Saturday, June 29, 2013

'YMCA' from the film 'Can't Stop the Music'


Released in June, 1980, Can't Stop the Music did poorly at the box office and quickly fell into feature-film oblivion. But nowadays it has emerged as a superlative example of unique late 70s / early 80s cheese.

The film was the brainchild of Hollywood producer Alan Carr, who made a substantial amount of money mining American pop culture's 'nostalgia craze' with the 1978 hit Grease.


In 1979, Carr decided to capitalize on the popularity of the 'disco craze' , by producing another musical, this one a campy sendup of 30s musicals. Carr's project would feature the Village People, one of the most high-profile and commercially successful disco groups of the decade of the 70s.

In May of 1979, when filming on Can't began, this seemed like a wise commercial move. Carr had no way of knowing that by the end of the year, the disco craze would be dying away, to more or less vanish by the Fall of 1980.

(Although, for reasons that are hard to fathom, the film was a big hit in Australia.)

Carr chose middle-aged actress Nancy Walker as the director. Walker had essentially no experience with filming a major studio production, which badly hampered the production. To make things worse, when on location in New York City, the production was confronted by angry gays, who thought it was part of the Al Pacino movie Cruising, that also was filming in the city at that time.

According to the 'cowboy' in the Village People, Randy Jones (author of the book 'Macho Man: The Disco Era and Gay America's Coming Out'), the making of Can't Stop was one giant [gay] party, that saw huge sums of money spent on everything and anything but.....making the actual film.

The highlight of the film was the music video sequence for the hit Village People song, 'YMCA'. 

Even today, the glimpses of Valerie Perrine siting topless, in a whirlpool, with the naked Village People playfully splashing water at her is......... more than surreal.




Be prepared to witness footage of the Village People, and the patrons of a 'health club', exercising in short-shorts, tube socks, cropped tee shirts, terrycloth short-sets, and doubleknit polyester track suits......the height of workout fashion in 1979 !


And now, here it is in all its cheesy glory......'YMCA' from the film Can't Stop the Music...... !


Thursday, June 27, 2013

'The Bus' by Paul Kirchner


Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: 'Jitterbug' by Mike McQuay

 4 / 5 Stars

‘Jitterbug’ was published by Bantam Books in August, 1984; the cover artwork (which resembles something designed for a romance novel, rather than sf)  is by Enric.

I remember picking this book up in 1984, and thinking it was a decent read at the time. Nearly thirty years later, it’s still entertaining, and, in the light of events post-9/11, its vision of an Arab-dominated future doesn’t seem so outlandish.

The book is set in the year 2155, and the Arabs – and the Saudis, in particular – rule the world.

Their ascent to power has been engineered by the profligate use of a biological weapon called the ‘Jitterbug virus’. A highly transmissible, lethal herpesvirus, Jitterbug is stored in enormous domes centered in all the world’s major cities, and at any time, Faisel Al Sa’ud, ruler of the world, can order its release.

Vast tracts of the Earth’s continents are thinly peopled by the infected, outcasts, and other malcontents, who refuse to seek refuge behind the massive walls of the remaining cities.

As the novel opens, a young scavenger named Olson, idling by an East Texas highway, witnesses an act of casual brutality committed by Junex Catanine, a member of the corporate elite who manage the affairs of the ‘Light of the World’ (LOW) corporation – the Arab-owned business conglomerate that dominates the world economy.

Through luck, and some degree of backwoods courage, Olson finds himself taking Catanine’s place in the hierarchy of the LOW offices in New Orleans. Overnight, Olson has gone from a penniless wanderer, to a contender for power. But his rise to the top won’t be easy….

…..Rennie Du’Camp, an ambitious manager with a strong streak of psychopathology to his personality, has no intention of letting Olson elbow him out of the struggle to wield ultimate power in the LOW offices.

……Milander, a Jitterbug sufferer with a warped, Messianic attitude towards the suffering multitudes of the Infected, is assembling a vast army for a march on New Orleans. For he believes that only through the extinction of mankind, can the world be Redeemed.

….Abdullah Al Sa’ud, Faisel’s brother, has been forcibly uprooted from his Bedouin tribe in Arabia and sent to New Orleans to discover why LOW office’s accounts have been losing enormous sums of money. If he can’t uncover who or what is behind the embezzlement, he has orders to release the Dome in the city, and condemn all its inhabitants to death.

…..And to top it all off, it won’t stop raining, and the prospect of a disastrous flood looms large for New Orleans….

At 422 pages, ‘Jitterbug’ is a lengthy novel, and could have benefited from being 50 pages shorter. That said, author McQuay does a good job of keeping his chapters brief, and the narratives associated with several sub-plots are in constant motion. There are a number of well-written action scenes that arrive at just the right moments to keep the novel’s momentum going.

Also noteworthy in ‘Jitterbug’ is the inclusion of lots of sarcastic humor, much of it derived from a keen awareness of the Arab / Muslim’s mindset and world view.

Back when this book was written in 1984, only a tiny number of Westerners, much less Americans, had any real idea of what the concepts of ‘Arab’ and ‘Muslim’ actually meant. Thus, ‘Jitterbug’ offered an imaginative take on what few (including myself) suspected would eventually be a massive change in the World Order.

Nowadays, with jihadis and Wahabbis rampant in the Muslim world, and the populations of Western Europe confronting the rise of Eurabia, ‘Jitterbug’ has a prescient quality that marks successful science fiction.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

'Armies' by Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Picaret, and Jean-Claude Gal



The inaugural issue of the French magazine Metal Hurlant (‘Screaming Metal’) in January, 1975, contained a brilliantly illustrated, black and white comic titled ‘Armées du conquérant’ (‘Conquering Armies’), drawn by Jean-Claude Gal (1942 – 1994) and written by Jean Pierre Dionnet. Further installments of ‘Armies’ appeared in ensuing issues of Metal Hurlant.


When Leonard Mogel, the owner and publisher of The National Lampoon, decided to acquire the US license to produce an American version of Metal Hurlant, titled Heavy Metal, the April, 1977 inaugural issue featured ‘Conquering Armies’. Additional installments appeared throughout 1977 and 1978.

 

Later in 1978, Heavy Metal’s book-publishing arm released an oversize trade paperback compilation of all the episodes, titled Heavy Metal Presents: Conquering Armies.


In January, 1981, Dionnet and Gal succeeded ‘Armies’ with another collaborative effort, this one titled ‘La vengeance d’Arn’ (‘The Vengeance of Arn’), for Metal Hurlant. Set in more or less the same mythical / historical environment as ‘Armies’, the ‘Arn’ series appeared intermittently in Metal Hurlant until 1988. Gal's artwork took on an even more 'epic' sensibility.

[Unfortunately, only one of the ‘Arn’ stories was ever republished in Heavy Metal in the 80s.]


Now (April 2013), Humanoids, the modern-day business incarnation of Les Humanoïdes Associés, the co-op of French artists who created Metal Hurlant, has released all the ‘Armies’ and ‘Arn’ stories in a 184-page hardbound book, titled simply ‘Armies’, that, at 12 ½ x 9 ½ inches, reproduces the size of the original artwork.

This edition of ‘Armies’ is colored (by Dan Brown); fans of the original series may not embrace this decision, but in his Preface, Dionnet remarks that Gal had originally attempted to color his artwork, but abandoned the approach due to the fact that the color reproduction technology of the mid-70s ended up obscuring his ink lines.

At $35 US, ‘Armies’ is expensive compared to most graphic novels, but the book is of very high quality, with a finely printed hardbound cover, and paper stock that reproduces Gal’s delicate pen-and-ink artwork with great fidelity.


So, if you’re not at all familiar with ‘Conquering Armies’ and ‘Arn’, what do you get ?

‘Armies’ relies less on violent action and battle scenes, choosing instead to imbue the wanderings of the eponymous force across deserts and seaside landscapes with a sere, existential atmosphere. The purpose of the Army is unclear, its efforts ultimately futile, as the conquered cities and redoubts soon are swallowed up by the desert sands or the encroaching jungles, and its officers and troops led astray by greed and careless malevolence. 





‘Arn’ was a much more character-driven series, and in that regard closer in spirit to the American sword-and-sorcery heroes from the 1970s, such as Conan, Kull, and Mike Grell’s ‘Warlord’ series for DC. But ‘Arn’ is also very ‘European’ in nature, adopting a tone of moral ambiguity and anomie that usually was absent in the American approaches to the genre.

In his preface, Dionnet states that his artist partner worked very slowly, and looking at Gal’s draftsmanship, it’s understandable why this was so. Some of the panels in ‘Armies’ look like they took days of intricate penmanship to complete. Gal takes care to shade, stipple, and striate the bricks making up the exteriors and interiors of his Mayan temples; the folds of cloth making up the robes of his Tuareg – inspired desert tribesmen; the intagliated metal fashioning of the helmets and breastplates of his army troops; the wind-etched surfaces of the massive pinnacles of rocks that occupy his landscapes;  and the spider webs from the 'wizard' episode posted below

Some of the full-page illustrations the Gal composed for ‘Armies’ are equivalent to studio paintings in their craftsmanship, and you may find yourself spending ten or fifteen minutes of careful study to fully grasp the entirety of what you are seeing.

In short, whether you’re a fan of the early years of Metal Hurlant / Heavy Metal, a fan of exceptional graphic art and storytelling, or just someone who likes a well-told adventure tale, ‘Armies’ is well worth the price.


Below is one of the stories (unfortunately, Dionnet and Gal never gave names to their episodes) from 'Armies', showing the coloration of the artwork to good effect. And Dionnet's script provides a memorable ending..........




 









Thursday, June 20, 2013

'Heavy Metal' magazine, June 1983



June, 1983, and on MTV, Rod Stewart's song 'Baby Jane' is in heavy rotation ( a woman in a neon pink bodysuit, heavy mascara, platform soles, and playing a saxophone, was very 'eighties'). 

The latest issue of Heavy Metal is on the stands, with a front cover illustration by Barclay Shaw, and a back cover by Angelwine.

The Dossier opens up with Merle Greenberg's fevered coverage of someone named..... Robert Ashley ? (No, not Rick Astley). Then there is fawning coverage of one of the 80's most over-rated film directors, Wim Wenders.





Byron Gysin (1916 - 1986), a British artist and poet, whose greatest claim to fame was palling around with William Burroughs, gets an interview.
 

  

 A 'Zippy the Pinhead' comic collection gets an approving review.




The comic content sees more 'Tex Arcana', 'Starstruck', 'The Man from Harlem', 'The City that Didn't Exist', and 'The Odyssey'.

Among the better strips in this issue are Corben's 'Doomscult' (which I'll post later), and a 'sneak preview' of the film 'Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone', with artwork by Jerry Bingham, and a script by Heavy Metal's editor, Julie Simmons-Lynch.

The film, a low-budget B-movie that starred Peter Strauss and Molly Ringwald, quickly slid into oblivion after its release, but is something of a cult favorite nowadays.

Unfortunately, a Spacehunter graphic novel never materialized. Too bad, because this little sneak preview is a decent comic......How you can go wrong with with a gang of well-proportioned, feral girls who lurk in the sewers, and spout dialogue like: "Look girls ! A good breeding man !"





 
 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Book Review: 'Tengu' by Graham Masterton


3 / 5 Stars

‘Tengu’ (380 pp) was published by Tor Books in April, 1983. The cover artist is uncredited.

Appropriately enough for a horror novel, ‘Tengu’ opens with an act of gruesome violence, as Sherry Cantor, a starlet living in an LA apartment, is murdered by a mysterious assailant possessed of superhuman strength.

Sergeant Skrolnik, the Hollywood PD detective assigned to investigate the murder, questions Cantor’s friends and acquaintances, but cannot link any of these individuals to her bloodspattered demise.

Things quickly get complicated when some LA beat cops stop a speeding van, and die in violent combat with a man of superhuman strength – possibly the same individual responsible for the death of Sherry Cantor. Onlookers report the man was wearing an Oriental mask of unique design.

Jerry Sennett, Sherry’s neighbor and a WWII Pacific Theatre veteran, and Mack Holt, Sherry’s former boyfriend, begin their own investigation of the murders. Jerry becomes alarmed when learning of the mask worn by the assailant. For it signals that there are occult forces associated with the murders; occult forces involving Japanese / Shinto mythologies, and the presence of demons from the netherworld.

Foremost among these demons, in terms of malevolence, are the long-nosed Tengu. Legend has it that, under the right circumstances, a willing acolyte of the dark arts can allow himself to be possessed by the spirit of a Tengu, and in return, assume a strength and vitality well beyond those of mortal men.

Who was decided to loose the Tengu among the inhabitants of Southern California ? As Jerry Sennett and his friends seek an answer that question, they find themselves drawn into a dangerous web of black magic and violence, and a confrontation with a villain who plans to wreak a terrible vengeance on the United States….

‘Tengu’ is a quick and engaging read, and one of the better Graham Masterton horror novels.

(For in-depth analysis of Masterton’s output, readers are directed to the ‘Too Much Horror Fiction’ blog.)

Although the book features a large cast of supporting characters, and switches among a number of subplots, Masterton doesn’t allow too much in the way of distractions or contrivances to dilute the essential mission of ‘Tengu’ : provide pulp horror in an easily digestible package.

By keeping his narrative liberally spiced with splatterpunk sequences and softcore porn, Masterton holds the reader’s attention, in contrast to other early 80s horror novels – and here Ramsey Campbell’s ‘The Parasite’ comes too quickly to mind – that were more ‘artistic’, but utter duds.

Masterton also inserts quite a bit of satiric humor, aimed at the early 80s Southern California lifestyle, into the plot.

As well, the intense interest in Japan and things Japanese that dominated early 80s pop culture are channeled here as well; think of Trevanian’s ‘Shibumi’ (1979), Eric Van Lustbader’s ‘The Ninja’ (1980), the Chuck Norris film ‘The Octagon’ (1980), and tee-shirts and bandanas, imprinted with Kanji, sold at Spencer Gifts in the nearest mall.

If you like Masterton’s fiction, and by extension the works of James Herbert, Clive Barker, Shaun Hutson, and the other 80s splatterpunks, then ‘Tengu’ is worth picking up.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

'Hunter II: Goblin' from Eerie magazine issue No. 68 (September 1975)


Oops....my Hunter posting for Eerie issue 70, 'Hunter II: Goblin Thrust' was out of order, as the first installment in that miniseries is actually 'Hunter II: Goblin', from issue 68, posted here and now. 

And of course, both precede my other posting for 'Hunter II: Time in Expansion' from issue 71.... !

Anyways, here's 'Hunter II: Goblin', in which Exterminator, who knew the first Hunter, meets up with Hunter II...