I've already read the 1001 versions of books and movies (and slowly going through them), so as a big horror fan I thought I should check this cute litI've already read the 1001 versions of books and movies (and slowly going through them), so as a big horror fan I thought I should check this cute little pocket-sized volume. I knew there wouldn't be much left to watch (eleven, turns out), so I was mostly just curious to see which films had been included.
I was pleasantly surprised about the mixture of mainstream and lesser-known stuff, but of course there were, once again, the same films from the 20s and 30s that are always included in every single list, and only one from the 1910s. Which is wrong, by the way, because The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari premiered in 1920 and the shooting didn't conclude until January 1920. How, then, could it have been released in 1919? Besides, aren't there really no good horror films from the 1910s? I just can't believe it, so I must investigate this further.
Steven Katz's essay about Dracula (1931) is refreshingly scathing (Tod Browning is one of my favorite directors, but Dracula is hands down one of his worst films, in addition to being one of the flattest one about the count). Then again, Katz also claims Lon Chaney was in Freaks (1932) (he probably means The Unknown ), which is a mistake that should have been caught during editing. Not an important one, but still. Katz also thinks London is a baffling relocation for Dracula (in the essay about Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), but is it really? It was the Victorian era, an era of prosperity and flourishing trade routes in Britain. Makes sense to me that the count chooses one of the most biggest and influential cities in the world as his new home.
Dejan Ognjanovic, in turn, has a disparaging view of pulp literature (at least it sounds like it, when he calls Dennis Wheatley's novel The Devil Rides Out (1934) his "usual sensationalistic meandering pulp"), yet he seems to have no problem with pulpy horror, because he likes the Hammer adaptation of Wheatley's novel. Mikel Koven has a pretty firm idea about those who dislike torture porn: "What media pundits who got their liberal knickers in a twist over the so-called "torture porn" controversy seem to forget is that what made these films so disturbing in the first place was that they were actually pretty good". First of all, you don't have to be liberal to dislike torture porn. Secondly, does Kaven mean that despite the disturbing aspect of the films in the subgenre he thinks they're good, and it's somehow wrong to dislike them? My taste good, your taste wrong.
The thing I have the biggest issue with are the spoilers. As far as I recall, 88 texts out of 101 (I decided not to read about the eleven films I haven't seen when I realized they might contain spoilers as well) managed to avoid spoilers (and it really isn't difficult to go round a plot point or the ending). The Sixth Sense (1999) and The Vanishing (1988) were another story (there were actually a few more that I now see other reviewers spotted, as well as a few other mistakes). Ok, knowing the ending of the former might dilute the second viewing (I don't like it that much anyway), but in the case of the latter...
The Vanishing is just as powerful after multiple viewings, but the first time is everything. Everything that occurs before that sickening moment of realization at the end is of course stellar in its subtleness, but the film as a whole relies on gripping the viewer by the throat. There isn't anything that hints what might happen, so one can't use the old "but it's great to see the journey that leads to the ending, and wait when it will happen and whether it's foreshadowed" -thing as an excuse (for me, that's something that reminds me of a rewatch or reread; Agatha Christie might occasionally be an exception, if I remember the murderer), and that's what makes the movie brilliant. Making sure a whole experience isn't ruined from those who don't want it is simply polite, even if you're okay with spoilers. It should also not be presumed that every single person in the world knows the ending of every single classic film or book out there, because it's not about the age.
Regardless, 101 Horror Movies shows pretty well the progress of horror cinema since the beginning of the 20th century. The essays are mostly of good quality, and a few inspired me to rewatch my old favorites and those that I've considered mediocre at best. I'm also extremely excited to have found out that there's an actual name for films featuring older women becoming mentally unstabled: psycho-biddy (also referred to, according to Wikipedia, as Grande Dame Guignol, Hagsploitation, and Hag horror). Makes it so much easier to search for more films belonging to the subgenre. Bette Davis is my queen, and she's amazing in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), but I'm convinced there are more gold pieces waiting for me out there....more
When I was a kid, there was this one time when I woke up in the middle of the night and the pile of clothes on my chair looked suspiciously like someWhen I was a kid, there was this one time when I woke up in the middle of the night and the pile of clothes on my chair looked suspiciously like some deformed monster, and I quickly dove under the covers. Fortunately, I'm really good at the whole sleeping thing, so I fell asleep quickly. I also used to have an irrational fear of vampires for a few days when I was little, which made me cover my neck every night when I went to bed, but that's a different story. I rarely had any troubles with sleep or fear, or both of them together.
Then, a couple of years ago when I was already living in my own apartment, I suffered a bout of sleep paralysis. I think I was at a stage when I was about to wake up, but I couldn't move or fully open my eyes. I saw my eyelashes flickering in front of my eyes, and then I saw a shadow on the wall. It didn't have a familiar form, just this blotch that was both oily and fuzzy at the same time, but I remember being convinced that it would attack me if I didn't run away right there and then. Obviously, the fact that I couldn't move horrified me, and I felt like I was stuck in another realm. I wanted to scream, but only a tear ran down my cheek. It didn't feel like reality at all, although I knew I was still in my apartment. At some point I just fell asleep and everything was back to normal again when I woke up.
I know that none of what I saw was real, so it's strange that you can actually have an experience where you fully believe in monsters (it's also not that comforting to know that you can't stop sleep paralysis from coming; if it comes back, it comes back). Wells's short story brought all that back to me. It's a very conventional story about a man who doesn't believe in ghosts and wants to stay in a haunted room. The ending falls flat and I expected more from the actual haunting, but the approach is interesting. It's up for the reader to decide what really happened, because the first person narrative allows room for interpretation.
It's all about the power of imagination and suggestion, and what being alone in a supposedly haunted place, with only shadows as your company, might do to you. The shadows might hide something or they may not, but the human mind is nevertheless able to change innocent things into something else, especially if there's complete silence and solitude. Also, would the narrator have had the same experiences if he hadn't known about the room's past or heard the stories about ghosts? Fear is an interesting thing, because it can suddenly creep up on you even when there's no reason to be frightened.
"There is neither ghost of earl nor ghost of countess in that room; there is no ghost there at all, but worse, far worse, something impalpable—"
"Well?" they said.
"The worst of all the things that haunt poor mortal men," said I; "and that is, in all its nakedness—' Fear!' Fear that will not have light nor sound, that will not bear with reason, that deafens and darkens and overwhelms. It followed me through me in the room—"
Mysteries, scandals, and murders of Hollywood, particularly the Golden Age ones, are always interesting, but they can easily be turned into embarrassiMysteries, scandals, and murders of Hollywood, particularly the Golden Age ones, are always interesting, but they can easily be turned into embarrassingly smutty books. All the warning bells should be ringing when an author has added Wikipedia articles, TMZ stories, and E! programs to the bibliography section. Di Mambro's decided to dig herself into a hole by also having a minimum amount of criticism about the statements of her sources. It's commendable that she's managed to made the effort to interview some of the people involved (and it shows that she's wanted to try something different than Kenneth Anger with his Hollywood Babylon ), but there's no sign that she doesn't take their stories at anything but face value.
The description "[a] tantalizing mixture of classic Hollywood nostalgia and true crime" is spot on. Di Mambro presents the basic facts of each case and doesn't take sides, which might seem like her purpose of letting the reader to make conclusions about the events has been successful, but in reality it takes more to make a good work of true crime. "Tantalizing" is not the way to go, especially if it means the chapters begin with "the sun glistening off the Pacific Ocean, which sparkled like limitless diamonds" or some equally awkward statement about the weather that in the middle of neutral text feels like a splinter in the eye. Add to that several cases of repetition and you start to miss a good editor.
True Hollywood Noir isn't entirely without its merits, though. In a few instances Di Mambro manages to correct a few rumours and is overall respectful towards the people. The corruption of the police force and how the studio executives were involved with tampering evidence are discussed very candidly. Protecting actors and actresses was important to the studios, but there's no question that protecting the studios' image the big bosses wanted to maintain in the eyes of the public to get more money was also a good motivator.
It's just unfortunate that the impression I got from the book overall wasn't polished or professional, even though Di Mambro avoids a voyeuristic and sleazy voice. Furthermore, I'd be curious to know where she found the information that Joan Bennett claimed to have begun the affair with Jennings Lang when she was ill, despite the fact that she has always denied having an affair with him.
Other illogicalities and choices that Di Mambro doesn't explain occur throughout, like referencing Bill Wellman's It's Made to Sell - Not to Drink (2006) (there's no reason to presume that Wellman is telling the truth, especially this day and age when there are plenty of people who'd like to cash in on celebrities), saying that shooting Lang helped Wanger's career despite stating earlier that his life was never the same again, and claiming that the reader supposely has never heard the story that Lana Turner was the real killer of Johnny Stompanato when in fact it's been speculated for years and is a well-known theory.
On another level of feeling uncomfortable was the stench of admiration that emanated from the Mickey Cohen chapter. He may have known movie stars and other celebrities, but there's no valid reason for an overly long chapter about him, and certainly no reason why Cohen's associate Jim Smith would deserve so much space, especially because all he does is explain away Cohen's crimes and make him seem like some charismatic gentleman who just happened to kill people for a living. Doesn't matter if the people deserved their fate in the world of organized crime, it's still murder.
Di Mambro seems to be supporting Smith, though, and even calls Smith's voice as "smooth, baritone [and] suitable for broadcasting". I'm not even going to begin talking about the picture of Smith's son holding a toy machine gun, and him having it framed in his house and showing it proudly to mobsters. There's just a whole lot of irrelevancy going on in the Cohen chapter, and it was the last straw.
All in all, short and quick to breeze through, but I wouldn't expect anything revelationary, nor the film noir theme being tied into the cases in any relevant way....more
Susann knows how to sink her claws into the reader. Just when things seem to get better for our women and the future shines bright in the distance, soSusann knows how to sink her claws into the reader. Just when things seem to get better for our women and the future shines bright in the distance, something happens and the tunnel closes. Then some turn of events gets you believing again, and the roller coaster starts again and again and again... The circle of life turns into a circle of dolls and resentment.
Valley of the Dolls isn't a mushy romance that sinks into an abyss of paper-tasting plastic characters, who seem to melt under a tighter scrutiny, or a glossy, emotionally simplistic, and rose-tinted fairy tale world, where predictability is a given. Instead, it actually makes you invested in the characters, although they are practically one-dimensional vehicles of psychological exploration.
Both unrealistic with its cheesy plot twists which seem to occur only for shock value, and realistic with its oh-so-common story of downward spiralling lives in the show business, the story is structurally kind of a mess, but a glorious and trashy mess. The fact that I don't mind the heap of clichés dumped on me is a testament of Susann's genius.
Like with The Best of Everything (1958), I noticed that I can digest chick lit when it's set in another time period and has some kind of melancholy or tragic events involved. A retro Mad Men-ish backdrop has so much more value in terms of atmosphere (and basically the only reason why I decided to read this). Valley of the Dolls wouldn't be what it is if it wasn't set in 1940s-60s, or if it didn't have a hilarious cat fight in a ladies' room, self-destructive women popping pills in all the colors of the rainbow, dreams crashing and burning, struggles with fame and expectations concerning private and professional lives, loads of vodka and champagne, and men who are far from dreamy Fabios.
Girly pulp that doesn't make you want to vomit, but to have a cocktail or two and eat chocolate until your head explodes. Essentially, this is the glamorous and excessive cousin of Peyton Place (1956).
"Who wants respect? I want to get laid!" - Helen Lawson...more
Sometimes certain people appear on and off all the way through your childhood and teenage years, but you don't realize it until later. I recently rewaSometimes certain people appear on and off all the way through your childhood and teenage years, but you don't realize it until later. I recently rewatched Gremlins (1984), one of my favorite films as a kid, and Corey Feldman was in it. When I was fifteen, we watched Stand by Me (1986) in school and I remember being impressed by the scene where Feldman is screaming about his father, but his name didn't register then. At some point I started getting interested in vampires and watched The Lost Boys (1987). It was ok, but I liked the actors more than I did the film. When I heard about the legendary The Goonies (1985) that many remember fondly, I watched that as well. Again, Feldman was in it, but I don't remember if he was good, I just remember the film was underwhelming.
The next time I "met" Feldman again was many years later, when I stumbled into a Vice article about his birthday party where women were dressed in their underwear and, according to the author, the mood was grim and the guests were few. At the time, it felt depressing to see yet another former child star going downhill, and somehow I unfairly juxtaposed Feldman with Charlie Sheen. There was, however, a patronizing tone in the article that made me uncomfortable. Like it was a pat on the head of someone who didn't ask for pity. At the end, there was a note saying Feldman wasn't too happy about the article, because it wasn't what was promised to him.
Fast forward to year 2016, when I found out Feldman had written a positively received memoir three years previously. I've avoided modern celebrity memoirs, because there are very few contemporary celebrities who interest me in terms of taking the time to read a whole book about their lives (and then there's the branch of narcissistic rants of people who have proven time and time again they're out of touch from reality, so those I'm definitely not going to read, ever). However, something drew me towards Feldman's book, although I sensed he wouldn't let me off easy.
Turns out, I was right. Feldman starts with a punch in the stomach by recounting the moment he heard about Corey Haim's death. For some reason that hit me really strongly, and a part of that was how well Feldman described the game of vultures: an endless stream of phone calls from journalists and people who think that just because they're celebrities, they have a right to claim a special relationship with the deceased. Helicopters hunting a good shot of Haim's apartment building, one of Haim's neighbors trying to get a funeral gig for his singer girlfriend, Warren Boyd (whose job was to keep Haim clean, but disappeared whenever Haim ran out of money) trying to stuff A-list celebrities into the funeral despite their nonexistent relationship with Haim, the pressure to come up with a media-friendly statement, photographers stalking unsuspecting people in bushes, trespassing reporters etc. It's a sickening jungle out there, and reading about this stuff always makes me slightly anxious and out of breath.
As it can be guessed from that first chapter, this isn't only Feldman's story. Haim and Feldman were both molested several times at a young age by men who worked in the industry, so Feldman feels like Haim deserves to heard as well, and is adamant that parents who have kids in the industry should be warned. The documentary An Open Secret (2014) addresses the problem. It's a shame it bombed (probably because it's more difficult to get people see documentaries than escapist flicks in theaters), but although I haven't seen it yet, the importance of the topic makes it an urgent watch for everyone. Movies are a big part of our society and it should be made aware what happens behind closed doors, especially when it concerns kids and teenagers. The film has apparently already suffered edits after a lawsuit, and seems to be extremely elusive and difficult to see anywhere in the Internet. Time will tell whether Hollywood will subtly push the film under the radar and eventually into oblivion. In any case, the problem of child actors being taken advantage either financially by their parents or emotionally by industry employees (some of them high up in the pecking order) has to be dealt with. It should've never existed and it shouldn't exist now.
As the case of Martin Weiss shows, there's still work to do what comes to the actual sentences when things finally progress to that point. Like Feldman says, "the bright lights of Hollywood are blinding, and the sanctity of childhood is easily trumped by the deafening drumbeat of fame". Power hungry casting agents are prepared to do anything to acquire fame for their clients, and the film industry is the perfect place to surround yourself with kids who desperately want to be famous. Kids, who don't necessarily have proper support systems to guide them through the very surreal world of Hollywood.
In a lot of ways, Feldman didn't have a great start in childhood. He and his siblings lived with a mentally unstable mother, who forbid them to have friends over, sometimes left the kids to starve because they weren't allowed to eat before she woke up in the late afternoon, and who did her best not to seem like a pushy and intense stage mother to outsiders (sometimes succeeding, sometimes not). We're talking about a home where Feldman had only seen from the television how parents tucked in their kids and kissed them goodnight, and where a mother physically attacked her child. Granted, she was sick, but it must have been a nice change to get to the movie sets.
Feldman talks about his experiences over the years candidly. The suicide attempts and the drug problem aren't glossed over, and blame isn't directed at anyone else. There's no bitterness, just honest discussion about the past that has molded Feldman, and about all the mistakes he has done along the way (doing an anti-drug awareness program while having a drug problem, throwing a huge party at the Four Seasons - when the studio execs told the bill was open and he should relax - and completely trashing the room etc.). He doesn't claim to be perfect, and that's what's appealing about the memoir. Feldman willingly admits he has difficulties saying no and a need to see good in people, even in the most untrustworthy ones. Sadly, he also believes he contributed to Haim's death by being one of the first who introduced him to cocaine.
Despite all the great stories about filming processes and the friendship with Michael Jackson, there's an inherent tone of sadness throughout the memoir that I couldn't shake off for a while after finishing it. It's not the kind of patronizing sadness that many feel about once famous celebrities (some would use the word washed up, but I try to avoid it, it sounds so demeaning), but the kind of wistful sadness that comes with the knowledge that a person has had a troubled past, but has still come through as a winner. Feldman has been sober for years, and I honestly wish him and his son nothing but the best.
When a celebrity fucks up his life, it often happens under the watchful eye of millions of people (some of them who have no problem tearing a celebrity to shreds, because "hey, he chose the profession, he has no right to complain when we poke at his personal life despite him trying to keep it private"), but it doesn't mean the public knows the person and everything that's happened. Preying on vulnerable people has never been attractive and never will be. In the end, Feldman's memoir ends with a positive note, because he's still here. There's no need to feel sorry for him and treat him like a pathetic invalid whose life's over or somehow insignificant....more
Horror doesn't necessarily always have to have that same old dark and menacing milieu. It's refreshing to see when someone explores the genre from anoHorror doesn't necessarily always have to have that same old dark and menacing milieu. It's refreshing to see when someone explores the genre from another angle, and Harrow County has the kind of artwork that elevates the story to another level.
The use of watercolors accentuates the linework in all the right places and makes for moody and eerie - but also simultaneously kind of ethereal and beautiful - visuals. The gloomy color tones are amazing, creating interesting textures. The landscapes are like paintings and the people are drawn in this very simplistic style, almost in the style of some children's books. All the fire stuff, like the flaming haints at the cemetery, glows brightly on the pages looking exactly what they are, like from another world of nightmares and hell fire. All this matches the horror elements, because the contrast is interesting and definitely unexpected.
In a way, a simple and traditional story like this needs that extra something to feel like worth the time, because witches and curses have been explored so many times that it's difficult to see what new the topic might offer. However, Harrow County isn't necessarily what it seems to be at first glance, especially regarding the decision of Emmy when she finds out how she's connected to the past events. The plot just never seems to take the usual turns and avoids enough clichés to keep the story flowing in an engaging way.
There's a boy's skin that speaks, a spooky tree, an ancient creature living in the woods, idiotic townsfolk, and lots and lots of whimsical, dark, and dreamlike atmosphere, but in a more subtle package than you'd expect. Despite the highly traditional approach, Harrow County still feels fresh. A good ol' Southern Gothic creepy tale to read by the fire on an Autumn evening....more
Bitch Planet, a prison planet, is a place for all misbehaving females. Females who are excised from the society before the cancer spreads. This cancerBitch Planet, a prison planet, is a place for all misbehaving females. Females who are excised from the society before the cancer spreads. This cancer of non-compliance is abhorred and feared, and it's the kind of disease that isn't only the object of disgust for the males in the dystopian world of Bitch Planet, but also for some of the men and women in our reality. Bitch Planet houses all the problem-infested women who dare to be themselves and who should have been allowed to roam free on Earth, because they should be the future. In the shower scene, a reversal of exploitation tropes, their naked bodies are of different shapes and sizes, not objects of voyeurism or inhumanly proportioned representations of fantasies.
What happens when the Fathers try to evaluate and fix Penny, an obese woman whose ideal version turns out to be herself? She's happy with just the way she looks. The men are confused and disappointed. It can't be right. Obesity is a fault. It's a disgusting mistake, a malfunction, that needs to be corrected. It's not womanly.
It's not just about the men, though. Women have no trouble promoting a parasitic worm diet on television or judging the appearance of others based on predetermined beauty standards. They have no trouble reinforcing the idea of compliance and bowing down to everyone until you're a complete wreck under all the pressure of acting like you have no personality. The division between masculinity and feminity is deeply engrained in the society, and if you dare to jump out of your box of a servile woman who has no right to express her opinion unless it conforms to the norms, you deserve to be imprisoned.
Dystopia isn't usually my thing, but the neon-coloured shackled hand showing the middle finger sums up Bitch Planet perfectly (and the fake advertisements at the back of each issue are freaking hilarious). It wants to make an impact on how women evaluate themselves, other people, and the society around them, and it wants to make it loudly, but it also has a tongue-in-cheek attitude about it all.
It's a shame the plot doesn't fully come together and that the characters don't seem to have a lot of personality outside of the message they represent. The art and general atmosphere and energy hark back to Barbarella (1968) and 60s and 70s trippy B-movies, though, and that's completely fantastic. The exaggeration of gender issues works, because they're simultaneously so uncomfortably close to today's society that you can't miss the relevancy.
DeConnick's voice is a welcome addition to the comic industry, and it's amazing how a brand new comic has already inspired countless of readers to express themselves more fully and embrace who they are, supposed imperfections and all. For that, Bitch Planet deserves all the praise it's gotten and will get. I'm looking forward to seeing how the story develops in the next volume....more