Blood Bath and Its Strange Clan

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know that I like to champion physical media. You may say that’s due to my not being able to afford robust broadband from any of the Great Satans currently controlling Big Cable, but the truth is it’s because we are living in an amazing age for boutique labels.

This week, I’m going to exclaim all over Arrow Films, who’ve been in operation in the UK since 1991, and recently branched out to America. There was a bit of a bobble in the distribution of their superb blu-ray of Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace, resulting in the dusting off of my Amazon UK account and importing it myself. That is an extra mile I did not mind walking… except that after watching that gorgeous, candy-coated transfer, I immediately wanted more with a capital M.

BB boxA year later, I have finally gotten my more and it is as remarkable and complete as it is improbable: A box set of four films that quite literally share the same cinematic DNA, marketed under the best-known of its many identities: Blood Bath. Tim Lucas, one of the best genre film historians and critics around today, bears the likely blame for this: in the earliest issues of his essential magazine, Video Watchdog, there was a three-part article tracing the history of these odd, stitched-together movies. Lucas points to these articles as the probable genesis of his magazine, since no other publication would have considered devoting that many pages to such obscurities. Speaking personally, I read those articles and thought, I’m not alone in obsessing over junk food movies.

I’ll try to keep this brief, as the set covers a lot of ground. Roger Corman, wheeling and dealing internationally after the box office failure of The Intruder (and not incidentally trying to get out from under the thumb of AIP), makes a stop in Yugoslavia and agrees to help fund a crime movie, filmed in English, and provide two stars for the American market. That movie, directed by Rados Novakovic, is Operation Titian. Don’t bother looking for it on the IMDb under that name, you’ll give yourself a headache. It’s there under Operacija Ticijan.

Thank you, LetterboxdOperation Titian feels a lot like the krimi movies so popular in Germany at the time, but suffers from not having a script based on a Edgar Wallace novel. The macguffin is a Renaissance painting by Titian, supposedly lost during WWII. A certain Dr. Zaroni (Patrick Magee) arrives, meeting with a shadowy someone who passes him a key to the villa in which the painting is now hidden. Zaroni kills the old man living there and steals the painting, only to discover that it is a copy. That shadowy someone is the old man’s nephew (William Campbell), who has his own plotline about his old fiancee who is marrying a reporter. Said fiancee is also the sister of the policeman who is tracking down Zaroni.


“Where are you headed after this, Patrick?” “Yugoslavia. You?” “What a coincidence!”

There are several more complications and twists, in true krimi fashion. The local actors, performing in English, are quite good; the photography tends toward the pedestrian, but at times produces some exceptional nighttime sequences that benefit not only from the old world architecture of Dubrovnik, but also an obvious reverence for Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil and Carol Reed’s The Third Man. Corman, for his end of the deal, provided two actors who had been working in Ireland with some young turk named Francis Coppola on a horror movie called Dementia 13. Magee does his usual excellent job of playing alternately charming and quietly menacing, often in the same line. Campbell always does best when he is allowed to be a bit hammy, and he does eventually get that chance.

The pertinent point here, though, is that, after having read Lucas’ articles and knowing what eventually became of Operation Titian, I was pretty confident that I would never actually get to see it. And now I have.

How sad is it that I can recognize an Alpha Video box by sight alone?

How sad is it that I can recognize an Alpha Video box by sight alone?

Corman had some problems with Novakovic’s finished movie, and had it reworked for the American TV market into Portrait in Terror, the second movie in the box set. Portrait rearranges the sequence of events in Titian, and excises some pretty blatant travelogue footage (think Reptilicus without that time-wasting tour of Denmark). Titian introduced its characters in a lengthy scene at an airport, and it still didn’t do a very good job of it. Portrait almost starts in media res in comparison, and the viewer clicks with the cast much more quickly.

There are some puzzling additions, however. The murder of an extorting dancer, handled obliquely in Titian is now replaced by a bizarre stabbing scene in which only the slightest of efforts was made to match the actors – the costumes are close, but that’s about it (nice work is done finding similar architecture in Venice, California, though). The stabbing is followed by the murderer laboriously carrying the body down long stretches of stairs – in broad daylight – while the camera shows blood dripping on the steps. As the killer is supposedly wearing Magee’s white linen suit – which remains spotless – this becomes egregious rather quickly. He then loads the body into a rowboat and dumps the body in the middle of a crowded bay. It is still daylight.

In Titian, that scene ends with the dancer gasping as the white-suited figure approaches; a few seconds only. In Portrait, it’s closer to five minutes. In Titian, her corpse is discovered during a sports fishing competition; we find she was impaled with a fishing spear. In Portrait, it is much the same, except the scuba diving takes much longer, and as we all know, if a movie is moving slowly, there’s nothing like a scuba diving scene to bring it to a dead stop.

What is unusual is that Portrait runs 15 minutes shorter than Titian, but it’s not an improvement. Operation Titian has a very deliberate pace, it is true, but it has a definite rhythm. That rhythm is chopped up to jarring effect in Portrait in Terror and those strange ill-considered inserts scrub the proceedings of any tension that might have been built up.

Then you get to the next evolution of Operation Titian, and things start to get really weird, as we get into the movie whose name the box set bears: Blood Bath.

SPOILER: This is all you're going to see of Magee in BLOOD BATH.

SPOILER: This is all you’re going to see of Magee in BLOOD BATH.

Roger Corman, who should have been named Patron Saint of Film Recycling some time ago, tells Jack Hill that it’s his turn to make a movie; he doesn’t so much care what kind of movie, so long as he uses 30 minutes of Operation Titian footage (this is the same MO that resulted in Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets). William Campbell balks, but is eventually brought back on to flesh out his character in Titian: this time his BloodBathArt1Antonio Sordi is a painter obsessed with his equally artistic ancestor, who was burned at the stake (along with his disturbing paintings) based on the testimony of his mistress. Sordi is also quite insane, believes he is being haunted by the ghost of that mistress, and keeps killing women at her behest, using their corpses as the models for his successful series of paintings called Dead Red Nudes, and then dipping them in a huge wax vat.

Please note that there is no blood bathing in the movie, except on the poster.

Now this is a fairly solid concept for a thriller; consult The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film and you’ll find half a dozen movies with a similar plot. Jack Hill does some interesting stuff, not the least of which is a surreal nightmare scene where the ghostly mistress torments Sordi. Hill also archly revives the satiric beatnik art milieu of Corman’s Bucket of Blood, with Sid Haig and Jonathan Haze drunkenly searching for the next “art thing” with skills that would make a third grader sneer.

Oh no! Beatniks!

Oh no! Beatniks!

Corman returns from shooting in Europe (Yugoslavia, again!) and once more has problems with the movie, but while Corman was wrapping his movie and Blood Bath was in limbo, Jack Hill has moved on to Spider Baby. Another Corman protege, Stephanie Rothman, gets the nod to “improve” the movie yet again. She does this by inserting a storyline that Sordi is actually a shape-shifting vampire – shape-shifting probably because Campbell rightly wanted more money to come back yet again, so hell, just turn him into another actor entirely. Rothman also manages to get another actor from Hill’s version, Karl Schanzer, as the guru of the art beatniks, Max. Schanzer is saddled by one of the worst fake moustaches in film history, but he also becomes one of the most improbable heroes in that same history.

Oh no! A vampire who looks nothing like William Campbell!

Oh no! A vampire who looks nothing like William Campbell!

Blood Bath is a surreal experience, to say the least; my main source of confusion is exactly where the hell this movie is taking place. I was quite comfortable assuming it was in California, given the Venice locations, and then Campbell starts talking about living in a clock tower active since the 11th century, so I guess we’re still in Dubrovnik? Really, the worst thing that can be said about Blood Bath is that it plays out as exactly what it is: three movies stitched together, and at least one feels like a deliberate intrusion on the others. Still, at a slim b-picture 62 minutes, it has little time to wear out its welcome.

62 minutes? That works for a double feature (it played on a double bill with Curtis Harrington’s Queen of Blood), but won’t do for TV syndication, where most movies are slotted in a two hour block. So, like the villain in a video game, Operation Titian mutates into its final form, Track of the Vampire.

Oh no! Another vampire who looks nothing like William Campbell!

Oh no! Another vampire who looks nothing like William Campbell!

The name of the game here is padding, so yet another actor becomes the black-clad vampire to chase yet another woman through California scenery to the tune of nearly ten minutes. There is, apropos of next-to-nothing, a lengthy dance scene on a beach, but most remarkable of all is the return of that extorting dancer from Titian and Portrait, and Patrick Magee – absent except for a freeze frame in Blood Bath. Campbell and Magee have been re-dubbed in these scenes to manufacture an entirely new subplot about cheating wives and avenging husbands. All this manages to bring Track up to the requisite 82 minutes, but it does the overall movie no favors whatsoever.

"If we use this fancy lens effect, no one will notice that it's padding!"

“If we use this fancy lens effect, no one will notice that it’s padding!”

Track of the Vampire is, sadly, the version I was most familiar with all these years, from several viewings on local horror movie slots – and the story never got any more comprehensible with repetition, let me tell you. That’s also where Lucas first picked up the thread, as he explains in the real jewel of the collection, a video essay titled “The Trouble with Titian – Revisited”, With all respect to Xan Cassavetes, it could have also been titled “Operation Titian: A Less-Than-Magnificent Obsession”.

If you’ve never watched a movie with a Tim Lucas commentary track, you’re in for a treat, and probably going to develop a bit of an obsession for them yourself. Track down any number of Mario Bava blu-rays (like the aforementioned Blood and Black Lace) with his work on them – Lucas literally wrote the book on Bava movies – and you will be amazed by the amount of information he can pack into less than 90 minutes. “The Trouble with Titian” represents such a magnificent visual expansion of that three-part article, along with new information he has gleaned over the years – it makes you wish every article he has written could be realized in such a form. Side-by-side comparisons of the different versions, freeze frames – a lot of time and care went into this supplement, and it shows.


Yay, garish blood-dripping version!

That disc also holds video interviews with Jack Hill and Sid Haig, and a gallery of around 30 pictures. A pack-in booklet has compact but fairly complete bios on Campbell, Magee and Haig, and there is a poster of the box cover art and the much more lurid theatrical poster for Blood Bath. It’s a nice bonus that labels like Arrow care enough to make reversible covers for the disc box itself, allowing me to indulge my more vulgar urges and swap that cover around for the garish, blood-dripping version.

As I said before, I never thought I would see Operation Titian in this lifetime, much less in the company of its strange, Frankensteinian descendants, and I certainly never thought I’d see them in such immaculate condition in 2K restorations! There is no reason for this box set to exist, and yet it does, and for that we should all be grateful. It traces, in great detail, the events in a very small but vibrant corner of the independent film industry, the creative arc of what were thought to be a series of disposable movies. But are any movies truly disposable?

Tim Lucas and I were not the only people struck by the strangeness of Track of the Vampire; chance cinematic encounters like this are just as likely to engender curiosity and passion as stumbling onto a viewing of an acclaimed art filmArrow Films once again has my respect for approaching movies that have long been the subject of fuzzy public domain discs, and treating them with the same reverence and respect as their much more hoity-toity, supposedly more “respectable” contemporaries.

Buy Blood Bath on Amazon




T: Targets (1968)


Click the banner for Hubrisween Central. Or visit Hubrisween on Letterboxd

MPW-56708Every now and then the pieces just come together, and it is wonderful when that happens.

After shooting The Terror, one of Roger Corman’s more infamous patchwork movies, Boris Karloff owed Corman two more days of work. There was a young feller named Peter Bogdanovich, a writer who had come to California and started working with Corman by accident more than anything. After almost half a year toiling in that fruitful movie factory/film school, Corman felt that Bogdanovich had earned his shot, and offered him his own film. It could be any movie Bogdanovich wanted, with two conditions:

1) He had to use Boris Karloff for the remaining two days on his contract, and

2) He had to use 20 minutes of footage from The Terror.

targets-1968Employing Corman math, this meant 20 minutes of new Karloff (“You can shoot 20 minutes in two days, right? I shot whole movies in two days!”) plus 20 minutes of old footage added up to enough Karloff to ballyhoo it as a new Karloff movie. All Bogdanovich had to do was figure out how.

What began as a joke in his head while desperately trying to put those puzzle pieces together – Karloff watching the end of The Terror  in a screening room, turning to Roger Corman and saying, “That was the worst movie I’ve ever seen.” – eventually became the movie we know as Targets.

The movie does begin with the end of The Terror and the screening room. Karloff is playing Byron Orlock, star of The Terror (and so much more), who has decided this is the perfect time to retire. Entreaties from producers and the young director of The Terror (Bogdanovich himself, playing a character based on uncredited script doctor Samuel Fuller) prove useless. Orlock feels he is an anachronism, his stock in trade fallen to mere camp against headlines of shooting rampages in supermarkets.

vlcsnap-00011What Orlock does not know, as he stands on a sidewalk arguing with the director, is that he is literally in the crosshairs of a hunting rifle across the street.

The rifle is being bought at a gun store by Bobby Thompson (Tim O’Kelley), who gladly purchases the rifle, then puts it into the trunk of his Mustang, where it joins a small arsenal of rifles and pistols.

And so begins the two stories that will alternate throughout the movie, as Bobby exists in his gray suburban tract house with his parents and wife. Bobby’s dad has a lot of guns and a few hunting trophies; we see a picture of Bobby in Army fatigues on the wall. Bobby tries to talk to his wife before she leaves for work, saying he doesn’t know what’s happening to him, he’s having some funny ideas. She’s late, though, and laughs it off.

600px-Targetswoodmaster4Byron, after a sullen night interrupted by a drunken Bogdanovich that ends with both of them waking up with enormous hangovers, decides to do one last personal appearance at a drive-in theater premiering The Terror. In our other story, Bobby waits for his wife to wake up, then shoots her, his mother, and a hapless delivery boy. They will just be the start.

Based on the case of Charles Whitman, Bobby climbs to the top of an oil storage tank and snipes at the cars passing on the highway below. He seems a bit surprised that the police come so quickly, and eventually dodges into a drive-in movie to escape them – as luck would have it, the drive-in where Orlock will be appearing. He manages to climb into the screen and views the killing fields below, rows of unsuspecting cars, He waits only for night, and unwary persons to turn on their interior lights to give him his targets.

It must have been kind of intense seeing this movie at a drive-in, is what I’m saying.

targets_1In a nicely meta bit, Bogdanovich keeps begging Orlock to do his next movie, written especially for him, and that script is obviously Targets (finally the drunken Bogdanovich snatches the script and staggers toward the door, saying. “Fine! I’ll offer it to Vincent Price!”).

Karloff is 80 years old here, still intensely vital and utterly professional. At this point in his life, both legs were in braces, and he was usually in a wheelchair; when we see him walk, it is always with a cane. Emphysema had him down to half a lung, and on constant oxygen support. Tales of his last years had him taking off the oxygen mask, rising from his wheelchair, hitting the damned mark and saying his damned lines, and returning to the chair and his life-giving tank only after “Cut” was called, and never complaining. That is what the word “professional” has always meant to me. Karloff had none of the bitterness or disdain for his work that Orlock has; but other than that, he was pretty much playing himself in this role. Legend has it that Karloff liked the script so much, he gave the tyro director three extra days of shooting for free.

Not all actors are lucky enough to have that one movie that acts as a perfect coda to their career. John Wayne managed it with The Shootist, and Karloff did it with Targets. But Karloff being Karloff, this was not his last movie; that would fall to Curse of the Crimson Altar and a group of low-budget Mexican movies. But I can alter my perception of the world as I see fit, and so Targets, possibly the first and best of the modern horror movies to successfully deal with a uniquely modern monster, remains for me the capper of Karloff’s long and storied career.

This trailer is obviously from after the movie’s troubled first release, and the success of Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show, in 1971, and minimizing Karloff’s involvement is awfully telling. 1968 was a particularly violent year for America, and Paramount was, perhaps understandably, timorous about the movie’s subject matter. But I wonder what those quaking studio heads would have thought of the present day, when mass shootings have become so common they don’t even register on the nightly news anymore.

Targets on Amazon

The ABCS of March, Part Five

There was a big push to get ahead on the March Movie Madness event, because a) it was Spring Break, and b) weeks off always engender a Hell of Work To Catch Up On. This time is certainly no exception, as the Week of Hell is actually growing into a Fortnight of Hell. I have a 12 hour day coming up this Sunday which may kill me. Please tell my mother and my wife that I love them.

I’ve managed to claw a bit of free time out of the schedule, let’s see how far I can get:

Queen of Blood (1966)

queenofbloodOne of the stranger cottage industries Roger Corman spawned in the early 60s involved buying the rights to Soviet science-fiction movies – which were pretty high-minded and had some great effects by pre-2001: A Space Odyssey standards – and then harvesting the effects sequences to plug into American-shot movies, since no red-blooded Amurrican would be caught dead watchin’ no Commie movie, anyways. Like a Comanche using every last bit of the buffalo, Corman and his crew got significant bang for the buck out of this strange vivisection – Planet of Storms is the basis for at least three movies, almost all with “Prehistoric Women” in the title, and The Heavens Call yielded Battle Beyond the Sun and this odd little Curtis Harrington movie.

In the far-flung year of 1990, Earth’s Space Institute receives a message from another planet, informing them that the alien race is sending an ambassador. Several weeks later, it is discovered that the visitor’s spaceship has crashed on Mars, and a hasty rescue mission is organized. Only one survivor is found (by accident), and gosh darn it, on the way back to Earth it’s discovered that she’s a vampire.

A color-corrected Florence Marly in this lobby card.

A color-corrected Florence Marly in this lobby card.

Queen of Blood is an entertaining enough sci-fi programmer. It rarely drags enough to relinquish your attention elsewhere, and even has some nice drama when it’s determined that one member of a two-man rescue ship will have to stay behind on the Martian moon Phobos to allow the surviving alien to take his place on the lifeboat that will connect with the ship already on Mars. The mechanics of the plot are well-considered, even if some of the science is not.

Harrington had worked with Dennis Hopper in 1961’s Night Tide, and brings him along for the ride – it’s actually kind of refreshing to see him in a cardboard sci-fi context. John Saxon is predictably solid, and the other breath of fresh air is Judi Meredith, who has a swell little genre resume along with numerous TV roles – she’s in Jack the Giant Killer, Dark Intruder and The Night Walker. Basil Rathbone is on hand as the urbane head of the Space Institute, probably because John Carradine was shooting six other movies that day.

As mentioned in my grumbling about Prometheus, I’m more sad about the tremendously advanced Moonbase we’re utilizing in 1990 than amused. The most fun to be had is watching the film grain and lighting change from the Soviet material to the American.

The Red Shoes (1948)

redshoesThe quintessential backstage drama, which just happens to be about ballet. I’ll be frank and say that ballet, along with opera, are the two art forms I care very little about. I don’t hate them the way I loathe, say, most musicals, but I’d much rather spend my time watching something else. But they are still art forms, so I’m happy that both have more than enough fans that they don’t have to depend on me for their survival.

So I approached Red Shoes with a bit of misgiving, but I needn’t have worried. Art is art, performance is performance, and the act of creation is endlessly fascinating. The first section of the movie can get a little wearing, with two of our protagonists starting out at the bottom, and haha, those temperamental artists! But once events start to move, and we become invested in the rise of dancer Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) and composer Julian Craster (Marius Goring) under the direction of ballet impresario Lermontov (Anton Walbrook). This will lead to a triangle that has little to do with love, and everything to do with their arts. It’s a very different kind of passion at work here, and its tragic ending is almost inevitable.

At one point, during rehearsals for the new ballet The Red Shoes, Lermontov says to his set designer, “The audience will applaud in the middle!” He’s likely speaking for director Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, as the debut of the ballet, midway through the movie, is played out before us as a fantasia, heavily based on the paintings of scenic artist Alfred Roberts. It’s not meant to be a literal recreation of the ballet, which would require an impossible set on the world’s largest stage; it is more a representation of what is going on in the dancer’s and the audience’s minds, when, as Lermontov constantly proclaims, “The music is everything!”

red-shoesThe melodramatic plot and acting aside – all perfectly keeping with post-WWII standards, and none of it odious – The Red Shoes is an undeniable masterpiece. Which of course means that the Rank Organization thought it was pure rubbish and didn’t even bother to release it in its native England for several years.

And, just in passing, I guess I should mention I was largely on Lermontov’s side on the triangle. Both men are complete assholes at the movie’s end, but Julian’s insistence that Victoria give up her opening night in order to attend his is beyond the fucking pale, even for an artist.

The trailer gives you only an inkling of Jack Cardiff’s magnificent camera work, though the color, even faded, gives you some idea of the Technicolor glory of the restored print:

The Searchers (1956)

searchersThursday night was a good night; it started with The Red Shoes and ended with The Searchers.

The Searchers may very well be the Perfect Western. It so solidly bridges the gap between the silent starched West of Tom Mix with the gritty, grimy hell of Unforgiven. It still has love for the vast sunny beauty of Monument Valley (filling in for Texas) and the pioneering spirit of the people who live there, but it comes from a much darker place than any previous John Ford/John Wayne collaboration.

Wayne is Ethan Edwards, a man who returns to his brother’s homestead after a three-year absence (some of it due to the Civil War), just in time for the family to be slaughtered by Indians and the two young girls taken hostage. A posse of Ethan, some volunteer Texas Rangers, and Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter in his premiere) take off in pursuit. The posse is eventually winnowed down to Ethan and Martin, which is going to provide most of the conflict for the movie; Martin was rescued by Ethan from a similar Indian raid when Martin was a child. But Martin is also one-eighth Cherokee, and there is one thing Ethan cannot abide, it’s a half-breed. Ethan’s discovery of the older girl, raped and killed, cements his decision to find the younger girl, Debbie, no matter the cost.

searchers1As the search drags on for five years, Martin continues to accompany Ethan; the younger man’s role, he has come to realize, is to stop Ethan from killing Debbie once he finds her. By now the girl has been accepted into the tribe, and is in fact one of the wives of the war chief Scar, and as far as Ethan is concerned, that means she is no longer white, and better off dead.

We can all conjure up images of Wayne as the good ol’ righteous western dude – that’s most of his output in the 60s. But in his best roles, there’s an edge to the character, and in The Searchers he gets to be a complete and utter dick. Anyone who thinks Wayne wasn’t a good actor should watch The Searchers; there is one close-up – after Ethan and Martin have checked over the white captives of a tribe massacred by cavalry, only to find neither is Debbie and both are far worse for wear – a close-up of Wayne that combines such strong emotions, loathing, pity, simmering hatred… that it’s shocking.

actingBut the movie is far from being a grim slog-fest. There are lighter moments aplenty, and good support from the Ford repertory company, like the always-welcome Ward Bond, and I was completely unprepared for KEN CURTIS – FRONTIER MACK.

Both movies – The Red Shoes and The Searchers – are highly recommended, especially on Blu-Ray. The Criterion Collection of Red Shoes is beautifully restored, and the VistaVision transfer of The Searchers – an awesomely affordable disc, these days – will knock your eyes out. And the trailer has a ton of fine Duke moments:

The Third Man (1949)

third_manEventually I was going to find a classic I just didn’t care for.

I think it was about a year back when a former colleague messaged me, saying he has just watched The Third Man, and could not figure out for the life of him what it was that made the movie so revered. What did he miss? Did I have any insights? As I had not seen it at the time, I couldn’t supply any. Well, now I’ve seen it. Still can’t supply any.

This is a well-made movie, make no mistake. It’s obvious writer Graham Greene and director Carol Reed are both in love with Vienna. And it’s the Post-World War II occupation by four separate world powers and the burgeoning black market that make the story possible; it’s interesting to see the International Police Force at work, a cop from each occupying  country making each call. The story just never grabbed me, and I’m at a loss to explain why. Perhaps I was poisoned by that year-ago question.

The Third Man is the tale of Western novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), who arrives in Vienna at the behest of childhood chum Harry Lime (Orson Welles, eventually) promising work. Martins, however, arrives just in time for Lime’s funeral, as he was killed in an odd pedestrian accident across from the building where he lived. Odd because Martins finds conflicting stories about the accident, including a, yes, Third Man at the scene that the police know nothing about. Martins, of course, sets about investigating.

org third man13711If there is one thing that bewilders me about The Third Man, it is the enduring popularity of Harry Lime. One of the things that Martins finds out, to his dismay, (okay, spoiler alert, even though there a statute of limitations on spoilers for movies that are 64 freakin’ years old) is that Lime was not only a black marketeer, but dealt in adulterated penicillin, resulting in the death and disability of many people, including children. Yet Harry Lime had his own radio show for many years (tales of Lime’s past, given the ultimate outcome of the movie), and by the time there was a Harry Lime TV show (starring Michael Rennie, if I recall correctly) Lime had been completely rehabilitated as a globe-trotting art collector.

I don’t get it. I shrug. I will say that my non-genuflection at The Third Man‘s altar should not be taken as a condemnation; as I said, it is a well-made movie that should be checked out, and if nothing else, has the best denouement of any number of noirs. You can make your own decision.

The Unknown (1946)

iloveamystery2Is he really going to do five movies this time? Yes, and five the next, if I survive tomorrow. Then this whole thing will be over, and we can get back to our normal anarchy.

The Unknown is one of three movies based on the I Love A Mystery radio series. To be disarmingly cute about it, I love I Love A Mystery, especially in its later incarnation as a 15-minutes-a-day serial. I think – no time for research this time, mes enfants, sorry – that this hearkens to the older, half-hour incarnation of the show, when our detective agency was only two people, Jack Packard (Jim Bannon) and the laconic Texan, Doc Long (Barton Yarborough), both men repeating their roles from radio.

i-love-a-mysteryThe Unknown is an old dark house, reading-the-will story, populated with strange characters and tangled sub-plots, so much so that Jack and Doc are practically guest stars in their own movie. There is an accidental death years previous that has completely twisted the family tree, a dead patriarch walled up in a fireplace rather than the family crypt, a will that keeps vanishing, and the ghostly crying of a baby in the night. Also the requisite secret passageways and cloaked killer, whose identity is perfectly obvious at the halfway mark, if not sooner. At a trim 70 minutes, though, it doesn’t have time to get truly tiresome, and does have at least one plot twist that surprised me.

It’s also so obscure there’s no trailer for it online. Instead, have the trailer for Larry Blamire’s parody of Old Dark House Reading of the Will thrillers, Dark and Stormy Night:

There. Bring on that 12 hour day.

Crapsgiving 2012

I actually recovered from a week and a half of Extreme Bizzitude the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Wednesday night was spent brining the turkey, Thursday, of course, was cooking and eating, then eating after a nap, then eating some more. Friday was more restful, as old chum Cabot Parsons was down from Noo Yawk to visit, and we made each other remember stuff from our more youthful days that we had good cause to forget (and then I ate). That was the restful day my body had really needed. And Saturday… ah Saturday… was the rest my soul needed, as I had no Show and therefore bullied everyone into a Thanksgiving Crapfest, or, as it is known, Crapsgiving.

Our Author, ready for action.

I think I actually stuffed myself more at Crapsgiving than I had at Thanksgiving. Host Dave had cooked up some excellent beef-and-venison sausages and sautéed the hell out of a mix of mushrooms and peppers and some dirty rice – nay, filthy rice – to accompany them. As the evening wore on we would also tuck into a huge pepperoni pizza Rick had snagged from Costco – I believe the crust was also made from pepperoni, as were portions of the box. In any case, there was a hell of a lot of pepperoni. Then the usual snacks, and Paul brought supplies for root beer floats. After a year spent losing weight, I am finally back to my fightin’ weight of 500 pounds.

While various people arrived, I played a disc of terrible things from, appropriately, Alas, the only people to be scarred by this were myself, Dave, Rick and one of two new guys who had arrived early, Erik. Erik brought his A-game, I must say; he came with some movies of his own, about the worst of which (that I had seen, anyway) was The Angry Red Planet, and I love The Angry Red Planet. But I don’t think he was entirely prepared for the brain-blasting awfulness we put ourselves through on a regular basis; though Everything is Terrible  should have been a fair intimation.

We started off Crapsgiving Proper with The Big Doll House, Jack Hill’s first Filipino Women In Prison flick for Corman’s new company, New World Pictures. It isn’t the absurd perfection of The Big Bird Cage, but it is still pretty entertaining in its own right. This is apparently Pam Grier’s first big movie role, where Sid Haig is giving her acting tips as the shoot progresses. Their chemistry is damned good, so much so that Hill would pair them again for The Big Bird Cage the following year.

There is really only one plot in these movies: there are women in a hellish Filipino prison, and they want to escape. What sets each apart is the bizarreness of the setpieces. Granted, there must always be at least one shower scene, one wrestling match (usually in mud, if Corman has anything to say about it), and at least one torture scene involving nudity, ideally several. Doll House also has a food fight followed up by a general fire-hosing of the inmates (which, legend says, the inmates didn’t know was coming). This particular prison is also, for some reason, run by female Nazis, though there is also a shadowy hooded military man who seems to operate things behind the scenes, leading Erik to deduce that the prison is actually being run by Cobra Commander. (“I hate you, Joe! Now get undressed!”)

Surprisingly little nudity, given the movie’s ultimate venue was the drive-in, but some little caution was apparently called for in 1971. The next year Deep Throat would put “porno chic” on the cultural map and things would loosen up considerably for a few years, providing the teen-aged me with a short Golden Age at the Drive-In. The Big Doll House’s major problems are a Shakespeare-sized cast list (with an identically Shakespearean body count), getting rid of Pam Grier way too soon, and that there is no Vic Diaz. If I had been Ferdinand Marcos, I would have required every movie made in the Philippines to cast Vic Diaz. Dammit, A Filipino movie without Vic Diaz is like a Women in Prison movie without a shower scene.

Also best line of the night comes from Dave: “Sid Haig is like the Cary Grant of Women in Prison movies.”

Best of all, Big Doll House  was one of the movies from The List – I now only have 15 to go before the end of the year (oy). Thank you, gentlemen.

Alan and Paul and the other newb, Joe, sauntered in toward the end of Doll House. Paul might have gotten to see an exposed breast, or two; Alan was not so lucky. Dave called upon me to put something on while he prepared martinis to fortify ourselves against his choice. I put on my new Shazzan disc, but when Dave sneered at it, I huffily withdrew it and substituted something I had promised Paul a long time ago: the very first episode of Hee Haw.

Most of you sneered just then. But then, most people are familiar with Hee Haw from its later, syndicated years, when the bits were old and worn and the writers were desperately pawing through whatever joke books they could find in resale shops to fill up time between country stars. But the first year, all this stuff was new, and the material was smart, surreal and sharp. There was no doubting the musical ability of the visiting stars (in this case Charley Pride and Loretta Lynn, who sang a feminist song about squaws going on warpaths) and there is no gainsaying Buck Owens. No, there is not, because Buck Owens kicks ass. The very first song, on Hee Haw, on the country & western version of Laugh-In, is not a country song. It is “Johnny B. Goode” with Dogpatch-styled go-go dancers.

(You know, when I wrote this, all these things were available on YouTube. I leave this horrid placeholder up by way of protest)

This is your monthly reminder that Buck Owens always disclaimed he played country. “I play American music,” he would say, and go back to rocking out. The twin brothers in the background were the Hager Twins, there for youth appeal. Their songs were likewise good, and I always find myself infected with their “The Gambling Man” for weeks after watching this first episode. Dig the kazoo action:

So despite initial disbelief, the room wound up enjoying Hee Haw. It opened up old memory through-ways  and if nothing else, it was a memory you could sing along with:

Then, finally, Dave was ready to spring his horrifying choice of the evening on us. But it was a digital copy, running off a server in a back room, so while it transferred itself to a closer hard drive (honestly, we were one hot chick with short hair shy of a 90s hacker drama), we popped in an emergency disc I had gotten from Warner Archive some time before: Hollywood Party (1934). The trailer will give you some idea of the surrealism packed into its 69 minutes:

Yes, that’s a shockingly young Jimmy Durante going mano a mano with Mickey Mouse, and that is not the weirdest thing on display in this movie. The contents are surprisingly saucy – Hollywood Party just barely slipped out before the Hayes Code started being sternly enforced. This is the sort of movie that gives you some context into older Looney Tunes gags. We never made it to Mickey Mouse, much less The Three Stooges (still shackled to Ted Healey) or Laurel and Hardy. We never had time to ponder the allure of Lupe Velez, the Mexican Spitfire, whose act consisted of combining a spoiled brat with the worst psycho girlfriend you ever had. Hollywood Party was interrupted by the completed transfer of Dave’s choice: Abby (1974).

Abby is William Girdler‘s blaxploitation version of The Exorcist; it was reportedly more successful than Blacula, and one of several Exorcist knock-offs suppressed by Warner Brothers. I was a bit bemused by the other members of our gathering saying, “Abby? Abby? What’s that?” I sometimes forget what a strange little specialized bubble I occupy.

Snappy pith helmet, Bishop. You must be in Africa!

Abby is the fourth of five movies Girdler made in his native Louisville, Kentucky; he was known for making them fast and cheap, even when he moved on to Hollywood. I’m pretty sure most of Abby‘s budget went to paying William Marshall, and that is always a wise investment. Marshall plays Bishop Garnett Williams, who heads off to Nigeria to aid in pestilence and famine relief, but winds up unleashing an ancient demon who possesses his innocent daughter-in-law, the title character, played by Carol Speed. Again, there’s not much budget, so any demonic activity is limited to cursing, flailing around, popping an alka-seltzer into the mouth, renting a fog machine for one night, and scaring white women to death. And, oh yeah, screwing a bunch of men, much to the dismay of her husband, Williams’ son, himself a minister. I guess that’s a valid (and economical) path to take when your possessed character isn’t a schoolgirl.

Well, Pop comes back from Nigeria and after his son and Abby’s brother, a cop, track her down to a local nightclub, Marshall dons his holy dashiki and lays the righteous smack down on the devil. There’s a lot of not-quite subliminal flashes of Speed in some monster makeup (to echo the one in Exorcist) in the lengthy exorcism scene. They even pull out the stage illusion levitation trick, possible because they didn’t have to bother lifting a bed. Genius!

I’ve never been a big fan of The Exorcist, for much the same reason The Omen leaves me cold; I don’t have much in the way of religious roots to shake. So I’m afraid a cheap copy of The Exorcist (and Girdler, whatever his shortcomings, was refreshingly honest about that) isn’t going to do much for me. At least now I can say I’ve seen Abby.

Really, the most frightening thing about it: It has thrown the door open to a viewing of Exorcist II: The Heretic. Which, surprise, surprise, I have just gotten from the Swap A DVD Club.

You can take that earlier phrase “At least now I can say I’ve seen Abby” and use it for our next movie. Its possibility as a Crapfest entry had been danced around for some time, and finally, it seems, it was time to actually experience it.

Sweet Sassy Molassy. We’ve been through a lot at Crapfests. We’ve subjected ourselves to Dondi, Things and Strange Beings. We keep thinking we’ve developed scar tissue. But The Room punched us in places that hadn’t been touched before.

Writer/director/producer Tommy Wiseau also stars as Johnny, who is a saint, I tell you, a saint. His girlfriend, Lisa (Juliette Danielle) lives with him, and he buys her flowers, dresses, a ring, soon a car and a house. They are to be married in a month. Lisa, though, confesses to her Mom and everyone who will listen that she finds Johnny “boring”, doesn’t love him anymore, and isn’t going to marry him. Then she has an affair with Johnny’s best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero).

The Room is like a vanity novel about human relationships written by Martians; they know what relationships look like, but not what they sound like, what truly makes them tick.

Characters keep getting introduced, right up into the third act – at least I think that was the third act – mainly to tell us how awesome Johnny is and how evil Lisa has become. “She’s a sociopath!” Conveniently Introduced Psychologist tells us. Lisa also finishes every conversation with “I don’t want to talk about it!” and we were really sorry we hadn’t known to count those.

There’s a fair piece of your six million dollar budget right there.

There are four sex scenes in The Room. One is simply the first sex scene between Johnny and Lisa played again, with a different fake rock song on the soundtrack. These scenes make you wonder if you haven’t accidentally flipped to Cinemax; in fact, if not for the tragic ending, I would assume this was Wiseau’s audition tape for directing Cinemax flicks.

Wiseau is working through some issues here, and I don’t need a Conveniently Introduced Psychologist to tell me this. Johnny is just a wonderful human being, everybody agrees about this, even Mark while he’s schtupping Johnny’s girlfriend. So after everything is revealed at Johnny’s birthday party, and he makes everyone leave, Johnny tears the place apart (“I saw Orson Welles do this in Citizen Kane and it was awesome!“) and then blows his brains out, leaving Lisa and Mark to boo hoo hoo over their loss and transgression and doubtless the President to declare a day of mourning.

It’s that last scene, the oh-what-have-we-done scene, that leads me to believe that the vanity novel was written by an adolescent Martian. God, how many stories have we constructed in our little hormone-cooked brains where we died and everybody agonized over how badly they’d treated us? That’s what the last scene in The Room is, and the difference is that Wiseau managed to pull together a reported $6 million to make a movie version of it.

I also can’t help but laugh at the last part of that trailer, the “quirky black comedy” part. That’s the part that finally makes it salable, but The Room was not shot as a black comedy. It’s a teenage I’ll-show-them-all put to film, and I’m glad that Wiseau got some catharsis out of this, even if I and everyone who’s seen it has not.

My first encounter with The Room:

It’s the “Oh, Johnny, I didn’t know it was you” followed by “You’re my favorite customer” that still gets me.

Of course, I was live-tweeting the Crapfest, and about three-quarters of the way through The Room, I had to say this:

Little did I know that there is a Room bot out there, and I came home to this:


How to Waste A Labor Day Weekend

Ah, Labor Day. You are a welcome surcease, a chance to sleep in a bit, to attend an impromptu lunch honoring a returning comrade, a chance to catch up on this blog. You are also a cancellation of The Show, which I may find tedious, but is a vital part of my patchwork economy in these troubled times. I could moan about that, or I could drown my sorrows in crap cinema, which I did. Rick was the only one of the Four Horsemen brave enough (or, alternately, in town enough – curse you, Final Weekend of Summer!) to attend. I was determined to make a dent on The List of movies I had required myself to see this year, which left us a whoooooooole bunch of leeway in our viewing, as I still had 33 movies to go, 24 on the B-Movie List, 9 on the Quality List. How’d we do? Well, the list is now down to 30, thanks to our valiant efforts. First, though, I put on a DVD-R I had gotten from Something Weird Video. To be precise, I got it for Adventures in Balloonland, but I am saving that in retribution for Strange Beings, which was inflicted on me at the last official Crapfest. No, I went for something Rick had once expressed interest in, even though he will deny it: the unaired pilot for a children’s TV show, Polly Pockets.

The King and Queen of Gloom. There goes the budget.

As the box copy points out, Polly Pockets has nothing to do with the toy line of pocket-size dolls; Polly Pockets is an effervescent brunette with a skirt composed of nothing but pockets, and theoretically anything can be pulled from them. Her accomplice is a Royal Dano-type named Dandy Andy, who is notable for failing at everything in a komedic fashion. At one point, Polly pulls something – an onion? – out of a pocket, reminding her of her trip to the Castle of Gloom, at which point the entire thing turns into a community theater production of Marat/Sade complete with songs. We were especially appreciative of the King and Queen of Gloom, whose crowns were so-very-obviously made of construction paper. The King’s was decorated with Magic Marker, but the Queen’s had some fancy glue-and-glitter detailing. Rick pointed out that the box copy also promised “A Visit to Santa”, and we figured what the hell, we’re here, and proceeded to suffer through the worst damned Christmas themed thing we had endured since The Magic Christmas Tree. Two kids write and ask Santa if they can visit him at the North Pole, and Santa – I’ve seen worse Santa beards, but not many – thinks, “Well, it’s Christmas Eve, my busiest night of the year… but what the hell,” and sends an elf to pick them up and bring them to his split-level ranch living room so they can tour some shopping center Christmas displays. Just when it starts to get really stultifying, apparently Something Weird thought, “Christ, this is boring,” and slapped in a puppet show.

But this is not just any puppet show. No, this is Labor Day weekend, after all, so this is a Union puppet show. I am duty-bound to inform you that I Cannot Make Shit Like This Up. That title card just sort of passed us by, but then we find ourselves confronted by the happy worker puppet, telling us the sammich his wife made was so good, it practically had a beer on top. He is then bedeviled by some sort of boxer with a glass bottle for a body, who claims he is “the champion”, only to be set straight by the Worker, who informs him that the AFL-CIO is the true champion. The scene then changes to a kitchen, where another glass-bottle homunculus tells us how safe he is because he’s sterilized, which gets reallllllllly creepy when the Mom puppet shows up to be told how she needs more sterile men like himself in her life (for instance, she had been buying milk in those horrible opaque paper cartons and last evening, when she discovered it was actually empty, her husband almost left her!) . The camera keeps cutting to an audience of children who must actually be at a Howdy Doody taping or something, because they are not banging at the doors begging to be released. Then it ends, threatening us with “50 TV stations”. I don’t know what that was about, and I sure as hell ain’t going back to find out. Until I spring this on the next Crapfest, anyway, because the workers control the means of production.

Well, enough of our civic duties, it was movie time, We started off with Big Bad Mama, something I had been trying to work into a Crapfest for ages. Pity I never did get it in, because the first bare breast shot is about two minutes into the movie, and the boys of Crapfest dearly love their gratuitous nudity.

Roger Corman had a nice little cottage industry remixing Bonnie and Clyde throughout the early 70s. This time the gang is all-female, Mama (Angie Dickinson) and her two nubile daughters (Susan Sennett and Robbie Lee), trying to make it in 1932 East Texas. If you actually live in East Texas, this will amuse you, as mountainous Southern California is not really a good match. Anyway, the girls wind up helping hapless bank robber Fred Diller (Tom Skerritt) whose heist is going terribly wrong, and thus begin their lives as felons. Mom sleeps with Diller while the girls fume over the unfairness of it all, until Mom runs into William Baxter, a smooth con man who takes Diller’s place in bed, while the two girls share the discarded Diller.

The plot structure owes a lot to Corman’s own Bloody Mama, with stress in the gang finally leading up to a kidnapping that goes wrong. Throughout, you can sense the presence of Corman, doubtless wearing a green visor and holding an open accounting ledger, nudging director Steve Carver and saying, “Excuse me, but we haven’t had a bare boob in almost four minutes.”

Yes, once again we find ourselves ogling Angie Dickinson’s unclad charms, and viewers of a certain age can get a bit of a pleasurable thrill by realizing that this hit the drive-ins just as Police Woman was gearing up on TV. Now a word about Shatner: I have always liked Shatner, even – perhaps especially – when he goes way over the top. There’s not a lot of it here, but I will say this: he doesn’t cheat in his nude scenes. America being what it is, the little Shatner isn’t going to hove into view, but it comes close. By God, if Angie was going to be in the altogether, so was he.

In a less salacious light: there is one scene where, in the foreground, Dickinson and Skerritt are having a yelling, screaming argument. In the background is Shatner, who, with no lines, no blocking, still manages to steal the scene. I have to respect that.

Then came the Blu-Ray (!) of The Exterminator, starring Robert “Paper Chase” Ginty, embarking on his 80s career as an action hero. Exterminator  spends a lot of money in its pre-credit sequence, showing Steve James saving Ginty’s life in Vietnam. Then we go to New York, where Steve James again saves Ginty’s ass from a gang called the Ghetto Ghouls. You might think be thinking “Hey, I hope this movie is about Steve James,” but stop thinking like that, because the Ghouls mug James the next day, breaking his neck and paralyzing him for life. Ginty starts thinking positively, tracks down the people responsible, and lets them get eaten by rats.

Hey, good movie, you might say, but no, we are only 20 minutes in. Ginty then goes about stealing money from the local head of the Beef Mafia (the cops refer to them as “meat mobsters”) to take care of James’ family. The meat mobster doesn’t tell Ginty about the trained attack dog at his house, so once Ginty dispatches the dog with an electric carving knife, he feeds the mafioso through an industrial grinding machine.

We still got tons of movie left, so Ginty just sort of starts wandering around, looking for lowlifes who need exterminating. He finds them in great plenitude in 1980 New York. There is also, needless to say, a cop on his trail: no less than Christopher George, who, like Ginty, is going to be going back and forth between USA and Italian sound stages a lot in those years. George’s story is teased out over most of the movie – very slowly teased out because we spend a lot of time on his romance with a doctor played by Samantha Eggar, which slows the plot down to a crawl.

The most interesting bit is when Ginty pulls out what we referred to as his “Vietnam Box”, a case holding a ton of weapons, including grenades, that he supposedly stole from the Army. Later, when he has a solid lead on The Exterminator, George reaches into his locker and pulls out his own Vietnam Box, with a .45 auto and a tactical shotgun.

We also get some political intrigue, which feels rather half-cooked and shoe-horned in. There’s CIA agent demanding information from George because “The Exterminator… is making the incumbent look bad.” Man! Politics! Can’t even get away from it in a crap movie!

I have to say, The Exterminator  does deliver on what it promises. If you want a gritty Death Wish type rip-off, you could do a lot worse (I know I have). And that Synapse Blu-Ray is gorgeous.

Next up: a movie my pal Dave has been pestering me to see forever: The Cell.

In The Cell, there is an experimental procedure that allows a child therapist (Jennifer Lopez) to journey into the mindscape of a catatonic boy. The procedure is suddenly, urgently pressed into use to send Lopez into the mind of a comatose serial killer (Vincent D’Onofrio), to attempt to find his latest victim before she is killed in an automated death trap.

This is Tarsem Singh’s first movie, and his penchant for manipulated images serves the trips into mental spaces quite well. Rick tells me this is a pre-nose job Lopez, and I’ll trust him on that. If there were any misgivings about Lopez as an actress, The Cell should have put them away; she does very well. D’Onofrio is, as usual, fantastic, though I think there are a few times that Singh either let him, or directed him to, go too far. Vince Vaughn is the federal agent tracking down D’Onofrio, and it was shocking to see how thin the 2000 Vaughn was.

If I have one problem with the script, it’s that when Vaughn figures out how to find the death box (after he himself has a traumatic trip into D’Onofrio’s mind), the clue that he’s sussed out is so obvious, it could only have been missed by sloppy detective work. Given the number of men working on the scene, it’s pretty unlikely.

If I have two problems with the movie, it’s that it bears some resemblance to a script I wrote back in college. My tragic mistake? I didn’t think to put a serial killer in the plot. What was I thinking?

A good enough movie. I don’t think I would have been more impressed with the visuals in 2000, though. There is just some level that it doesn’t engage me like I feel it should. I don’t delight in the process of discovery, so it fails as mystery (I’ve already bitched about that final clue). It’s not intense enough to qualify as horror, but it does come close a couple of times. It is even too busy trying to tell a touching story as Lopez struggles to save the little boy version of D’Onofrio trapped in his head to qualify as a thriller or a science fiction story. It’s an odd creature, not fish, not fowl, and I can’t find its own terms to meet it on.

But enough of that flighty stuff. We ended the evening with Women in Cages, classy fare if there ever was.

I think this may be at the start of Corman’s Filipino Women In Prison cycle; it’s directed by Gerardo de Leon, an old pro in the Philippine film market – you can thank him, at the very least,  for two of the Blood Island movies and Terror Is A Man, a surprisingly effective Island of Dr. Moreau rip-off. So Women in Cages is a well-made, efficient WIP movie, with the usual demeaning work in the sugar cane fields, showers, and catfights.

One of the very few things that sets it apart from its kin is the casting of Pam Grier as a bad guy, the Chief Matron, Alabama, a lesbian who picks her lovers from the convict pool and has a torture chamber stocked with bizarre instruments called “The Playpen”.  Alabama – who’s from Harlem, go figure – has issues, to be sure, not the least of which is the immediate assumption that the three Americans under her charge are “racist bitches”.

Alabama gets taken hostage when our heroines, such as they are, escape, and finds herself on the receiving end for a change, then in deep trouble as the savage hunters – whose job it is to bring escapees back dead or alive, usually dead – assume she is also an escapee.

There is hell of backstory here – our main prisoner is only guilty of trusting the wrong man, who is trying to have her killed in prison, and after a while you lose track of who’s double-crossing who, and then we’re back where the movie started, on a floating whorehouse where the same topless dancer has apparently been dancing for the past three months without a break. Some guy who I didn’t know was a cop for most of the movie rescues our heroine, leaving her junkie cellmate (who was the one trying to kill her) to her floating whorehouse duties in a pretty disquieting ending. Serves her right, I guess.

Women in Cages isn’t quite up to the follow-ups, Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage, both directed by Jack Hill, which had a lot of subversive humor buried in them. Also missing is Vic Diaz. I demand Vic Diaz in all my Filipino movies, because whenever he’s around, I’m sure to be delighted with the results. Diaz retired in 2001, but he’s apparently still alive. If that is indeed so, I hope he’s well, and continues to have a long, happy life.

Vic Diaz! Praise his usefulness! (ululate)

This may be the only place on the Web where you can start out talking about the quantity and quality of boob shots in movies and wind up with a love letter to Vic Diaz. (Actually, I can think of several other places where that could be the case, but never mind that) That is the world of crap cinema in a nutshell, my friends: you often start in one place, then the journey takes you to another, surprising place. The trick is often finding a way to enjoy that journey.