I’m posting live from our annual year-end festive holiday Movie Night, now in our Host with the Most’s new Ozone Park digs. Even on our first visit here a couple of months ago, he had already comfortably made the setting his own, down to the last spaghetti Western poster and neon Molson sign. Having established it almost literally from the ground up, he has left his delightful and distinctive stamp all over it, which is well to the good for those lucky few who are honored with an invitation.
We’re kicking off with one that I know will please my friend Fred, Blood and Lace, which brings back voluminous memories of the 4:00 afternoon movie on channel 9 in my youth. It has the lurid sleaziness I so readily associate with WOR-TV, one of the qualities that distinguished a given independent from another back in the day. It also marked one of those unfortunate latter-day roles for a fading leading lady, in this case Gloria Grahame, whom I’ve never particularly liked, especially after seeing this film before her earlier vehicles.
We’re kind of a skeleton crew tonight, just Tom, my main man Gilbert and myself, three out of a possible six Musketeers, some of whom we hope will be able to join us for a January redo. As always, this particular mix is an especially congenial one, and we’re looking forward to some exciting programming: Blood Freak, Night of the Juggler, Tarkan vs. the Vikings and/or The Big Lebowski are all on the list, depending on what we get around to and what other ideas present themselves in the meantime. Many a memorable Movie Night viewing experience has sprung from just such an “Aha!” moment, like The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.
Tom’s asked me to include his joke: “Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace is a remake of Blood and Lace with an all-black cast.”
Tarkan is apparently some sort of Turkish Conan rip-off, straight from the bottom of the barrel, but with no basis of comparison (other than a partial and largely forgotten viewing of its DVD co-feature, The Deathless Devil, some time ago), I can’t say whether or not it’s typical of Turkish cinema, be it genre or otherwise. “If nothing else, it’s at least enthusiastic,” opines Tom in between howls of laughter at some over-the-top scene. The bizarro sound effects and plagiarized soundtrack would of themselves be amusing, blaring from an ear-level speaker as I pen these words, grateful to be here after an arduous three-and-a-half-hour trip, almost as long as it takes to get to Cornell.
Add to that list of things for which I am grateful: the prospect of some down- and/or viewing time with my daughter, who will get a break from distinguishing herself in multiple fields, be they academic or artistic. I’m so proud of that kid I could bust, and I don’t care who knows it, especially mindful of how lucky I am to have a college-age daughter who still likes to hang out with her old man, thank God. I don’t think anything will ever change that, however important anybody else in her life may be…my Maudlin Man persona asserts itself even as cuts from 2001 and Morricone bleed forth from the screen.
We’ve just had a character “killed” by the phoniest FX octopus since Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster, but without poor Lugosi to wrestle it to a draw, reminding me of the low-end Lugosi titles seen in the 50-horror-film boxed set Tom recently lent us. Proving my point once again, they’ve just stolen one of John Barry’s tracks from You Only Live Twice, which I know intimately since I own the damn soundtrack, one of his better ones (and that’s saying a lot). Meanwhile, in terms of the trip itself, at best it’s a schlepp and at worst it’s a headache, but being here is always, always eminently worth it at the literal and metaphoric end of the day.
Blood Freak, believe it or not, has the thinnest of Matheson connections when one character compares her situation to an episode of Star Trek or The Twilight Zone, two series to which he contributed. The movie has far more than its share of screaming, and some cheesy gruesome low-budget effects, but its papier-mache turkey-head monster is unforgettable, as is the loopy plot, in which leading man and co-director Steve Hawkes mutates from eating Frankenfood. This lurid narrative is periodically punctuated by hilarious scenes of co-director/narrator Brad Grinter lecturing us about the evils of drug use…while chain-smoking behind a studio desk.
At this point, Tom slips me a Mickey by interpolating Antonio Margheriti’s (aka Anthony M. Dawson) Cannibal Apocalypse, but I take one for the team, especially since I did interview pleasant and patient star John Saxon for Filmfax several years ago regarding that and other roles. The gore is legendary and the story familiar from various Romeroesque films, especially those of the Italian model, but the overall level of quality is average at best. In my opinion, Margheriti did much better on his two films with Barbara Steele, Danse Macabre (aka Terror Castle) and The Long Hair of Death.
Well, we’re going to treat (?) ourselves to viewing some of my musical Movie Night performances. Bradley out.