Now at FilmStruck – Streamline

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In case you haven’t noticed, the Turner Classic Movie’s Morlocks blog has been renamed Streamline and is currently part of the new TCM & Criterion film streaming service at FilmStruck.com

What is FilmStruck? Here’s an excerpt from a Time Warner press release:

“Developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in collaboration with the Criterion Collection, FilmStruck will feature the largest streaming library of contemporary and classic arthouse, indie, foreign and cult films as well as extensive bonus content, filmmaker interviews and rare footage, making it a must-have service for serious film lovers. Later this year, FilmStruck will also become the exclusive streaming home to the world-renowned Criterion Collection library, where die-hard film aficionados can gain access to the Criterion Collection’s entire streaming library through FilmStruck’s exclusive premium add-on tier, The Criterion Channel. FilmStruck will be available exclusively on Amazon Fire TV, web, iOS and Android devices at launch, and on Apple TV and other platforms and devices in the coming months.”

I am still writing for TCM regularly in association with FilmStruck and Criterion and my weekly contributions to the Streamline blog will continue to be posted every Thursday, but there will be some notable differences. You’ll notice a focus on FilmStruck programming as well as Criterion releases and I’m no longer responsible for posting my own images, which are selected by an editor.

This change is a bit problematic for me and will be difficult to get used to because if you’ve been following my film writing for the last 10 years, you would notice that images often play a big part in it. I enjoy curating my own content and some of my most popular posts for the Movie Morlocks were photo and poster galleries. I also enjoy sharing my own film stills, which I typically put as much care and thought into as my writing whenever possible. Simply put, film is a visual medium so I think the images associated with film writing can often be just as powerful as the writing itself. However, having an editor on board is something I’ve wanted for a long time and I hope they’ll be able to correct my occasional typos, misspellings, and grammar errors!

Despite working numerous jobs and other responsibilities, I’ve managed to write one blog post a week for The Movie Morlocks for the past 6 years. I’ve only missed posting twice and both times were due to serious illness. Having to pump out a post week after week can be daunting since that gives me very little time to research, thoughtfully consider and write about a particular topic but the challenge has been very rewarding and I hope the results have been worthwhile.

If you followed my work at the Movie Morlocks I hope you’ll continue to follow my work at the new Streamline blog. I don’t know what the future holds, but FilmStruck promises to be an interesting addition to TCM’s programming and I’m happy to be a part of it.

My first post for Streamline is a brief overview of one of my favorite film topics; The British New Wave. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart that I’ve discussed here before and at the Movie Morlocks. From my latest piece:

“The style and attitude of these aspiring filmmakers merged with the burgeoning writers of the period as Anderson, Richardson and Reisz began adapting the work of Osborne, Sillitoe, Delaney and their contemporaries for the screen. In the process, the two camps created a new type of British drama known as kitchen-sink realism that was often grittier and more unforgiving than much of the British cinema that had come before it. This New Wave of British films were typically shot in stark black and white, populated by characters that were not particularly likable or even conventionally attractive. A tangible sense of loss existed amid the urban squalor on display and the dialogue was surprisingly frank, refusing to shy away from unsavory topics such as an unwanted pregnancy or spousal abuse.”

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) Directed by Tony Richardson Shown: Tom Courtenay (as Colin Smith)

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)
Directed by Tony Richardson
Shown: Tom Courtenay (as Colin Smith)

…these films contain powerful central performances by bruised, edgy and unpredictable actors. The critically acclaimed roles they inhabited solidified the ‘angry young man’ persona for film audiences and gave voice to a generation forced to settle for less, but desperate for something more. They also bluntly and poetically challenged the social order, throwing aggressive and graceful punches at an established class system that expected them to know their place and remain there.” – Kimberly Lindbergs for Streamline

You can find my entire piece “Angry Cinema: The British New Wave” here.

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RIP Ted V. Mikels 1929-2016

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Heartbroken to learn that Ted V. Mikels has died. I loved his work, warts and all, and have written about my appreciation for the man in the past. He was an incredibly colorful character and one of Hollywood’s last real showmen. I had the opportunity to exchange brief notes with him once and he was very warm and kind. Genuinely grateful that I took his work seriously. RIP MIkels. Your brand of B-movie magic is sorely missed.

More on his passing can be found here.

Links to some previous posts where I discuss Mikels and his films:
I Love You, Ted V. Mikels!
The Misadventures Of A Go-Go Girl
Tura Satana – An American Icon

Six Months of Movie Morlocks: May – Oct. 2016

It’s been an interesting, busy and to be honest, an extremely stressful year due to some ongoing medical issues I’m dealing with that you can read more about here: Vertigo: Hitchcock was wrong.

In turn, I’ve been terribly lax about updating the blog but due to looming work related developments that I’ll be sharing soon, I thought it was time to finally play catch up with Cinebeats’ readers. What follows are links to some of the most interesting (in my estimation) writing I’ve done for TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog during the past six months.

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Spotlight on AIP with Roger Corman
Mistress of Menace: Barbara Steele in The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
Sexual Revolution on Campus – Three in the Attic (1968)
Robert Fuest & His Abominable Creations
Revisiting The Terror (1963) on Blu-ray
TCM Star of the Month: Olivia de Havilland @ 100
Summer Reading Suggestions

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The Whole World is Watching: Medium Cool (1969)
Poster Gallery: Remembering Jack Davis 1924-2016
Fay Wray: The Clairvoyant (1934)
Roddy McDowall: Celebrity Photographer
Angie Dickinson in Cry Terror! (1958)
A Grand & Moving Thing: The King and I (1956)

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Offbeat Otto: Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970)
52 Films By Women: #52FilmsByWomen
Out of the Closet: Tab Hunter Confidential (2015)
My Visit to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Paranormal Police Procedural: Nothing But the Night (1972)
The Amazing, Amazing Mr. X (1948)

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March & April at TCM’s Movie Morlocks

Links to some of the writing I did for TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog in March & April 2016.

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Warning! TCM’s Condemned Film Festival is Here
Excerpt: “It’s probably not surprising that TCM’s Condemned Film Festival has come under scrutiny from some sources and individuals who find the programming objectionable and Sister Rose Pacatte’s involvement unacceptable, particularly during Lent and the run-up to Easter Sunday. To provide more insight on this upcoming series I decided to contact TCM programmer Millie De Chirico, who kindly answered my questions and Director of Program Production Scott McGee, who allowed me to quote from an insightful interview he did with Sister Rose. I hope it might encourage viewers of all types and stripes to tune in, no matter what their religious affiliation may or may not be.”

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Beware of Birds: Crow Hollow (1952)
Excerpt: “Crow Hollow (1952) is a little seen low-budget British B-movie typically categorized as Film Noir in the few books where I’ve seen it mentioned. After catching up with it recently I discovered that it had much more in common with Gothic mysteries, Gaslight (1940) inspired thrillers and classic “Old Dark House” movies. Directed economically by Michael McCarthy, who excelled in television and made a number of suspenseful WW2 dramas such as The Accursed (1957) and Operation Amsterdam (1959), the film lacks the stylish flourishes and sophisticated set pieces that the material cries out for. But it is held together by some sharp performances and a twisty plot based on a book by Dorothy Eden and it’s Eden’s involvement that drove me to watch Crow Hollow.”

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Six Irish Tales of Terror & Imagination
Excerpt: “To celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day I thought I would share a collection of outstanding short Irish horror and dark fantasy films that readers can view online free of charge. The six films I’ve selected showcase the talents of some up-and-coming Irish filmmakers who frequently incorporate Irish folklore and legends into their work. These films also demonstrate how potent a succinct shock to the system can be when it is thoughtfully executed by creative writers and directors. In fact, some of these short films are so accomplished and effective that you might find yourself wishing that they were full-length features.”

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New on Blu-ray: Roger Corman’s The Trip (1967)
Excerpt: “Conceived by Corman and written by cohort Jack Nicholson, who had appeared in five of the director’s previous films (The Cry Baby Killer; 1958, The Little Shop of Horrors; 1960, The Raven; 1963, The Terror; 1963 and The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre; 1967), The Trip was one of the first movies to explicitly deal with drug use without moralizing the act. Intentionally or not, it also acted as a sort of road map for anyone considering taking their own drug induced ‘trip.’ At the time, LSD was infiltrating L.A. cocktail parties and Hollywood thrill seekers such as Cary Grant, John Huston, Rita Moreno, Steve McQueen and James Coburn reportedly experimented with hallucinogenics. Jack Nicholson also enjoyed using LSD and his personal ‘happenings’ embellish the script but he wasn’t the only one involved with the film who had dabbled with drugs. The movie’s stars, including Peter Fonda, Susan Strasberg and Dennis Hopper, had all experimented with psychedelics and Roger Corman took his own ‘trip’ before shooting started so he’d have a deeper understanding of the material.”

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Bob Peak: Poster Artist
Excerpt:”One of the best movie posters I own is a U.S. design for Joseph Losey’s Modesty Blaise (1966) featuring a gorgeous eye-popping illustration by Bob Peak. Recently I decided to do some research into Peak and was surprised and delighted to discover that he had illustrated many of my favorite movie posters made during the 1960s and 1970s. I also learned that the artist’s son, Tom Peak, had been keeping his father’s memory alive by maintaining a website celebrating Bob Peak’s artistic achievements and publishing books that feature his work. Today I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned about Peak with our blog readers and showcase some of his best movie poster designs.”

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Death Walks Twice: A Giallo Double Feature
Excerpt: “Both films were directed by Luciano Ercoli and feature Ercoli’s wife, actress Susan Scott (a.k.a. Nieves Navarro). Like many of the best Italian thrillers, these two budget conscious productions look more luxurious than their American counterparts thanks to the creative direction, exotic European settings (Milan, Paris, London and Catalonia) and their innovative use of period specific aesthetics and attitudes including the music, architecture, fashions, and shifting sexual mores of the times. Comprised of labyrinth-like plots inspired by classic Alfred Hitchcock movies and the best Film Noir, Arrow’s new Death Walks Twice box set should appeal to genre novices as well as seasoned giallo fans.”

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Barrymore Best: The Spiral Staircase (1946)
Excerpt: “Merging various genres and subgenres including gothic horror, classic Old Dark House mysteries and atypical Film Noir, Siodmak was able to concoct a potent cinematic cocktail that has inspired countless imitators and admirers in the U.S. and abroad. Films such as Alfred Hitchock’s The Lodger (1927), Fritz Lang’s M (1931) and Richard Thorpe’s Night Must Fall (1937) had explored the sordid world of serial killers before and incorporated some of the same visual motifs. But The Spiral Staircase with its gloved killer, POV photography, violent depictions of death, obsession with dead animals, unrelenting suspense, atmospheric score, compelling use of location and the unabashed use of dream logic that’s integral to the narrative, became a sort of prototype for giallo.”

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On the Waterfront (1954): A Poster Gallery
Excerpt:”If you’ve never had the opportunity to experience this powerful and provocative movie on the big screen I highly recommend doing so. You might think you understand what made Marlon Brando such a commanding screen presence but until you’ve had the opportunity to see him strut and fret for more than an hour on the big screen, I don’t think you can fully appreciate what made him a Hollywood trailblazer and acting heavyweight. But don’t just come to watch Brando at his best. There are many more reasons to see On the Waterfront including Elia Kazan’s outstanding direction, Boris Kaufman’s moody black and white cinematography, Budd Schulberg’s potent script, Leonard Bernstein’s compelling score and a top-notch cast of supporting players that include Karl Malden, Eva Marie Saint, Rod Steiger and Lee J. Cobb firing on all-cylinders while delivering some of their finest screen work.”

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Star Scents: A Pictorial of Classic Film Star Fragrances
Excerpt:”I decided to try and track down as many movie star scents as I could and what I discovered genuinely surprised me. What follows is a select pictorial of perfumes made famous by the actors who inspired, promoted and occasionally played a part in creating them.”

The Return of Modern Mondays

I’ve been inspired to write brief bits about some of the new films I’ve seen recently. I normally post my thoughts on Letterboxd but thought I’d start compiling them here every month or so depending on how much I write and if I have anything worthwhile to say.

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Breathe (2015)
The worst bullies I’ve encountered in my life have all been women and some of them started out as friends. Cold, calculating, flat out vicious and mean spirited women who get their power (or attempt to reclaim it) by isolating, manipulating and emotionally abusing vulnerable fellow females. Apparently French director and actress Mélanie Laurent has also experienced this phenomenon firsthand and she does an excellent job of illustrating the complexities between so-called “frenemies” – a cute term that too often masks the genuine ugliness found in aggressive or passive aggressive relationships shared between women and girls.

The film is beautifully composed making creative use of the cloistered environment it builds while maintaining a mournful tone throughout as the girl’s burgeoning friendship blossoms, thrives and finally dies on the vine. We follow them through exhausting school terms, lazy summer days, late night parties and awkward encounters with boys who make poor replacements for missing (or abusive) fathers while Laurent’s intimate camera work invites us to care deeply about their predicament. This intimacy, as well as the young lead’s (Joséphine Japy & Lou de Laâge) shared commitment to their roles, makes the shocking finale particularly brutal and heartbreaking. A dark, dark film and an impressive directorial debut that should have gotten a hell of a lot more press coverage last year.

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The Invitation (2015)
The Invitation is one of the best films I’ve seen this year with an impressive central performance from Logan Marshall-Green. Grief and malaise run rampant in the Hollywood Hills turning a dinner party among old friends into a incredibly unnerving and flat out creepy affair.The atmosphere of dread and unease that permeate the proceedings is so thick you can cut it with a serving knife thanks to Karyn Kusama’s taught direction & Theodore Shapiro’s eerie score. A great slow-burn horror feast that didn’t get a wide release so you’ll probably have to catch it streaming online if you want to see it. Best to go into the movie blind with as little info as possible if you want to get the most bang for your buck.

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Pee-wee’s Big Holiday (2016)
I was prepared to hate Pee-wee’s Big Holiday when I spotted Judd Apatow’s name in the opening credits but I was pleasantly surprised by this romantic comedy that has our hero finding true love with the muscular, motorcycle riding Joe Manganiello. The film is surprisingly sweet and gently subversive. It also references some classic movies such as Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Christopher Strong, which will delight observant film buffs. This might be the first gay love story aimed at kids of all ages and it’s adorable!

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The Witch (2016)
Spent Oscar night watching The Witch with a small but enthusiastic crowd at a local theater that politely clapped after the credits rolled. I liked the film a lot, particularly the way it creatively weaved folklore elements into the narrative. With all the hoopla surrounding the film I wasn’t expecting much but I was impressed by the adult nature of The Witch and some of the unusually grim twists and turns the film took. Surprised this got a wide release but I hope that’s a sign of good things to come. So many of the best horror films I’ve seen in recent years (such as last years Aleluia, Cub and Naciye) never make it out of New York or the small festivals they’re shown at. Don’t know how The Witch has managed to get so many breaks and such wide acclaim but it makes my black heart happy.

Jan. & Feb. 2016 at TCM’s Movie Morlocks

Links to some of the writing I did for TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog in Jan. & Feb.

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Jan. 7: William Cameron Menzies: Chandu the Magician (1932)

Excerpt: “In recent weeks, you might have heard about the upcoming Doctor Strange film currently scheduled for release in November of 2016. The news caught my attention because I’ve always liked the comic book character and the cast, which includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor, is impressive. I mention all this because tonight TCM is launching their month-long spotlight on legendary production designer and director, William Cameron Menzies. Some classic film fans might balk at the idea of mentioning the upcoming Doctor Strange movie and William Cameron Menzies in the same paragraph but there are slender threads that connect the two thanks to Menzies’s creative contributions to Chandu the Magician (1932)”

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Jan. 14: 15 Favorite Films of 2015

Excerpt: “Many of the best performances I saw last year were given by actors who were 65-years old or older suggesting younger generations of performers could still learn a lot from actors like Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Ian McKellen, Richard Jenkins and Kurt Russell (who will be turning 65 in March!). I hope it also encourages future filmmakers to create roles that allow these veteran actors to strut their stuff.”

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Jan. 21: ’60s Spy Stories: Gila Golan

Excerpt: “Femme fatales are as important to ‘60s spy films as they are to Film Noir but one of the most frequent criticisms of the genre is its questionable depiction of women. While it’s true that they’re often treated as mere sexual objects in these espionage romps and are regularly introduced into the paper-thin plots to give the male leads something to ogle, the particulars are a bit more complex than that. If you watch enough of these panache productions you begin to notice how subversive many of them are. Sure, the women might dress in sexually suggestive clothing and use their feminine wiles to lure men to their doom, but they are frequently put in positions of power. They’re also regularly portrayed as being smarter or at least as capable as the men they encounter and occasionally save the day. If and when they decide to fall into the hero’s arms they’re often the ones initiating the relationship and control much of the action.”

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Jan. 29: A Minor Picture Compendium of Classic Movie Nurses

Excerpt:”Movie nurses come in all stripes. They can be mean and cruel like Nurse Ratched or gentle as doves like Audrey Hepburn’s character in The Nun’s Story. They can also be sexy, smart, compassionate, laugh-out-loud funny and ruthless blood thirsty monsters. What follows is a picture gallery featuring some of my favorite movie nurses.”

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Feb. 4: Melvin Van Peebles: The Story of A Three-Day Pass (1967)

Excerpt: “Seemingly Influenced by both the French and British New Wave, including the early films of Godard and John Schlesinger, Melvin Van Peebles first full-length feature film subverts conventional narrative methods to delve deeper into its characters conflicted psyches. The Story of A Three-Day Pass bounces, pops and glides like a musical composition and the innovative freewheeling nature of the film mirrors its jazz inspired score. Van Peebles uses a number of experimental film techniques including dolly shots, freeze frames, jump cuts, jarring dissolves, split-screen and lengthy POV shots that impart the film with an intimacy and immediacy that immediately draws you in and demands your attention. We’re encouraged to see the world through Turner’s eyes and we experience the bigotry he faces in a very direct way. It was refreshingly straightforward and progressive stuff in 1967 that retains its power to shock and provoke audiences today.”

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Feb. 11: Jean-Claude Killy in Snow Job (1972)

Excerpt: “Snow Job was filmed on location in the Italian and Swiss Alps by American director George Englund (The Ugly American; 1963, Zachariah; 1971, etc.) and Hungarian cinematographer Gábor Pogány (Two Women; 1960, Bluebeard; 1972, Night Train Murders; 1975, etc.). According to interviews, they used helicopters extensively throughout the shoot, which allowed them to capture all the action on the slopes. The camerawork is occasionally breathtaking as we watch Jean-Claude Killy jump and drift across the alpine landscape like an agile bird while risking serious injury or even death. Killy insisted on doing all his own stunts and it’s remarkable that he got through filming unscathed. If you appreciate seventies heist films with dynamic action sequences or the kind of risky professional skiing typically reserved for Warren Miller documentaries, you should find Snow Job a particularly rewarding and enjoyable watch.”

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Feb. 18: Jack Palance: Horror Star

Excerpt: “I first saw the tall, broad featured and chiseled actor in Man in the Attic (1953) where he played Jack the Ripper in this fourth film adaptation of Marie Belloc Lowndes’s 1913 novel, The Lodger. I was only a kid at the time but Palance’s quietly seething performance impressed me due to the sympathy he was able to generate for his unlikable character. Jack the Ripper is typically portrayed as a cold-blooded maniac or sexually motivated monster but Palance, despite his menacing presence, was able to imbue his Ripper with a complex psychology that was thought provoking and surprisingly contemporary. As a seemingly harmless killer with an unmanageable Oedipus complex, Palance’s Ripper prefigures the often-cited character of Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s Psycho.”

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Feb. 25: Douglas Slocombe: A Tribute

Excerpt: “What follows is a gallery of some of my favorite screen shots from Douglas Slocombe’s distinguished oeuvre. They demonstrate that the accomplished cinematographer was much more than an artless journeyman or technician who simply took orders from a director. The images I’ve gathered are linked together by a unique creative vision that spans the length of his 50-year career in film.”

Regular visitors to Cinebeats over the years might recall my affection for many of the films Slocombe worked on, which I’ve written about here including The Third Secret, Boom! and The Servant. An image from The Servant even graces my “testimonials” page.

RIP Mr. Slocombe.

Remembering David Bowie

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David Bowie 1947 – 2016

Words are failing me today but a few short days ago, on David Bowie’s 69th birthday, I wrote a brief remembrance of my favorite Bowie concert experience and posted it on Tumblr and Facebook. I had no idea that Bowie was on his deathbed at the time but it manages to expresses a lot of what I’m feeling today so I thought I’d share it here again along with a collection of links to various other Bowie related pieces I’ve written in the past. As I’ve said here before, “there probably isn’t another living music artist who I admire more.”

From Jan. 8th 2016: I’ve seen David Bowie perform live four times, the first time was in 1983 during his Serious Moonlight tour, but the best show was at The Warfield in San Francisco in 1997 for the Earthling tour. I had first row balcony seats and The Warfield is a relatively small venue, which means the balcony is pretty damn close to the stage and the view and sound are both incredible (or at least it was in 1997). When the lights dimmed, Bowie surprised everyone by quietly walking on stage alone and barefoot while carrying an acoustic guitar. He began softly playing a jaw-dropping rendition of “Quicksand” from Honky Dory (one of my favorite Bowie albums and one that I’d want with me on a desert island) and I was suddenly transported back to 1971. I was not watching Bowie the superstar, Ziggy or the Thin White Duke. I was watching a very earthbound man who seemed to transform into a vulnerable 24-year-old boy again right before my eyes with long shaggy hair and wide eyes full of wonder. It was a magical moment and I started to weep. My companion turned to me full of concern and worry but I raised my finger to my lips to hush him and whispered, “This is one of the most beautiful things I’ll ever see.” And it was.

Previous Bowie related pieces I’ve written in the past:
– Oct. 2008: David Bowie is The Image (1967) *
– Feb. 2011: Life on Mars
– Aug. 2011: Velvet Goldmine: Celluloid Pictures of Living
– April 2015: Absolute Beginners ’86

* Note: My piece on The Image was one of the first, somewhat in-depth, pieces written about the film and published online. In turn, I was quoted at the Dangerous Minds site and in the book, Enchanting David Bowie: Space/Time/Body/Memory edited by Toija Cinque and published by Bloomsbury in London.

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Me in my bedroom sometime during the 1980s surrounded by Bowie,
Mick Jagger and a whole lot of classic film stars.

Happy New Year! + Nov. & Dec. at TCM’s Movie Morlocks

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Happy New Year. So much to say and so little time to say it. Instead, I’ll save my rambling end of the year diatribe for another day and leave you with some links to the film writing I’ve done at TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog during the past few months. Cheers!

November:
Another Hole in the Head 2015: 11 Days of Indie Horror, Sci-Fi & Fantasy in San Francisco!
Excerpt: “In the words of festival programmer Michael Guillen, Another Hole in the Head is “characterized by a scrappy, DIY aesthetic that eschews big studio content and recent trends towards elevated genre. Holehead’s programming remains curatorially committed to the genre’s graphic roots in shockploitation, visceral thrills and gleeful mayhem.” As a genre film fan with a particular interest in horror I was intrigued by Guillen’s joyful and graphic description so I decided to ask him a few questions about the festival and his programming selections this year.”
Federico Fellini: The Cartoonist
Excerpt: “Fellini’s propensity toward the absurd emerged early in life. As a child, he began drawing caricatures of film stars he saw in movies and as a young adult he found work as a cartoonist and gag writer for a number of Italian newspapers, humor publications and comic books. He eventually began writing comedy scripts for radio but WW2 derailed his writing career and following the Allied liberation of Rome in 1944, Fellini opened the Funny Face Shop where he worked as a caricature artist and expressed an interest in animation. It was here that Fellini met the renowned filmmaker Roberto Rossellini who was so impressed with his sense of humor that he was asked to co-write the film script for Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945) and the rest, as they say, is history. Fellini soon began working as an apprentice for Rossellini and ultimately started directing his own films but he never stopped drawing cartoons and caricatures.”
Life Advice from Douglas Fairbanks
Excerpt: “The ideas expressed in the books are often ridiculously simplistic and there is a lot of focus on physical fitness, which preoccupied much of Fairbanks’s time. The actor’s fixation with exercise and maintaining his health is typical of someone whose career relies on him being physically fit but it’s also a rather modern approach to living that predates our current preoccupation with good health and Hollywood’s obsession with body image. In retrospect, Fairbanks’s health advice seems somewhat ironic considering we now know he died at the young age of 52 following a heart attack. It’s an unfortunate reminder that despite our best efforts death is unavoidable and waits for no one.”
Remembering Bruce Lee on his 75th Birthday
Excerpt: “My own affection for Bruce Lee began when I was just a kid. I became aware of the actor and director when he died in 1973, which was the same year I lost my own father. For a number of reasons, including their similar age and the fact that Lee’s passing garnered massive publicity at the time, their deaths were inevitably linked in my head and heart. There were plenty of other celebrity deaths in 1973, including Lon Chaney Jr. and Edward G. Robinson, but neither generated the kind of worldwide public mourning and media attention that followed in the wake of Bruce Lee’s passing. Afterward the celebrated martial artist was catapulted into sainthood while my father remained a saint in my own mind. However, when I think of one man I frequently think of the other. Both left this world suddenly, without warning, and much too soon.”

December:
Movie Book Round-Up: The Holiday Edition
Excerpt: “Since I began writing for the Movie Morlocks five years ago I typically compile a blog post with summer reading suggestions or a list of favorite film related books released at the end of the year. This year I’ve had access to so many great books that I decided to compile two book lists . . . What follows is my ‘Holiday Edition’ where I share some of the best books (pictured above) that I’ve encountered since July. I hope both lists will encourage you to do some reading during the holidays or provide you with some shopping suggestions while you’re purchasing gifts for fellow film buffs.”
Nippon Noir: Snow Trail (1947)
Excerpt: “Senkichi Taniguchi’s Show Trail aka Ginrei no hate (1947) begins with a bang. A montage of shadowy figures and fragmented images bombards viewers during the film’s opening credits while guns fire, alarms ring, windows break, trains whistle and sirens scream. We soon discover that three desperate men (Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura and Yoshio Kosugi) have just robbed a bank and in a bold attempt to dodge authorities they make a dangerous trip to Northern Japan where they hope to lose their pursuers in the snow covered Alps . . . This highly suspenseful, genuinely moving and remarkably inventive film marks the screen introduction of many notable talents. Chief among them is 27-year-old Toshiro Mifune who makes his screen debut here and would eventually become one of Japan’s most acclaimed and beloved actors.”
Pioneering Women: Disney Artists Mary Blair & Thelma Witmer
Excerpt: “While pursuing the credits for So Dear to My Heart and the animated short Corn Chips I noticed that they included work done by two female animation artists I admire, Mary Blair and Thelma Witmer. Women are not typically associated with animation and they tend to be excluded from histories about the subject but thanks to a number of recent books and exhibits, Mary Blair’s career has gone through a reevaluation and she’s become widely recognized as one of Walt Disney Studio’s most original and influential talents. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of background artist Thelma Witmer who worked with Disney for more than 20 years but remains largely unknown.”
The Thin Man Marathon: Conjugal Concord
Excerpt: “There are many reasons to love the Thin Man films. They’re smart, funny, sophisticated and flat out entertaining mysteries but I’m particularly fond of the way they make marriage look so damn fun. Nick and Nora are best pals as well as romantic mates and their breezy back-and-forth banter suggests an intimacy that is sadly missing from many depictions of marriage on screen. Best of all, they share a similar sense of humor and as the old maxim goes, ‘a couple that laughs together, stays together.'”

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I’ve also been doing some promotional writing for TCM’s new Wine Club including a brief piece about wine in the movies that you can find here:
A Brief History of Wine in the Movies

Sept. & Oct. at The Movie Morlocks

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It’s that time again. Time to collect & share links to the writing I’ve published on TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog in the past few months. In September I spent a lot of time obsessing over TCM Star of the Month Susan Hayward. I reference her in at least three of the pieces I wrote that month and I refer to her again in my first October post about the neglected Gothic thriller, THE LOST MOMENT (1947). As usual, I spent the rest of “Shocktober” focusing on darker fare including horror films and morbid mysteries. Follow the links to read more.

September:
Susan Hayward in Her Own Words
“I didn’t know much about TCM’s current Star of the Month so I decided to delve into her past recently and was somewhat surprised by the way Susan Hayward had been portrayed (and ignored) by the media since her death in 1975. Nicknamed the “Divine Bitch” following the release of a similarly titled biography, the four-time Academy Award nominated actress didn’t make a lot of friends in Hollywood and is rarely described in flattering terms by studio executives and costars so the general picture we have of her seems somewhat skewed. I’m a firm believer that there are usually two-sides to every story so I decided to explore newspaper and movie magazine archives in an effort to learn more about the redheaded screen siren in her own words without the opinions of her biographers and colleagues getting in the way. In the process I discovered a complex woman whose turbulent real life was often more sensational than the fictional lives of the characters she portrayed.”

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Alberto Vargas in Hollywood
“If you love vintage pin-up art as much as I do you’ll probably recognize Alberto Vargas’s name. Between 1920 and 1975 the Peruvian artist created some of the most celebrated and recognizable pin-up art in America while working for the Ziegfeld Follies as well as Esquire magazine and Playboy . . . What classic movie fans might not know is that Alberto Vargas also had a brief but lucrative career in Hollywood painting celebrity portraits, working for film industry magazines and creating movie posters. I enjoy playing detective so I decided to dig through various archives and books in search of Vargas’s film related work and what I found surprised me. The Latin artist made a much bigger impact on Hollywood than I’d previously been led to believe.”

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Every Dog Must Have His Day
“The film is weighted with biting social commentary as well as religious and political allegory but at its heart, WHITE GOD is a rather simple and profoundly sad story about a helpless dog that learns he must rely on himself and rebel against authority if he wants to survive in a dog-eat-dog world. It also doubles as a sensitive coming-of-age story about the young dog owner who learns a similar lesson although the perils and circumstances she faces are much more privileged and forgiving . . . While watching WHITE GOD I was reminded of a few other films I admire that center around dogs like Hagen who were forced to take similar journeys while suffering the consequences of man’s inhumanity to man and animal alike”

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The Power of the Pantsuit
“The entire scene, between the time Hayward enters the bathroom and leaves it, only lasts about 2 minutes but she and her paisley pantsuit completely own it. It’s a spectacular exit and although plenty of people like to point out the campy elements in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, Hayward’s sincerity is undeniable in that moment. She was living in Helen Lawson’s skin and it’s evident that she deeply related to the character’s desperation and disappointments as well as her success. And that dazzling suit she wears represents her achievements.”

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October:
Nameless Fear: The Lost Moment (1947)
“The film is wrapped in a shimmery fog and lit mostly by candles that dance off dusty walls. And the house at the center of all the drama, with its spectacular canal-side setting, long twisting hallways, dark balconies, spiraling stairs and decomposing garden, evokes plenty of ghosts. It may not be a typical horror film but this Gothic romance about conflicted characters, doomed romance and ever-shifting identities will haunt you . . . It’s a terrible shame that The Lost Moment was neglected for so long. If critics had been kinder and audiences more receptive, there’s a high probability that director Martin Gabel would have continued making movies and he might have been remembered alongside some of the more interesting filmmakers who were working at Universal in the late forties and fifties. But when he died at age 73 in 1986 after suffering a massive heart attack the New York Times didn’t bother to mention his singular directing credit in their obituary.”

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Fatal Charm: Cast a Dark Shadow (1955)
“The picture opens with a striking scene shot inside a funhouse ride at a carnival. Dirk Bogarde’s character is sharing his seat with his wife and future murder victim (Mona Washbourne) when the camera focuses in on his face hidden by shadows while his pupils appear to light-up. It’s a startling effect that makes Bogarde look like a hungry demon with hellfire in his eyes. In this clever title sequence, director Lewis Gilbert and cinematographer Jack Asher signal to film audiences that their male protagonist is a monster before he ever opens his mouth.”

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10 Trailblazing Horror Films Directed by Women
“All month long TCM has been airing films made by women on Tuesday and Thursday night as part of their groundbreaking Trailblazing Women series hosted by Illeana Douglas. According to Charles Tabesh, senior vice president of programming for TCM, the goal of Trailblazing Women is to “Highlight the impact of female filmmakers throughout history and encourage future female filmmakers.” The response has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s heartening to see TCM’s resources used to educate, inform and inspire viewers . . . I’ve been enjoying a lot of the Trailblazing Women programming myself but since we’re in the middle of Schocktober, I thought I’d set aside some time to highlight some of my favorite horror films and thrillers directed by women who have left their macabre mark on a genre that many mistakenly assume is not very female friendly.”

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Double Your Pleasure with a Dracula Double Feature
“Tod Browning’s DRACULA is rightly hailed as a horror classic while the Spanish version directed by George Melford was assumed lost and went largely unseen by modern audiences following its initial release until it was restored and distributed on home video in 1992. Both films were shot at the same time using the same sets but with different casts, which was a typical practice by studios in the early 1930s. Their goal was to appeal to international audiences eager to see new-fangled sound films in their own language. The idea quickly went out of favor due to the high cost of producing multiple movies but the Spanish language version of DRACULA is one of best examples we have of this popular practice.”

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Wine & Wolves: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
“This unique Gothic horror from Hammer is part love story, part social allegory and part monster movie. John Elder aka Anthony Hinds’s script was loosely based on a book by Guy Endor (The Werewolf of Paris) and it takes a grim but very modern view of life by stressing that the werewolf is a product of his environment and circumstance instead of just a supernatural beast. The impressive sets, which were borrowed from previous Hammer productions, still look fresh and are accentuated by Terrence Fisher’s direction. This is somewhat of a staid film for Fisher and lacks the abundant style that the director brought to The Brides of Dracula (1961) made the same year. Instead, the film becomes a creative showcase for Oliver Reed’s performance and he’s spectacular as well as deeply moving as the cursed werewolf. The film also provides a nice backdrop for some of the studio’s best make-up effects designed by Roy Ashton. Reed’s transformation from a handsome young man (he was just 21-years-old at the time) into a ferocious wolf is particularly startling but it’s matched by the makeup used to age and disfigure the beggar and the Marquis. The two men are not typical monsters but as their souls seemingly wither and die; their decaying faces illustrate the ravages of time and the darkness that has suffocated their hearts.”