York"/"The Thing" days.

Thought I hate to admit it, the ladies (Rose McGowan and Marley Shelton) were also pretty good, though neither is a budding Jamie Lee Curtis. I'm sure you've seen the buzz about McGowan's machine gun leg in the trailers. One question they never addressed: how did she fire the gun? Action star Bruce Willis is in there too, playing an ex-commando turned smuggler - who claims to have personally killed Osama Bin Laden! Tarantino makes a cameo as "Rapist No. 1" in a pretty interesting scene that will make a hardened gorehound squirm.

The characterizations of all the survivors are well and good, and there's certainly enough action, explosions, and messy zombie action to please the fans, but the sad truth is that the end result of all these differenent characters coming together just didn't cut the mustard. Simply compare the human interaction to any Romero zombie film and you'll find a stark difference in the quality of writing and filmmaking. And Romero wasn't necessarily trying to make a "grindhouse" film. Despite the flaws, "Planet Terror" is a very enjoyable ride, and it at times brilliant and highly imaginative. IMO, it was the better of the two films.

Next up, but which probably should have come first, is Tarantino's "Death Proof". Kurt Russell plays Stuntman Mike, a supposed daredevil who makes a beastly business of stalking Autsin (Texas) bar hotties. "Death Proof" is basted in Tarantino's signature uber-dialogue, to the point of bitter over seasoning. The watcher wishes he had a magic remote control to FF past the scenes of bickering and bantering, so we can get to the car kills. I may be totally wrong on this, but how the hell is a 10-minute yap-fest about who's going to sit in the back seat good cinema? I think Tarantino should be forced to watch, a la "A Clockwork Orange", some silent films for a change, to get a clue.

I'm sure it was Tarantino's intention to be as original as possible in tackling an assignment such as this, but what results barely qualifies as a "grindhouse" outing. It's a too-talky, disappointing exercise in tedium with precious few sinister moments. Though it was great to see my favorite actor, Kurt Russell, attempt a tough-guy role reminiscent of the days of his prime work with John Carpenter, Stuntman Mike comes off as a wimpy, barely menacing figure who's quick to fall apart. SM drives a '70s Nova, reinforced to be "Death Proof", as stuntmen refer to it. He uses the car as a murder weapon - but don't get too excited at the prospect - Andrew Allan said it best when he mentioned such a cool concept as that was almost totally wasted. His "victims" are either individual or a bevy of beauties, which Tarantino gives characterization to, but still appear flat and uninteresting. All that being stated, the stunt work is great, the piece has a very welcome lack of CGI, the '70s cars were way cool, and one of the girl characters wears a "Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!" shirt. Eli Roth has a cameo, as does Rose McGowan, Michael Parks and Marley Shelton.

Strangely, though I thought "Death Proof" was the weaker of the two films, I thought more about it the following day than I did "Planet Terror".

One of the best aspects of "Grindhouse", which was explored by an unnamed rascal on Nolan's home page last week, was the treatment of the filmed footage to resemble grindhouse movies of the '70s: missing reels, dirt + dust, cigarette burns, jump cuts, audio pops and crackles, color shifts and at times total film burning. The effects were surprisingly excellent and did not distract - only enhance - the experience. In fact, "Planet Terror" might have been totally unwatchable were it not for the delicious '70s texture. It was a little strange, and disquieting, to see that '70s texture applied to a work teeming with CGI (Tarantino's film didn't have any, thankfully), which I guess is a cinema tool Rodriguez couldn't resist tinkering with.

Moving on to the best part of "Grindhouse" - the phony trailers! Now, trailers have a distinct advantage over features in that they're easy to digest and are inherently more exciting. Honestly, though tongue-in-cheek, I found them to be much more true to the spirit of grindhouse fimmaking than the features, largely due to the fact that the trailer directors are all horror vets - Rodriguez and Tarantino are not. Much has been said about Eli Roth's "Thanksgiving" trailer, which was incredible, but my fave was one called "Don't!". "Don't" opens with shots mimicking the '70s classic "The Legend of Hell House", complete with a Roddy McDowell lookalike (with sideburns and a mod turtleneck). The "Don't" V.O. parodies horror films with, obviously, the word "don't" in the title: "Don't Answer the Phone!", "Don't Look in the Basement!", "Don't Open the Door!", "Don't!", "Don't!", "Don't!" to the point of absolute hilarity. Roth's "Thanksgiving" follows, which paired with the other trailers, had me practically falling out of my seat in fits of uncontrollable laughter. "Thanksgiving" had some great moments (an episiotomy on a trampoline, a human dinner turkey, a "Rocky Horror"-style logo) and is said to be considered for a feature film treatment. Great V.O. too. And let's not forget Rob Zombie's entry - the highly entertaining "Werewolf Women of the S.S.". This well-done entry paid homage to Dave Friedman's "Ilsa" films colliding with lycanthrope lore. Tom Towles, Sheri Moon-Zombie, and Nicholas Cage (as Fu Manchu!) star! When's this one coming out?!? All the trailers are treated with the same effects as the features, making them look like the wonderful, crusty grindhouse or VHS prints. "Thanksgiving was especially effective in this respect - I truly felt like I was watching a sleazy slasher epic from 1981. Inside sources tell me Roth thinks it's the best work he's ever done (seriously!).

I'll end the review by stating this - were Tarantino and Rodriguez the right choices to establish a "Grindhouse" film series? Yes and no. They both possess the "mainstream darling" factor that can coax the average schlub into theaters, but still have an edgy style that fans respect. The down side is that they're truly not "grindhouse" filmmakers. Rodriguez is too ass-deep in razzle-dazzle "Spy Kids"/"Sin City" uber-effects to churn out a totally satisfying grindhouse effort, and Tarantino is too artsy and dialogue-obsessed. So I guess we get both tit and tat. What fans ultimately care about is that these two filmmakers have the muscle, reputation, and clout to deliver a movie like this - and direct cinema back to an era that we're all hoping will re-establish itself, and perhaps put an end to tapdancing penguins and the Julia Roberts legacies for good. I can tell you one thing, after experiencing the simulated grindhouse look of the film of the same name, you'll never want to go back to the spit-n-polish pristine cinema of the Maya age.

Johnny Hart's Passing
Well, I guess the bad news keeps on coming. Aside from Peanuts, my favorite comic strips of all time were "The Wizard of Id" (which Hart was co-creator of, along with Brant Parker) and "B.C.". I was very sad to hear of the death of Johnny Hart, who was and is one of my cartoonist heroes. He was a true genius; "The Wizard of Id" was one of the few comic strips to have me literally laughing so hard I cried. Rodney, the cunning coward. The Wizard and his nagging wife Blanch. The King of Id with the Napoleon complex. Bung, the besotted court jester. The perfect array of sarcastic 'toons that continued to delight generations of true fans in the course of the strip. I'm proud to say I've been collecting Id/B.C. paperbacks since the 1970's and have a decent collection. In the early 90's I created a sci-fi comic strip called "Iknisnine" which derived much influence from Hart's work.

I think when I retire tonight, I'll dust off some of the old B.C. paperbacks and read them as an homage to Mr. Hart. And, on my computer desk at home, I've had a Grog glass that's been proudly on display since we called Clearwater home.

"Oddservations" is ©2007 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.