Oct 18, 2018

Screen Captures #3: Ed Wood Night At The Movies

October the 10th would have been the 94th birthday of cult cinema’s patron saint, the redoubtable Edward D. Wood, Jr. His Grade Z genre films such as Plan 9 From Outer Space and Bride Of The Monster are remembered for their inane dialogue and cardboard production values, peopled with  Hollywood stars well past their glory days, such as Bela Lugosi whose twilight years were riddled with drug addiction, or Wood's own stock company of outsiders and hapless hopefuls. Wood's offscreen penchant for wearing women's clothing (angora was a favourite) was also the topic of his feature debut Glen Or Glenda, in which he also appeared onscreen in the title role(s).

The one, the only, Edward D. Wood, Jr.
In 1978, Wood passed away at the age of 54, penniless and forgotten, just a few years before his work was rediscovered by cult movie fans, under the banner of "so bad it's good". The cult of Wood grew formidably over the years, prompting the publication of Rudolph Grey's 1992 biography Nightmare Of Ecstasy, and the release of Tim Burton's giddy 1994 Hollywood biopic Ed Wood, featuring Johnny Depp as Wood, and Martin Landau in his Oscar-winning performance as Lugosi. The movie -which chronicles his heyday of his beloved classics, and ends before his decline into alcoholism and pornography- deserved to be a mega-hit, but it sadly under-performed at the box office in first-run. The film however had a strong shelf life on VHS and cable, where it no doubt found the majority of its fans. The renewed interest in Edward D. Wood also prompted the release of numerous documentaries about the man and his movies, and his filmography was reissued to unfamiliar viewers. 

In those days, there still existed a reasonably sized window between a film’s theatrical run and its eventual home video release, so that it could still enjoy a healthy lifespan in repertory cinemas before going to tape. So once Ed Wood hit second-run, Toronto’s repertory circuit had a field day with it.

The film was often paired in a double bill, shared with one of Wood's key films (Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glen or Glenda). However, the apex of "Ed Wood Mania" was on a snowy Friday (the 13th, no less) in January of 1995, when The Bloor Cinema showed a "one night only" quadruple bill of Ed Wood movies that were not as regularly viewed: Jail Bait, Bride Of The Monster, Night Of The Ghouls, and The Sinister Urge

In honour of Mr. Wood's birthday, and his often misunderstood legacy, today's column will share the experience of that night, which would be one of the greatest screenings I've attended in my entire life. 

"Rocky Horror" notwithstanding, never a more eclectic crowd have I seen at the cinema than on this crazy, crazy night: pimply geeks with black rimmed glasses, hippie stoners, people in black trenchcoats (and matching lipstick)… even a dapperly dressed older gentleman I chatted with in the ticket line ("He SHOULD get a star in Hollywood! He had gumption!"). Some may ask, "How was this different from the clientele any other night at the Bloor back then?" Well all right, they were just in greater abundance. And how! 

When Jail Bait began at 7 PM, there was still a lineup around the corner of patrons slowly being admitted to the theatre. If the two-floor cinema wasn't filled to capacity that night, it was damn close. Because the staff was still shambling to get bums into chairs, I too missed the opening of Ed Wood's eccentric film noir, but once I found a seat up close and centre, and heard the ubiquitous piano and flamenco guitar score coming from the speakers, I was in cult movie heaven.

In between flicks, you had just enough time to get some refreshments or go outside for a smoke (...of something). During one such break, I wandered to the lobby for my fifteenth coffee, and picked up a handbill from (the much-missed) Admit One Video, which advertised Ed Wood VHS tapes for sale. I can't remember now if they co-presented the night's festivities, but it would stand to reason, as it was doubtful that all (or any) of these movies were projected on film. One movie opened with the Admit One logo displaying before the credits.

Criswell in Night Of The Ghouls

Even if we were seeing video, it hardly mattered: it was a blast just to see this stuff on a big screen, and with a large audience (likely a bigger and more appreciative crowd than any of these films received in their initial releases). For instance, the second feature, Bride Of The Monster (the only one of this quartet I had seen previously) was definitely shown on video based on its soft appearance, but I don't think anybody cared. The place shook with applause when Bela Lugosi's name appeared in the credits- likewise for Tor Johnson's. The thunder continued in the next offering, Night Of The Ghouls, the long-lost sequel to Plan 9 and Bride Of The Monster! The projectionist briefly lost the sound during the film's opening with the famed Criswell, whose psychic abilities were equal parts clairvoyance and caca, but it mattered not, since the crowd was so boisterous, we wouldn't have heard his dialogue anyway. Similarly, the audience would shout their approval to the screen every time the floating trumpet appeared. 

Although perhaps to some, this cinematic experience was being enhanced as evidenced by the, uh, "herbal fragrances" in the air, I didn't partake. I've never, ever, been able to view a film under the influence of alcohol or grass... I'd fall asleep first. My movie-watching drug of choice has always been copious amounts of caffeine. (Truthfully, with all the energy in the hall that night, we all could have grasped a natural high.) Still, after working all day in Thornhill and hightailing it down to the cinema right after, all the better to be wired on the bean, so I was still wide-eyed and giddy as the evening concluded with my favourite picture of the four, The Sinister Urge. Ed Wood's daft "cautionary fable" about the dangers of pornography is epitomized by the writer-director's stock company of hard-working cops in pursuit of some knife-wielding loony driven to attacking women in the park, all due to (gasp!) looking at women's bloomers in smut publications. 

With the exception of Bride Of The Monster, the night's films were the least-seen of his "legit" oeuvre: best-known largely to veteran Ed Wood cultists. One could say that Wood's off-screen persona eclipsed many of the films shown that night. But life and art intersected in one pivotal moment of The Sinister Urge when the cops decide to have an undercover officer dress up as a woman to bait the killer. The audience went NUTS, anticipating the director's Hitchockian onscreen cameo.

Thanks to the Medveds and their Golden Turkey Awards (which, granted, was a catalyst in resurrecting his movies), Edward D. Wood garnered the reputation as the worst director of all time, for all of these films that fall under the "so-bad-they're-good" realm. Personally, I've never been comfortable with the "so-bad-it's-good" maxim, as much as I understand its resonance to people. How can movies so entertaining, imaginative and sneakily subversive be "bad"? To be sure, some viewers came out to have some laughs at the technical ineptitude, way-out dialogue, and corny special effects. But I think too, a lot of the laughter came from the element of surprise and, yes, amazement.

Therein, I think, lies the enduring appeal of Ed Wood's cinema (and no, that phrase is not contradictory). Whatever his deficiencies, lacking the attributes of any conventional Hollywood director, his movies are always imaginative, innocently entertaining, and full of enthusiasm. He worked on the fringes of a movie industry that otherwise ignored him, and yet created a mini-Hollywood of his own. He made micro-budgeted valentines to the genres he loved, and (years before the Warhol Superstar ideology) made cult legends out of his eccentric stock company of actors. Despite how his movies appear on the surface, they remain products of a classic Hollywood outsider who succeeded in making a personal, identifiable body of work despite the odds, that people still talk about 60 years on. 

Having said that though, if they decided to replicate this screening for today's audience, it just wouldn't be the same. Regardless of the things we loved to joke about Ed Wood's films, we also appreciated those movies. Today, I'd fear that the program would be sabotaged by the accompaniment of all the "ironic", condescending remarks emanated from these disruptive hipsters who pollute every goddamn cult movie revival screening nowadays with their ridiculous notion that they somehow have to exert their superiority to whatever spools onscreen. At least in my earshot, there was none of that bullshit: everybody was just having a great time. 

I attended this screening alone, because none of my college mates wanted to go. But after spending five hours in these walls with several hundred strangers who were digging these movies as I was, I quickly realized something. This was the scene I was looking for. I wanted in. Funnily enough, I now know several people who were at this screening, although we were years away from having known each other. The mind is tickled by the possibilities that I could've brushed past future friends while grabbing the next coffee between films. Still, those people are in my life now, one way or another, because of the film zine I published for twelve years.

I think Andre Breton, the founder of Surrealism, would've found much worth in the films of Ed Wood. A quote by Breton that I value greatly certainly figures into this experience: "One publishes to find comrades." That phrase I think also equally works for Wood's films. His work continues to speak to all of us outcasts who reject the conventional societal norms and attempt to build our own little worlds.


Free Screening! Tomorrow Night!
Stephen Broomer is back in Toronto to show his amazing experimental film, Potamkin, inspired the writings of 1930s film critic Harry Alan Potamkin. This is the thirteenth screening of the Ad Hoc collective, presented at Innis College, 2 Sussex Ave., Room 222, 7PM! Did I mention, it's free? Don't miss it!

Saturday! Independent Video Store Day!
In honour of the 8th Annual Independent Video Store Day, where video stores across the continent are celebrating the good old days when you used to discover movies at an actual location and interact with people, Eyesore Cinema is having a day-long event on Saturday October 20, with tons of movies for sale, plus grab bags and lots of fun. 1176 Bloor St. W. Facebook event link here for more information.

More next week! Till then...

Sep 26, 2018

Screen Captures #2: It's (About) Time

If you’re reading this blog, you likely have a passion for things out of the mainstream. You subscribe to free will, and not whatever some corporate algorithm dictates you should consume. Whatever it is you’re passionate about, it is beyond mere hobby-ism. It is a lifestyle; it is a belief system. It is something not addressed by the cookie-cutter status quo. You likely have a kinship with other independent creators despite whatever medium they practice, as they all speak to that same great truth. That is why you will probably understand when any of these columns discuss issues that exist outside of the cinema’s realm, because they still address the universal issues of the lives we have chosen.

During the summer, I had read an article somewhere, which gave an interesting hypothesis of why time seems to go faster as we age, whereas in our youth (public and high school age), the days seemed to drag on. It offered that time seems to go faster when we’re older because we get settled into routines. Time on the other hand seems to go slower when we’re younger, because we’re always experiencing new things. Whether you’re five or fifty, the second hand on the clock still ticks at the same pace. The speed of time then is simply an illusion. In this theory, time is not measured in years, but by what is done in those years. Therefore, we can trick ourselves into making time seem slower by keeping ourselves open to new and different experiences.

I was reminded of this idea last week when we watched Debra Granik’s superb film, Leave No Trace. As the film unspooled, it seemed to me that time moved much slower. This was perhaps in part because I was seeing something unfamiliar: the lifestyle of a father and daughter who exist off the grid. Because they choose to live outside of our accelerated world, their lives by comparison are slower, and time thus moves much slower, understandably the film compliments that pace.

And by comparison, Cleo manages to pack a lot of living from 5 to 7. Agnes Varda’s nouvelle vague classic (which had a revival screening at the Revue on Sunday night) gives the semblance of real time in chronicling roughly 90 minutes in the life of pampered pop star Cleo while she awaits a test result from her doctor. “Day in the life of” movies seldom work, as foolishly, all of the protagonist’s problems get resolved in a compressed period of time. Life doesn’t work that way. On the other hand, I’m not sure this film is intended to be real life, despite its semblance to an off-the-cuff spontaneous tone. Cleo gets a tarot reading, does a song rehearsal, sips brandy at a cafĂ©, goes on a car ride with her girlfriend, watches a comedy short in the cinema, meets an army man in the park, who accompanies her to the hospital for her results. Is Cleo’s life always this action-packed? For us mere mortals, one of these activities alone would’ve sufficed in that same time period.

In either event, time is what you make of it. And surely, in the past years, I’ve been more conscious of how the clock is ticking away. I’ve often felt that I’m already washed up when I’ve barely gotten started.  But then I realized, that the more I keep myself active, and continue to discover new things, this feeling dissolves. For example, over Labour Day weekend, after watching Bertrand Tavernier’s extravaganza, My Journey Through French Cinema, 201 minutes and five pages of notes later I uttered the phrase: “I feel young again.” Keep exploring, keep creating, and that second hand seems less daunting.

Also last week, Bill Shute, one of my independent heroes, once again inspired me. While just a few years older than me, this man has garnered enough wisdom and experience in his passions to fill two lifetimes. I tremble at the depth of his knowledge and his vestiges of experience in the realms of B-movies, literature, avant-garde or alternative music.

Bill has been contributing pieces to zines and independent publications for decades. He is also an incredibly prolific publisher under his own imprint, Kendra Steiner Editions, which releases limited edition runs of poetry and experimental music. (How does the man do it?) Last week he announced that next year he would be publishing a compendium of reviews and articles he’s contributed to Ugly Things, Black To Comm and several other publications. 

I first discovered Bill’s work via his film reviews on the IMDB, and then through a mutual friend, we became Facebook friends in 2010. In fact, I’ve encouraged him for years to publish his film reviews, so I was thrilled at this announcement, as this project will include some film pieces. Whether Bill discusses obscure Euro-genre films seen on fuzzy UHF channels, 45 RPMs of forgotten Texas garage bands, or beat literature, his work is full of refreshingly personal asides, which give the pieces greater universal context about how this stuff is all part of the lives we have chosen. What was the inspiration for his decision to publish these works in the future? He just said, “It was time.” That simple phrase haunted me while I checked out the literary events over the weekend.

On Saturday afternoon, Broken Pencil held its annual Canzine fair at the AGO. ESR’s very last public event was via tabling at Canzine in 2012. My twelve-year experience at trade shows wound down not with a bang, but a whimper. The scene was always changing, but it especially became apparent that this venue was getting younger as I aged. This year’s visit to Canzine simply re-affirmed that. Over the years, the scene has gradually shifted from Xeroxed zines to graphic novels and books. Even so, over the years, I could still walk away with a handful of publications that still spoke to me, which highlighted life in the independent scene (Cometbus, etc.). More often than not, they were procured from Francois’ table, and he wasn’t even there this year.

Otherwise, in terms of familiar faces, Marc Laliberte and I nodded to each other. I don’t believe we’ve ever spoken to each other, but we recognize each other from tabling back in the old days. In the days leading up to Canzine, I half-jokingly wondered if I’d run into Glenn and Hal again this year, so we could resume our “Get Off My Lawn” session from last fall, discussing how the scene has changed since the heyday of the zine craze. Well, two outta three wasn’t bad. I did see Glenn there, and chatted with him for a few minutes. He’s got another zine coming out in a month.

Sunday was this year’s edition of Word On The Street, held at Harbourfront Centre. Even though I stopped exhibiting at WOTS after ESR’s disastrous 2012 season, I’ve still attended every year to feed my brain, and my literary habit. But in addition to discovering some interesting items that would otherwise be difficult to find elsewhere, I admit that I’ve also visited the fair each year with ulterior motives.

I was also hoping to recapture that wonderful headspace that I used to have for days afterwards when I was an exhibitor. That inspiration, that desire, was enough for me to continue creating for the next twelve months. Instead, each year since 2012, I came away feeling nothing at all, not even disappointment (as even disappointment would mean that I was passionate about something). But picture this.

Fade up on a low-angle shot of yours truly, with back to camera, entering WOTS grounds. Cut to a 360 pan of the fair, and stop at a medium close shot of yours truly, uttering the phrase: “It’s time.”

What I have in mind I think will be a perfect fit here. I once again see the need. There is still much, much, much to do. It will be a difficult journey. Because of this long absence from the printed word, much of the community that ESR created has evaporated. Right now, I can’t offer anyone anything but promises, and I’ve already broken too many. But then again, I’ve started this publication once before with just me. Let’s see what kindred spirits we can meet for the first or next time.


Independent Screenings Of Note:

This week sees some revivals and other interesting items at The Revue Cinema, 400 Roncesvalles Ave.

Wed Sept 26: the 20th Anniversary screening of the anime classic, Perfect Blue. (7 PM)
Thurs Sept 27: Designing The Movies presents Diana Ross in 1975’s Mahogany. (6:45 PM)
Fri Sept 28 – Sept 30: The Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival 2018 (6:45 PM and 9:30 PM, on Fri, Sat; also 1 PM on Sunday)
Sat Sept 29: Throwback Cinema presents Danny DeVito’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s classic, Matilda.
Sun Sept 30: Silent Revue presents F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece, Sunrise, with live musical accompaniment by The Ugly Beauties.

For ticket information, best to visit revuecinema.ca

Fri Sept 28 – CINSSU Free Fridays

The Music On Film series continues with Bob Fosse’s 1979 classic, All That Jazz.
Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Ave, Toronto. 7 PM. Admission is free!

(Have an upcoming screening to plug? Drop me a line at: mail at screening dash room dot ca)

DVD - BluRay Releases This Week:

Sept 25 sees the release of Joe D’Amato’s 1981 horror film Absurd, from Severin. Ted Post’s 1973 camp classic The Baby gets the Arrow treatment.  The Boris Karloff Collection (VCI Entertainment) serves the four Mexican films (House of Evil, Fear Chamber, The Snake People and Alien Terror) which marked horror great’s final excursions into the genre. VCI also debuts the Red Scare Double Feature, pairing 1952's Invasion USA and Barry Mahon's daft Rocket Attack USA.  Kino Lorber brings Good Times, with Sonny and Cher’s movie debut (also the feature film debut for director William Friedkin), the oddball Lee Marvin-Oliver Reed western The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday, and Carol Reed’s Trapeze, featuring Burt Lancaster. Criterion releases the Sidney Poitier classic, A Raisin In The Sun.  Canadian viewers will no doubt rejoice in releases of Fraggle Rock The Complete Series, and The Peanut Butter Solution! And finally, Vinegar Syndrome pairs two sex films from B-movie legend Ray Dennis Steckler: The Sexorcist and Deviates In Love. Physical media is dead? Pssshaw.

Sep 18, 2018

Screen Captures #1

Hello webiverse, how have you been doing? Planet ESR has been inactive for some time, so much that both of my readers have stopped asking when the heck the next issue is coming out.  As of this coming weekend, it will be six years since we debuted a new issue, at 2012’s edition of Word On The Street. 

What the hell have I been doing in all this time? Not much, other than work things. (Sacre bleu! You don’t do ESR for a living? Mais, non!) Well, I did get a short piece on Curtis Harrington published (Thanks, Jason!). Also, I was supposed to contribute an article to a book-length study, and before I knew it, they published without me- no communication, nothing (I’m STILL pissed off about that one). Additionally, there were a couple of attempts to revive ESR as a publication, each followed by the resignation that I just wasn’t ready yet.

Other than that, creatively speaking, the only real feat of these intervening years was in, to put it politely, archiving. Much of my spare time was devoted to / frittered away on downloading old TV listings from newspaper archives. This began as research for another project still on the back burner, and manifested into a hobby where I’d make spreadsheets of old movie schedules, etc. Why? Am I that OCD? Well perhaps. Truthfully, I think everyone in this industry has to be obsessive. Otherwise why would we willingly subject ourselves to cruel and unusual punishment? (Shoot during a hurricane with a free cannelloni dinner as reward, and you’ll see what I mean.) 

In fact, obsession is part of human nature. What we choose to obsess over, however, can sometimes be declared as abnormal. I’ll leave the analysis to Niles Crane, but perhaps, deep down this hobby was an excuse to distract me from obsessing over what next to do with my life. As always, I tend to bury myself in the past, to look backward, because there’s nothing to look forward to.

But, it is time to change that school of thought.

This year, I had a milestone birthday that ended with a zero. My day job also had a milestone anniversary that ended with a zero. These events have compounded my constant self-deprecation. What have I accomplished in all this time? What have I gained with sacrificing x number of years of my life for someone’s dream? Most people my age have houses, kids, and are even thinking of retirement. I’m still in the same mindset I was twenty years ago, still trying to figure stuff out, still trying to grasp onto something out of reach. Another major event this year has forced some self-realization. 

I hesitate to extrapolate on personal things, but this is relevant to why you’re reading these words at all. Earlier this year, my dad had to go to a nursing home. I had to attend to his personal affairs and clean out his place. There are few things as invasive as tending to the personal effects of someone still living. It’s dirty. But thankfully, this cleanup went a lot smoother than it could have, because my father always kept his affairs very orderly. This forced me to re-examine myself. What kind of milestone am I leaving behind? How can I improve my life right now? How can I build a better future?

This hot summer has been spent with much reflection. To be as general as possible, I’ve learned that I’ve become a prisoner by design. I’ve allowed myself to be ruled by factors that ask for more, and do not reward back. I blame no one but myself for this quandary, but the time has come to take my life back. As the weather hopefully cools, it’s time to get back to loving life again, and to return to the things that I’ve forgotten about, which define me as a human being. 

As part of this self-examination, I’ve started writing journals again for the first time in years. And as writing continues to be part of my daily mantra, I will feel confident enough to return to publishing: not just to ESR, but a couple more projects I’ve entertained over time. I’ve made false promises in the past about restarting these vocations. In these six years, this is the most mentally prepared I've felt to do this.  I still have a long way to go, but it's a start.

And that, my friends, is how we get to this column. 

Another activity of my self-imposed Sabbatical was in reading collections of work by columnists. I’ve long wanted to do a regular film-related column. Blogging regularly is like writing a column, I concur. And with each new edition of Screen Captures, I hope to achieve a body of work that will serve at least two purposes.

First, I hope that each new edition will entertain its readers with whatever arcane topics strike my fancy at the moment. This is an exercise for me to return to a regular regimen of writing about what kindles my creative passions.

More crucially, it will hopefully serve as a record of independent screenings and events, plus the movers and shakers who make that happen. This city has seen dramatic changes in the past few years. Gentrification and sky-high real estate has forced the closure of many favourite haunts. Artists continue to struggle for the same pieces of the pie; only problem is, the pie itself has gotten smaller. Since its debut in 2001, ESR has always felt part of the indie culture scene, as that is chiefly where we have sold our wares. Even if we sell socks, while others in the underground sell gloves, there is nonetheless a kinship. We’re all addressing a need for something not offered by the mainstream.

Over time that scene has diminished in some ways, and mutated in others. I hope Screen Captures will exist as a living record of that vital piece of culture, as it continues its sine wave pattern on the fringes.

Forgive the indulgences of this first endeavour: I just felt it necessary to begin with a long, personal tract to help you understand how we got here, and where we’re going.


Independent Screenings Of Note:

Apparently there was some big film festival in the city recently. As a result, people tend to be “movied out” for the rest of September. But for those of us who couldn’t afford the $89.75 just to say they inhaled some of the same O2 as Bradley Cooper, and are looking for something beyond all the hoopla, here are some noteworthy independent screenings happening over the next seven days. (Wouldn’t you know it? Two are on the same night. It happens a lot in this scene.)

Thurs Sept. 20 - Directed By Women Screening Series 
The first in a series of free screenings of films directed by women, features Shoes (1916), directed by Lois Weber. This film was recently restored, and entered into the National Film Registry in 2014. Silent film pioneer Lois Weber’s work has been enjoying a renaissance in recent times. It was generously featured on TCM last year, and this spring, The Toronto Silent Film Festival showed 1927’s Sensation Seekers
Media Commons – Roberts Library; 130 St. George St., 3rd Floor. Toronto, ON. Admission is free! Doors open at 6:15 PM, films begin at 6:35 PM. Admission is free!
Click here for future titles in this series.

Thurs Sept. 20 - Ad Hoc# 12: David Morris in person with his films
The not-for-profit collective continues their impressive screenings of independent-experimental cinema with Concordia professor David Morris in person presenting his films: (Shekhina) Series - Projection (Super8, 1990), Ruakh (Super 8 and 35mm), and MPQ suite (digital).
Morris’s films are composed and edited in camera, and shot (with few exceptions) frame by single frame (‘pixilated’). The Super 8 films are shown in original at approximately 12 frames per second. 
Pix Film Gallery; 1411 Dufferin Street, Unit C, Toronto. 7 PM. Admission is free!

Fri Sept 21 – CINSSU Free Friday Films
It's back to school season, which means that the cheapest movie date on a Friday night is also back in action! The Cinema Studies Student Union has a stellar line-up this season devoted to the theme of "Music And Film". This week, it's Bob Fosse's 1972 Cabaret, with Liza Minnelli.
Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Ave, Toronto. 7 PM. Admission is free!

Sun Sept 23 - Art House Theater Day
As a tribute to cinema in the art house, The Revue Cinema is showing Agnes Varda's 1962 nouvelle vague classic, Cleo De 5 a 7. The event is free, but it is recommended to get a ticket beforehand by visiting the event page at Eventbrite here.
Revue Cinema, 400 Roncesvalles Ave., Toronto. 6:45 PM. Admission is free!

(Have an upcoming screening to plug? Drop me a line at: mail at screening dash room dot ca)

DVD - BluRay Releases This Week:

Sept. 18 sees two new releases from Arrow: Peter Fonda’s revisionist western The Hired Hand, and Teruo Ishii’s cult classic, Horrors of Malformed Men.

And from ClassicFlix, the complete Blondie 1957 TV series. Now this I’ve gotta see! Chic Young’s classic comic strip character was in a series of 28 films by Columbia, from 1938 to 1950, featuring Penny Singleton as Blondie, and Arthur Lake as Dagwood. Lake reprises his role for the TV series; Blondie is played by Pamela Britton. 

Other Events of Note:

It's a literary weekend in TO.

Sat. Sept 22: Broken Pencil returns with Canzine, Canada's largest zine fair, at the AGO. 317 Dundas St. W., Toronto. 11AM - 7 PM. Admission is $5 by donation.

Sun. Sept 23: Word On The Street is back at Harbourfont. This huge fair of books, magazines, readings and all things literary is at Harbourfront Centre, 10 AM - 5 PM. Admission is free!

Mar 10, 2018

Eurofantasmo! #1

Since my last birthday had a zero in it, I decided to keep my mind occupied for the day instead of moping around in my bathrobe, drinking cheap sherry and watching reruns of "Flo". (Not that there's anything wrong with sitting around in your bathrobe, drinking cheap sherry and watching reruns of "Flo", if the spirit moves you.)

Therefore, on the big day, I did a couple of things that I hadn't done in years: I hosted a screening and printed a zine! One overcast Sunday afternoon, the very first issue of Eurofantasmo! made its official, though inconspicuous, debut at the screening.

Eurofantasmo! chronicles the rich history of Europe's genre cinema circa late 1950s to 1990; each issue tackles a different subgenre or topic. The debut issue focuses on superhero or super-criminal movies made in Italy during the 1960s. These twelve digest-sized pulse-pounding pages review eleven such films, including Danger Diabolik, both Kriminal films, Satanik, and both Superargo movies.

While still toiling away at the new, revamped ESR (which has already been pushed back twice), I had the idea to do this little zine. Consider it the side dish to the main course still in progress. This project nonetheless provides an outlet for my lifelong fascination with and exploration of European genre film (and I still feel I'm scratching the surface). I felt it was a necessary diversion to preparing the new ESR. It also proved to be a pleasant throwback to the old days: thinking about design, proofreading, stapling and collating.

And considering after three months, I have yet to receive any feedback on it, yep, it really is like the old days. (Granted, I'm behind in mailing out some copies to people who wanted a mag but couldn't attend the screening.) I still have some if you're interested! The next issue will likely go to print next month.

Oh, and what was the screening? I showed the Stephen Boyd-Sylva Koscina caper film, The Manipulator. Whatever I can do to spread the word on this quirky delight.

Mar 9, 2018

Screenings: Jan - Feb, 2018

ABOVE: The Other Side Of Hope

Feature films, made-for-TV movies, theatrical shorts viewed in the past two months.

January 2018 viewings:
The Bounty Man (1972; John Llewellyn Moxey) (TV)
The Cat of the Worm's Green Realm (1997; Stan Brakhage)
Cocaine Fiends (1936; William A. O’Connor) *
Coupling (1999; Stan Brakhage) *
Creation (1979; Stan Brakhage)
Cyberville (1994; George Haggerty)
The Dante Quartet (1987; Stan Brakhage)
The Devil's Honey (1986; Lucio Fulci)
The Electric Horseman (1979; Sydney Pollack) *
Emergency Landing (1941; William Beaudine)
Every Thing Will Be Fine (2015; Wim Wenders)
Eye Myth (1967; Stan Brakhage) *
A Ghost Story (2017; David Lowery)
Gonks Go Beat (1964; Robert Hartford-Davis)
Good Day For A Hanging (1959; Nathan Juran)
Gun Fight (1961; Edward L. Cahn)
Hamburger Hamlet (1974; George Haggerty)
Hellcats of the Navy (1957; Nathan Juran)
High Powered (1945: William Berke)
Homes On Wheels (1992; George Haggerty)
I … Dreaming (1988; Stan Brakhage)
In Between (1955; Stan Brakhage)
Jail Bait (1954; Edward D. Wood, Jr.) *
Jaws of Death (1976; William Grefe)
Lucky (2017; John Carroll Lynch)
Mall Time (1988; George Haggerty)
Minesweeper (1943 William Berke)
The Mirror (1975;  Andrei Tarkovsky)
Mongo's Back In Town (1971; Marvin J. Chomsky) (TV)
The Monk (1969; George McCowan) (TV)
Moonlighting Wives (1966; Joe Sarno)
Mothlight (1963; Stan Brakhage) *
Night And The City (1950; Jules Dassin)
The Other Side Of Hope (2017; Aki Kaurismaki)
Ring of Terror (1962; Clark L. Paylow)
Robotopia (1990; George Haggerty)
Rocky Mountain Rangers (1940; George Sherman)
Santo and Blue Demon Versus Dracula And The Wolf Man (1972; Miguel M. Delgado)
Shaker Run (1985; Bruce Morrison)
Virginia Creepers (2009; Sean Kotz and Christopher Valluzzo)
Window Water Baby Moving (1959; Stan Brakhage)
Zambo King of the Jungle (1972; Bitto Albertini)

February 2018 viewings:
Anticipation of the Night (1958; Stan Brakhage)
Borderline (1950; William A. Seiter)
Captain America (1979; Rod Holcomb) (TV)
Captain America II (1979; Ivan Nagy) (TV) *
Cornbread, Earl and Me (1975; Joseph Manduke)
Cry Danger (1951; Robert Parrish) *
Death Squad (1974; Harry Falk) (TV)
Detroit 9000 (1973; Arthur Marks)
The Devil's Express (1976; Barry Rosen)
Eye Of The Labyrinth (1972; Mario Caiano)
GalaxyQuest (1999; Dean Parisot)
Ganja and Hess (1973; Bill Gunn) +
Haunts Of The Very Rich (1972; Paul Wendkos) (TV)
The Lift (1985; Dick Maas)
Night of the Living Dead (1968; George A. Romero) *
One Down, Two To Go (1982; Fred Williamson)
Orchestra Wives (1942; Archie Mayo)
OSS 117 Unleashed (1963; Andre Hunebelle)
Seeds Of Evil (1974; James H. Kay)
Sirius Remembered (1959; Stan Brakhage)
That Man Bolt (1973; Henry Levin, David Lowell Rich)
A Touch of Satan (1970; Don Henderson)
The Werewolf and the Yeti (1975; Miguel Iglesias)
The Wold Shadow (1972; Stan Brakhage) *
Xanadu (1980; Robert Greenwald) *

* denotes a repeat watch (all others without asterisks are first-time viewings)
(TV) is a made-for-TV movie
+ (I had previously seen the re-released version of Ganja and Hess, which was cut down, had additional scenes shot, had numerous re-release titles, and a different director credit; I saw that one on video with the title Blood Couple. Still, until now, I had never seen the original Ganja and Hess, restored to DVD and released by All Day Entertainment. I am counting it as a first-time viewing as it is indeed a completely different movie experience.)