Sunday, 14 May 2017

THE PYJAMA GIRL CASE (1977) review

The severely burned and mutilated corpse of a young woman clad in yellow pyjamas is discovered in an abandoned car wreck on a Sydney beach. Her face has been disfigured beyond recognition, and the only clues remaining which could possibly identify her are the pyjamas and a few grains of rice found nearby. Retired but restless Inspector Timpson (Ray Milland) is intrigued by the case, and sensing that the enquiry undertaken by his former colleagues is going nowhere – as they are more concerned with beating confessions out of potential suspects and wrapping things up as quickly as possible - he joins the investigation. Timpson's old-fashioned, methodical detective work turns out to be much more fruitful than that of the younger officers, and his efforts lead to piecing together the identity of the woman, Glenda Blythe, and unfolding the mystery of her tragic death.

Glenda (Dalila Di Lazzaro), a beautiful but troubled Dutch immigrant, has a rather complicated love life – she is having simultaneous affairs with fellow recent arrival Antonio (Michele Placido), a penniless but hardworking Italian; Antonio's best friend, slimeball Roy (Howard Ross); and the cashed-up Professor Douglas (Mel Ferrer). Glenda eventually marries Antonio, hoping that their union will lead to the happiness she desperately seeks. However she quickly becomes disillusioned as she sees herself and Antonio tied to their menial waiting jobs and living in a cramped Kings Cross apartment forever and resumes her liaisons with Roy and the professor. Glenda's impulsive desires for love, attention and the trappings of a comfortable lifestyle lead to her life spiralling out of control, humiliating sexual degradation…and to her brutal death. But who committed the horrific crime? Inspector Timpson knows the answer – but will he survive to see Glenda's killer brought to justice?

A stylish, unique murder mystery from former art director Flavio Mogherini, The Pyjama Girl Case is loosely based on a true crime that took place in Australia in the 1930's. Though often catergorised as a giallo, the film is one of the more unorthodox entries of the subgenre as it steers clear of expected key elements – there is no rampaging black-gloved killer, no trail of bloody, over-the-top murders and no baroque Italian architecture (the story is set in contemporary 1970's Sydney). Despite its lurid title, those expecting a sensationalistic, gory late entry in the giallo cycle might be let down by The Pyjama Girl Case, but the film is actually a highly ingenious 'whodunit', a fascinating character study, a police procedural, and a visually striking experience.

The plot is split into two halves; the first is the investigation into Glenda Blythe's murder, and the second is the story of the doomed woman’s life up until it ended (which is revealed in flashbacks). The pleasant, sun-drenched cinematography of Sydney's landmarks, beaches and parks contrasts sharply with the film's downbeat and occasionally voyeuristic and sleazy tone (including a memorable scene of the baffled authorities putting Glenda's naked corpse on public display in a glass case, attracting hordes of sweaty, morbid curiosity seekers). A subtext of the movie is isolation – in Glenda and Antonio's case having to adapt to a new, unfamiliar country (wonderfully realised in shots of the couple wandering around the strangely underpopulated city streets and Opera House, creating an alien, lonely atmosphere and dwarfing the characters by their surroundings).

The Pyjama Girl Case features a solid cast, the standout being Oscar winner Ray Milland as the cantankerous, world-weary Inspector Timpson. Milland steals the show by injecting humour into his character - his expressions and mannerisms when having to deal with a procession of oddball and sexual deviant characters are priceless. Dalilia Di Lazzaro is excellent as the doomed 'Pyjama Girl' Glenda; a former model usually cast as decorative eye-candy, clearly relishes the chance at actually being required to 'act' and though Glenda is often impulsive and irresponsible, Di Lazzaro manages to bring depth and sympathy to the role. Also worth mentioning are Michele Placido as the gullible, hopelessly lovestruck Antonio  and Howard Ross in typical oily form as meathead Roy, who gives the naive Antonio helpful pointers on women such as : "If you want their respect you have to slap them around a bit, treat them like dogs and let them know who their master is".
The Pyjama Girl Case is an innovative and successful rework of the giallo genre with an uncharacteristic plot structure, intriguing twists, and above-average performances, as well as an air of morbidity and quiet desperation that tends to creep up on the viewer rather than immediately pack a punch.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

'Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin' to be published August 2017

I'm very proud to have participated as a contributing writer to the upcoming book Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorial Cinema of Jean Rollin, to be published by Spectacular Optical in August 2017. A collection of essays on the cinema of Rollin written entirely by female film critics and historians, this will no doubt be one of the most anticipated genre titles of the year.

From Spectacular Optical:

"...this collection of essays covers the wide range of Rollin’s career from 1968’s LE VIOL DU VAMPIRE through his 2010 swansong, LE MASQUE DE LA MÉDUSE, touching upon his horror, fantasy, crime and sex films—including many lesser seen titles. The book closely examines Rollin’s core themes: his focus on overwhelmingly female protagonists, his use of horror genre and exploitation tropes, his reinterpretations of the fairy tale and fantastique, the influence of crime serials, Gothic literature and the occult, as well as much more. Curated and edited by Samm Deighan (DIABOLIQUE), contributors to LOST GIRLS include some of the most important critical voices to emerge over the last decade of genre journalism: Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (SENSES OF CINEMA), Kat Ellinger (DIABOLIQUE), Virginie Selavy (ELECTRIC SHEEP), Alison Nastasi (SATANIC PANIC: POP-CULTURAL PARANOIA IN THE 1980s), Marcelline Block (ART DECADES), Rebecca Booth (DIABOLIQUE), Michelle Alexander (CINEMADROME), Lisa Cunningham (THE LAUGHING DEAD: THE HORROR-COMEDY FILM FROM BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN TO ZOMBIELAND), Heather Drain (DANGEROUS MINDS), Erin Miskell (THAT’S NOT CURRENT), Gianna D’Emilio (DIABOLIQUE)—and more to be confirmed.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Interview with writer and film historian Robert Monell

Many rabid Eurocult film fans would have seen the name Robert Monell at least once when reading up on the subject, as he is a veteran film writer of four decades, and undoubtedly one of the most talented and prolific journalists specialising in the European horror, cult and arthouse genres. Throughout his career, his articles and essays been published internationally in books, newspapers, magazines and online. A few books Robert has contributed to are Francesco Cesari’s Il Caso de Jesus Franco, Tim Lucas’ All the Colors of the Dark and Jay Slater’s Eaten Alive: Italian Cannibal and Zombie Movies. Robert’s enthusiasm for cinema has led him to become involved with all aspects of filmmaking – he’s also directed and written short films and plays since 1971. Also respected as one of the world’s leading authorities on legendary Spanish director Jess Franco – his knowledge of the man and his movies has probably never been rivalled. He is the creator and webmaster of I’m in a Jess Franco State of Mind, which has been the number one English-language web resource on the cinema of Jess Franco for over ten years. Robert was kind enough to take a break from his busy writing schedule to have a chat...

What are your all-time favourite films (of any genre) and whom do you believe are the greatest directors of all time?

Hard questions. I am interested in all kinds of films from experimental, to genre, to classic Hollywood, to Eurohorror, to Japanese science fiction, to German expressionist classics like Nosferatu to B cult films of the Corman factory and even the Warhol factory era. The stuff that interests me the least is contemporary mainstream fare. Every year to two there might be one interested film. Haven't seen that many in the 21st Century so far, but I found Jim Jarmusch's Limits of Control, Lynch's Inland Empire and Refn's Only God Forgives very interesting. But they are hardly mainstream. I have long been fascinated by the surrealist school of filmmaking, especially Luis Bunuel's films of the late 1920s. Un Chien Andalou which he made with Dali, was a huge influence on my very first film, made in 1971. His grim Los Olvidados, shot in the slums of Mexico City is one of the greatest film's I've ever seen. Also Jean Cocteau's Blood of a Port and Orpheus, an idol of Andy Milligan also, who wrote a play about him. They were early Independent surrealists, funded by wealthy people they lobbied for funds. I like Pasolini a lot, especially Teorema, which was the first Art film I ever saw, and his period films like The Arabian Nights and Salo. I like people like Jack Smith (Flaming Creatures) who founded gay cinema and performance art, but he didn't give a shit about promoting himself, an attitude I appreciate. I also like extreme genre stylists, like Sam Peckinpah's explosive westerns and crime dramas and the Japanese crime dramas and blood spattered historical action films of Teruo Ishii. He was a real outlaw who also worked within strict studio guidelines. I don't differentiate between Art films, experimental, Hollywood, Japanese or Euro genre films, they're all cinema to me. Some people who like Art films from Europe look down on genre films like 2000 Maniacs or a Doris Wishman film. I don't. Doris Wishman's outtake masterpiece A Night to Dismember, is one of my favorite films because she breaks every rule of polite filmmaking to get it done her way. It's kind of a Z noir gore film featuring a hardcore actress who has no sex scenes. And it's only a bit over 60 minutes. I love short films. When I interviewed Ray Dennis Steckler, another series Z idol, he told me that no film should go over 50 minutes. I tend to agree with that. Recently I've gotten into the situational school of experimental films from people like Guy Debord, who had no commercial ambitions whatsoever. I also like Italian horror, specifically The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock, which might be my all time favorite from that school.

You are well-known to be one of the world’s leading authorities on the works of the late, legendary Spanish director Jess Franco. What are your own personal favourite films of his, and which titles would you recommend to a ‘first time’ JF viewer as an introduction?

I used to hate Jess Franco based on some US television broadcasts of some of his films. The two I remember most vividly were Count Dracula and The Castle of Fu Manchu, they both just seemed incredibly shoddy and lazy in terms of direction. I swore I'd never watch one of his films again, I was a big fan of Hammer horror at the time, but that all changed. The Franco films I really like are not the ones he made with Harry Alan Towers and Christopher Lee but his very low budget crime films and horror y sexo like Eugenie de Sade with Soledad Miranda and Lorna the Exorcist with Pamela Stanford and some of his 1980s films which are not well known. Also his earlier Necronomicon (titled Succubus here in the US) and Female Vampire, a very poetic film with almost no dialogue. His best films are purely visual and filled with classic jazz music and his own very bizarre compositions. I would recommend The Diabolical Dr. Z to anyone wanting to get into the world of Jess Franco. A good place to start, a fun, stylist and unique medical horror film.

How and when did you discover and really get into horror/trash/cult cinema?

At the Drive-in movies I used to go to in the mid 1960s into the mid 1970s. Watching things like Blood Bath, The Conqueror Worm, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, Destroy all Monsters, then the famous double bill of Twitch of the Death Nerve and Slaughter Hotel, Mario Bava's Kill, Baby Kill! also impressed me at another Drive-in visit. I saw Andy Milligans' Torture Dungeon and Bloodthirsty Butchers as a double bill and wondered how anyone could make such poorly acted and photographed films. Films like Private Parts, The Devil’s Wedding Night and Death Race 2000 were all mid 1970s cult films I remember seeing and enjoying at those showings.

When did you first discover a like-minded ‘community’ of fans/collectors of these films whom you could correspond and collaborate with?

In the late 1980s when I started going to video stores after getting a VCR and renting all kinds of things. I heard about "zines" and started to look for them and read them. Then I stated publishing my own reviews in zines like Blood Times, European Trash Cinema, Spaghetti Cinema, Euro Bis, Westerns All Italiana, etc. I've also had articles published in the Italian publication Nocturno and in books such as Eaten Alive, published in the UK and Il Caso de Jess Franco, published in Italy, for which I wrote the foreward. I also contributed material to the Tim Lucas Mario Bava biography, All the Colors of the Dark. My longest publication was when I wrote an entire issue of European Trash Cinema, Special #2, on the film career of Italian genre specialist Riccardo Freda. Before all this, in the 1970s and 80s, I wrote a lot of short film scripts, some of which I made into films. I also wrote a number of plays in the 1980s, some of which got staged readings. I recently resumed writing film scripts.

What are your fondest memories of your time as a contributing writer for Craig Ledbetter’s European Trash Cinema, one of the most respected fanzines of the 1990s?

Well, I had my own column, which I named Trashman on the Prowl, in which I could cover whatever I wanted. I had a lot fun writing about obscure genre stuff which wasn't available on video or DVD back then, and some of which still isn't. Also doing the special Freda edition was an achievement since it took a lot of time and research. I also am proud of an interview I did with the late Spaghetti Western actor Charles Southwood (Roy Colt and Winchester Jack) who told me a lot of interesting stories about working with Mario Bava and many other European directors.

Who are your current favourite film writers?

I try not to read other contemporary writers. There aren't many film publications I read anymore. I used to like Film Comment back in the 1970s a lot and some foreign magazines like Giallo Pages and Continental Film Review. My all time favorite critical writer was Susan Sontag, who wrote about everything from Japanese science fiction to Bresson to the New York Underground. Her piece on Jack Smith and the New York Underground of the 1960s is essential. I don't relate to the present day mode of conventional film criticism. It all reads the same to me. They all use the same words, phrases and have the same look-at-me attitudes. I do admire writers Alain Petit and Francesco Cesari as writers on Jess Franco and Roberto Curti on Italian Cinema. And Nzoog Wahrlfhehen whose knowledge of Spanish cinema is outstanding. 

What general advice would you offer to writers of cinema discussion and criticism wishing to establish themselves?

I would advise them not to get into film criticism if they think they are going to make a living at it and to write about what they are passionate about in a unique way and not read other contemporary film critics.

You’ve been involved with various forms of media for over four decades to date – writing for books, newspapers, magazines and online, filmmaking, directing plays. What are some of your thoughts on the vast technological changes you’ve observed and adapted to in your involvement in these fields during this time?

I started writing film articles for a local paper in 1971. I was reviewing mainstream US movies then. But mainstream cinema was much more interesting back then. I got paid pretty well. A few hundred dollars a week of articles, reviews and interviews. Then I got into magazine publications in the late 1980s, but that's changed a lot. Many have folded. The Internet has changed everything. I still make films, but with a cellphone! I still write scripts and have collaborated with the Russian filmmaker Alex Bakshaev on some projects. He's a real visionary. One of the world's best contemporary directors. A true original. It's more difficult to make films now. You have to make video, unless you're Quentin Tarantino. And there's a world of competition out there with the Internet. Hard to get attention. Even big budget films get lost in the shuffle today.

I know you’ve met a fair few individuals in the public eye – actors, directors, musicians. What are some of your most memorable ‘celebrity’ encounters, good or bad?

Meeting and having a few drinks with Nicholas Ray in 1972 was memorable. He was working on his experimental film in nearby Binghamtom N.Y. I met him at the Everson Museum and then had several meetings with him. He didn't seem to be in good health but he was very engaging and direct. He hated mainstream films as much as I did and I remember him praising Bunuel and some European directors. I also met Sam Fuller in 1981 and watched his German made crime film Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street with him sitting nearby. He was a great raconteur and he very encouraging to me when I told him I was a writer and independent filmmaker. He even gave me the address of his agent. He was very generous and had an anti-Hollywood attitude which I respected. He was a unique genre stylist. I also got a chance to have a number of long distance phone conversations with Jean Rollin when I conducted an interview with him in 1990. It was a bad time for him, he was ill and trying to find film work but he was very generous with his time and sent me a large package of behind the scene photography from his film career. He was a very gentle, humble and film obsessed person. A real cult movie fan.

What works or projects are you most proud of, and what are some of your current and future projects you’d like to mention?

Probably the European Trash Cinema issue on Riccardo Freda which I wrote and the web series which I wrote and was filmed in Voronez by Alex. It's actually on Blu-ray in Spain. Also some of the plays I wrote had some very good readings which provoked some memorable audience feedback. My main projects now are to complete a feature style film script and work on some fiction rather than journalism. I also got my name on the credits of a Jess Franco film, his final one. I never expected that and thank the producer, Ferran Herranz.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Tina Russell's 1973 autobiograpy 'Porno Star'

Thanks to Keith Crocker, I recently had the chance to read the ultra rare Tina Russell 1973 autobiography 'Porno Star'. At the time Tina and her then-husband Jason Russell were amongst the most prolific and well-known stars of the dawn of the adult film industry. Filled with her on and off screen exploits, Tina also had much to say about her co-stars and directors (thinly disguising them under easy to guess pseudonyms), including Harry Reams, Marc Stevens, Jamie Gillis, Gerard Damiano and Andrea True. Unfortunately only a couple of years later her life would dramatically unravel. Jason Russell left his wife, in a particularly cruel way, for the underage Jean Jennings. A shattered Tina, whose adoration of Jason is clearly expressed in the book, descended into a spiral of chronic alcoholism and depression, resulting in her tragic premature death at 32. Though largely forgotten today, Tina Russell is to me personally one of the most memorable adult stars because she had an inner and outer beauty, intelligence and charisma which stood out in a predominately generic industry. For a wealth of info on Ms Russell, the invaluable Rialto Report podcast on her life and death is a MUST.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

A chat with legendary Melbourne writer John Harrison

Next up in my ongoing series of interviews is a chat with good friend and fellow Melbourne writer, John Harrison. Also a film historian and collector, John has written for countless publications (including Weng’s Chop, Monster! International, Filmink, Is it Uncut? and the much missed Fatal Visions and European Trash Cinema). He’s also completed liner notes and essays for countless DVD and Blu-Ray releases, penned the best-selling Headpress book Hip Pocket Sleaze: The Lurid World of Vintage Adult Paperbacks, and contributed to the true crime volumes Death CultsBad Cop Bad Cop and Guns, Death, Terror. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of this local legend’s body of work...he also regularly introduces movies for Melbourne film society Cinemaniacs, self-published a number of fanzines including one of Australia’s very best, Reel Wild Cinema!, is an optioned screenwriter, and appeared in an episode of the ABC series Collectors.
One of the most talented writers in the cult cinema and pop culture fields, John’s work is never anything but top class. Anything with Harrison’s name on it is definitely worth seeking out as his writing is immensely entertaining, informative and enjoyable to read. He is currently co-writing two books on actress/singer, former Hollywood stunt woman, and the lovely Mrs. John Harrison Marneen Fields, and is also preparing to write the definitive biography of the extraordinary former evangelist preacher and actor Marjoe Gortner.

I first met John in 1998 when I stumbled across a copy of Reel Wild Cinema! when lending a box of zines from a friend. Immediately impressed by the mag’s writing and content, I wrote John a letter complementing his work and also included a copy of my own – embarrassing in comparison – horror/music/alternative culture zine Archetype Malice. John was kind enough to reply and sent me some back issue of RWC. In subsequent years I noticed his presence on the World Wide Web with his ‘The Graveyard Tramp’ Ebay store (formerly a mail-order business) and excellent blog Sin Street Sleaze, but it was only until early 2013 when I reconnected with him on Facebook that we became friends. This also inspired me to start writing again (I’d been on a hiatus from 2007-13), something which I’ll always be extremely grateful for. Many thanks to John for taking a break from his busy schedule to answer my questions!!!

What is your earliest memory of seeing a movie theatrically?
Hmmm, I guess my earliest moviegoing memory was my grade school English teacher taking me and a couple of other classmates to the long-gone Astrojet Cinema at Tullamarine Airport to see Conquest of the Planet of the Apes in 1974. He was a bit of a science-fiction nut I guess, and recognised that in me and the other kids as well. It wasn’t a school sanctioned outing or anything. My parents were fine with it. Can you imagine the uproar these days if a school teacher turned up at a 10-year-old student’s house to take them to the movies on his own?!?

It was a great experience. I still remember the excitement and anticipation, hearing the theme music and seeing the opening shots of the apes actually being projected onto the cinema screen curtain, as they were still parting as the movie started.

How and when did you discover and really get into horror/trash/cult cinema? When did you first discover a like-minded ‘community’ of fans/collectors of these films whom you could correspond and collaborate with?

It kind of relates back to the previous question and answer. I was a fan of comic books and TV shows like Batman, Superman, The Munsters, etc. for as long as I can remember, but a defining moment was when I was ten and turned-up for school one morning at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Primary School and our class was ushered into one of the houses which the school owned next to the property, where we were told we were being treated to a movie, thanks to a classmate named Bradley French, whose father was some programming big-wig at Channel Seven at the time. I sat there mesmerised as a 16mm print of Beneath the Planet of the Apes was screened onto the white wall, and my life as a genre film buff has never really been the same since! Not long after that I discovered Marvel’s Planet of the Apes comic book magazine and the Scanlons bubble gum cards at the local newsagents, which helped trigger off the collector in me.

Which genre fanzines/magazines you found of special interest in the 1980s/1990s?

I read Fangoria for a while in the 80s, those early issues were great, but I started getting a bit tired of seeing Freddy or Jason on the cover of just about every second issue. My interest in genre magazines and fanzines really waned in the mid-80s, I was more reading books like Michael Weldon’s Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film and RE/Search’s Incredibly Strange Films volume.

Thankfully, things started picking up again late in the decade, with the appearance of Psychotronic Film and, more locally, Michael Helm’s seminal Fatal Visions, both of which were highly influential on me, both as a fan and a burgeoning young genre writer. Then the 90s saw a real explosion in publications that had passionate, informative writing and a presentation to them that was somewhere between fan and pro-zine. Craig Ledbetter’s European Trash Cinema, Michael Copner’s Cult Movies, Tim Paxton’s Monster! International, Tim Lucas’ Video Watchdog, etc. There were also the UK magazines like Flesh & Blood and Delirium. The internet was only in its extreme infancy at this point, so you still had to depend on the printed word to find the bulk of your information.

It was a real treat going into Minotaur and Alternate Worlds and seeing their magazine racks filled with these magazines and more, while at the same time continuing to obtain the more traditional fanzines by mail, especially local zines like David Nolte’s Crimson Celluloid, Kami’s Sprak!, Dann Lennard’s Betty Paginated and Andrew Leavold’s Stumpy.
You have an incredible collection of movie and pop culture memorabilia (posters, lobby cards, books, figurines/models, clippings, and much more) What are some of your all-time best bargains or freebies you had with obtaining these?

Bargains are few and far between today, sadly. Sometimes you might come across a cool old vintage movie tie-in paperback at the local goodwill store. And when you find a cool item on eBay at a good price, outrageous postage costs will often sour the deal if the item is outside Australia. But when I was a young teenager in the late-seventies there was a shop at the top of Swanston Street called Space Age Books, who specialised in sci-fi/horror and fantasy books, and they had a box filled with original posters and lobby card sets that, even at the time, seemed like a real bargain. I picked-up lobby card sets for films like The Deadly Manits, Hammer’s The Phantom of the Opera, Blacula, William Girdler’s notorious Abby, etc. They were all less than $5 a set! I also bought a lot of individual lobby cards for various 1950s sci-fi and horror films, I still have many of them with their 25-cent price written in pencil on the back. Those were the days!

What’s the most extreme reaction to a horror/exploitation film that you’ve personally ever witnessed?

Hmmmm…I remember seeing a double of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Evil Dead at the Astor Theatre around 1984 and one lady running out screaming and retching during the climax of Chainsaw (when old Grandpa is trying to hit Sally over the head with his hammer at the film’s climax), and I also recall two women behind me storming out in disgust during a screening of Pasolini’s Salo at the Lumiere in the late-90s, during one of the periods when the ban was lifted on the film.

And putting on the Palace Explosive VHS tape of Bloodsucking Freaks for a room full of people usually resulted in a few interesting reactions. You often found out who your true friends were at that point!

What are your all-time favourite films (of any genre) and whom do you believe are the greatest directors of all time?

Among my constant list of favourites: Blood Feast, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Bless the Beasts & Children, Alien, The Exorcist, The Naked Prey and When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder. I could easily rattle off another hundred titles off the top of my head when it comes to perennial film faves!

Favourite directors, for a variety of reasons, include Herschell Gordon Lewis, Stanley Kubrick, Terence Fisher, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, Russ Meyer and so many more!

You’ve been involved with various forms of media for a few decades to date – writing for books, newspapers, magazines and online. What are some of your thoughts on the vast technological changes you’ve observed and adapted to in your involvement in these fields during this time?

Obviously the internet was the thing that changed thing irrevocably, and both for the better and the worse. It’s great to have such an easy platform to be able to get your writing and thoughts across to a potentially huge audience, and with a bit of basic HTML knowledge anyone can build a really nice looking website or blog in an afternoon. And that is the blessing and the curse. Everyone has and is entitled to their opinion on things of course, as long as they are informed opinions I will always respect them, but there is also a lot more misinformation being spread, rumour reposted as fact, and plagiarism is more common because the internet has made it a lot easier for people to steal your work without credit or permission. Some people unfortunately still believe that because something is posted online then it is not considered ‘real’ writing, and is up for grabs with a simple right click.

The old hand-typed, cut, paste and photocopy fanzine took a lot more time to produce, and cost a lot more money and would be lucky to reach a couple of dozen people, but the end result really made all the blood, sweat and tears that went into it. It doesn’t feel that special to have a website or blog because everyone else has one, but not everyone has gone to the lengths of actually putting out their own hardcopy publication. I know that personally I felt a much greater satisfaction from collating and stapling an issue of my Reel Wild Cinema! fanzine together – laying out the pages on my bed, desk, couch and floor – than I ever have from posting a new blog entry. Though, importantly, I do get more satisfaction from my actual writing today, and obviously I am happy that my work has a chance to be a lot more widely read that it was in the old fanzine days.

What general advice would you offer writers of cinema discussion and criticism wishing to establish themselves?

Just to write about subjects you feel the most passionate about. Even if you are writing about something that has been thoroughly covered by other people, if you have a unique angle or perspective, it will always make your work seem original and fresh and engaging. Also, don’t be afraid of covering the more obscure subjects that you think may have limited interest – some of the best non-fiction books and articles I have read, and documentaries I have seen – have been about subjects that I had little previous knowledge of, or interest in. As a writer, it’s always a buzz to hear that your work has helped make someone a fan of something, whether it’s an individual film, book, etc., or a whole genre or body of work.

I know you’ve met few individuals in the public eye. What are some of your most memorable ‘celebrity’ encounters, good or bad?

Thankfully I haven’t had a bad experience with anyone, but some are more friendly towards their fans than others. Some of the best encounters I have had were with Fred Williamson, Robert Englund and John Waters. And getting to interview H. G. Lewis for my Hip Pocket Sleaze book, even though it was only via phone, was a dream come true. I also corresponded for a while in the 1990s with legendary sexploitation filmmaker Russ Meyer, and had a few entertaining telephone conversations with him. He invited me to visit his Hollywood home next time I was in the area, but sadly we lost contact as the dementia started to take hold of him.

What works or projects are you most proud of?

That’s an interesting question, and a tough one to answer. As a writer yourself, you probably know the thrill and pride you feel when a new project is finished and published, and often your latest work is your favourite. But then after a bit of time passes and you look back on something, you start to pick it apart more and think of things you could have done to improve upon it. But at the same time, that is a good sign that you are growing as a writer.

Obviously my Hip Pocket Sleaze book, which was published by Headpress in 2011, is something I am still immensely proud of. And I love the work I did for Something Weird Video in the late-90s/early-2000s, writing reviews of their amazing catalogue of titles for their VHS and DVD covers and sales catalogues. It was always a thrill when a box of five VHS tapes would arrive from Something Weird for me to cover – it was always such a delightfully odd, random mix of titles. There would be a gritty B&W sexploitation roughie (Olga’s House of Shame), a seedy and sick Harry Novak production (Hitch-Hike to Hell), a dubbed piece of Eurotrash (The Seducers), a collection of creepy old classroom education shorts, and a long-lost Ed Wood porn flick (Necromania). It was a real film education, and I am still proud that I got to be a part of this important film label, if only in a small way. My Something Weird video tapes are definitely a personal highlight of my collection.

But mostly I try to focus on my current and upcoming writing, and trying to make that the best thing that I have done, and the best that it can be.

What are some of your current and future projects you’d like to mention?

I always seem to have multiple projects on the go at any time, but that is a lot more preferable than having nothing to work on! 

Coming up in the near future, I have written the booklet essays for a couple of upcoming vintage ‘Ozploitation’ Blu-ray releases – Snapshot and The Survivor - being put out locally by Glass Doll Films. They are due out in March and April. I will also be doing an introduction to one of my all-time favourite films, Stanley Kramer’s Bless the Beasts & Children, when Melbourne film society Cinemaniacs screen it at the Backlot Cinemas on April the 8th this year. I’m really looking forward to talking about this vastly underrated movie, watching it for the first time in a cinema and seeing how the audience reacts to it.

I am also keeping busy with a number of book projects. I am currently co-writing two books with my lovely wife Marneen Fields, who is an American singer/composer, actress and former Hollywood stuntwoman. One of the books we are working on, Rolling with the Punches!, covers her film and television work in detail, with some great stories and recollections, while Cartwheels & Halos is a more of a biography that delves into Marneen’s personal stories of survival and inspiration, as well as her music and movies. A fair chunk of both of these books has already been written, and Marneen has an amazing archive of photos that will richly enhance the text. We also plan to do a few film-related events together, as we did in 2016, introducing a screening of The Gauntlet (which Marneen performed stunts on) and appearing on the TV Movie discussion panel at Monster Fest.

And finally, I have my own individual book project, Wildcat!, which looks at the film career of child evangelist-turned-actor Marjoe Gortner, whom I have always had a fascination for ever since I first saw him in The Food of the Gods when I was a kid, and finding out about his unique past only increased my interest in him. I have been busy researching and interviewing a number of people who worked with Marjoe over the years, and am attempting to track down the elusive man himself. Wildcat! Is scheduled to be published by Bear Manor Media in the US, hopefully in 2018.

People can keep-up with my writing and other projects by visiting my blog at:


Friday, 3 February 2017

Werner Pochath: a tribute to a favourite actor

 One of my absolute favourite images - Werner Pochath with the equally great Franco Nero, 1980.

Sadly an almost forgotten talent, the late great Werner Pochath is one of my favourite actors. Criminally underrated and usually unfairly dubbed ‘the poor man’s Klaus Kinski’ (though of course Kinski is a brilliant actor, Pochath also is in his own right), his intensity and unique, instantly recognisable face always was a bonus even to the worst of cinematic material.
 Young Pochath

Born Werner Pochlatko in 1939 in Vienna, Austria, Pochath first appeared in the public eye as a youth figure skating champion of his homeland.  His thespian career began in both stage and television productions in 1959, and Pochath worked steadily in these fields until his 1967 film debut in the German crime drama Der Tod eines Dopplegangers. Movie offers also came quickly to the gifted young star after relocating to Rome in 1968. Often cast as ruthless, psychopathic villains, Pochath was a popular casting choice for low-budget European horror, exploitation and action directors. His trademark ruthless sadists can be viewed in Ferdinando Baldi’s Terror Express, The Shark Hunter by Enzo G. Castellari, Lucio Fulci’s Challenge to White Fang, and, although it’s one of Jess Franco’s least distinguished titles, it’s still nice to see Pochath chewing up the scenery – The Devil Hunter. He also had smaller but memorable roles in Dario Argento’s  Cat O’Nine Tails and Riccardo Freda’s The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire.
Pochath as one of the thugs in the Last House on the Left cash-in Terror Express

What is possibly Pochath’s finest hour is his tremendous portrayal of the ‘The Vampire of Nuremberg’, Kuno Hofmann, in the disturbing 1977 real-life based horror Mosquito der Schander, aka Bloodlust. His role as the deaf-mute, blood drinking murderer is truly haunting, grim and unsettling. In the hands of a lesser actor the film would have most likely been little more than an exploitative mess, but Pochath manages to elevate the material to another level.
Pochath as the real-life 'Vampire of Nuremberg' Kuno Hofmann in Mosquito der Schander

Throughout the 1980s Pochath was appearing in more and more titles with unfortunately nil redeeming features, such as the horrendous Ratman and Cop Game. Tragically diagnosed with AIDS, Pochath mostly resigned from acting to become a casting directer under the name ‘Paul Werner’ though he still accepted the occasional film role. He passed away on April 18, 1993, at the age of 51 in the arms of his long-term partner John Neumeier, ballet director of the Hamburg State Opera. A greatly missed actor who always managed to shine no matter what he appeared in, Pochath’s legacy will hopefully live on for many more years via dedicated Eurocult film fans.     

**P.S. If anyone has or knows where I can find ANY interviews with Pochath, please let me know!**

Werner Pochath in Mosquito Der Schander

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Oz's King of Video: an interview with one of Australia's top VHS collectors, Scott Bruce

I recently had the privilege to interview one of Australia’s true Kings of Video, Scott Bruce. Scott boasts what would undoubtedly be one of the country’s best VHS collections of both Oz and international tapes.  Scott also has a vast knowledge of all things video (and the joy of dealing with Customs), and is refreshingly genuine, friendly and honest, both as a trader/buyer/seller of almost half a century, and as a person. Qualities solely lacking from some in the scene these days...Scott’s also filmed a series of informative and inimitably entertaining YouTube clips on everything from his favourite directors and films to the idiocies of Australian censorship, as well as his notorious alter egos Angus McDoogle and Joshua Flower. Many thanks to Scott for taking the time to chat!
Scott with the motherload!

What is your earliest memory of seeing a movie theatrically, if you can remember the first film you ever saw?
The first film I ever recall seeing at the cinema was a double bill of Creepshow and Humongous at a drive in! Back in about 1982 or so my Aunty snuck me and my brother into the drive in hidden under a blanket as we were so young LOL and not allowed to legally see such films! We were terrified beyond words but loved the films immensely!!!!

How and when did you discover and really get into horror/trash/cult cinema?
As a boy I was TOTALY obsessed with Frankenstein, Wolfman, Dracula, ghosts etc.  Anything horror orientated I was born to love. As I had seen Creepshow and Humongous as a young boy I was dying for more similar films. At the age of around nine I saw the original Evil Dead and it changed my life!!!.Never in my life had I been so terrified but exhilirated at the same time .It was my best mate’s brother who was watching it, we joined the screening and got busted by his mum - it hadn’t finished, we were spewing! We were sent home by his mum LOL.

When did you first discover a like-minded ‘community’ of fans/collectors of these films whom you could correspond and collaborate with?
I started buying the great U.K. horror mag The Dark Side very early on and had a few letters published in it with my correspondence address for other collectors around the world to contact me for trades. Not long after I was trading VHS with guys in Greece, U.K., U.S. and Holland

Have you ever had any problems with Customs during the time you’ve been collecting these sorts of movies?
CUSTOMS!!...don’t get me started on those cunts Chelle! LOL, many know my stories that started back in 1997 when I was caught importing a laser disc of Cannibal Holocaust, I was sent a confiscation letter. Boy was I fucking furious. I almost faced a court case over it! I rang them up as that disc cost me a LOT of money. I drove over an hour to see the boss at the customs office, they were NOT happy. I had to talk my way out of trouble (I’m good at that, believe me!) They even confiscated my Cine City Video Catalogue!!! I convinced them to let me send it back to Holland and I did. I later got it sent to a mate in Tasmania (more lenient Customs then), he then sent it up to me on the mainland and I got it.
A year later I was again caught importing Z grade trash film Bride of Frank and Nacho Cerda's vile Necro film Aftermath. This time I was in shit up to my fucking neck!!! I was told I’d be charged in court for sure! After thirty minutes of sweet talk LOL they let me send these back to Holland too! Again they were resent to Tasmania and over to me on the mainland again!...Phew!!!! What a nightmare.

Were there any genre fanzines/magazines you found of special interest in the 90s?
Mainly Dark Side, Fatal Visions, bootleg video catalogues, that sort of thing.

How and when did you get into VHS collecting?
Well, I started collecting VHS at the age of around twenty, my best mate had already been collecting for some time, so I used to watch lots of his old horror films. I couldn’t get enough, I craved more and more gorier/violent films. Back then all I wanted was films for gore!! LOL, I got hooked on these demented films and I’m still collecting twenty four years later at the age of forty four!....

Somehow this got past our draconian censors uncut.

You have an incredible VHS collection, without a doubt one of the best in Australia. What are some of your all-time best bargains or freebies you had with obtaining it?
No, no certainly NOT, a few other Aussie guys have MUCH better collections than mine in terms of numbers and quality. It’s just they are not as shameless and flamboyant as me HA,HA,HA,HA .......OK my biggest VHS haul was from a place down south (Busselton, nice place too). I used to scour the Yellow Pages phone directory for all the VHS stores in Western Australia, I got a great idea to ring the old VHS shops down south. Mostly nothing came of it. But this one Movieland in Busselton said they had tonnes out the back of the shop they would sell!! In the end I was sending want lists to them and getting boxes of absolute treasures all the time! Give Us Tomorrow, Farewell  Uncle Tom!!, Pets!!!!, Secret of Seagull Island etc etc . I kept begging them to let me drive down (an almost three hour drive) and have a look out the back. For two years they kept saying no!?!?! Eventually they gave in, my Nissan 180SX Turbo soon hit the road ASAP and I rocketed down south as fast as I could but looking for speed cameras the whole way! I find this place and it’s like a timewarp man! This place is REALLY OLD!! The signs all fading etc. Wooden Floors, Fibro walls but it’s huge!! I check out the sale tapes at the front and see Shadows of the Mind!! (after it for eight years!), Blood Brothers, No Room to Die! plus others that are impossible to find. I go out the back and fuck me Jesus!!! Rows and rows of more tapes, I wish I took a camera, I was in there for over four hours coming out with boxes and boxes of tapes, many I had never seen in my life! I cleaned out the back and out the front sale section, then moved onto the rental shelves and scored some more. Some were old Spaghetti Western tapes I’d NEVER seen before.  I returned the next weekend with my best mate, share SOME of the wealth and all that, you know? We both left with another few boxes of tapes each, my 180SX Hatchback was filled with tapes in the boot and so many on the back seat that our chairs were pushed so far forwards  we could hardly breathe the whole three hour trip home!

Name a few of your favourite Australian tapes?
My fave tapes ...that’s hard, in terms of Aussie tapes – Island of Perversion!!!, Nightmare (Scavolini), Rape Squad, Night of the Zombies, Sleepaway Camp, Dawn of the Dead ( orange sleeve), Demons...oh and Salt Saliva Sperm and Sweat.

Best/worst things about VHS collecting and the scene in general?
Hmmmm the best and worst of collecting? BAD: some of the other fanatical collectors are fucking ruthless in how they underhandedly obtain some tapes at ANY cost, it’s the same in every collecting circle, moreso nowadays do I see such tactics more than in the past. GOOD: The upside is I now know so many great people because of this VHS hobby/ obsession....such as your lovely self Chelle! I now have buddies all over the world, who I now consider to be VERY good friends of mine. There are actually still genuine, honest people still out there!

Great to see the ultra scarce Evil in the Woods and Rape Squad, two of the most sought-after Palace Explosive tapes, with a collector who truly deserves it.

How do you find the current horror/trash genre scene in general as compared to say, two decades ago when it was the early days of the World Wide Web and still largely based around print zines and snail mail correspondence? Also, how do you find the current Australian VHS scene compared to back then?
These days the current Horror/Trash scene is more alive than ever, due to the modern computer age ,DVD and Blu-Ray, Facebook, Download Sites, Forums etc, it’s all so easily accessed these days. In terms of the current VHS scene itself, we are a dying breed ( in Oz) with only a select few of serious collectors left. With the advent of new formats (DVD/ Blu- Ray /4K), VHS is now considered by the majority to be a useless, long obsolete format.

Who are your favourite horror/cult/trash film directors and name a few of your absolute favourite films?
My fave directors - again a hard question as I love so many talented directors but I’d run with Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, Umberto Lenzi, Amando De Ossorio, Ruggero Deodato, the usual guys that folk in this scene pick!

Any future planned Youtube videos or characters you have in mind? How are your good mates Mr Video Face, Angus, and co? 
No I have no new Youtube characters planned at all Chelle, I’m busy enough with the current line up!! I’ve not seen JOSH FLOWER and PAPERFACE for some time but old Uncle ANGUS McDOOGLE popped up again recently and is still insane as ever!?!

That's not all, folks!
Finally, name three individuals in the public eye, living or dead, who you’d invite to get blind drunk with?
Hmmmmm…Chuck Norris (my hero lol), Henry Silva, (I love that guy!!!) and Cirio Santiago (sadly not with us anymore), he directed some of the most insane, entertaining Filipino films ever! I’m a massive fan of his work.

Oh dear...a very inebriated Angus McDoogle has hijacked the interview to ramble on pointlessly about his favourite film...

Thanks again for that fantastic interview Scott. Here’s a few aforementioned clips of the great man himself nattering about all things film-related:

Import VHS Problems with Customs

Unreleased Films in Australia (Part One)

Star Base VHS!!! (Australia)