bettie page

bettiepage

I woke up this morning to hear of the death of iconic pin-up girl Bettie Page.  She’d suffered a heart attack a little over a week ago and so the news wasn’t a surprise but it’s still sad.  My first exposure to the lovely Bettie was through the late Dave Stevens‘ marvelous The Rocketeer comic book in the mid-1980s, where “Betty” (later named Jenny and played by Jennifer Connelly in the 1991 film of the same name) was idealized in pen and ink for a new generation of (mostly) young men who had never yet seen any of her original nudie, bondage, and cheesecake photos from the late 1940s and 1950s.  By the early 1990s, the Bettie Page revolution was in full swing and if you knew where to look, it wasn’t difficult to see her influence everywhere–books, movies, comic books, postcards, posters, porn.  And if it wasn’t the dirty, fun, girl next door Bettie herself, it was  some swishy hottie who wanted to look and be just like her.  Remember that hot retro chick who used to work the bar down at your favorite watering hole, the one with the bangs, the sneer, and the purr every time Johnny Cash came roaring over the juke?  That was Bettie.  Revved-up for a new generation.

The real Bettie, the one beyond the image, didn’t have the easiest life after she quit posing for fetish pictures in the late 1950s.  She became a Christian, spent some time in Portland, Oregon (I was told when I lived there), Florida, and then eventually moved back to Los Angeles.  There were plenty of mostly downs and you can read more about that here, but it seems that in her final years Bettie recouped some of the money that had been made off of her image throughout the decades.

She’ll live on–in books, movies, comic books, postcards, posters, and porn.  Legends only grow hotter with the passage of time.

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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.

help out film critic d. k. holm

For as long as I can remember, there’s been a D. K. Holm spinning around my orbit. In the early 1990s I regularly read his film reviews in the Willamette Week alternative rag while working at a Northwest Portland independent video store. I don’t recall agreeing with Holm a lot of the time, but I always read him and appreciated his insights, intelligence, and occasional brutal turn of phrase. When he departed to the town’s other alternative weekly, PDXS. I followed him. Later, I’d catch Holm’s cable access film review show and always appreciated his continued crusade to highlight the weird, esoteric, and just plain good DVDs that hit the shelves week in and week out.

For what it’s worth, we’re both Portlanders and have written books for UK publisher Kamera Books. Holm’s latest one (he’s written five, I think) is on independent cinema. We both love Tarantino’s Kill Bill (Holm also wrote a book on the film(s) as well as an earlier tome on its director for Pocket Essentials). And I suspect, being that we’re both from Portland, we both love a good microbrew. I don’t know Doug. But I sure would hate to hear that he was no longer around.

Holm has been diagnosed with a serious, though “treatable” form of esophageal cancer. On April 27 at the Northwest Portland landmark, Cinema 21, a benefit for Holm will take place in a hope to stave off some of the nightmarish medical bills the uninsured film critic is collecting.

So you can help. Go here for more details. Good luck, Mr. Holm. The microbrew is on me!