halloween music a go-go!

Ah, yes… horror and music.  They fit together like movies and popcorn, beer and pizza, and Japan and robots.  Ever since the opening bell echoed in the doom and gloom on Black Sabbath’s eponymous first LP, heavy metal bands have utilized the horror genre for lyrical and stylistic inspiration, not to mention earning blood buckets full of cash in the process.  It’s a potent mix perfectly fitted for monster-minded kids warped for rebellion and shock.  And though many metal bands today have upped the stakes for a bloodier, brutal, and more jaded age, the essential reasons why they do it remain the same.

It’s a blast.

But metalheads aren’t the only ones attracted to the darkside.  Whether it’s Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the Cramps, or the surf/garage rock sounds of the Ghastly Ones, horror and music don’t always equal downtuned riffs.  The following videos are a few of my favorites and, I think, make for the perfect accompaniment for Halloween.

First up… the infamous Screaming Lord Sutch, groovy Brit garage rock circa 1964.  He’s most famous for his song “Jack the Ripper,” but I dig this one even more.  Lord Sutch, who was a representative for the National Teenage Party and founded the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, was influenced by Screamin’ Jay and likewise influenced the brilliant and totally underrated Alice Cooper.  Here’s Lord Sutch singing “Dracula’s Daughter.”

And speaking of Alice… he used to scare the hell out of me as a kid in the 1970s.  Between him and KISS, I couldn’t believe such demonic majesty was even legal!  Having said that… I couldn’t get enough of them.  Cooper pretty much dropped off my radar after the age of ten, as did KISS, but a few years ago I was seduced by those early Alice Cooper band albums (Pretties for You, Easy Action, Love it to Death, Killer, School’s Out, Billion Dollar Babies, Muscle of Love, and Welcome to My Nightmare) and struck by the sly word play, the melodies, irony, and the monstrous riffs.  Oh, yeah, there was also the imagery.  After all this time, Cooper’s outlandish stage theatrics still put a smile on my lips.  Here’s a clip from one of my all-time favorites, “The Ballad of Dwight Fry,” taken from Cooper’s ABC television special in 1975.

I love Blue Oyster Cult.  From their spacey, literary horror references (HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and many others) to the fact that science fiction/fantasy writers Michael Moorcock and John Shirley have both penned songs for the band, BOC is favorite around these parts.  They pretty much scored the soundtrack for my three months in Spain back in the spring.  How that happened, I couldn’t tell you.  Wisdom of the stars, I guess.  This is their 1977 song “Nosferatu” edited to clips from the film.  Good stuff.

The next clip is from the legendary and brilliant Roky Erickson, the father of psychedelic garage rock.  Erickson has had more tragedy, insanity, and god knows what else happen to him.  But he’s still alive and touring… and from all accounts healthy.  But there was a time, I think before he thought he was an alien, that he thought he was the Devil.  He might have written this song around that time.  Bad time… but great song.  And if you ever walk by my cottage in the middle of the night… you might hear me or Lynda singing it at the top of our lungs.

God how I loved the Misfits when I was in my mid-to-late teens.  I still love them.  Best horror punk band ever.  Just don’t think what Glenn Danzig turned into post-Misfits or Samhain… simply remember what he was.  Here, the band performs “Night of the Living Dead.”  Hail, horror hail.

And then there was Fantomas.  Named after the French anarchist pulp hero, this avant-garde band is one of the strangest, most exciting, and hilariously talented groups around.  A mix of grinding metal, black metal howls, John Zorn mischief jazz, and outrageous vocalizations courtesy of Mike Patton, Fantomas is a wellspring of imagination and creativity.  This track, “Der Golem,” is from their second full-length The Director’s Cut, an album of film covers ranging from The Godfather to Rosemary’s Baby to Charade.  It’s masterful stuff and has to be heard to be believed.

Advertisements

horror movie trailers from the 1960s

Horror movies were a big, pivotal influence on me during my youth, especially in the post-Halloween years.  In the 1980s I watched everything I could get my claws on, whether in the theater (it was a time when the local theaters could care less if you were underage, just as long as your mom popped her head in the box office and gave the ticket cashier the “okay”), on cable, or on videocassette.  I watched things I probably shouldn’t have (Maniac, Don’t Go in the House, Don’t Answer the Phone, et al).  But I also viewed movies that branded themselves in my overactive brain, ruining me forever in the best of ways (John Carpenter’s The Thing, The Shining, Dawn of the Dead, Phantasm, Scanners, Gates of Hell,  and so many more), and have never failed to entertain, fascinate, and disturb me to this day.

Although a steady diet of slashers, Italian zombies, and rubbery over-the-top gore fests were what kept me sane through my teenage years, it was horror films of an earlier vintage that put their hooks in me.  My first real memories are of monsters, ghouls, and creatures from beyond the grave–King Kong, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, Godzilla, and all the rest.  Back in the early 1970s in Portland the local television station KATU would air a program on Saturday nights at 11:30 called Sinister Cinema, that would show a double-feature of old horror movies hosted by a bearded Victor Ives in Dracula cape, along with his sidekick the late Jimmy Hollister.  It was monstertastic, to say the least, and the perfect entertainment for a monster kid like myself.  Not to get too nostalgic… but I sometimes feel sad that kids now don’t get programs like Sinister Cinema or Creature Features (a Bay Area program that I used to see whenever we’d visit relatives down in San Jose every summer).  Then again, cable television and DVDs have made it a whole lot easier for monster-minded parents to indoctrinate their horror-happy tyke with a wider variety of scaretastic goodies in ways that I couldn’t have dreamed of as a wee lad.  There’s simply so much more out there to offer up.  And I say cheers to that!  But sadly, the horror hosts seem to have left the mausoleum for good.

As we creep toward another Halloween, I thought I’d post some trailers from a few of my favorite horror films.  I’ll start with some from the 1960s, one of my favorite eras.  Not necessarily the best trailers, but definitely my favorite films.  Now, outside of Rosemary’s Baby (which I remember seeing on television when it aired on ABC when I was around six), I sadly didn’t see any of these until my late teens or in my twenties.  Nevertheless, they’re faves and I revisit them often.

The first trailer is for Georges Franju’s lyrical masterpiece Les Yeux sans Visage (1959), aka Eyes Without a Face.  Although the American trailer–double-billed with the deliriously enjoyable though campy The Manster–makes it seem over-the-top, this French film is anything but despite the plot elements straight from a 1930s pulp magazine.  It’s a haunting, strangely moving experience and one that sets the tone for other serious-minded, atmospheric, fetishistic, and extreme Euro horrors that would be released over the next two decades.  Though no film, except for perhaps moments in Argento’s Suspiria or Inferno would be able to capture the dark poetry so integral to Franju’s parable.

The second clip is for the Italian film The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962), starring the iconic Barbara Steele.  Talk about fetishistic!  It’s one of my all-time favorite horror films and why it hasn’t been released on DVD is a crime.  You can read more about the film here, which was written by Glenn Erickson aka DVD Savant originally for the online web zine Images (a site I also wrote reviews for).  The trailer doesn’t really sell it correctly… but don’t let that stop you from seeing the film if you run across a cassette of it.  It’s brilliant.

The third trailer is for Mario Bava’s Kill, Baby… Kill! (1966).  If the first five minutes doesn’t pull you into its fierce, hallucinatory design… then you may just not like horror films.  Bava’s a favorite around my house and he has more than one great film in his long resume.  But there’s something about this one–the period setting, the little girl revenant, the score–that nails me every time.  It obviously made an impact on Fellini as well, since he pays wonderful homage to it in his Toby Dammit segment of Spirits of the Dead.  And one can’t help but think that Martin Scorsese had Bava on the brain when he made The Last Temptation of Christ, personifying Satan in the guise of a little girl to tempt Jesus from the cross.

The fourth trailer is for the great Hammer horror film, The Devil Rides Out (1968).  Based on the Dennis Wheatley novel of the same name, this is one of the best non-monster movies that the famed British studio ever put out, if not the best.  Black magic, an Aleister Crowley-type villain, Christopher Lee as the suave hero Duc de Richleau, satanic orgies, and a blitzkrieg-paced script by Richard Matheson… what’s not to love?  This is old school Hammer horror at its finest.

And then there’s Rosemary’s Baby.  This is Roman Polanski at his most fiendishly polished and enjoyable.  Along with William Friedkin’s The Exorcist it’s also one of the best big studio horror productions ever.

rex reed plunges into a charlie kaufman “cesspool”

New York Observer film critic Rex Reed, whose overwrought verbiage and sloppy analysis makes Armond White seem lucid and well… sane, tells us all what he thinks of Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut Synecdoche, New York.

Considering his loathing of Kaufman, Spike Jonze, Wes Anderson, et al, I’m sure he’ll love my book about said filmmakers.

You can be assaulted by Reed’s review here.  Be warned, though, to wear protective goggles.

a long… weary… howl….

I’ve been quiet for the last month or so… not because I’ve been hiding, not because I’ve been diligently working on something before doomsday (deadline).  I’ve been unusually quiet because my laptop (which is only 10 months old) bit the dust.  More or less.  It sputters to life for a few minutes at a time… long enough to get my hopes up that it’s just been kidding… before blinking out again.

It’s been frustrating to say the least.  I’m exhausted dealing with the Dell people from the US and the UK to resolve the problem.  Luckily, someone finally seems to have stepped up to rectify the situation.  My fingers are crossed, as well as my toes.

You can read more about my own (not-so) private crisis here.  Luckily, at least for the next couple of days, a friend of mine is off to Dublin for a few days and has loaned me a computer to use, so I’m sure I’ll be putting up some new posts while I await the fate of my little laptop.

Cheers!