I got nuthin’. Well, okay, Batman.

I wound up not watching the second episode of Slings & Arrows last night. Real life intruded a bit too much to set aside an hour. Well, that’s a lie, one of my gaming buddies who hasn’t been around a lot due to rehearsals was online, and we played Going Rogue for far too long.

I got an e-mail from NC Soft this morning that my time cards had expired, and I think I’m going to lay off it for a while; I have some time codes saved, but I need that hour or two every evening to do other stuff. Summer’s over, and it’s time to start getting serious about 50 Foot DVD again.  The discs and books have been stacking up, and although my hand-me-down reading chair finally gave up the ghost (converting itself from a recliner to a permanent semi-recliner), I’m ready to get back to some serious book time. Even if I am propping my feet up on a toolbox.

So maybe I’ll watch Slings & Arrows tonight. Or finish reading Batman Chronicles, V 3, as the library wants it back Thursday. Apparently somebody else has requested it, so I can’t extend my possession – somebody else in the county reads Batman? Fancy that.

Reading the Chronicle books – which present DC comic character stories in chronological order – has been educational. Watching creators struggle with a new medium is an interesting process. By the second volume of the Batman Chronicles, writer Bill Finger had started to develop a solid formula that he would continue to exploit again and again: stories with large casts of characters that would be affected by the story’s turn of events and interaction with Batman and Robin.

The first Clayface story (one of many different Clayfaces, too), is a well-developed murder mystery, complete with red herrings. There’s one story where Batman and Robin use their crimefighting skills to deliver John Hughes-style life lessons to neglectful rich parents. This morning I read a story about modern-day pirates (though still on a schooner and brandishing cutlasses) where, in aiding the Dynamic Duo, various of the hostages re-discovered their masculinity, their inner strength, and their very reasons to go on living. Though I prefer my brooding Dark Detective who has made plans for every possible eventuality, it’s really fun to see Batman as Life Coach.

Then, I also have the second volume of Showcase Presents World’s Finest, which means it’s time for some Bat-Mite. I kinda miss Bat-Mite.

My emo reaction (and please shoot me)

So one of my very oldest and dearest friends, Scott, was waxing eloquent to me about this Canadian series he positively loves, Slings and Arrows. His wife tracked down the box set of the entire series, and Scott pressed into my hands the first two discs, the first season. “Let me know what you think.” he said.

Now, Scott and I are both, basically, theater people. Scott blames me for corrupting him; he did speech tournaments with me and others back in high school, but it was in college that he really caught the bug, and switched his major. He was one of the student directors awarded an actual slot in the season at the college, and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever done in my life – Tribute.

So. Slings and Arrows is about theater, obviously. I’ve only seen the first episode so far, and I have to say that its primary impact is to plunge me into a deep state of melancholy. This was not what I was expecting, as I had been told, by various people, to expect something that was “hilarious”, or “pure bliss”.  Those adjectives have increased, since I admitted to this state of affairs on Twitter, and therefore Facebook.

The major thrust of the series is a trio of theater professionals, director, actor and actress, who years ago did a definitive version of Hamlet that was so good, the actor had a “mental breakdown”, ending his career. Years later, the director is the Artistic Director of the New Burbage Theater, churning out increasingly commercial and empty productions of Shakespeare, the actress is bitter that she has grown into playing Gertrude rather than Ophelia, and the actor is chaining himself to the door of his ramshackle warehouse theater to protest being evicted for non-payment of rent.

This is really good, terrific TV. It’s obviously being written by theater people, because I recognize all these people, I recognize the thwarted passion, each and every thing rings absolutely true. There is only the smallest intimation of what happened after that premiere of Hamlet, but I recognize there is heartbreak ahead, and I find myself identifying too closely with the characters. Way too closely. Way, way way too closely.

Yes, I’m sure it lightens up in the second episode. Yes, I’m going to watch it tonight. Yes, I’m still unsure as to what my reaction will be.

This is rather like the time back in the late 80s when I was going through a really terrible patch and was horribly depressed. Clinical, probably, but that’s sort of beside the point. Well, maybe not. Anyway, my best friend Diane – we spent most of the late 80s and early 90s keeping each other sane – brought over Sid and Nancy, recently released on video, to cheer me up.

It made me even more depressed.

But you know, on the other hand? I’ve often remarked that I envied other people’s ability to still be affected by media. This was largely about people who can actually be frightened by horror movies anymore, but the point remains the same: I thought I was jaded and untouchable, but I have to admit Slings and Arrows has, indeed, touched me – just not in the way I expected.

The Aftermath, It Turns Out, Is Boring

Okay, let’s start winding down a pretty hectic week.

Film festival weekend, funeral trip Monday with included double blow-out action. Tuesday spent catching up on stuff put off during last four days, and trip to country seat to shoot story on Women’s Shelter. Wednesday is staff meeting, but not much else, thankfully. Yesterday, load-in for live broadcast of School District budget hearings, then tear-down, pack, and return equipment to home base.

Budget meeting: well, there’s no real way to make this stuff interesting, except to randomly interject car chases and ninja attacks (hey, it worked for Cannon Films), but as this was not in the budget, I will settle for being thankful that they held it down to two hours (these things have gone eight hours and more in the past) and that there were sammiches and cookies.

Today… not much, again thankfully. Not seeing the salaried folk this morning, and I don’t blame them. Need to return some library books that were due yesterday, and wouldn’t you know it, their Web page was offline so I couldn’t renew them. Ah, well. Looking forward to Sunday, which looks to be an actual day off, but I have a sneaking, sinking feeling that something will come along.

Tiredly, I wave bye-bye and wish you a good weekend. And ask you to cross your fingers for mine.

T-Fest, Part 2

So, having returned from the beleaguered Burger Island 2 (the burgers were tasty, and quite large, I must say), we settled back in as Chris Holland began the true horror of The Lapland Reindeer Festival. This is an extra on the Something Weird DVD for Terror in the Midnight Sun/Attack of the Animal People, and I have written about it before, most notably in the my last blog about T-Fest. There were a number of virgins in the room, and really, the only reason to show it is to get their reaction. So I’m not going to talk about any further, as some day you might be the virgin we are watching.

This was followed by my second pick, Mystics in Bali (1981), which was supposed to be shown last year, but was foiled by my DVD, which was Region 2-encoded. I managed to get my mitts on a Region 1 copy this year, much to the… well, I guess dismay of the crowd. Mystics is an Indonesian movie, and one of the very few out there about the penanggalen, a witch whose head detaches from her body and flies about, entrails moistly flapping about underneath, searching for blood.

I’ve written about the movie at length, in the review linked above. Like a lot of low-budget horror movies, this one is incredibly talky, but the novelty of seeing how the horror genre is handled in another culture, and the plentiful WTF moments peppered throughout, were soothing enough to get the audience through to the bizarre final fight scene, and the next movie:

Ken’s choice, The Brainiac (1962).

I enjoy Brainiac, especially the typically painful K. Gordon Murray English dub version. Ken brought the Casa Negra DVD release, which has a couple of extra scenes in it, and somehow the DVD player insisted on showing us the English subtitles anyway, which made for a good contrast with what we were hearing (Though I wish someone had proofread those subs). Anyway, as you can see in the trailer above, Baron Vitelius is sentenced to burn at the stake by the Inquisition, Mexico City branch, when he takes off on a passing comet and curses all his judges, proving that the Inquisition was pretty spot-on in its judgement.

300 years later, the Baron returns, along with the refrigerator-sized comet, and has, in the meantime, become a monster with a pulsating head who sucks people’s brains out with his tongue, and then daintily eats them later with a sherbet spoon. All the Inquisition’s descendants have (thriftily enough) all continued to live in Mexico City, so he sets about getting his revenge and gray matter goodies. It’s often effective in its horror movie moments, and wouldn’t you know it? Mexico City, like Miami in Blood Feast, only has two homicide detectives, and they’re both idiots.

The Fest was drawing to a close. It was time for the traditional closing T Rex movie, and there was a problem: apparently the scheduled closer, King Dinosaur, had been shown before, and we didn’t want to repeat ourselves. I actually had a solution: I always carry extra movies (which is how we watched Sugar Hill last year, instead of Mystics in Bali), and one of the movies I was carrying was Dinosaurus! Ken said to Max, “This will be known as the year your father saved T-Fest!” which I somehow do not think is how my son is going to refer to this year at all, but it was nice of Ken to say that.

Dinosaurus! was a childhood fave of mine. You have your typical remote island, which is somehow like a microcosm of Mexico, and some Americans trying to industrialize it, starting with building a harbor facility. Dynamite dredges up two long-buried dinosaur carcasses, a T Rex and a brontosaurus, somehow quick frozen by an incredibly cold subterranean stream. In a plot twist that delights Creationists everywhere, they also discover a frozen Neanderthal. There’s a terrific storm that night, the bodies are struck by lightning, and you know what that means…

The lightning of course takes out all the island’s power and single telephone. There’s a mail boat coming in the morning, but the island’s population is going to be dino kibble by then. The caveman character quickly becomes an audience favorite, not only through the comedy bits as he works his way through a modern house, but because this guy is a combination of caveman Einstein and MacGyver. He is constantly saving the hash of the annoying urchin Julio, not to mention the only blonde hottie on the island (see? he’s a genius!), so when he dies – heroically – the audience is bummed. That’s some quality entertainment, right there.

The T Rex mortally wounds the brontosaurus, who then stumbles off into some quicksand (as was pointed out, doubtless bellowing at T Rex as he sank, “Ha! Come eat me now, you dick!”), and there is a relatively thrilling steamshovel vs. T Rex fight. Like a lot of my favorite movies, Dinosaurus! does not aim to be life-changing or meaningful, it just wants to entertain, and does that grandly. A goodly send-off for this year’s line-up.

We were finished at 9:50, ten minutes before our supposed leaving time (and ten minutes after the local tin fascist had told us to get out), so we cleaned up, stood outside in the humidity for another 20 minutes saying our goodbyes, and then Max, the Chrises. Veronica and myself stopped for ice cream. gelato to be precise, and I discovered that yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as bacon ice cream.

T-Fest is such an educational experience.

T-Fest, part 1

SO a number of years ago I helped start a small film fest, more of an informal get-together, really, called T-Fest. Yes, the parody element, from “B-Fest“, is obvious, and it was held in Texas, but the T actually stands for “Tyrannosaurus”, the rationale being that we always close with a dinosaur flick. It grew out of my desire to have such a get-together with my fellow B-Masters in the Summer, especially once it became obvious that the New Orleans Worst Film Festival wasn’t coming back. It rapidly outgrew my dream of a few guys in my living room to a venue of its own at a local hotel, then another founding member, Sandy Peterson, realized he had access to a venue for free, and that was it: we moved to Dallas.

Plano, to be precise. At the SMU Guildhall, where Sandy teaches game design. There were a few problems this year: the Guildhall is undergoing renovation, and a new security regime was throwing around its weight, demanding we leave the premises by 10PM, whereas in previous years there was no problem in us staying until midnight or beyond. Well, never mind; we improvised, and all that. Lost a movie or two, but endeavored to persevere and all that rot.

Having missed the memo that we were starting at 10AM rather than 10:30, we missed the first few minutes of Gorilla At Large, a pretty well-produced 1954 thriller about some murders at a carnival that seem to be the work of the resident gorilla (back in the days when finding yourself in a room with a gorilla was a death warrant). But there’s also a gorilla suit floating around, too, so maybe somebody wearing the suit is committing the murders. And all the characters are too stupid to see the difference between the suit and the real gorilla ( alright, the better gorilla suit, but you know what I mean).

And what a cast! Raymond Burr, Lee J. Cobb, Cameron Mitchell, a young and exceptionally hot Anne Bancroft, and Lee Marvin playing a cop with a really bad Irish accent.

Somewhere in its production, the decision was made to turn it into a 3-D movie, though the moments when the 3-D process would have been worthwhile were few and far between (sound familiar?) The movie was good training wheels: an excellent way to start the fest.

Next up, you poor devils, was one of my picks: The Invisible Ray (1936) starring Boris Karloff (though here still billed as simply KARLOFF) and Bela Lugosi. If, in their previous team-up, 1935’s The Raven, Lugosi warped time and space with his over-acting, this is certainly Karloff’s turn. His maniacally focused scientist tracks down a meteor in Africa containing Radium X, an incredibly potent source of radioactive energy. He simply plugs it into a ray gun he brought for the purpose and melts a nearby boulder, convincing his superstitious native bearers to stay or get melted (and probably at a generous discount). Radium X is so powerful, though, that it poisons him, causing him to glow in the dark and to kill anything with the merest touch.

Lugosi, as the French (ha!) scientist running the expedition, devises a chemical that restores Karloff to normalcy, but has to be administered periodically, like insulin, or he will turn all incandescent and killy again. It is, of course, only a matter of time before the scientist, resentful to start with, is driven mad by the Radium X and starts leaving day-glo handprints on people’s throats.

Although Karloff really lets the ham rampage through the movie, it never reaches the heights of “Dude, dial it down” that Lugosi reached in The Raven. Lugosi plays a rare sympathetic role here, and he is really, really good, quite solid; it makes you wish he had been giving more opportunities to play straight roles, but that’s where his accent really worked against him.

Next up: because Sandy was dismayed that Ken Begg, the master of Jabootu, had never seen any H.G. Lewis movies: Blood Feast (1963). Chris Holland glances sidewise at me and says, “67 minutes. We can do this.” But 67 minutes in the Lewiusverse is 3 and a half hours in the real world, and it was slow going. Though playing “Yakity Sax” during the final chase scene really did help.

That trailer supposedly ran two minutes, 24 seconds, but it felt like 10 minutes, didn’t it? Consider this: apparently, the night before, Sandy had shown Ken The Wizard of Gore, causing Ken to comment how restrained and coherent Feast was by comparison. Fancy that.

After this was the traditional Sandy quiz, this time concerning in which movie various zombies appeared. I got 22 out of 30, which was pretty good, but not exceptional enough to win the prize, a paperback novel bought off eBay for for the lordly sum of one cent.

And then it was time for the lunch break, at 3:00 in the afternoon. One unfortunate burger stand, Burger Island #2, was ill prepared for 40+ movie nerds walking in their front door, at what would normally be a slow time in the afternoon. But credit where credit is due: while the single guy there was taking my order, he was on the phone, and additional folks were there within ten minutes. We were served and eating within a reasonable amount of time, given the circumstances.

I will leave you there, with myself and Chris playing catch-up with Ken at the loud Burger Island 2 (and my bored son wishing he had his laptop so he could be blowing the heads off total strangers in whichever deathmatch has his attention this week), and tell you that this will be continued tomorrow. Which will bring the Lapland Reindeer Ritual, and the hideous penanggalan, you poor bastards.

Extra Days on the Road: Oh Boy!

Yeah, I said I’d talk about T-Fest today. Sorry, that was incorrect. I am chewed up, spit out, and burned to a crackly crunch.

I think I drove more miles in the past four days than I have in the past year, combined.  To Dallas, Friday. Plano, if you wish to be technical (and who does not?).  Bit of driving round the area for breakfast, lunch, after-fest gelato (bacon gelato!) Saturday, then back to Houston Sunday. Then discover the mother of one of my wife’s closest childhood friends has died, and she’d like me to come with her to the viewing in Austin on Monday, the only day she can be be reasonably late getting back for her rehearsal.

(My wife, Lisa, is acting in a production of Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma at Houston’s Main Street Theater)

Something tells me I should go.

Outside the small town of Giddings, a troublesome vibration in the front end has gotten worse, There is a sound that roughly spells out as WA-BAM, and more sounds from the undercarriage, which is whatever is left of the two front tires richocheting around.

Not mine, but pretty close.

I wish I could tell you about the brave effort it took to control the car and get it safely to the shoulder of the road, but the truth is I don’t remember a single thing about it. I did it, and that’s what’s important.  I am also thankful for cell phones and good coverage, because we were roughly in the middle of nowhere – as it was, it took the tow truck the better part of an hour to get to us. I would not have liked the alternative – walking however many miles in 100+ heat, dressed for a funeral.

So. Three hour there (plus time for accident and tire replacement), three hours back,

I don’t care if I never drive anywhere again. So, of course, I have to drive to the county seat for an interview this afternoon.

Hopefully I can get some rest this evening.

I nearly said that with a straight face.

Back and Gone Again

No sooner do I get back from Dallas that I find I have to go to Austin for a funeral.

Hopefully I’ll return to normal blithering tomorrow, and tell you about T-Fest.