Showing posts from 2007

On-The-Fly CD Review: FRANK by Amy Winehouse

British soul chaunteuse Amy Winehouse's Back to Black was pretty near the greatest thing I heard last year, so when her 2003 debut disc Frank received a proper US issue recently, I snatched it up in an eighth-of-a-heartbeat. Frank really does feel like a dry run for its stone-masterpiece follow-up, but it proves that Back to Black was no fluke. Right out of the gate, Winehouse's acerbic lyrical stance--think Peggy Lee 's and Elvis Costello's love child learning salty sexual bluntness from Peaches --had already emerged fully-formed. Whether she's dissecting a hard-partying club girl with Dorothy Parker straightrazor swipes on the hilarious "F*** Me Pumps" or kittenishly rationalizing a one-night stand to her cuckolded lover on "I Heard Love is Blind," Winehouse's observational and reflective gifts as a writer are staggering. Unbelieveably, she'd penned these intelligent and witty lyrics before she was old enough to even legally buy a

Happy Late Thanksgiving, World

As is customary, there are a few things cultivating in the Dish, but for now it's all about the Bacchanalean food orgy that is Thanksgiving. The missus, dog, and I headed south to my parents' digs for a satisfying feast yesterday, and today we'll be having some Thanksgiving orphans over to our place for a second gorge-fest. That means today, in my universe at least, is Thanksgiving Day, too. In celebration and thanks, please find the winning entry in the illustrious 2007 Seattle Opera Hand Turkey competition, magnificently rendered by, um, me. Enjoy (or at least, don't chortle too derisively). The Petri Dish will also ape one of television's grand traditions and direct you to a re-run in lieu of original programming: Namely, this 2005 entry about the greatest Thanksgiving movie ever created: Blood Freak (guess what's gonna be post-turkey-gorging entertainment at the old homestead this evening?). Happy Thanksgiving, and may all your turkey comas be restful,

Rick Springfield: The Rodney Dangerfield of '80's Rock

For a lot of years it wasn't fashionable to be a fan of Rick Springfield, unless you were a swooning teenage girl. Rock snobs and insecure males everywhere dissed the musician/ General Hospital heart-throb during the height of his musical success in the Reagan Years. But with that teen-idol stigma packed away in the old Pop Culture Hope Chest like a beat-up high school yearbook, the music he made stands the test of time surprisingly well. Listening to his 1981 watershed record Working Class Dog (with its inescapably brilliant hit single, "Jessie's Girl") just cements this hypothesis. Pound for pound, it's one of the best power-pop records of its day, easily the equal in bright hooks and energy of anything the Plimsouls or Cheap Trick put out at the time (that's high praise indeed coming from this affirmed Cheap Trick nerd). He gave his rock more polish and gloss than the aforementioned two outfits, but avoided Journey's strident hamminess and Bon Jov

Passings: Actor/Singer Robert Goulet

For decades, Robert Goulet was Mr. Perfect. With his old-showbiz helmet of pompadored black hair, bright blue eyes, chiseled jawline, and bell-clear baritone speaking/singing voice, Goulet (who died on October 30 at age 73 ) was less a traditional leading man than a larger-than-life cartoon of that leading man, and to his eternal credit he always seemed as keenly aware of it as anybody. He rose to prominence as the stage's first (and I'd argue, definitive) Sir Lancelot in Lerner and Lowe's monster hit musical Camelot in 1959. That voice and those features--both strong and distinctive enough to clearly communicate to the back rows of the most packed houses on Broadway--ensured him frequent employ on the musical stage, most recently in 2005 for a revival of La Cage aux Folles . But Robert Goulet became celebrity comfort food of the most welcome variety for me (and many of my generation) on TV in the seventies and eighties, logging in scores of talk-show appearances and gu

The Bat People, and a Happy Halloween!

Once again, MGM/UA bows to Horrorpalooza. The Bat People , a favorite mid-seventies chiller of mine (and, yep, another special request from Horrorpalooza 2006 ), just made the digital translation on a nifty DVD double bill with the 1982 horror flick, The Beast Within . And both movies make for unpretentious good times. It had been a few years since I'd screened either. The last time I saw The Beast Within was as a horror-hungry adolescent during its initial theatrical run, and our dog-eared VHS copy of The Bat People hadn't seen the inside of a VCR since I lived in Tacoma six years ago. The Beast Within re-jiggers a classic sci-fi scenario, with a young woman (Bibi Besch) being assaulted by a giant monster. She gives birth to an apparently normal son (Paul Clemens), but once he grows up he develops an appetite for extremely rare meat and experiences an extra-traumatic growth spurt, if you know what I mean and I think you do. It's junk, but pretty entertaining junk, d

The 50 Greatest Horror Movies: Rotten Tomatoes vs. the Petri Dish

Rotten Tomatoes has posted its list of the 50 Best-Reviewed Horror Movies Ever , and like any Movie List, there are some bones to contend with. Just for fun, here's RT's Fearsome Fifty (with the occasional editorial blather), followed by my own completely personal and utterly subjective list. I shall cop out and put mine in no particular order... Rotten Tomatoes' 50 Greatest Horror Movies: 50) The Innocents (1961): No argument from this corner on its inclusion, but it should be way higher. 49) Dead of Night (1945) 48) The Dead Zone (1983) 47) Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) 46) A Tale of Two Sisters (2003): Haven't seen it. 45) Carrie (1976): Evilspeak is more fun, but if you've been slugging it out alongside me for the last two weeks you know that already . 44) Eraserhead (1976) 43) The Exorcist (1973) 42) Three Extremes (2005): Haven't seen it. 41) Fright Night (1985) 40) Ringu (1998) 39) House of Wax (1953) 38) Shadow of the Vampi

Paul Naschy, The Once and Future King of Spanish Horror

Some guys get a tie from their spouse for their fortieth birthday. I got monsters. Rita earned her cool-for-a-girl stripes once more by taking me to my first Fangoria Weekend of Horrors Convention in May . This entry from Rita's eminently worthwhile Blog covers the event with customary wit and aplomb, but in anticipation of my iminent blathering she deliberately omitted the Convention's rarest treat (and the personal highlight for me). Most of the guests at the Con were filmmakers and actors solidly rooted in current horror cinema--guys like Eli Roth , Rob Zombie, and Dog Soldiers/The Descent director Neil Marshall --with one fascinating exception: Fangoria editor/convention coordinator Anthony Timpone booked legendary Spanish actor/director Paul Naschy for a rare US visit. If you're not a horror obsessive, you've likely never heard of Naschy. He's been directing, writing, and starring in horror movies since the late 1960's, but most of his efforts wound up

My Kind of Song and Dance: Bat Boy the Musical

Unintentionally bad movie musicals hold an irresistible thrall for me, but (as has been intimated in these virtual pages before) I'm not much of a fan of the artform as a whole, especially the modern musical. Gloppy ballads (a trope of the genre) give me the heebie-jeebies, and the grunting rock dork in me involuntarily cringes at the slick and hyper-enunciated Broadway singing/composition style being wedged into a backbeat like Avril Lavigne throwing on a Sex Pistols T-shirt. So it's grand news to this musicals-loathing curmudgeon that Bat Boy the Musical , playing at the Artswest Playhouse in Seattle 'til November 10 , entertains so thoroughly. As the title indicates, this off-Broadway creation takes the late, great Weekly World News's favorite cover model as its inspiration. But rather than follow the WWN's increasingly outlandish printed reports for a plotline, Bat Boy the Musical keeps all of the action in Hope Falls, West Virginia, where the mysterious ti

Something, Anything...Scary

Emergency work stuff pulled me away from the 'Dish for the day, so Fate has bitch-slapped my solemn vow of one a day every day 'til Halloween. I am a broken man. Tonight I go to see Bat Boy the Musical ; I'm certain I'll commence to a' blatherin' tomorrow. Hey, I guess this is an entry. I didn't say each blog had to be an essay. Don't worry. No more cop-outs. See you tomorrow.

Evilspeak: Clint Howard goes all Carrie on your Ass

I've never been a big Brian DePalma fan. Most of his movies seemed to be pretending to be something more than they were, slickly-shot but still morally-grubby exploitation pictures with delusions of Godhood. Even when he locked onto a clever idea he'd club it to death with heavy-handed visual overkill, or self-conscious faux-Hitchcockery. So it's no wonder that DePalma's hugely influential horror hit, Carrie , leaves me pretty damned cold today, while Evilspeak --a trashy, ridiculous and artless ripoff of Carrie circa 1980--entertains the hell out of me. Bumbling Stanley Coopersmith (Clint Howard) endures endless humiliation, torment, and abuse from his fellow cadets at West Andover military academy. One afternoon he's put on punishment patrol, and gets assigned to help clean out the basement of the Academy Chapel. Whilst digging around, Coopersmith stumbles upon a Scary Spell Book, which he hard-wires into a computer to resurrect an evil de-frocked priest ( Nig

Song of the Day: "Dinner with Drac" by (John) Zacherley

With all due respect to the late, great Bobby 'Boris' Pickett's immortal 1962 smash hit "Monster Mash," the greatest horror novelty song ever came out four years earlier. John Zacherley was one of the first wave of horror movie hosts on TV, a slicked-back cross between Lon Chaney's Phantom of the Opera and Colin Clive . At nearly eighty, he's still working the horror convention circuit with his trademark snarky wit thoroughly intact, but in the 1950's he was a big crossover celebrity. A trip to the studio to cut a record was inevitable. "Dinner with Drac," Zacherley's 1958 top ten gem, predates the rock-and-roll backbeat of Pickett's tune, and it arguably rocks harder, with an especially grimy stripclub saxophone punctuating the instrumental breaks. Atop the pre-garage rock strut is Zacherley's mordantly hilarious narrative..."A dinner was served for three at Dracula's House by the sea...The H'ors 'doeuvres were

Revisiting the Witchfinder

Man. I've got an 11-hour work day to slug through, and no entries finished. Already, a new haircut and a much-needed trip to the grocery store have been foregone for this Quixotic mission of mine (the Petri Dish, she is a harsh mistress). So this gets dashed out quickly--a mere appertif in the Horrorpalooza Fright Feast. Once again, a DVD label--a huge one, MGM/UA--bends to the whims of Petri Dish Horrorpalooza ( click here for proof!), this time by issuing the 1968 period shocker Witchfinder General on DVD. I haven't nabbed the disc, but I viewed the movie again last month (thank you, Turner Classic Movies) for the first time in a few years. The good news: Vincent Price's performance in the title role still stands up today. I adore Price when he's in Grandly Epic Horror Star mode, but here he's at his most restrained and realistically scary, portraying a very cerebral man so contemptuous of his fellow human beings that he has no qualms about running roughshod o

The Book of the Dead: Gutmuncher History, Laid Bare and Bloody

Regular visitors to the 'Dish know that nothing floats yours truly's proverbial boat like a good (OK, any) zombie movie . So it follows that British film writer Jamie Russell's reference tome, Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema , was a must purchase in these parts. The happy surprise here is what an engaging read it is. Russell's book begins not with the zombie's ostensible cinematic bow in 1932's White Zombie , but with the western world's journalistic introduction to the living dead several decades earlier. "The Country of the Comers-Back," Lafcadio Hearn's 1889 non-fiction Harper's Magazine article covering skullduggery on the island of Mozambique, netted the first literary mention of the zombie in the west. Thirty years later, 1929's pioneering travelogue/adventure novel The Magic Island saw author/adventurer William Seabrook exploring Haiti and risking life and limb to delve deeply into that country's v

Girdler your Loins: The Manitou is Here

To paraphrase the tag line of a more ballyhooed movie that came out around the same time: You will believe a slimy Indian Shaman dwarf can erupt from the neck of Lee Strasberg's screaming daughter and threaten the universe. In the first of many demonstrations of Horrorpalooza's mighty power this month, Anchor Bay has dutifully responded to my exhortation during Horrorpalooza '06 and put William Girdler's 1978 shocker The Manitou out on DVD . And hot diggity damn dog, is this cause for joy. Here's the Cliffs Notes set-up (in case you're feeling too lazy to go back in the archives and re-read my previous entry): Woman (Susan Strasberg) develops tumor on her neck. Doctors X-ray tumor and discover fetus inside. Doctors try to remove tumor: Fetus makes doctor slice open arm. Fetus is reincarnation of Indian Spirit named Misquamacus. Misquamacus means business. Bogus Medium Ex-Boyfriend (Tony Curtis) enlists medicine man (a very bad-assed Michael Ansara ) to fig

Jess Franco: the Petri Dish Jury's Still Out

Used to be you had to do some serious digging--hours in grindhouses and drive-ins, costly excavation in the deepest bowels of grey-market and bootleg mail-order services--to explore the careers of most horror and cult movie directors. But DVD labels issue scores of even the most obscure product to satiate insatiable horror fans nowadays. And between the relative inexpense of many DVDs and services like Netflix, such exploitation cinema archaeology is a lot easier. Which is good: That way, I can give Jess Franco's work a few more chances before I write him off entirely as a hack. There's plenty of material to sift through. Of all the European filmmakers to acquire a cult reputation, Spanish schlock auteur Franco has undeniably been the most prolific. The Internet Movie Database credits him with directing almost 200 pictures, writing over 150 of his and others', and acting in dozens as well. Despite an early association with Orson Welles, Franco mostly created movies that

Passings: Deborah Kerr, Star of The Innocents

Deborah Kerr , one of the greatest movie actresses of the last century, died earlier this week , and with a storied career that spanned five decades and key roles in scores of classic films, I could write a book about her. This being Horrorpalooza, of course, I'd like to pay tribute to her contribution to one of the greatest horror movies of the sixties. The Innocents got some serious face time during last year's Horrorpalooza , but revisiting this masterpiece just puts this legendary thespian's brilliance--and her willingness to take risks--into even sharper focus. All genre-related bias aside, The Innocents was one of Deborah Kerr's most important projects. It's widely acknowledged that Kerr's against-type portrayal of the tumultuous, adulterous Karen Holmes in From Here to Eternity turbo-charged her career and made her bankable in Hollywood again, but after that triumph she was back to playing strong, decent women who were the unquestionable moral comp

Favorite Scream Queens: Beverly Garland

Actress/ hotelier /all-around super lady Beverly Garland began her career in 1950, with a bit part in the classic film noir DOA , and she's acted steadily ever since in films and on TV. Unlike most of the ingenues who comprised her peer group, Garland always felt like a spunky, functioning adult, and she excelled at playing smart women who could more than take care of themselves when their backs were against the wall--which was often. She's probably most famous for a couple of long-running TV gigs--as Fred MacMurray's no-nonsense second wife in My Three Sons in the sixties, and as Kate Jackson's wisecracking mom in eighties hit, The Scarecrow and Mrs. King --and she made history as the first female cop on a television show in the syndicated fifties police drama Decoy . But this being Horrorpalooza, I come to praise Garland for her work alongside monsters, aliens, and psychopaths. Most females in horror and sci-fi fall into two categories--prey/decoration or psychoti

Don't Fear REAPER

Just thought I'd offer a quick shout-out about Reaper , the newest horror-comedy alloy hitting the television airwaves. Reaper follows the adventures of Sam (Bret Oliver), a directionless high-school grad who's blown off college in favor of a dead-end job at a Home Depot knockoff store, The Work Bench. He gets one helluva surprise for his 21st birthday, though, when his parents reveal that they sold his soul to the Devil before he was born. Rather than pack up Sam and haul him to the Nether Reaches, Mephistopheles (Ray Wise) consigns the kid to spend the rest of his days hunting down--and sending back--souls that've escaped from Hell. So the show's central schtick consists of each of these renegade souls manifesting themselves in especially potent demonic tangible form on earth, and Sam being given a Vessel of Soul Collection (in the pilot, it was a Dust Buster) that he's gotta use to collect the Demon of the Week. Then the reluctant reaper drops said freshly-acq

Eulogy to a Scary Guy: Nicholas Worth

Character actor Nicholas Worth passed away back in May of this year, but there's nothing like Horrorpalooza to provide a nice excuse to tip a glass to the man's overlooked contributions to the genre. Worth paid his dues for a good thirty years in showbiz, lending his stocky, imposing frame and cut-square-through-you gaze to villain roles of varying size and significance. For me, his presence was always welcome, whether he was menacing Starsky and Hutch , getting roughed up by John Saxon in The Glove , running nasty errands for Larry Drake in Darkman , or aiding and abetting the dapper Louis Jourdan's elegant villainy in a sublimely moronic turn in Wes Craven's fun Swamp Thing . Ironically, though, Worth's finest onscreen hour--and one of his few genuine leads--comes in one of his most hard-to-watch movies, making for an awkward but sincere recommendation from this neck of the woods. In 1980's Don't Answer the Phone , he plays Kirk Smith, a violent Vietnam

Post-Script: More Pete Walker

Though it's probably fair to handicap Frightmare as his finest work amongst the ones I've seen, British shock specialist Pete Walker directed several interesting and worthy thrillers throughout the seventies and eighties. After being bowled over by Walker's cannibal drama, I quickly jammed every one of his horror movies (the ones currently on DVD, that is) onto my Netflix list. Die Screaming Marianne (his debut), The Flesh and Blood Show , and House of Whipcord have yet to hit the mailbox (and Walker's '76 effort Schizo is currently out of print domestically), but here's a rundown of the ones I've seen so far. The Confessional (AKA House of Mortal Sin , 1976): Jenny ( Susan Penhaligon ) walks into a small catholic church to receive confession for the first time in several years, but Father Meldrum, the priest hearing her (Anthony Sharp), turns out to be a raving nutter who'll stop at nothing to cleanse Jenny's wayfaring soul...including murder