Thursday, June 30, 2011

June's Overlooked Music: Aretha Franklin's soul recordings for CBS, before she went to Atlantic

CBS famously attempted to make Aretha Franklin, young gospel powerhouse going secular, into the New Dinah Washington...which was a remarkably stupid idea, even though Franklin could do the Washington-style repertoire impressively...but she did her end of what Ray Charles and not too many others were doing even better yet. People think that she didn't do anything truly of herself before quitting CBS for Atlantic, and recording the likes of "Chain of Fools" and "Respect"...these below, with the exception of "Take It Like You Give It," aren't quite up to the best of her Atlantic records, but had CBS more of a clue, she by evidence of these records might've been blowing the doors off in the early '60s even as she would in the latter '60s...

Aretha Franklin's "Soulville":

And Franklin doing one of those songs that, in a close paraphrase of Joanna Russ, only a woman could record, because men know better about us (Buffy Sainte-Marie was even more ridiculous with "He's a Keeper of the Fire")..."Lee Cross":

Franklin's cover of "Mockingbird":

Franklin's pleasant, if a bit mild, cover of Hays and Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer":

And you can hear a scrap here of the very short, very great "Take It Like You Give It," probably Franklin's best single recording for CBS and fully the equal of anything she recorded for Atlantic or anyone else (and a fragment of the not too shabby "A Little Bit of Soul," too). (Here's a clunky MySpace page where you can, with some effort, hear the entirety of both songs.)

The Zombies couldn't resist "Soulville," but they probably should've...

Please see Scott Parker's blog for the list of the Usual Suspects in the monthly music roundelay...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

2 by Jawbox...

What amounted to their "last single"...originally released on the odds and ends collection My Scrapbook of Fatal Accidents:

Find more artists like Jawbox at Myspace Music

...and what amounted to their first, also collected on that album, but first offered on a MaximumRockNRoll compilation, They Don't Get Paid, They Don't Get Laid, But Boy Do They Work Hard:

And since "Bullet Park" is named for a John Cheever novel but is not based on it (unlike Jawbox's "Motorist," which is based on J. G. Ballard's Crash), the Bangles' "Dover Beach," also not based on the Matthew Arnold poem, but the title stuck with them:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: a few more links, including to comedy podcasts...

Bill Crider: Peter Pan (1953)

Chuck Esola: All the Marbles

Eric Peterson: Don's Party

Evan Lewis: "Bingo Crosbyana"

George Kelley: Somewhere

Iba Dawson: Foreign Correspondent; Lifeboat

James Reasoner: Undersea Kingdom

Jerry House: The Dow Hour of Great Mysteries

Kate Laity: Alt.Fiction

Patti Abbott: Gore Vidal v. Norman Mailer on The Dick Cavett Show

Randy Johnson: Creature from the Haunted Sea; The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues

Ron Scheer: Doc (1971)

Scott Cupp: The Horn Blows at Midnight

Steve Lewis: Undercover Doctor; Fly-by-Night

Tise Vahimagi: Prime-Time Suspects: 1950s Police Drama

Walter Albert: Champagne for Caesar

Yvette Banek: One Touch of Venus

Related matters:

Ivan Shreve: Caged and the Queer Film Blogathon

Jack Seabrook: Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "A True Account"

Vince Keenan: The Hunted; Strangers in the Night; The Devil Thumbs a Ride

...and here's an update of a previous post from me:
BBC Radio 4's Comedy page...access to (at least this week's set of) BBC audio sketch shows and sitcoms. BBC Radio 7 has been mostly replaced by BBC Radio 4 Extra, which also takes some repeats from 4 and adds some more material.

Comedy and Everything Else, Jimmy Dore and Stef Zamarano's podcast (which sometimes cross-riffs with Dore's Pacifica Radio series, audible via Jimmy Dore Comedy), notable for a pronounced though very much not doctrinaire leftist stance, and a lot of good food (people are eating a little less on mic these days).

The former Comedy Death Ray Radio, now Comedy Bang Bang, Scott Aukerman's interview, sketch and music showcase...and now the anchor of a group of podcasts. A more elaborate showcases for improv parody-character sketches than most of the podcasts noted here, which often are the funniest bits. In fact, an episode in which Jimmy Pardo and his regulars filled in as hosts, and featuring an extended improv by Maria Bamford and Paul Gilmartin and music from the charming Garfunkel & Oates, might still be my favorite. Also on the Earwolf pages is the Sklar Brothers' sports and comedy podcast Sklarbro Country is also charming, if a bit literally too inside baseball, etc., to sustain my attention as readily; however, Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack's Who Charted? is among the most charming and relaxed, as well as funny, podcasts you're likely to encounter, wherein a guest is brought on to interact with items from the Most Popular/Bestselling lists in various sorts of pop culture and related matters. The pun-laden, somewhat Nick Dangeresque Mike Detective, with Rob Heubel and Grey DeLisle, is archived here, and a variety of other new and ongoing series can be accessed and heard, including one, The Wolf Den, which is about the business of podcasting rather than a comedy show per se.

Dork Forest Radio, Jackie Kashian's formerly lo-fi podcast (on lo-fi BlogTalkRadio) is a charming delving into all kinds of geekery, or what Kashian dubs the Dork Forest. (See also, The Nerdist) Uniquely among these podcasts, when on BlogTalk Radio, there was a live chatroom running alongside the live podcast...Kashian is trying to decide what she'll do about that with the new, undistorted-audio format. Kashian is also probably the most gracious of podcast hosts, though unafraid of asking, usually politely and/or self-deprecatingly, hard questions.

Doug Loves Movies, Doug Benson's gameshow/interview podcast, the game usually all about trying to guess a movie title with as few clues as possible from Leonard Maltin's film-guides. Benson also usually has a few words to say about recent viewing experiences, and the guests are usually a mix of comedians, actors (Elisabeth Shue confirmed your suspicions about Paul Verhoeven), and occasionally Leonard Maltin.

Harry Shearer's Le Show sometimes is dismissed or criticizaed out of hand by folks on some of the podcasts...podcasts that probably wouldn't've existed without the loooong-standing example of Shearer's mix of music, monolog, and sketches (almost always one-person productions in which Shearer does all the voices). Shearer's wife, the excellent jazz-pop singer Judith Owen, is often heard in the musical segments.

The Long Shot, an established but perhaps still underappreciated podcast featuring the disparate quartet of comedians Eddie Pepitone, Sean Conroy, Jamie Flam, and Amber Kenny, who amusingly, acerbically chat, do audio sketches, and feature disparate that guest Tig Notaro asked them, "How do you all even know each other?"

The Mental Illness Happy Hour, Paul Gilmartin's relatively new interview program, has now fixed its RSS feed, and is an earnest, but not completely grim by any means, listening experience...the iTunes link is in for those who do Apple.

The Nerdist podcast, a key component of the larger, features a crew spearheaded by Chris Hardwick, whose credits run from standup to cohosting Wired Science on PBS; he's most regularly visible on G4, and he and his partners, or he alone, interview a range of guests only slightly less wide-ranging than Jackie Kashian (see The Dork Forest). Hardwick in one episode railed against those who criticize him for kissing his guests' asses, correctly noting that what could be cynically (if unsurprisingly) misconstrued thus is his genuine enthusiasm for speaking with the guests, riffing cheerfully, and generally trying to share his passions. A video version of this series will begin on cable channel BBC America soon.

Never Not Funny, Jimmy Pardo's podcast, usually featuring Matt Belknap, the proprietor of A Special Thing, and one of the oldest of the continuing series (with Kashian's Dork Forest). The link is to the free feed, as NNF offers a free first twenty or so minutes as an enticement, then offers the rest of a given episode only to paying subscribers...Pardo's mock aggression, almost always immediately self-deflated, mixes well with his energetic, slightly retro persona.

The Pod F. Tomcast, Paul F. Tompkins's elaborate performance and interview podcast, is as distinctive as his performances tend to be.

Pop My Culture is duo of young actor/comedians, Vanessa Ragland and Cole Stratton, doing interviews and related matter with an an eclectic set of performers and others in and around, well, pop culture, usually at the comedic end...

The Smartest Man in the World, Greg Proops's nightclub-based podcast, appears irregularly, and can be somewhat in and out...but is always worth the listen.

The Sound of Young America, etc.: gets one podcasts of TSOYA elements and also the more informal and uncensored Jordan, Jesse, Go! among other bits and pieces, including the Canadian Stop Podcasting Yourself and the college-station years of TSOYA, and archival bits from San Francisco legends Mal Sharpe and James Coyle. Colin Marshall's text reviews of podcasts are wide-ranging and thoughtful, as well as frequently funny.

Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me..., NPR's primary humor series (unless we consider Car Talk also primarily a humor series), remains a pleasant and frequently hilarious news-quiz game show, with comedians and writers competing for meaningless points, and guests competing on behalf of audience members. The comparable PRI series Whad'Ya Know?, features a somewhat more rambling style and fewer guests in the gameshow seqments, though also features a fine jazz combo. CBC's comedy and whimsy series Wiretap also gets a fair amount of clearance in the States...and averages perhaps a bit better in that wise than such more popular US series A Prairie Home Companion or This American Life. I'll put in a plug here for the not quite primarily humorous series On the Media and pop-science series RadioLab. Just a notch below these is Studio 360.

Weezy and the Swish is the only "dead" podcast that I list here (at least so far), Louise Palanker and Laura Swisher's project, one of the earlier comedian podcasts, and still one of the few not hosted mostly and entirely by Caucasian men. A smattering of their episodes archived here.

WTF, the Marc Maron podcast, one of the most attention-getting as Maron probes himself and his guests usually a bit more relentlessly, yet for the most part professionally (Maron's experience on Air America and with BreakRoom Live tells) than most of his peers. A mixture of usually one-on-one interviews interspersed with a sporadic set of talk-show-style multi-guest live episodes, both eminently worth catching. Public radio stations will have access to a short series extracted from this series, from PRX, the Public Radio Exchange (not to be confused with PRI, PRX is the rising distributor which was kind enough to take on Sound Opinions, the inept Chicago-based rock music-discussion series which PRI dropped, along with such better work as The Moth).

...and for more pointers to comedy audio and more, see Punchline magazine online...

Friday, June 24, 2011

FFB: NEW WORLDS OF FANTASY (1967) and its sequels (1970, 1971), edited by Terry Carr

The first New Worlds of Fantasy was one of the first anthologies Terry Carr would edit on his own, having already become the junior editorial partner for fantastic literature (including gothics and, soon, the significant Ace Specials line) at Ace Books and been paired with boss Donald Wollheim on the World's Best Science Fiction annual; looking back at them now, I'd failed to realize when reading them in the late '70s how much they attempted at least a reasonably focused sampling of the current fantasy fiction, particularly of the kind that has since been tagged as "urban" or contemporary fantasy, which seemed to be flourishing alongside the new emphasis on literary ambition in science fiction in the latter '60s and early '70s. Every volume features a story by Carr himself, which isn't simply egomania, as he was a brilliant and unprolific fantasist, and usually in this mode...his one collection of short fiction missed essentially only one major short work, "Virra," that would be collected in a special convention anthology a few years later. Jorge Luis Borges is in each volume, as are R. A. Lafferty and Avram Davidson (though Davidson is not represented, I'd suggest, by the best possible selections, even stressing their contemporary status), and there's no one in the books who is clearly, utterly out of place, and several you'd be hard-pressed to find too many other places, at least in anthologies of fiction, such as the fannish writer Britt Schweitzer or chess humorist Victor Contoski...I've yet to seek out anything else by Alfred Gillespie, and I suspect that Carr read the Leonid Andreyev in its then-recent Magazine of Horror reprint...happily, there's been at least a little more translated from him. I think Carr might've been the first to reprint Peter Beagle in a fantasy-tagged context, to the benefit of all. And the second volume particularly featured new fiction...even if it's very strange that it took until the third volume for Carr to collect a Fritz Leiber story.

A fine trio of books, and indicative of how Carr would continue his valuable, too short career as an editor, and his too sparse career as a writer of fiction.

from the Contento indices:
New Worlds of Fantasy ed. Terry Carr (Ace A-12, 1967, 75¢, 253pp, pb); In England as Step Outside Your Mind (Dobson 1969).

8 · Introduction · Terry Carr · in
11 · Divine Madness · Roger Zelazny · ss Magazine of Horror Sum ’66
18 · Break the Door of Hell [Traveler in Black] · John Brunner · nv Impulse Apr ’66
52 · The Immortal · Jorge Luís Borges · ss Labyrinths, New Directions, 1962
66 · Narrow Valley · R. A. Lafferty · ss F&SF Sep ’66
80 · Comet Wine · Ray Russell · nv Playboy Mar ’67
97 · The Other · Katherine MacLean · ss New Worlds Jul ’66
101 · A Red Heart and Blue Roses · Mildred Clingerman · ss A Cupful of Space, Ballantine, 1961
118 · Stanley Toothbrush [as by Carl Brandon] · Terry Carr · ss F&SF Jul ’62
133 · The Squirrel Cage · Thomas M. Disch · ss New Worlds Oct ’66
147 · Come Lady Death · Peter S. Beagle · ss Atlantic Monthly Sep ’63
164 · Nackles [as by Curt Clark] · Donald Westlake· ss F&SF Jan ’64
172 · The Lost Leonardo · J. G. Ballard · ss F&SF Mar ’64
190 · Timothy [Anita] · Keith Roberts · ss sf Impulse Sep ’66
203 · Basilisk · Avram Davidson · nv *
228 · The Evil Eye · Alfred Gillespie · nv The Saturday Evening Post Jan 15 ’66

New Worlds of Fantasy No. 2 ed. Terry Carr (Ace 57271, 1970, 75¢, 254pp, pb)

9 · Introduction · Terry Carr · in
13 · The Petrified World · Robert Sheckley · ss If Feb ’68
23 · The Scarlet Lady [as by Alistair Bevan] · Keith Roberts · nv Impulse Aug ’66
63 · They Loved Me in Utica · Avram Davidson · ss *
67 · The Library of Babel [1941] · Jorge Luís Borges · ss Ficciones, Weidenfeld Nicolson, 1962
76 · The Ship of Disaster · Barrington J. Bayley · ss New Worlds Jun ’65
93 · Window Dressing · Joanna Russ · ss *
100 · By the Falls · Harry Harrison · ss If Jan ’70
108 · The Night of the Nickel Beer · Kris Neville · ss Escapade Dec ’67
118 · A Quiet Kind of Madness · David Redd · nv F&SF May ’68
148 · A Museum Piece · Roger Zelazny · ss Fantastic Jun ’63
158 · The Old Man of the Mountains · Terry Carr · ss F&SF Apr ’63
168 · En Passant · Britt Schweitzer · ss Habakkuk Dec ’60
175 · Backward, Turn Backward · Wilmar H. Shiras · nv *
196 · His Own Kind · Thomas M. Disch · ss *
206 · Perchance to Dream · Katherine MacLean · vi *
209 · Lazarus · Leonid Andreyev · ss, 1906; Weird Tales Mar ’27
229 · The Ugly Sea · R. A. Lafferty · ss The Literary Review Fll ’60
243 · The Movie People · Robert Bloch · ss F&SF Oct ’69

New Worlds of Fantasy No. 3 ed. Terry Carr (Ace 57272, 1971, 75¢, 253pp, pb)

9 · Introduction · Terry Carr · in
11 · Farrell and Lila the Werewolf [Sam Farrell] · Peter S. Beagle · nv guabi #1 ’69
39 · Adam Had Three Brothers · R. A. Lafferty · ss New Mexico Quarterly Review Fll ’60
53 · Big Sam · Avram Davidson · ss Alchemy & Academe, ed. Anne McCaffrey, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970
61 · Longtooth · Edgar Pangborn · nv F&SF Jan ’70
107 · The Inner Circles · Fritz Leiber · ss F&SF Oct ’67
125 · Von Goom’s Gambit · Victor Contoski · ss Chess Review Apr ’66; F&SF Dec ’66
133 · Through a Glass—Darkly · Zenna Henderson · nv F&SF Oct ’70
165 · The Stainless Steel Leech [as by Harrison Denmark] · Roger Zelazny · ss Amazing Apr ’63
173 · Sleeping Beauty · Terry Carr · ss F&SF May ’67
187 · The Plot Is the Thing · Robert Bloch · ss F&SF Jul ’66
197 · Funes the Memorious [1941] · Jorge Luís Borges · ss Ficciones, Weidenfeld Nicolson, 1962
207 · Say Goodbye to the Wind [Vermillion Sands] · J. G. Ballard · ss Fantastic Aug ’70
227 · A Message from Charity · William M. Lee · ss F&SF Nov ’67

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog (nee Nase, though once that would've been Neis in some circumstances...see the accompanying plate of plate)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

just another link: Tuesday's (into Wednesday's) Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: 21 June

Thanks, on yet another day of Blogger/Blogspot Acting Up, for your critique contributions and your readership (of course, since Wordpress was acting up on Sunday, Bloggy couldn't be left out of the fun for long--and even Mystery*File was giving some grief briefly). If I've missed yours or someone else's Overlooked post, please let me know in comments...thanks again!

Bill Crider: Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Brian Arnold: Domestic Life

Chuck Esola: Grizzly II: The Predator (aka Predator: The Concert)

Dan Stumpf: House of Frankenstein; The Mummy's Curse

Eric Anderson: The Eye 3/10, The Uninvited (2003), Melancholia (2006)

Evan Lewis: "The Old Man of the Mountain" (the Betty Boop/Cab Calloway cartoon)

Graham Powell: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Iba Dawson: Strange Days

James Reasoner: The Vampire's Ghost

Jerry House: Michael Shayne (1960-61)

Juri Nummelin: Finnish Western Society screening: Hell's Hinges, The Terror of Tiny Town, The Phantom Empire, Les Petroleuses (aka Frenchie King), The Wackiest Wagon Train in the West (aka episodes of Dusty's Trail)

Michael Shonk: Cliffhangers!

Patti Abbott: Rambling Rose

Randy Johnson: The Last Challenge

Rod Lott: Growin' a Beard

Ron Scheer: Broken Lance

Scott Cupp: The Whole Wide World

Steve Lewis: Anna Lee: Headcase
Todd Mason: Sons & Daughters (1996 sitcom), Dementia (aka Daughter of Horror); Go the F*ck to Sleep as read by Samuel Jackson (not too overlooked!); The Greatest Jazz Films Ever (sic)

Walter Albert: The Devil's Bait

Yvette Banek: Five Came Back; Back from Eternity

Related posts:

BV Lawson: A/V Media notes

Ed Gorman on TCM Movie Morlocks and Angel Baby

George Kelley: Midnight in Paris

Stacia Jones: Ann Pennington, Oscar Levant, Carole Lombard

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: SONS & DAUGHTERS (2006), DEMENTIA (1953) (aka DAUGHTER OF HORROR), and other matters...

Much delayed, but my it's been even more of rollercoaster of late than usually. From work demands to food poisoning, life's rich pageant can be a bit too rich at times.

Sons & Daughters was one of the best sitcoms ever strangled in its crib; a partially improvised half hour on ABC (which has been in a race with Fox over the last decade or so to see how many actually good series they could commission and quickly cancel while carefully nurturing as much offal as possible), it featured the kind of dysfunctional extended family that it took the collective overrating of Arrested Development and the eventual dumbing-down to the level of Modern Family to make a success...when with a little support, ABC might've had the hit, or at least a solid supporting player, years back, with an impressive ensemble cast led by Fred Goss and Gillian Vigman, and not quite adequately represented below, but this gets across a sense of the quality of the show and range of characters:

10 episodes aired on ABC...the Seven network in Australia aired all eleven that were made, and not a hint of DVD action so far...

Bill Crider, in his posting of trailers that catch his eye, snagged that for Daughter of Horror a month or so back, and I'm glad he did, since this clearly no-budget obscurity from the '50s had completely gotten by me before, either under its proper title, Dementia, under which it was completed in 1953, or the 1956 distribution title, from Exploitation Pictures no less, under which it was circulated, with a fairly ridiculous, if happily sparse, narration track added by an enthusiastic Ed McMahon. The "real" film has no dialog, and while it has sound effects, they are most pretty clearly Foley effects added later...and what it does have is a soundtrack, and a fine one, by George Anthiel, as playfully avant-garde as anything he recorded for film (and not too dissimilar to his concert work) and featuring the wordless vocals of a young Marni Nixon, which makes room for a composition by Shorty Rogers and His Giants for "Wig Alley" in a brief sequence in a jazz club. It also has some excellent cinematography, for its budget, by William Thompson, who had a career almost exclusively in no-budget film, including work with Ed Wood and Dwain Esper...but even Vilmos Zsigmond started in the States with the likes of Ray Dennis Steckler. I've yet to see the slightly longer original cut, available on DVD from Kino, but offers a good public-domain print of the slightly chopped version (below, and double-click for a full-screen image), which gives a sense of virtue made of necessity of this arty bit of work, involving the nightmarish, somewhat delusion-ridden night of a young woman in Los Angeles who might or might not have committed multiple murders. I'm going to have to pick up the Kino release...the inspiration of the likes of David Lynch by this film is almost certain.

My friend Tom Kraemer was somewhat surprised by the YouTubed version of this, since he hadn't come across the viral campaign Go the F*ck to Sleep (as it is coyly titled) had enjoyed over the last several months...Funny or Die, being professionals, actually paid for the right to post this from (or so I assume), and so they have reader Samuel Jackson's little preface appended (you might not want to play this into the open air in uptight situations, such as many offices):

And Rick Robinson brought to my attention the compilation The Greatest Jazz Films Ever...which we agree hardly lives up to that boast, but does have a lot of impressive work on it, most of it from television performances (the least of the problems with its title)...I've seen almost all of these from other sources, and there is at least some complaint about the transcription quality of this disc, but if your can get it from a library (or, now, watch it online, in some countries or from "stateless" e-addresses) could do worse.

Guest Post: Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Eric Anderson on MELANCHOLIA (2006), THE EYE III (2005), and THE UNINVITED (2003)

Asian Horror: The Pretty Good, the Pretty Bad, and the Confusing

Eric Anderson

My last few movies have been recent Asian horror releases, including

The Pretty Bad: Melancholia (2006), a Japanese film directed, well, pretty badly by Takaaki Ezura. This is basically a Japanese doppelganger movie that makes the unfortunate mistake of trying to explain the doppelganging scientifically, by way of cloning technology or some such. But, while unfortunate, this is not all that important, as the movie is beset by serious flaws in pacing and cinematography, flaws far more irritating than a botched attempt to rationalize the irrational. To try to capture some sense of life with a doppelganger, Ezura opts for numerous very annoying visual and aural repetitions. For reasons I can't even begin to fathom, Ezura also chooses a visual style that looks a lot like home camcorder naturalism (without any shaky hand-held "realism," but with most of the movie looking kind of like bad low-budget teevee). I made it all the way through this one, but was Facebooking at the same time, because I had to.

The Pretty Good:
The Eye 3, aka Gin Gwai 10 or The Eye 10. My Netflick actually came with the right movie but the wrong jacket, as there's another movie out there called The Eye 3. The one I watched is a 2005 Pang Brothers release, much of which is set in Hong Kong, but with an interesting mix of Cantonese and Thai dialogue. I didn't expect a third sequel to be any good, but this one surprised me. So far as I can remember the first and second Eyes, #3 bears little or no family resemblance to its precursors. One of the clever things about it is that it uses a "Ten Ways to Raise a Ghost" book as its organizing principle -- so that it's kind of like an omnibus, but with a reasonably clear narrative through-line. This is not to say that I followed the storyline with complete success, but I quite liked this movie's energy, inventiveness, and even wit. It has probably the best, or one of the best, dance sequences I've ever seen in a horror movie. And it also actually made me that bit unsettled here and there -- success!! Between the creative energy and some unpredictable twists and turns, this one worked pretty well for me.

Finally, the Confusing: The last film I watched was the Korean version of The Uninvited (2003), directed by Su-yeon Lee. I liked this film's grimness -- if you want a film that's absolutely committed to downtrodden, much-chagrined and humiliated characters who suffer terrible setbacks and can't look each other in the eye, this is the film for you. One thing I love about Asian horror is its brilliant ability to evoke bleak and empty urban landscapes and to give us houses that are far too unsettled to be homes. Watching these films, I sometimes almost feel like I'm in a Korean Edward Hopper painting. The Uninvited nails this; visually, it's another really striking Asian horror film, with fabulously depressing and alienating cityscapes. But the plot! At some point about an hour or so in, I finally just gave up trying to follow along. The movie has enough going for it that you can actually get something out of it even while in an advanced state of confusion. (You know that the characters are downtrodden, for example.) That said, it was pretty hard for me to keep track of some of the players, and it seemed to me that a couple of seemingly important pieces of the story got set aside, or maybe something was lost in translation, or maybe I dropped the ball, or something. Anyway, I liked this one pretty well. But I don't really know what the hell it was about.

(Eric Anderson is a George Mason University English and American Studies professor and horror enthusiast, among the other hats he wears.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: including some more late links

As Patti Abbott is traveling on business, I volunteered to assemble the FFB links for this week. She'll be back to it next week, if the crick don't top the levee.

Yvette Banek: In Defense of Love by Kathleen Creighton

Paul Bishop: The Long Count by Ron Faust

Bill Crider: Galaxy: 30 Years of Innovative Science Fiction (volume 2/mass-market paperback edition) edited by Frederik Pohl, Martin H. Greenberg, and Joseph D. Olander

Scott Cupp: The Owl Service by Alan Garner

Martin Edwards: The Telephone Call by John Rhode

Curt Evans: Rear Window and Other Stories (Ballantine/Penguin version) by Cornell Woolrich

"Jack Giles" (Ray): The Dolly Dolly Spy by Adam Diment

Jerry House: Beyond the Vanishing Point by Ray Cummings

Randy Johnson: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 2: The Doomsday Affair by Harry Whittington

George Kelley: The Fox Valley Murders by John Holbrook Vance (aka Jack Vance)

BV Lawson: Under the Snow by Kerstin Lillemor Ekman (translated by Joan Tate)

Evan Lewis: Up Jumped the Devil (aka Murder All Over) by Cleve F. Adams

Steve Lewis: Hunter in the Dark by Estelle Thompson

John F. Norris: The Horizontal Man by Helen Eustis

Juri Nummelin: The Sucker Punch by James Hadley Chase ***the Finnish edition has a subtly yet possibly NSFW cover...

Richard Pangburn: As Hot as It Was You Ought to Thank Me by Nanci Kincaid

Ron Scheer: Harper's Book of Facts (1895 edition)

Mike Slind: March Violets by Philip Kerr

James Reasoner: The Plot Against Earth by Robert Silverberg (as Calvin M. Knox)

Richard Robinson: The House on the Point by Benjamin Hoff

Dan Stumpf: Seven Footprints to Satan by A. Merritt

If I've missed your or someone else's FFB today, please let me know! Thanks.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Courtesy ISFDb:

The Fantastic Pulps

Editor: Peter Haining (Gollancz, 1975; St. Martin's Press, 1976; Vintage, 1976--the paperback I have, pictured here)

11 • Introduction (The Fantastic Pulps) • (1975) • essay by Peter Haining
19 • Manacled • (1900) • shortstory by Stephen Crane
25 • A Thousand Deaths • (1899) • shortstory by Jack London
37 • Author's Adventure • (1897) • shortstory by Upton Sinclair
42 • The Resurrection of Jimber-Jaw • (1937) • novelette by Edgar Rice Burroughs
62 • John Ovington Returns • (1918) • shortstory by Max Brand
79 • The People of the Pit • (1918) • shortstory by A. Merritt
97 • The Man with the Glass Heart • (1911) • shortstory by George Allan England (aka He of the Glass Heart)
110 • The Wolf Woman • [Trumpets from Oblivion] • (1939) • shortstory by H. Bedford-Jones
129 • A Cry from Beyond • (1931) • novelette by Victor Rousseau
149 • Madman's Murder Melody • (1940) • shortstory by Ray Cummings
163 • The Land That Time Forgot • (1975) • interior artwork by Frank Paul
164 • The Moon Pool • (1975) • interior artwork by Graves Gladney
165 • The Indestructible Man • (1975) • interior artwork by John Newton Howett
166 • Full Moon • (1975) • interior artwork by Virgil Finlay
167 • The Rat Racket • (1931) • interior artwork by Leo Morey
168 • Piracy Preferred • (1975) • interior artwork by H. W. Wesso
169 • Vampire Kith and Kin • (1975) • interior artwork by Vincent Napoli
170 • The Devotee of Evil • (1941) • interior artwork by Hannes Bok
171 • Herbert West: Reanimator • (1975) • interior artwork by Damon Knight
172 • The Black Ferris • (1975) • interior artwork by Lee Brown Coye
175 • The Ghost Patrol • (1917) • shortstory by Sinclair Lewis
189 • The Sardonic Star of Tom Doody • (1923) • shortstory by Dashiell Hammett [as by Peter Collinson]
196 • The Second Challenge • (1929) • shortstory by MacKinlay Kantor
209 • Baron Münchhausen's Scientific Adventures • (1916) • shortstory by Hugo Gernsback
221 • A Twentieth Century Homunculus • (1930) • shortstory by David H. Keller, M.D. [as by David H. Keller]
244 • The Man Who Saw the Future • (1930) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
260 • Suicide Chapel • [Jules de Grandin] • (1938) • novelette by Seabury Quinn
292 • The Diary of Alonzo Typer • (1938) • novelette by H. P. Lovecraft and William Lumley
315 • The Tree of Life • [Northwest Smith] • (1936) • novelette by C. L. Moore
343 • Iron Mask • (1944) • novelette by Robert Bloch
386 • The Sea Shell • (1944) • shortstory by Ray Bradbury
397 • The Bloody Pulps • (1962) • essay by Charles Beaumont
415 • Poor Amazing Gets It! • (1932) • letter (to Amazing Stories) by Forrest J. Ackerman
417 • The Saint's Here Again • (1939) • letter (to Thrilling Wonder Stories) by Leslie Charteris
419 • Bibliography (The Fantastic Pulps) • (1976) • essay by uncredited (Peter Haining)

again, from ISFDb:
What Did Miss Darrington See?: An Anthology of Feminist Supernatural Fiction
edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson (Feminist Press, 1989)

ix • Preface (What Did Miss Darrington See?) • (1989) • essay by Jessica Amanda Salmonson
xv • Introduction (What Did Miss Darrington See?) • (1989) • essay by Rosemary Jackson
xxxvii • Proem: The Immortal • (1908) • poem by Ellen Glasgow
1 • The Long Chamber • (1914) • shortstory by Olivia Howard Dunbar
15 • A Ghost Story • (1858) • shortstory by Ada Trevanion
25 • Luella Miller • (1902) • shortstory by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
38 • What Did Miss Darrington See? • (1870) • shortstory by Emma B. Cobb
58 • La Femme Noir • (1850) • shortstory by Anna Maria Hall
68 • A Friend in Need • (1981) • shortstory by Lisa Tuttle
79 • Attachment • (1974) • shortstory by Phyllis Eisenstein
90 • Dreaming the Sky Down • (1987) • shortstory by Barbara Burford
101 • The Sixth Canvasser • (1916) • shortstory by Inez Haynes Irwin
114 • An Unborn Visitant • (1932) • shortstory by Vita Sackville-West
124 • Tamar • (1932) • shortstory by Lady Eleanor Smith
135 • There and Here • (1897) • shortstory by Alice Brown
148 • The Substitute • (1914) • shortstory by Georgia Wood Pangborn
158 • The Teacher • (1976) • shortstory by Luisa Valenzuela
164 • The Ghost • (1978) • shortstory by Anne Sexton
170 • Three Dreams in a Desert • (1890) • shortstory by Olive Schreiner
177 • The Fall • (1967) • shortstory by Armonia Somers
188 • Pandora Pandaemonia • (1989) • shortfiction by Jules Faye
192 • The Doll • (1896) • shortstory by Vernon Lee
201 • The Debutante • (1939) • shortfiction by Leonora Carrington
205 • The Readjustment • (1908) • shortstory by Mary Austin (1868)
212 • Clay-Shuttered Doors • (1926) • shortstory by Helen R. Hull
229 • Since I Died • (1873) • shortstory by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
236 • The Little Dirty Girl • (1982) • shortstory by Joanna Russ
255 • Envoi: For Emily D. • (1989) • poem by uncredited (J. A. Salmonson)
256 • Recommended Reading (What Did Miss Darrington See?) • (1989) • essay by uncredited (J. A. Salmonson)

Two important survey anthologies in my reading, encountered about a decade apart; I would've caught up with the Haining, with its then mildly steep (to me on an allowance) price of $3 (or was it up to $5?) in its "quality paperback" digest-sized form, in 1978, and I picked up the Salmonson at time of publication. Both books good fun to read, the Salmonson averaging better in quality (Haining's anthologies through the decades were often more fun even when not greater than the sum of their parts, and the selection is certainly reasonably representative), but both useful surveys that introduced me to writers I was unlikely to stumble across quickly otherwise (such as Kantor or Quinn, in the Haining, though I had read about Quinn in Les Daniels's history of horror in literature and other arts, Living in Fear).

Perhaps as important as the fiction, in both cases, were the best essays in either book; Rosemary Jackson's introduction to the Salmonson was, by design or happy circumstance, a persuasive counter-argument to Stephen King's rather daft and widely, thoughtlessly assented-to notion, put forth in Danse Macabre, that horror fiction is inherently a politically reactionary form; she deftly demonstrates horror's history and natural utility as radical and progressive critique, not least in pointing out the horrors in society which need to be overcome. In the Haining, he reprints Charles Beaumont's fine essay "The Bloody Pulps" (from an early '60s Playboy), which while not accurate in every detail is a fine, nostalgic gloss on the joys of the pulps of CB's youth...amusing to hear his voice from 1962 sneer just a bit about the slight thing a 1962 Argosy or Amazing: Fact and Science Fiction were compared to what one got in, say, 1946...Argosy by the early '60s had already become a sort of down-market, if slick, Esquire, rather than the leading general-interest/eclectic fiction pulp it had been in the 1940s (and its British edition already a sedate and even more literarily impressive digest), but this contrast between the slim, adventurous digest-sized Amazing, edited by Cele Goldsmith and featuring some of the best fiction in the field, versus the Ray Palmer Amazing Stories of the '40s with some good and a lot of indifferent to bad adventure sf, and a tendency by the end of the '40s to wallow in fringe crackpottery (even as John W. Campbell over at Astounding was becoming increasingly willing to do, as well, in his more intellectualized way), is not a terribly strong argument. Except in nostalgic terms, perhaps. (And Amazing's then-recent mockery of Playboy, in a joke story by Isaac Asimov, perhaps had not gone unnoticed in the Mansion.)

The fiction in both volumes ranges from impressive to readable, with, as noted, the advantage going to the Salmonson, even given the historical importance of nearly everyone in both books (though, obviously, some of the Salmonson picks have become even more obscure over the decades than some of the once-famous and still indirectly influential fictioneers in the Haining); the works by still-major folks in the Haining, ranging from London and Lewis through C. L. Moore and Hammett to Bloch and Bradbury, are represented by stories more rare than representative of what they were capable of, which is less true even of the modern writers in the Salmonson, even as she avoids some obvious choices (and includes such nice surprises as Anne Sexton's prose vignette). A nice bonus in the Haining is a portfolio of pulp illustration, including Damon Knight's work, from before he turned his primary attention to writing, for the Weird Tales publication of the Lovecraft "Herbert West, Reanimator" stories.

The Haining was never too fortunate in cover imagery, but the hardcover has a slightly better cover, a pulp illustration reprint rather than a pastiche (and Haining's later anthology, with actual covers from his collection excerpted on the cover, not surprisingly looks better yet:)

For more of this week's selections, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Joanna Russ: a speech from Philadelphia, 1969

Dirty Wordies, or, The Fiendish Thingie transcribed to the web from the NYC-based fanzine Luna Monthly, a special issue? tagged Luna Prime (or so I suspect).

Russ on free-speech matters, and definitely worth the look.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Yet More links: Tuesday's into Wednesday's! Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: 7-8 June

At least two reviews that should've been here yesterday were not... (Not counting my still-delayed review of clever, flawed Canadian sf films, now finally added.) So, apologies to Michael Shonk and Eric Peterson, and you kind readers, for patience. And thanks to all for participating and/or checking in...and Juri Nummelin adds an archived review, below.

Bill Crider: On Guard (aka Le bossu) (1997)

Chuck Esola: Vice Squad (1982)

Eric Peterson: Shame (1987)

Evan Lewis: "Popeye the Sailor"

Iba Dawson: The Wings of a Dove

James Reasoner: Gun the Man Down

Jerry House: The Last Man on Earth (with short subjects on frankfurters/hot dogs/wieners)

Juri Nummelin: The First Charge of Machete (aka La primera carga al machete) (a Juri classic!)

Michael Shonk: The Cases of Eddie Drake (Part 1) (and Part 2 about the confusing history of this early tv series)

Patti Abbott: Birdy

Randy Johnson: The Case of the Howling Dog

Scott Cupp: Dinosaurus!

Steve Lewis: The Panther's Claw and Storm in a Teacup

Tise Vahimagi: Prime Time Suspects 3.0 and 3.1

Todd Mason: Last Night (1998) and Xchange (2000)

Walter Albert: Modern Love and Cinevent 45

Yvette Banek: Diva , The Man Who Never Was (1956), and The War of the Worlds (1953)

Related matters:
George Kelley: Covert Affairs

Jackie Kashian: The summer's comic-book films

Marc Edward Heuck: For Sandra Bernhard's birthday

Megan Abbott: Films for pre-adolescent girls

delayed Tuesday's Overlooked Films: LAST NIGHT (1998) and XCHANGE (2000)

...for the list of all this week's titles and links, please see here.

or...the utterly pleasant upper mid-range of Canadian sf films.

(above: Bussières and Baldwin; at right, Oh and McKellar)

Last Night details the last night of the Earth's existence, or at least apparently the last day/night of life on Earth...scriptwriter/director/star Don McKellar keeps the exact nature of the apocalypse vague, aside from lingering shots of a bright Sun in the sky, and so one is allowed to wonder if the Sun is becoming a red giant, or somehow expected to go nova (though the latter wouldn't explain the midnight sun in Toronto), set to destroy the Earth's surface, at least, precisely at midnight Toronto time. This ambiguity, meant to further the metaphorical strength of the film, can be distracting...but in the film, the characters all know, and have known for some time, that The End is nigh, and promptly at 11p Central Time, 9 Pacific (12:30a Newfoundland). Xchange has a very derivative premise, involving personalities being temporarily switched from body to body via a popular if expensive commercial process, and then does a reasonably good job of working up a corporate terrorism plot around it. Both are well-performed by largely Canadian casts, with medium to small budgets, and both have nice touches and are clever and engaging enough to be worth seeing.

The Toronto-dwellers and suburbanites we meet in Last Night are for the most part not frantic in the face of doom...very little of the stylized savagery of most post-apocalyptic films is on display here, perhaps in part because everyone's aware that there will be no survivors, no matter how rugged. Most people are either having last extended parties, or doing or trying to do the things they've always hoped to do, such as Geneviève Bujold's piano instructor having trysts with as many of her former students as have likewise fantasized about that and who have sought her out, before settling in to hear a final recital by another former student. Others, such as David Cronenberg's electric company manager, attempt to go about their regular business as much as they can under the circumstances, fulfilling their responsibilities a last time. Sandra Oh, as the Cronenberg character's wife, gives what might be her best and most moving performance, as one of the few who visibly cannot reconcile with the end of everything and the injustice being visited upon everyone. Even where some of the dramatic business of the climax seems to go a little over the top, Oh's performance as a desperate, terrified, but essentially sane and loving person helps to make this modest film art; she's not alone in elevating the proceedings, but I suspect most people who remember the film remember Oh and McKellar's final scenes best.

Xchange, written apparently by neophyte writers (who had presumably read their Robert Sheckley and John Varley, among many others) and directed by Allan Moyle, a man with good and witty but not too much commercially robust work on his resume (I'm fond of Pump Up the Volume), has some cheesy and obvious aspects to it, but nevertheless it moves, with Stephen Baldwin (the least talented of the Baldwin clan) used well and such fine Canadian talent as Pascale Bussières and Janet Kidder helping smooth over the more purple a man (Kim Coates, more recently seen in Sons of Anarchy), using for business purposes the body-switching technology available to his class of executive, finds himself stranded in a commercial clone, and needing desperately to return to his original body before a rejection process inherent in the body-swapping technology plays out; unfortunately for him, his body is being used by a very connected conspirator in a corporate and political power-play, so that he has no one to turn to for help but an ex-womanfriend and, less reliably but crucially, a recreational sex-partner of some years previous who has some useful connections of her own. Meanwhile, the conspirators are trying hard to wipe him out, unwilling to simply let his time run out in the cloned body...among the methods they employ is a rather clever conception of a very personal drone aircraft with a very specifically targeted small-explosive missile as its cargo. Along with the performances (including Kyle MacLachlan as the Other Token Yank in the cast, playing the body-stealer in his original form), Moyle's direction and the camera work and editing are deft, keeping the film engaging and fun to watch even when the relatively low budget shows through...and there are nice touches throughout, little bits of realism that crop up even in the midst of the more outre events, and some effectively pointed satire.

Friday, June 3, 2011

FFB: THE SECRET SONGS by Fritz Leiber (1968)

Contents, courtesy ISFDb:

Contents (view Concise Listing)

Smoke Ghost • (1941) • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-TAH-Tee • [Simon Grue] • (1958) • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
Mariana • (1960) • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
Coming Attraction • (1950) • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
A Pail of Air • (1951) • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
The Moon Is Green • (1952) • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
No Great Magic • [Change War] • (1963) • novella by Fritz Leiber
The Secret Songs • (1962) • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
The Girl with the Hungry Eyes • (1949) • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
The Winter Flies • (1967) • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
The Man Who Made Friends with Electricity • (1962) • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
Introduction (The Secret Songs) • (1968) • essay by Judith Merril

Contents, courtesy the William Contento Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections:

The Secret Songs Fritz Leiber (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1968, 25/-, 229pp, hc); Also in pb (Panther 1975).

· Introduction · in
· The Winter Flies [“The Inner Circles”] · ss F&SF Oct ’67
· The Man Who Made Friends with Electricity · ss F&SF Mar ’62
· Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-Tah-Tee [Simon Grue] · ss F&SF May ’58
· Mariana · ss Fantastic Feb ’60
· Coming Attraction · ss Galaxy Nov ’50
· The Moon Is Green · ss Galaxy Apr ’52
· A Pail of Air · ss Galaxy Dec ’51
· Smoke Ghost · ss Unknown Oct ’41
· The Girl with the Hungry Eyes · ss The Girl With the Hungry Eyes, ed. Donald A. Wollheim, Avon, 1949
· No Great Magic [Change War] · na Galaxy Dec ’63
· The Secret Songs · ss F&SF Aug ’62

Apparently, what we have here is the index to the Hart-Davis hardcover, followed by the index to the Panther paperback. Or so I assume.

However, either way, this is a book of mostly brilliant stories by Fritz Leiber, not all the short stories he wrote which changed the way horror, sf, and fantasy fiction were written in his wake, but a fair sampling of those. And two of the three very autobiographical stories, in dramatic form (actual playlets) which are not sf, fantasy or horror per se, though they deal with tropes from those forms, since they are about Fritz Leiber's life..."The Secret Songs" is mostly about his and his wife Jonquil's addictions, his to downers including alcohol, hers to the commonly available uppers of the time, including over the counter speed. "The Winter Flies," which for some reason Edward Ferman at F&SF retitled "The Inner Circles," is about the Leibers at home with their son, Justin, but mostly about Leiber wrestling with his existential terror. "237 Talking Statues, Etc." is the missing one, about Leiber's relation with his mother and particularly his father, Fritz Leiber, Sr., and both the parents professional actors...Senior, for example, has a key role in the film The Spanish Main, while Junior, who pursued an acting career for a while, has a smaller key role in Camille (the Greta Garbo version).

While it's ridiculous that no Leiber collection so far has put those three plays together, this book helps redress this for its reader, at least, by also including such, it's hard to overstate, epochal stories as "Smoke Ghost" and "Coming Attraction." These are among the stories that Leiber used to demonstrate how little thought too many of his contemporaries were bringing to the fantastic-fiction field, and how obvious that seemed after these stories were published. The latter, a science fiction story which suggested that people really didn't necessarily behave in the ways you might want them to or that they led you to believe they did, and that your "heroism" might just be playing into their little fantasy-games, seems so obvious in retrospect...but was a corrective to entirely too much lazy thinking in the field at the time. As well as being pretty savagely satirical in at least two ways when most of the best fantasticated satire depended on the mostly-"outsider" crew of the likes of Huxley or Orwell...Leiber demonstrated that he was in their league, which he would continue to demonstrate (particularly with the "Change War" stories such as "No Great Magic" and the short novel, a play in prose, The Big Time), but never with more immediate impact. The effect wasn't unlike the cumulative effect of Dashiell Hammett's early short fiction in crime fiction.

"Smoke Ghost" simply created an approach to modern horror, much as Robert Bloch's fiction and that of some of the others in the little post-Lovecraftian knot flourishing in the 1940s did...Shirley Jackson, John Collier, to some extent Cornell Woolrich, certainly Algernon Blackwood and a slew of others were incorporating the advances of the Edwardians (E. F. Benson, Saki, et al.) and the honing of existential terror Lovecraft had taken up (and to some extent his peers, including the young Leiber and Bloch) from the thread HPL traced in Poe and his heirs. But few stories are so blatantly an example of an introduction of a new paradigm as "Smoke Ghost." Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat," perhaps. And even as "Smoke Ghost" recast how the supernatural might be dealt with in the modern urban environment, "The Girl with the Hungry Eyes" helped redefine vampirism, to get past the concretized metaphor that the spilling of blood, or any other body fluid, represented, to get at the elan vital aspect of the predation...and how mass culture might be such a predator's natural tool.

And then there are other simply brilliant stories, less influential but no less a joy to read..."A Pail of Air" (about coping with life on an Earth without the Sun), "Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-TAH-Tee" (connected to the pathbreaking novel Conjure Wife, but not dependent upon it, a dancing bit of wit with the more sinister implications buried deep inside), and such.

This collection was never published in Leiber's native United States. Other slim collections nearly as good were. There's never been a sufficiently representative collection of his work published. He's not alone in this, but it's particularly ridiculous in his case. At the time of his death, he had more major awards for fantastic-fiction writing than any other person...Algis Budrys was genuinely angry, as well as resigned to the answer, when demanding in 1978 as to where was Leiber's National Book Award, his Pulitzer.

Where is Borges's Nobel? Awards, like justice, are only sparingly applied correctly.

For more "forgotten" books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.