Friday, October 31, 2008

A Frank Review of "I Spit On Your Grave" (1978)



The Short Version? Woman gets raped forever, then gets bloody revenge.
What Is It? Grindhouse Trash
Who's In It? Nobody.
Should I See It? No... and no means no!

The film originally called as "Day of the Woman" in 1978 eventually launched a thousand rape-revenge flicks upon rerelease in 1980 as "I Spit On Your Grave" with the tagline, "This woman has just cut, chopped, broken, and burned five men beyond recognition... but no jury in America would ever convict her!" The film's poster became a pop icon and it's subject a cultural reference point. Shame that, truthfully, the film is utterly awful and lacks any merit whatsoever.

The film's director has tried to claim a true life incident as inspiration, but the film is a pretty naked reworking of only the most base and exploitative elements of "Deliverance" and "Last House On The Left." The film lacks a score, decent audio, competent direction, coherent screenplay, and dramatic acting outside the calibre of a MadTV skit. After twenty-one minutes of watching our heroine drive a car, read a book, skinnydip, canoe and do some writing without the benefit of dialogue or monologue, the violent harassment by local rednecks begins. At the twenty-four minute mark, the rape sequence begins in earnest.

Actually, calling it a "sequence" downplays the monstrosity of the movie. You are essentially given a three act play running twenty-three minutes centered on a multitude of violations. The worst part, as sickening as this is, is that the acting is so atrocious as to outpace the deviant acts' race to the bottom of the barrel. The simulated sex and violence are so poorly handled, it is almost comical, but even my humor doesn't run that black. This is also the point where any semblance of logical thought or human motivation goes right out the window.

Where to begin? How about the victim's choice not to report the crime, even though she'd tried that exact act during her rape, and despite her seeming knowledge that her attackers were intent on murdering her? If we can work that out, it might explain why, rather than begin her vengeance planning straight away, she goes back to writing her book and lounging around the house? Ooo, ooo-- if we can work that out, maybe we can make sense of her seducing two of her attackers? I don't mean just lulling their defenses down with her feminine wiles-- I mean actually fucking them, consensually, without a condom, before murdering them? Surely, having worked out some reasonably insane motivation behind all of this, we can stop replacing "don't go in the basement!" callbacks with "don't leave a trail of evidence for mass homicide back to your doorstep after you've healed from any sign of your brutal, 23 minute long rape! Haven't you ever seen 'Quincy?' 'Perry Mason?' 'Scooby-Doo Mystery Hour?'"

For fuck's sake, rather than exploit the illusion of her death, she just loiters for ten minutes before being rediscovered, and only then initiated planning for the comeuppance. She doesn't actually turn the tables until an hour and fifteen minutes in (y'know, after her latest round of full-frontal nudity and consensual sex,) meaning she spends just 25 minutes "avenging" her 23 minute rape and torture, and that includes the time she spent fully nude jerking off another assailant in the bathtub (with the clear insinuation she'd already had consensual, probably unsafe sex with him.) Can you feel my disgust at the poor craft and general nature displayed by this film?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mr. Mind's Venusian Decoder Card (1996)



When you need something a bit stronger than Interlac! As I understand it, DC gave these cards away for the price of a self-addressed stamped envelope, so readers of "The Power of Shazam!" could decipher what the little mind-controlling worm was saying in its native language at times. You can tell the card was trimmed by hand. I got mine in a trade during my comic shop days.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Suicide Squad: From The Ashes




The first John Ostrander comic I ever read was an issue of "Legends," but I consider my true introduction to be "Grimjack." I hated that first issue, in part because it was a political satire in the hands of an oblivious twelve year old. Second chances turned "Grimjack" into one of my favorite series in my teenage years. I blame the fact that I once had a mullet on Jim Twilley, but we didn't even have a name for them back then. I followed Ostrander on several other series, and once thought of him as among the finest writers in comics, until I spent three years with my nerves racked by his horrendous run on "Martian Manhunter." I so hated and found such great fault in that book, it called into question whether Ostrander was ever any good. Maybe it was just a temporary lapse in taste, like the years I wasted following Rob Liefeld?

Blessedly, Ostrander's return to another much-lauded series, Suicide Squad, calmed any fears about my judgment. The new mini-series launched with a time capsule back to the days when the U.S.S.R. was still the Evil Empire, with great fun being had with long forgotten menaces like the People's Heroes. From there, the focus tightens on Rick Flag, the presumed dead hardcase leader of the comic book equivalent of the Dirty Dozen. It's a credit to Ostrander's ability that his plot was engaging enough that I didn't mind spending much of the trade with one of the least interesting members of the Squad. In fact, if there's any flaw to be found here, it's that we spend too little time with favorites like Amanda Waller and Deadshot, though they're perfectly handled again when they do show. The absence of the real Captain Boomerang is also deeply felt, but at least his son offers a nod and a new dynamic. Once a contemporary team is in place, the action expands and is as fast and furious as ever.

Since so few former members of the Squad were made available to Ostrander, he had to dig up mothballed losers like Twister and Windfall. However, he offers them new history and motivations that turn them into fascinating figures at the turn of a page. Classic members may be gone, but the magic most definitely is not. Folks may be surprised at the body count when everything comes to a head. The familiar double dealing and sordid revelations are a glory to behold.

So to is the art of Javier Pina. Had DC tapped him to finish "Final Crisis" in the stead of J.G. Jones, I'm not sure readers would have missed the beat. This low-selling mini-series was done a real disservice by the retro covers of John K. Snider, which might have played like Matt Wagner on "Green Arrow" is the title were similarly high profile. Instead, I expect most presumed the interiors were as crude as the frontpieces, where Pina's interior art is lush and graceful. He's a talent I expect to hear more from. Pina had a few deadline troubles of his own, which Jesus Saiz covered capably. Less so Robin Riggs, a fantastic inker, but not the pencil artist one would approve of in this company. A nod must also be given to Jason Wright, whose color work is lovely. Art fans would be well served to pick up the book on their merits alone.

I've been disappointed by the Checkmate revival and the general direction of DC Comics since "Infinite Crisis." It seems like a lot of cues have been taken from the '80s Suicide Squad, and as with the legacies of books like "Watchmen" and "Dark Knight Returns," they only match the sizzle of this steak. Do yourself a favor and read one of the only recent DC trades worth the effort.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Emmanuelle Goes to Cannes (1980)



Character Name: Emmanuelle
Actress: Olinka Hardiman
Actual Movie Title: Emmanuelle Goes to Cannes
Known Aliases: "The Elementary Stud"
Country of Origin: France
Character Nationality: French
Occupation: Stripper-Prostitute-Adult Actress
Religion: Catholic
Married: Single
Locales: Cannes
Release Date: 1980 (France)
Director: Jean-Marie Pallardy
DVD: Emmanuelle Goes to Cannes (1985)
Stats: Pseudo-Emmaneulle

Story: This shouldn't take long. "Emmanuelle" is completely delusional, up to and including being named Emmanuelle in a movie actually titled "Emmanuelle" that has absolutely nothing to do with the real "Emmanuelle" and not even have the goddam common courtesy to add or remove letters from the name. She thinks she can dance, but she cannot. She thinks she looks like Marilyn Monroe, which means she's done everything she possibly could do to look like Monroe, and still looks a '70s porno actress. No, not a lovely soft core porno actress, but the chick with zits on her ass who humps some guy toward the back of an orgy, mostly blocked by the leads and secondary performers. I'm sure there's a term for that. You figure an extra wouldn't have actual sex, and a stand-in wouldn't be filmed. In this era of gonzo filmmaking, Stunt Twat wouldn't apply without bedposts or barnyard animals coming into play... Cameo cunt? Works for me.

Where was I? Oh yeah, "Emmanuelle" is delusional. Her boyfriend Frank is her "business manager," which means when she's not stripping blandly, she's turning tricks. Just to insure that no one can derive sexual gratification from this movie, she actually sobs for minutes and has to be cajoled into doing a john that looks like an illegal. These two have "sex" that's so hilariously exaggerated and filled with faux-o faces, I half expect they're both virgins. Believe it or not, Emmanuelle spent her childhood in a convent. Oy, vey.

Meanwhile, Frank fucks another terrible stripper who may or may not have had a mustache and unibrow in her very near future (our distant, regrettable past.) Bearded Frank also tongue kisses Frida Kahlo in that hideous manner I've only seen in creepy Asian videos, where their faces are about a three inches apart.Is there a market for that? Emmanuelle busted the pair, had a brief threeway, and left her abusive relationship to network at the Cannes Film Festival. Oh and a random couple joins the Mile High Club, interrupted for something like a quarter hour with intermittent bullshit doc footage from Cannes. My penis hasn't so much as twitched, I tell you!

Let me explain this again. At the twenty minute mark, the title of this picture strikes with full effect. Emmanuelle has gone to Cannes. There she is. Wandering around. Continuing to offer demented yet inane first person narration while the "director" shoots nothing remotely interesting, except for a few random chicks at a nude beach. A terrible skin flick, but the camp factor and incredible stamina of the voiceover actress are endearing. Still, next sex scene: 23 minutes later. With an old man dressed like Mr. Rogers playing a film producer. This landed her a part in an adult film involving straight and lesbian "action." Yawn. The voiceover continued throughout. Later, she makes out with an ice cream cone. Cheese flavored.

Things get bleak in the last ten minutes. The film career doesn't pan out. Emmanuelle starts turning tricks for rent. Finally, in tears, she calls her cheating pimp boyfriend Frank, who helps her stiff a hotel bill and drives her back home to Shittown. Don't you just love those "up" endings, like "Electra Glide in Blue?"

Well, the dame's got moxie, but this has got to be among the saddest, most wrong-headed and prick-shrinking entries in not just the Emmanuelle series, but even the annals of Fake Emmanuelles. The direction by "Emmanuele 3's" Jean-Marie Pallardy is so inept, it makes Joe D'Amato look like Sam Peckinpah. In fact, Jean-Marie Pallardy casting himself as a lead with his shirt unbuttoned to his navel would have, and may Jesus have mercy on my soul for saying this, made the movie steamier. Watch it with someone you love, but do not want to "love." Meet a nice bottle of hooch. Love that together instead.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Audio Neurotic Fixation: "Bastards of the Beat" by The Damnwells



This is an audio compilation I made featuring excerpts from the Damnwells 2003 album "Bastards of the Beat." I was introduced to the band when they opened for Juliana Hatfield a number of years back, and they ended up being the highlight of that show. Certainly a group deserving of more attention, and an album that can be enjoyed all the way through without skipping. Here's a brief review of each track.


  1. "Assholes": A really nice way to start the album, at only about 30 seconds, and rather mellow for its pissy intent. There's a full version of this one out there, but it's tricky to come by, so I'm a bit miffed by that.

  2. "What You Get": Rousing, radio-friendly pop-rock in the Bryan Adams tradition. No really, I don't mean that critically. It's a good time, with peppy guitars and a callback.

  3. "Kiss Catastrophe": Another pleaser, as a n'er-do-well sings to the girl with whom he has a conflicted relationship.

  4. "I'll Be Around": The line "you know my demons are too bold for hell" is a great one, but just does not belong in such a tame song. I do like the horns, and it generally sounds like a lowkey Crowes number, but lead singer Alex Dezen cannot sell a bad boy image.

  5. "Newborn History": Now playing plaintive, Dezen's all over. This is a pussy-wettener you don't have to feel guilty about, thanks to the critical tone of the lyrics.

  6. "I Will Keep The Bad Things From You": See above, replacing "critical" with "ironic." Grand promises are made in the name of love, then immediately undercut by lowered expectations. Just a great song; a wolf in sheep's clothing.

  7. "Sleepsinging": We've hit the album's sweet spot, though I confess bias here, as this was the theme song of a break-up I had years back. "Each day you bring me closer to going nowhere; like sleep walking I'm sleepsinging."

  8. "The Sound": ...and we're back to the unit-shifters, but damnit, this is good for what it is. I'd evoke the Eagles, but I fucking hate the Eagles.

  9. "The Lost Complaint": As above, so below. I dig that chorus.

  10. "Electric Harmony": I know it must seem like damning with faint praise, but these days an album that consistently entertains without excessive variation is pretty uncommon, right?

  11. "New Delhi": A bit more jangly than the rest, and snarky as fuck. This one's about a problem child, y'see?

  12. "Star/Fool": Another standout, as it's heavier and somewhat more sparse, but still pop at its core.

  13. "Texas": A dreamy, romantic number to close things out... except there's that bane of the CD listener's existence: the hidden track. God damn the Beatles for starting that shit! Kicks in at 7:05, and a bit dreary thanks to the organ and vocal delivery. Not bad, but not worth the wait.


If you'd like to hear more, here's my favorite cut off the album, "Sleepsinging." I'd have posted the official video, but embedding was disabled. You can see it here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Project Rooftop is Bullshit

As I mentioned a ways back, I offered a submission to the Project Rooftop/Harris Comics Vampirella ReVamp contest. Like the kid who threw together a science project the night before the fare involving Styrofoam cups and glitter, my piece left a lot to be desired...




...so when I failed to be among the nineteen winners and honorable mentions, I was cool with that. My design wasn't even quite what I had in mind when I first considered the project, and if I made it in within deadline, it was by the skin of my teeth. However, this was before Project Rooftop posted a second batch of honorable mentions. That's what turned them into motherfuckers. 40 additional pieces were shown, bringing the total to 59 out of "over 100" entries. Now, that could mean 101 or 125, but likely closer to the former. In effect, Project Rooftop declared that over half of all submissions they received were too worthless and ugly to offer on the site.

It gets worse, as the Project Rooftop editors have always flouted their own guidelines, though never so grievously as here.

3. Keep in mind, the task is not to re-imagine the characters, but to revise their costuming. Think of it as if you’ve just been assigned to the series, and have been asked to redesign the character’s costume, not the character. Try to create a BETTER costume than the one currently in use, not just a variant.

8. If you have to put the character’s name in the image, you haven’t done your job. So don’t even bother with that.


How many entries featured a Vampirella completely unrecognizable, either as a character or even as a generic vampire?

4. Be sure to include enough visual information in your drawing that another artist could draw your costume without having to invent much of it themselves. Generally, a full-body frontal shot is the most easily accepted, but feel free to include multiple shots in one image.


A number of entries featured images of Vampirella that are heavily shadowed or have swaths of her costume obscured.

7. We recommend not trying to redesign Superman.


Unless they're running a Superman: Man of Style month. It seems like a lot of A-listers get attention during their contests, as though they needed to be redesigned.

So in order to cut through the bullshit, let me offer my own addendum to the Project Rooftop guidelines:

10. If you hope for serious consideration, be sure to redesign your super-hero so that they look as much like any random hipster asshole on the street as possible. We are ashamed of spandex, capes, sashes, and most every other mainstay of comic books. Converse All-Stars, hoodies, jeans, and other youthful casual wear are greatly preferable.

11. If you do not have access to digital coloring softwear, do not waste out time. Colored pencils FTL.

12. Unless you are a professional caliber artist, please draw in as simplistic and childlike a manner as possible. Cute rules, but no crayons. See rule # 11.

13. If you are a professional caliber artist with quality coloring softwear, you can totally bullshit your way past offering an actual design. Drip honey/blood/body paint or whatever over the naughty bits, and so long as we can spank to it, you're aces for an honorable mention.

14. Likewise, if you're just a really bitchin' artist who should just be drawing your own damned comics, feel free to turn in lukewarm or highly derivative designs. Especially if you're a cute Asian chick.

15. Elseworlds, people! Fetish and period workings make us cream in our jeans.


Hopefully taking these additional guidelines into consideration will secure myself and my fellow 41+ wastes of space who bothered to submit entries with an honorable mention next time...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

1970 National Periodical Publications Movie Posters Ad



The Wild Bunch! Bullitt! Bonnie and Clyde! The Illustrated Man. Dracula Has Risen From The Grave. The Valley of Gwangi. The Fox? The Madwoman of Chaillot? The hell?

I never knew DC Comics was in the movie poster business, but here's one of their ads for a mix of great and not so flicks of the period. $1.50 each, huge 27" x 41" size!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Audio Neurotic Fixation

If you look up at the ...nurgh... banner, you'll see a lot of musical artists in the mix. This is largely a words and pictures site, but talking about music is like dancing about politics. A 30 second audio clip is worth 300 words, at least. I'm a devout lover of a wide variety of music, but I'm not versed in technical knowledge or unwieldy jargon. Instead, I'll spend the hours it takes to edit a YouTube video with static images and above average sound quality to offer what I feel is a representative sampling of songs from an album in its entirety. I'll also offer brief commentary on each track.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Frank Review of "The Sand Pebbles" (1966)



The Short Version? 1920s Chinese want Yankees to go home, especially the ones on gunships who start engaging in soap opera.
What Is It? Period Drama
Who's In It? Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, Richard Crenna, Candice Bergen
Should I See It? At least until the intermission, sure.

Thing is, this is a 3 1/4 hour long movie in the "Roadshow" edition, with only fifteen or so minutes directly related to nurgh's Emmanu-Wednesday feature, so we'll be doing some skimming here. I'll start with an overview and my thoughts, then move on to a detailed synopsis of Emmanuelle-centric elements in the future.

Engineer Jake Holman (Steve McQueen) tends to be an anti-authoritarian DIY control freak, so it's no surprise he keeps transferring around from ship to ship in the U.S. Navy. By 1926, he finds himself in China, assigned to the U.S.S. San Pablo. This gunboat patrols the Yangtze River, but it's seen little action, and is physically run by ignorant coolies. It's a situation Holman has little tolerance for, setting him at odds with Captain Collins and the rest of the crew. As Holman exposes the cancer within the San Pablo, he himself is blamed for the consequences of other's actions.

I liked the first half of "The Sand Pebbles," as it focused on the operation of the ship and relatable conflicts. That half only lags when characters like the missionaries Jameson (Larry Gates) and Shirley Eckert (19 y.o. Candice Bergen) show up to preach liberally about the exploitation of the Chinese and blah blah blah. There's are attempts here to treat Eckert as a love interest for Holman, but the actors have no chemistry whatsoever. From age to intellect to worldview, there is nothing to unite them beyond contrivance, and their both being so curiously sexless removes even that potential explanation. The actors are so terrible together, Bergen's presence actually breaks down McQueen's performance. Usually nuanced and fully inhabited, McQueen seems to start exasperatingly reading Holman's lines as the Eckert character wears him down.

Holman gets on better with Frenchy Burgoyne (Richard Attenborough,) whose English accent isn't too noticeable if you're not listening for it. The commentary tracks make it clear Attenborough is a lovable sort, and that comes through in his character. Even more charming is Mako as Po-han, a particularly bright coolie who wins Holman's respect and the audience's affection. Richard Crenna as Captain Collins has about the right size stick up his butt, while Simon Oakland is a bit too much a teddy bear to sell the bullying racist Stawski as more than comic relief.

The point is, the crew and tensions on the San Pablo were plenty enough to make "The San Pebbles" a solid picture. The missionaries comment of the seamen (and the sailors of the coolies) that keeping things simple is what they're about. The two lead actresses ruin that by bringing ridiculous soap opera to the table, and then the picture is lost to overwhelming political upheaval. The men of the San Pablo are too simple for either concern, and are crushed by a narrative too big for them. The entire second half of the picture is devoted to a long, sad trip deep into the shit with little hope for redemption and none granted. It becomes increasingly clear as you watch that no good can come from any of it, turning the picture into a dreary commentary on the then-current Vietnam conflict and all foreign adventurism since.

Marayat Andriane is pretty good in her part. Her appeal to the various johns is dubious, and she sometimes speaks in a seemingly affected "little girl" voice that doesn't sit well. You know from the start things aren't going to end well for her, and she's at her best when placed in peril. Her subplot was one of the better ones, but still leads the movie far astray from its strengths.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Frank Review of "Suicide Club" (2002)



The Short Version? Lots of Asians start killing themselves, and the police want to know why.
What Is It? Existential Horror Thriller
Who's In It? Japanese People, including that guy from "Audition"
Should I See It? Maybe.

Reaction to this movie seems to be polarize into two camps: those who think it sucks, and those who think the first camp is too stupid to "get" the film. I'd like to try to bridge those camps, by understanding the film, and yet deeming it underwhelming.

"Suicide Club" (or "Suicide Circle," in the original Japanese) is at its heart Chicken Soup for the J-Horror Soul. It takes a very simplistic, fortune cookie platitude and bundles it into an overly complicated, misleading narrative. The premise appears to be that a rash of mass suicides has struck Japan, beginning with 54 schoolgirls, and progressing to more general society. Initially, police investigators have no choice but to rule out homicide, even as a white duffel bag containing a chain of human flesh patches turns up at the scene. As more people are effected (or disaffected, as the case may be,) a conspiracy seems to materialize. Is this a Suicide Club, or murder?

To explain further, I have to veer deep into spoiler territory. People angered by the impact the twist endings of movies like "The Usual Suspects" have on the story that preceded it will be pulling their hair out here. After spending time trying to determine what is behind the Suicide Club, and being offered endless red herrings, the conclusion makes clear that the entire film is a metaphor. There is no Suicide Club-- just a variety of means by which people distract themselves from trouble in mind. Work, family, school, pop culture, sports, deviancy-- none of it means anything if you've lost touch with yourself. Construct a facade, and you'll just have to take a hammer to it every time its flimsy nature is exposed. You've got to learn to love yourself, you see. It's new age cheese offered to salve the wounds of the modern Japanese spirit.

Shame no such concession is given to those taking the narrative literally, who will find that the interest they had invested in a police procedural is dismissed without regard. The only resolution offered is existential, leaving not so much plot holes as gapes so massive it kills any enjoyment to be found at the surface level. Heart must be taken either in the psychobabble or the imagery, both so outlandish that they cannot really be taken seriously.

It seems to me those smart enough to draw the meaning out of this movie will be offended at its questionable construction and saccarin sentiment. Those who only follow it superfiscially will be lost, on both the literal and philosophical levels. "Suicide Club," may be worth your time visually, but it isn't really worth your consideration emotionally.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Frank Review of "Sex Drive" (2008)



The Short Version? Dork steals brother's hot rod to meet internet chick with his two best friends.
What Is It? Sex Comedy
Who's In It? James Marsden, Seth Green
Should I See It? Yes.

You want the short version? "American Pie" meets "The Sure Thing." There are tits. There are nerds. There are randy, sarcastic Amish. There is a doughnut with a magnum. What's not to like? Sure, it's lightweight, but I think it's refreshing that the "heart" is mostly given lip service (though it drags down the last half hour) in favor of something that stays on point with the funny. There isn't much of a story, which is to the good, as the goal is to keep people laughing (when not titillating.) I think that if you watch the trailer and are entertained, you can expect better in the theater. If the trailer does absolutely nothing for you, I doubt this was ever going to be your cup of tea to begin with. Highly recommended for fans of the great American sex comedy, especially the '80s variety-- and this one pays off far better than any of that crap that used to run on USA's "Up All Night."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Frank Review of "W." (2008)



The Short Version? Dubbya's first term, with life-to-date Cliff's Notes.
What Is It? Humorous Docudrama
Who's In It? Josh Brolin & cameos/bit parts galore.
Should I See It? Probably not.

Too soon.

I recently saw a set of trailers before a film and realized the only movies advertised I had an interest in were political. "W." was one of them. My friend, a republican, was also intrigued, but afraid the movie would be a hit job. I felt there was enough inherently wrong about the life of George Walker Bush to say the facts plain and still have a fascinating movie about a flawed individual.

We were both wrong.

The presentation of Dubbya in this film is fairly sympathetic, while his administration never comes off worse than misguided in intent and ineffectual in execution. However, even while making the case for Bush as a fortunate son trying to make good, there's no meat on the all too familiar bones of Bush lore. Aside from some limp armchair psychology and a few unfortunate episodes or surreality, the script offers nothing the average American hadn't already figured out through the nightly news. Worse, the screenplay places commonly known quotes back into the mouths of its subjects in different contexts from which they originated. Not only is the dialogue itself a retread of the well worn, but it's meta-textual enough to kick you out of the movie besides. How anyone could have read this thing and thought there was a movie here, well, I cannot imagine a greater misunderestimation.

"W." has a lame duck script and director Oliver Stone offers little more than a standard docudrama, so what's here worth bothering with?

Josh Brolin. I started paying attention to him as more than Streisand's stepson with 2006's "The Dead Girl," a grungy role the actor seemed to really sink his teeth into. Brolin's had a hot streak ever since, gaining increasing esteem in far more eyes than mine. His turn as George W. Bush isn't just a bravura performance-- it's a metaphysical invocation. Brolin shares virtually no characteristics with the person he plays, yet he manages through mild make-up and inhuman ability to somehow become more real than Dubbya himself seems as himself. Brolin is so good he almost validates Bush's presidency, if only because of its inspiration. I kind of doubt anyone who's been through Gitmo would agree, but allow me a bit of hyperbole here, eh?

James Cromwell as father George Herbert Walker Bush and Ellen Burstyn as Barbara Bush are also fantastic. I think the senior Bush was a better president than he's remembered as, standing in the shadow of Reagan's charisma and forced to confront the adverse effects of the Gipper's voodoo economics. G. H. W.'s story is far less well known, and I expect would have made for a much better movie. Certainly, the dynamic between the Bushs outshines any other element of the screenplay, truly the highlight of the production, after Brolin. I could have also stood to see more of Toby Jones as Karl Rove, as he played similarly well off Brolin, and added dimension to another public figure worth disparaging.

Elizabeth Banks is an attractive actress appearing in four currently running trailers, but she doesn't recall Laura Bush at all. Richard Dreyfuss is no fun as Dick Cheney, keeping his evil at Penguin levels where I'd have liked the face full of buckshot. Scott Glenn barely registers as Rummy. Thandie Newton's make-up is great, but her pinched voice is so far over the top as to seem like she stepped out of a Saturday Night Live skit. Jeffrey Wright's attempt at portraying Colin Powell starts off weak, and gets worse when he's forced into the role of the liberal-talking-point conscience of the group. Noah Wyle and Ioan Gruffudd are so out of place, they serve only as additional agents of cognitive dissonance.

I think there's still an epic to be made about the Bush family in general and Dubbya's administration in particular, but it will require more obscure elements, an historical perspective, and a director not trying so hard to mask his agenda that he strips his whole production of life. "W." is not a great film, but there isn't yet a more Oscar-worthy performance this year than Josh Brolin's.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

8MM Motion Picture Projector Only $6.98 Complete (1970 Ad)



Also featured: X-Ray Specs and Karate for only $1.00 Jiu+Jitsu, Judo, Boxing, Savate and Isometric Muscle Building as an added bonus!

Friday, October 17, 2008

"...a little head!" (1982 Bong Ad)


"The Collector's Item in Smoking Accessories, for the connoisseur... The classic HEAD™ waterpipe; poor your favorite coolant into the tub, while it drains down into the copper plumbing, raise the toilet seat and stuff your favorite 'smoke' in the bowl! ...the sink has a stash box hidden underneath! The incredible HEAD™ just $29.95 plus $2.50 shipping. CA res. add 6%."

For the record... nurgh... does not advocate smoking weed, but I'm typing this after spiking my tea with brandy, so let's not kid ourselves about my moral superiority. In case you're curious, in adjusted dollars HEAD™ would be $67.90.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wolverine: First Class -- The Rookie


Given the title, this book must follow the "Origin" mini-series in telling about Logan's early days in the Canadian wilderness, or at least their military, right? No wait, there's an ongoing monthly series already covering that territory called "Origins." Okay, so this covers his days in the Weapon X program, like his own title, the various Weapon X series, "Origins," and even an upcoming "Weapon X: First Class" mini-series. No, praise the Lord. It couldn't be Wolverine's early days with the X-Men, also covered ceaselessly, dating back to the '80s "Classic X-Men." Why the frig does this book exist again?

Ah yes, because Marvel wasn't willing to release "Shadowcat: First Class," or even another "Kitty Pryde and Wolverine." When I first began reading "Uncanny X-Men" as a lad, Kitty Pryde was an adorable, relatable mainstay, long before I'd ever heard the term "Mary Sue." I've always had a good deal of affection for Kitty, despite her conceptual faults, and I also really enjoyed writer Fred Van Lente's "Action Philosophers," so I gave this first trade a spin. It's important to note though that I've been mostly X-Free since I quit those characters in the early '90s, and have since grown to loathe filthy mutie scum.

Chris Claremont always imagined a great unwritten scene where Kitty Pryde would bounce downstairs all chipper, catch Logan on the exact wrong day, and be gutted by him. That became increasingly less likely as the '80s progressed, with Claremont and Jim Shooter conspiring to neuter most of what made Wolverine interesting. By turning him from a borderline sociopath into a "failed samurai," Logan became an acceptable anti-hero to market to children (as opposed to Shooter's original order to send the murderous loner to prison.) This of course led to Wolverine's typically shitty but extremely profitable solo series. They dropped the samurai bit in favor of a berserker with foot long claws on his hands who could never connect the fucking things to anybody, save shredded clothing and minor flesh wounds. Eventually, he started killing again, but only in that unimpeachable Seagal/Van Damme/Rambo way where everybody totally deserved it and shit. I pretty much think Wolverine is a waste of blood, bone, and gobs of hair.

Van Lente hints at that Claremont scene in his first issue collected here, but by the end made it clear his characterization of Logan would owe more to the version from the cartoons, where he's nothing but bluster. That left young Kitty Pryde, near the start of her time with the X-Men, to carry the book. I could see that working, but Van Lente seems inclined to also treat her with kid gloves, essentially scripting an all-ages series geared younger than most stories Kitty has appeared in. The first read like an After-School Special, although there's a soft twist tp prevent it from being preachy. Sabretooth makes an appearance in the second tale, the best of the lot. It uses one of those great "Classic X-Men" back-ups by John Bolton as a springboard, and allows us a look at Kitty's dark side. Keep in mind though, this was way before her ninja assassin days (*snicker*,) so I mean more along the lines of how teenage girls can be a tad manipulative and self-possessed. There's also a cute punchline that does a bit of harm to a character I don't care about, but others might take issue with.

A third story, this one spanning two issues, is where I began to feel my purchase of this trade was a mistake. There was a time when the big reveal of Wolverine's secret origin would have been that he actually began life as his small, vicious, fur-bearing namesake. Rather than a human mutant, he would have been a varmint mutated by the High Evolutionary. That nutty idea was dismissed ages ago, but Van Lente remembered, and used it as a launching pad featuring those lovable anthropomorphics on Wundagore Mountain. I wouldn't have been distressed by any of that, had the story not become increasingly more contrived and less involving as it progressed. The second half is filled with arbitrary crap that kicks you out of a story that seemed to deteriorate into shambles as fast as I could read it. I like to imagine something like one of those collapsing bridges from an Indiana Jones movie, but the truth is it was so lousy, I relegated it to the bathroom for a series of visits before the ultimate completion.

If you've been keeping score, that's four standard size comics of material in this $12.99 trade that I've covered. For no clear reason, the trade ends with a reprint of Wolverine's first full appearance in Incredible Hulk #181. Again, I remember the '80s, when Hulk #180-181 were collected together in a newsstand reprint volume with additional editorial material. In fact, for all I know, all those behind the scenes anecdotes I've referenced in this review may have come straight out of it. I recall at the time I was unimpressed with the story, but I enjoyed it more on this decades hence revisitation. The Len Wein script and dubious Herb Trimpe art are very much of their sad times, but there's a nice pathos and chutzpah present as well. I think I'd have enjoyed it even more in the first part of the goddamned thing were present here, as I was forced to rely on exposition and personal recollection to follow what was going on. For fucks sake, wouldn't a reprint of Kitty Pryde's first appearance, far less common than Wolverine's, have been more appropriate and interesting filler for a slim and ultimately underwhelming trade?

I would say that the art is something of a saving grace here. Andrea Divito's work on the single issue tales was very appealing, although his clean linework and the bright coloring are part of what lends the book its "young readers" vibe. This is even more true of Salva Espin on the High Evolutionary story, as he was better at drawing the darling animal characters than the human figures. Shame the latter script was such mindrot.

I honestly can't recommend this trade for anyone but the most devoted Kitty Pryde fan, or for some geek trying to indoctrinate his kid into their numbers. Wolverine fans should actively avoid it, as he scripts seem geared toward making Wolverine seem foolish and ineffectual. This is Mary Sue-- er, Kitty Pryde's book, and I doubt readers weaned on Larry Hama could handle their hero playing second fiddle so transparently.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Emmanuele 3 (1980)



Character Name: Clito
Actress: Sylvie Cointre (billed as "Silvia Castell")
Actual Movie Title: Le Journal érotique d'une Thailandaise
Known Aliases: An Erotic Journal of a Lady from Thailand; Emmanuele 3
Country of Origin: France
Character Nationality: Thai
Character Age:
Occupation: Prostitute
Locales: Paris, Bangkok
Release Date: July 9, 1980 (Italy)
Director: Jean-Marie Pallardy
DVD: Emmanuele 3 (1980)
Stats: Pseudo-Emmaneulle

Story: Paul Vernon (Jean-Marie Pallardy) is photographing a couple of models, Charlotte and Jean, near the Arc de Triomphe, but finds they're in a rush. They wish to attend a party thrown by Richard, Paul's ex-wife's lover, who's posing as a movie producer. The trio finish, then head to the (what's French for "redneck?") picnic, where Paul's ex Michèle (Catherine Greiner) has begun a strip show. The models are quick to join in the festivities, while Michèle has progressed to giving head by the time Paul approaches her. Michèle antagonizes the still possessive Paul, but wishes they could at least be friends. Paul angrily departs.

Paul meets with his editor, who refuses his new shots and bemoans the lack of quality in Paul's recent work. To combat the distraction of his failed marriage and fatigue with fashion photography, Paul is sent to Bangkok. Though Vernon is ostensibly on another shoot with a pair of models, Yvonne (France Lomay) and Claudine (Brigitte Lahaie,) his true purpose is to locate secret agents who have gone missing in Thailand. Claudine takes a shower at their hotel, then almost seduces Paul, before the pair are interrupted by visitors downstairs. Left alone, Claudine calls room 69 and diddles herself, her moans getting an older guest in trouble with his wife.

Paul meets an Asian man (Mr. Kah? Mr. Kao?) in the lobby, and they discuss the missing agents. Paul then shoots his models in exotic locales, with Mister Kao serving as an escort. The group is in a minor boating accident, during which Paul becomes entranced by an unidentified Thai girl (Sylvie Cointre.)

That night, Yvonne meets drunken Mike (Mike Monty) the Mighty Texas Door Opener, and is quick to undress for him in her room. Claudine stumbles in, and the threesome begins. Meanwhile, Paul and Kao visit a nightclub frequented by the agents. Paul oversells his enthusiasm for a nude dancer engaged in weak wax/fire play, as though it were the smoking scene from "Emmanuelle." No relevant information is gathered, but the Asian Mister promises their last stop is their best option. "The big Thai massage parlor" is where "the elite meet;" as in "the most beautiful collection of spies, thieves, and whores." Vernon spots the Thai girl from earlier amongst the collective, and buys her for the evening. Paul learns her name is Clito, which "means petal of love in my language.") Paul is the third person of Paul's nationality Clito has met (American in the English dub,) one large, the other small. Clito told Paul what she knew of the agents before they disappeared, with Paul asking if she thinks it was "the Russians." The sexin' was made.

Kao and Claudine try to visit Paul the next morning, but learn he never returned to his room. They are met by Yvonne, and decide to search the city for Paul. Texas Mike pops up, still drunk, but is ignored. They learn that neither Paul nor Clito are at the massage parlor, though Claudine feels its ridiculous Paul would be roaming the town with a working girl. In fact, Paul has clearly fallen for Clito, and the pair go for a bicycle rickshaw ride through the city. Yvonne does not care enough to chase after Paul all over town, and instead indulges in an erotic suds bath ripped off from "Emmanuelle 2."

A heavy-set Southerner with a creepy mustache is also at the massage parlor, and buys a whole gaggle of girls to meet in private. The man questions the girls about the missing agents, learning nothing, but indulges himself. After, he runs into his partner Mike, who's also searching for the missing agents.

Paul and Clito continue their day out with an impromptu photo session. A monkey in a dress shows up for comic relief. I don't recall either actor speaking a word of dialogue for over sixteen minutes, as the already short U.S. edit (73 minutes) is padded out shamelessly with travelogue. Paul is head over heels, while Clito tries to let him down easy. Two painfully non-threatening Asian goons take out Glass Jaw Paul with one punch and kidnap Clito. Paul finally rises to give chase, only to be beaten down again by a "tough" nearly as pathetic as Paul himself. Vernon rises once more, but loses the group when they hop in a car.

Claudine questions Paul on his return to the hotel, and he isn't so broken up he can't slide a hand down her pants. The frustrated couple is interrupted once again. The hotel manager has brought up a police officer sent to deliver a message to Vernon. "You are hereby notified that you are considered an undesirable person. You are to leave Thailand immediately." I must commend Thailand on their accurate observation and willingness to act upon it. Claudine suspect the expulsion might be related to the manager of the massage parlor taking exception to Paul's running off with one of his girls.

A peeved Paul went out to confront the parlor manager (Mr. Kudoo? Kideau?) and finds Clito, who compels Paul to leave this dangerous place. Paul thinks he can buy Clito's freedom, but she explains that the manager and his friend Mr. Kao are very powerful. Paul realizes Clito doesn't really want to break away, and figures he must have been crazy.

Michèle meets Paul at the Paris airport parking lot, hoping to reconcile. Michèle works for the same "company" as Paul, and as a special agent had heard all about Clito. Michèle doesn't believe in marrying outside the profession, but Paul asserts, "I finally got you out of system, and that's where you're gonna stay." Michèle is told to go back to Richard, and she informs Paul the director wishes to speak with him. You know, it must suck to be in the same line of work as James Bond, and drive a crappy little VW hatchback.

The director feels like a laughing stock, while Paul believes they can be certain the missing agents were murdered by Kao and company. The director gets Paul's deportation lifted, so that Vernon can return for more questioning, though he doesn't feel confident in his safety. In Bangkok, Paul buys Clito for $15,000 from the parlor, and is boated to the house where she's servicing another man. Paul spouts some cryptic babble about defending his country and Clito, then dumps her and returns home. Abrupt much?

Notes: Text refers to the softcore English dubbed version. The original French version ran with hardcore sequences at 91 minutes.

Summation: I'm not sure which required more audacity: Writer-Director Jean-Marie Pallardy casting himself as the lead, or naming his one "l" picture "Emmanuele 3," after directing "Emmanuelle Goes to Cannes." For added effect, Emmanuelle's "A.S.P.," standing for "Alain Siritzky Productions," is replaced by a "J. M.P." production. I suspect "J.M.P." is like "Detective Comics Comics." Or possibly "Just Made Profit" off the piggyback?

Anyhow, "Emmanuele 3" is a rather stupid movie, and most of the sex is lame, but not so terrible as to cause bowel irritation or anything. While the massage scene in no way threatens "Emmanuelle 2," there's more than enough speed and friction to make it worth a look. One of Clito & Paul's love scenes is pretty decent, as well, if you can get past Jean-Marie Pallardy utter absence of appeal. Everything else, in this edit, is mostly a bother.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wed. Is Any Day For All I Care #17

Ambush Bug: Year None #3
Contract #0
Legion of Super-Heroes #46
The Roberts #1
DC/Wildstorm: Dreamwar #6




Ambush Bug: Year None #3 (DC, 2008, $2.99)
On the plus side, my childhood isn't being raped, but the resurrected Bug still isn't living up to its potential. I've got no complaint about Dumb Bunny of the Inferior Five being used to set up a parody of "One More Day," but I'd have really appreciated it being remotely funny, given its page count. "Infinite Crisis" also gets skewered, in theory if not fact. I am pleased that, in death as in life, Pantha remains one of the only redeeming aspects of what is otherwise a wretched mess. I'd guess Ambush Bug's greatest crime is being too nostalgic for itself, referencing comics long forgotten by most, that weren't so great to begin with (I'm looking at you, "Stocking Stuffer.") If Irwin Schwab is granted clemency after what is increasingly looking to be a debacle, maybe J.M. DeMatteis should provide the script?

Contract #0 (First Salvo, 2008, $0.25)
I don't know how I managed it, but despite my intentions and cheaprocity, I missed out on this heavily discounted book on first run. It isn't exactly a shame, as Dave Ross' five pages of art seem to have been digitally "inked" through a very basic contrast feature. Detail is plainly lost, and there's so little story to the preview as to render it a waste. A couple of advance pages with art by Ariel Padilla and Yvel Guichet fare better, but sans lettering its just more mindless violence. The saving grace in a five page short with art by Kevin Sharpe and Mark McKenna, which constitutes an extended comic bit, but works for what it is.

Legion of Super-Heroes #46 (DC, 2008, $2.99)
Another swell issue with Shooter back on his game. In all the years I've read Legion comics (on and off,) I can't recall a story where Ultra Boy's ass was more bad than dumb, and I'm happy for his breakthrough. Brainy and Princess Projectra also provide solid character moments. Francis Manapul appears to be in a transitional state with his style, as he moves toward a less manga influenced style. Maybe it was just a deadline crunch, as most of the pages are light on rendering, but it looked good to my eye. I don't mind the soap operatic concern with infidelity, but I do hope that by the 30th Century that sort of possessiveness isn't such an issue.

The Roberts #1 (Image, 2008, $5.99)
Easily the best book I read this month. The premise is simple: The Boston Strangler is suffering through a murder-free life in a nursing home, until he meets the acquaintance of a new resident, the Zodiac Killer. Mostly told in first person narrative, the dialogue and situations presented by Wayne Chinsang and Justin Shady ring true. The art of Erik Rose recalls Jae Lee, and is perfect for the story. I read a marginal review of the book online, that complained about excess exposition and a lack of action. In other words, it takes place in a fucking nursing home, and "exposition" is the fucking story. If any of my previous sentences incite interest, don't fear the price point, and go buy this book now. The potential trade won't save you any money, and I'm sure it could use the support. If you're a retard who fails the understand the difference between a fictionalized memoir and exposition, go draw on a wall with your own feces instead.


DC/Wildstorm: Dreamwar #6 (DC, 2008, $2.99)
I bought a copy of the issue I missed, then read this conclusion, and can now say with an authoritative voice that Keith Giffen fed me a shit sandwich heavily garnished with weak sauce. If this book were a living thing, and you asked it why it existed, it would either spiral into an angsty crisis or reply, "for the paycheck, you stupid fuck." The art is phoned-in, while the script seems bored with life and ready to die. Between this and Ambush Bug, I have to assume Giffen has a self-destructive streak hellbent on returning the creator to the dregs from which "52" and "Formerly Known As The Justice League" plucked him. But hey, selling out the JLI reaped some filthy lucre, right?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Marshal Law #2 (February 1988)



Marshal Law #1 (October 1987)

"Before I became a secret policeman I had two other identities... I was a Screaming Eagle in the Zone... When we got home I became the vet and tried to sort out... I'm also trying to be a normal person... Joe Gilmore, unemployed blue collar worker living in the inner city... I'd met Lynn during the Big One when the wall between our apartments fell down. We'd been partying ever since." Lynn was asleep in their bed, having wasted the day instead of attending her Communication Studies lecture, "throwing away a chance I never had." Lynn was less concerned about her final year in college than her student activism, which tended to be directed against super heroes. "The idea of making it with a masked man revolts me." Feeling a bit self-conscious and defensive about his alter ego, Joe asked his girlfriend how she felt about Marshal Law. "That fascist pig? That's even worse! That's really sick! 'Sides, anyone who wears a costume like that's got to be gay. I prefer someone normal like you."

"The Superdome was an excuse by Super-Life Laboratories to show off the result of Doctor Shocc's genetic breakthrough... The possibilities were endless... and so were the mistakes, but they kept them hidden underground... I'm all for progress, but you have to draw the line somewhere. At Super-Life Laboratory they'd thrown away the ruler." The Superdome was like a state fair of super-heroics, with carnival rides, caped celebrities, Zone-themed play activities, and recruiting booths. There was also Father O'Brian, damning Celeste as a wanton woman, and calling for her lusty admirers to confess their impure thoughts to God. Mrs. Mallon was present, and disparaged Celeste in comparisons to Pod People and herself in younger years. She pushed her son Danny's wheelchair as he too took in the sight of Celeste, but his thoughts were more in line with those the padre was warning against. Marshal Law chatted with his grocer and co-worker, until Mrs. Mallon took her leave and the discussion shifted to a dark moment in Public Spirit's past. "Danny is my computer operator. He'd managed to hack into confidential SHOCC files."

Colonel Buck Caine was engaged to Celeste. Celeste was a retired Siren, a SHOCC "sleeper" spy with super-sexual powers, that ply trade in exchange for secret information. A quarter century earlier, Public Spirit had been engaged to another Siren, Virago, whom Caine reported as having accidentally drowned shortly before his mission to the stars. "But the most interesting bits in the report were the missing bits in all that lying bullshit."

Public Spirit was making a personal appearance at the Superdome, to greet his fans and hold a question & answer session. While Caine remained young thanks to relative time at near-light speed during his space trip, all the P.Y.T.s that saw him off were now well worn middle-aged women. Marshal Law cut through the soccer moms and geeks lobbing Caine softballs, and began grilling the outwardly pious, unimpeachable Public Spirit. Law led Caine into a trap, discussing the various limitations of Public Spirit's powers before holding up a card and asking, "Well, can you read this?" He could. It read, "Do you go around with a bag over your head raping women?" Rattled, Marshal Law pressed the "hero" about Virago, and how if he had married her, wouldn't he have been refused as an astronaut due to her aging in his absence... especially if she were carrying his child? "Only her body was never found to check." Law openly accused Caine of murder, and was dragged off by SHOCC troopers.

At the order of Father Hood, Doctor Shocc's heir apparent, the troopers began to rough Law up. "Do you know what it would mean if your filthy allegations were true? Cane's the star of the space program for chrissakes! Don't you care about your country?" The Marshal gave better than he took, and walked away on is own feet. "It's because I care!"

Meanwhile, Lynn was outside the Superdome with two fellow protesters, all dressed as super heroes, but with pig masks over their faces. "Super hero costumes promote sexual stereotyping demeaning to women... and legitimize the result of hideous genetic experiments carried out in the name of 'progress'...Such as the Sirens, women specifically created as 'sex machines'..." Lynn tried to rally support for the cause... even amongst the other two guys protesting. Turned out the only reason they came was to see Lynn in a Celeste costume. She threw her pig mask at them and stormed off toward a deserted area around the Superdome. The Sleepman followed.

"This isn't happening. Bad things never happen to me. They always happen to other people. To 'that poor girl down the road.' Cases you read about in the papers. On T.V. Never to me. Never to me! I'm 'that poor girl down the road.' 'Did you hear what happened to her?' they'll say. 'Oh, it was shocking! Shocking!' Never to me. Never to meeeeeeeeeee! Nev..." She was raped. She was murdered. At her request, he didn't wear a bag over his head. Instead, it was a revolting gray mask sculpted to resemble the squiggly inner tubing of a body. His blue eyes stared into hers. His dripping tongue probed her mouth. His knives penetrated her body.

Guards spotted the Sleepman after the act, and were cut to ribbons. More followed, as the filth made his way into the bowels of Super-Life Laboratories, and released "mistakes" from their cells. "They, too, are super heroes. And should be punished. In my place. Hitler Hernandez... The Betrayer... Scapegoat... Slug Fest... Rimfire... GrimGram... Blue Murder... and other unspeakable creatures who should not have been brought into existence. But one is coming who will take them out... He will hunt us all down..."

Marshal Law found Lynn's body, mostly nude, slit down the middle, Sleepman's bag-mask covering her privates. He cradled his personal WiR, then set upon the escapees, who had begun to massacre the Superdome attendees.

"...He will not rest until he has found us. And given us... what we oh, so richly deserve... Some say punishment is not the answer... We should be shown sympathy and understanding... People should pray for us... He prays for us. He prays we all go to Hell."

Created and owned by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill

Marshal Law #3 (April 1988)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pantheon: Welcome To The Machine (2007/8)



The Pantheon mini-series began in 1998, four years before "Fables" turned Bill Willingham from a Vertigo hanger-on to a heavyweight. For years, I'd heard good things about his "Elementals" from the '80s, and I actually met him at a con in the '90s. I had him sign an issue of "Showcase" with a Huntress story he'd pencilled, and bullshit with him as best I could with my relative lack of familiarity (mostly about Hal Jordan's going nuts and killing a bunch of people, the book Willingham was signing the most that day.) When "Pantheon" was announced, I had plenty of good feeling for the guy, and read the first five issues published. You see, it had taken over a year for those five issues to be released by tiny Lone Star Press. There were also many notations of tie-ins with an anthology book they were publishing that featured some Pantheon characters. I figured, this thing would read a lot better in one sitting with those side stories included, so I'll just wait for the trade. I wasn't sure anything past #6 was solicited through Diamond Distribution, but the Lone Star Press site announces seven additional issues, with only one out of stock. Who knew? But then, it took until 2004 to get to #13, with only one issue released in both 2002 and 2003. I'm not sorry I waited.

Finally, here's the trade paperback, arrived after a previous cancellation. It collects the first half of the story, with some extras that are either new or culled from those short stories I never read. The work is in full color and on glossy stock for the first time. I'm glad for it, as I enjoyed becoming reacquainted. A customer I had who was a Willingham follower explained to me that where Elementals was the writer going out of his way to avoid cliche, Pantheon was intended to embrace them. The book is chock full of obvious analogues for famous super-heroes, and the plot revolves around another war of the super-heroes along the grim lines of "Watchmen" and "Kingdom Come," although it seems to owe the most to Alan Moore's infamous unpublished "Twilight" proposal. The analogues are much truer to the spirit of super-heroes than the type of smears Warren Ellis loves so much. More like Jim Shooter given carte blanche for a modern Secret Wars, especially seeing as so few of Willingham's more risque leanings show here. Basically, this is a fairly familiar premise vindicated by deft execution on Willingham's part. If you've enjoyed the company I've mentioned Pantheon keeping, I'd recommend picking up this trade.

... with caveats. The coloring suits the book, in that this is a pretty mainstream costume epic with dark touches. However, it's pretty flat, and it looks like some of the art may have been tweaked to accommodate it. Most of the pencil art was provided by Mike Leeke, probably best known for his really stiff looking figures on Valiant titles like "H.A.R.D. Corps," "Psi-Lords" and "Deathmate." Maybe inker Bill Williams helps, because Leeke's work looks much better here. I don't see either winning awards, but they serve a story that makes incredible demands of them fairly well. The character designs are quite diverse, most likely originated by Willingham, and the cast is large to the tune of "Legion of Super-Heroes." Ty Romsa stepped in for the final chapter, and his work is actually a bit more fluid and moody than Leeke's, but the inks and colors keep the look consistent.

As I said, this trade collects half a story, though its episodic nature takes the edge off that. The first issue was devoted to setting up characters, while the second and third are an extended flashback that tells a complete story about a very powerful, very wicked little boy's body count. What appears to be the primary story really begins in number four. It amounts to Ozymandias by way of Metron and Magneto taking over a superhuman prison, and beginning a lethal game of chess against his fellows to save the world his own damned way. Unfortunately, that tale slows in chapter six, a series of origins and character moments for the additional villains of the piece. There's a seventh add-on where everything screeches to a halt to tell Dynasty's backstory. She's the female Superman that leads the forces of good, and this is a new short piece that ends the trade as inorganically as possible. Literally, there's a large "the end" where some ad for a second Pantheon trade could have run, preferably with an estimated time of arrival.

That marks my biggest concern with recommending this trade. It took a decade to collect these stories, and about a year from the trade being solicited, resolicited, and shipped. If I don't get you to buy a trade, I might not be given the opportunity to purchase a second volume. Alternately, you may join me in waiting a good long while for that follow-up, or maybe giving in and buying the back issues. I figure, you now know the score, and can come to your own decision. For myself, I'll be keeping my fingers crossed and keeping a closer eye on those Lone Star Press solicitations...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

1972 "1000 'Day-Glo' Decals Only $1.00" Ad


Sorry I've been leaning so heavily on pin-ups this week, but the last and next week's posts at my Martian Manhunter daily blog have been really taxing. Thankfully, should have those wrapped this weekend, and enhance the quality and quantity of nurghyle flow the rest of the week. Besides, aren't these "all your favorites... printed in the 'now' designs, that really say it!"

Friday, October 10, 2008

The First Choice: Don't Settle For Second Best (1984 Subscription Ad)



I loved First Comics. I'd read plenty of other "independent" publishers over the years, but I don't know that I ever embraced a line from one like I did with First. The company combined corporate comics sensibilities of the '70s & '80s with the name brand talent that produced them, on more personal and quirky works that didn't alienate mainstream audiences. Attempts at a shared universe never quite clicked, and crossovers were usually as bad there as anywhere. Still, it was nice knowing the work of John Ostrander, Mike Grell, Howard Chaykin, Jim Starlin, and so many others were united as part of a focused push of all their comics, equally. "Mars" was never going to sell like "Jon Sable Freelance," but there they are sharing ad space. "E-Man" and "Starslayer?" "Warp" and "American Flagg!" Best of all, you could actually subscribe to them, out of Evanston, IL, on a monthly basis! Why can't something like this exist anymore, merging passionate creators with a professional environment that allows them to produce and pay their bills at the same time? I love Image Comics, but few creators have the business savvy to work off their model. Dark Horse is too big and diverse to allow for that clarity of vision, and like many others are heavily preoccupied with importing and exporting media properties instead of plain old comics. I guess shops like BOOM! and Devil's Due are the closest, but lack the money and reliability. Sigh. I loved First Comics.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Valiant Postcard No. 3 (1993)



The only Valiant title I followed for its entire run was "Shadowman." At some point, I'll reread the run to help figure out why, because by my recollection it involved a few good moments and lots of "eh." Still, I love the icon, the concept, and think some of the characters were pretty cool.

I believe this promotional postcard for "Shadowman #0" was polybagged with Capitol Distribution's "Advance Comics" catalog, but I'm perfectly willing to be corrected. You may notice I haven't taken very good care of mine, but I got so much of this stuff when I was a retailer, I'm more amazed I bothered to keep it at all.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Marayat Andriane Bikini Pin-Up


Most of my Emmanuelle posts to date have been really long, which won't necessarily remain the case, but I thought I and whatever readers I have might like a fanciful break. I also want to do a post on the legend of "Emmanuelle Arsan," which I began drafting before the first Emmanu-Wednesday post. The hold up is that "Arsan" was a French writer with a large French fan base, the source of most of my reference. I took a semester of French in junior high. Translating all that text on Babelfish takes serious time and effort.

I mention all this because you may wonder what a pin-up of Marayat Rollet-Andriane, also known by her stage name of Marayat Andriane and birth name Marayat Bibidh, has to do with "Emmanuelle." Well see, she's the "real" thing. Marayat's life served as the basis for the original book, she was married to the author, and many still believe she actually was "Emmanuelle Arsan." This unfortunately includes The Internet Movie Database (IMDb), but what else is new? As an added bonus, Marayat appeared in Laure, sometimes called "Forever Emmanuelle," based on the book by "Emmanuelle Arsan." It really gets incestuous when you realize "Emmanuelle Arsan" directed "Laure," and that star Annie Belle appeared with Laura Gemser in "Black Emmanuelle, White Emmanuelle." More on all that later, though.

For now, enjoy the bikini shot of "The Real Emmanuelle," taken from The Sand Pebbles (Two-Disc Special Edition), which we'll also get to later. There's so few good, large pictures of this beauty on the internet, I'm pleased to take this opportunity to offer one.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wed. Is Any Day For All I Care #16

Dragon Prince #1
El Diablo #1
Secret Six #1
Solomon Kane #1
Vixen: Return of the Lion #1



Sorry I took a few weeks break. I was out of town evading a hurricane, rushed the last edition to post without art, and haven't read many single issues since. Here's five newish comics to review, with more to come next week...

Dragon Prince #1 (Image, 2008, $2.99)
Okay, Ron Marz is an adequate writer, while Jeff Johnson is an artist I really grew to like some years back. I believe they started working together at DC, moved on to Crossgen, and planned this creator owned series for Dark Horse. However, Johnson wandered off into animation work, while Marz spent much of his time at Virgin until it imploded. The rest of Marz's time was devoted to Top Cow, which helped him resurrect this series, except with Lee Moder on art. Now, I've liked Moder since his days on "Wonder Woman," and furthermore, his work here seems intent on invoking Johnson. Certainly this art looks more polished than a lot of his recent assignments, and is quite pleasing to the eye. For some reason though, he drops a lot of seriously dated references for a book about a 13 year old. "Dragonheart?" Head phones? Did I miss an Anne McCaffrey bit somewhere?

The rub is that in the years since Dragon Prince was conceived, Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn introduced "Firebreather," a much more engaging and imaginative take on the same basic premise. Further, Marz is still the same middling writer he's always been, stranding Dragon Prince in a lukewarm, all-ages no man's land. It's resoundingly okay, and if the Harry Potter fantasy riff gets you off, mazel tov. For me, eh, whatever.


El Diablo #1 (DC, 2008, $2.99)
I was just talking about how much better Phil Hester's work was than Ron Marz, but that was as a writer. It took me a while to warm up to Hester as an artist, his sole chore on El Diablo. Blessedly, his distinctive style suits the material well. Writer Jai Nitz, does a fare job of introducing a new Latino anti-hero his own self. True, his take on El Diablo is essentially a cross between the modern and western-themed Ghost Rider, less than a continuation of the actual '70s hero's legacy. Also, a minority played as hardcore gangbanger is perhaps a tad shy of politically correct, but at least he's someone who finally earns the infernal nomenclature.

Secret Six #1 (DC, 2008, $2.99)
Ah yes, this is the Gail Simone I missed over her last year on "Birds of Prey." When she's on, Simone is marvelous at setting up the threat of a calamitous situation. She's also great at writing morally ambiguous (or just flat out evil) characters with pizazz (and without judgment.)

My grievance with this Secret Six remains the same as it has been since they formed in "Villains United," in that I can't seem to give a fuck about them. Catman has been transformed into a decent anti-hero, but not one I care to read about. Rag Doll and Scandal do absolutely nothing for me. Deadshot steals the show, but without the more upright members of the Suicide Squad to play off of, he's just one more bastard amongst many. New member Bane has a nice deadpan going, but it isn't quite enough to turn the tide. Simone, along with the pretty art of Nicola Scott, is solid with the black humor, and delivers a book that is a pleasure to read. Without characters I can invest in though, it's all for naught.

Solomon Kane #1 (Dark Horse, 2008, $2.99)
This book represents a dilemma for me, as I ordered it strictly for review, and usually just give this Robert E. Howard stuff a passing nod. It isn't that I didn't have my days as a Conan fan... It's just that they didn't survive much past grade school. However, Solomon Kane has intrigued me since I read an issue of the Marvel Comics mini-series a couple decades back. This first edition, scripted by Scott Allie, reminded me of why this character has stuck in my mind all these years. Kane isn't a swaggering brute like Conan, but a rigid Puritan well versed in especially graphic violence that hits harder than Hyborean barbarian nonsense. As rendered by Mario Guevara, Kane and his world are stark and brutal. I find his austerity intriguing, and as this opening chapter only hints at the mysteries of "The Castle of the Devil," I may have just been suckered into buying a trade. There are some familiar Conan elements, like the wanderer who happens by and joins Solomon on his perilous quest for shits and giggles, but the gothic atmosphere suits me. Maybe I just like seeing this type of horror-tinged adventure in an unusual time period, but I expect I'll be back for more.


Vixen: Return of the Lion #1 (DC, 2008, $2.99)
I've been meaning to give G. Willow Wilson's writing a try for a few months now, since I read excerpts from Vertigo's "Egypt" and "Air" within a short span of time. I'm sorry Wilson chose to go the decompressed route with "Vixen," as the main draw of my previous reading was the dense, quirky dialogue. Still, everyone's free to experiment/pad for the trade, and what makes it to the page isn't bad. The issue is mostly set-up, as the Justice League of America makes an obligatory appearance to open the story on an action beat. However, I was heartened by moments spent with Superman, which leads me to assume that Wilson bothered to read and reference the earliest tales of the admittedly minor titular heroine.

By mid-issue, the scene shifts to Africa, where Vixen returns to her childhood village on a quest for revenge. Vixen is given room for some extended manga-style silent combat sequences, which plays much better than an unfortunate earlier moment where Black Canary talks smack. The main villain makes an appearance to elevate the tension, and hopefully allow those of us who follow the horrific goings-on in Africa some relief when he will eventually get his ass whipped. Until then, we're left with a cliffhanger featuring our heroine in dire straights.

Yes, the script is a bit by-the-numbers, so your mileage there will likely depend on your patience or affection for Mari McCabe. For those falling outside both camps, there's the lovely art of Cafu. I'm so used to seeing b-listers slighted with poor art that I'm stunned Vixen was rendered so well. This is seriously a book you could buy just for the art-- which falls outside the comic norm, more reminiscent of religious/inspirational posters. The good kind, I mean. Colorist Santiago Arcas perpetuates that association, as his colors are slightly washed out and autumnal, but well suited to the art, which appears to be shot directly from the pencils.

I'm not sure that this book is for everyone, but I'd definitely recommend giving it at least a flip. Just look for that sexy Joshua Middleton cover.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Frank Review of "Choke" (2008)



The Short Version? Sex addict with mommy issues does fucked up shit, based on the book by that "Fight Club" dude.
What Is It? Dark Comedy
Who's In It? Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston
Should I See It? Yes.

I saw two pictures this weekend with a rambling semblance of a plot buoyed by strong lead performances. "Choke" was the better of the two, mostly due to the fantastic Sam Rockwell, who seems like he could have coasted through the running time on sleazy charm alone. Thankfully, he doesn't have to. His character, Victor Mancini, is a loser lovable despite the longest of odds. For starters, when I say lovable, it could understandably be taken in the most carnal of senses. He's a sex addict with a respectable batting average, scoring the spectrum from doctors to halfway house skanks. His best friend is an easygoing chronic masterbator, and his mother is literally demented. To pay for a decent nursing home, Victor works as a Colonial American reenactor, with a contemptuous disregard for period authenticity. Victor's also loved by unsuspecting patrons at restaurants, for whom he chokes himself on food to facilitate a heightened sense of personal fulfillment and a quick buck. Victor's a shit, but as childhood flashbacks reveal throughout the film, he's aces for not sodomizing corpses, or other outright criminal deviancy. Rockwell is supported well by Anjelica Huston, Brad William Henke, Gillian Jacobs, sweetheart Kelly Macdonald, and director/screenwriter Clark Gregg.

"Choke" is one of those oddities, like Bob Goldthwait's "Sleeping Dogs Lie," that has an undeniable heart of gold... just covered in piss and vomit. Sure there's references to bestiality, incest and the foreskin of Christ; with depictions of overweight elderly nudity, fantasy rape, prostate stimulation and more; but it's all done with the lightest of hearts. Perhaps I'm just desensitized, or maybe as my friends noted my own life has mirrored Victor's more closely than anyone's should, but I can't really see cause for offense, hard "R" notwithstanding.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Frank Review of "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" (2008)



The Short Version? Two music geeks fall for each other on a wild night in search of their favorite band.
What Is It? Teen Hipster Romantic Comedy
Who's In It? Michael Cera, Kat Dennings
Should I See It? Maybe.

My two best friends and I have been having trouble getting together recently, what with the hurricane and clean-up and such. One called me Friday wanting to see about finally catching "Choke" before it disappeared from local screens (five and counting.) I called my other friend, who told me he was more interested in catching "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist." I said "wha-at?" I'd seen the trailer, and thought it looked nice enough for a chick flick sort of thing, but more of a DVD/cable deal for me. Still, I called friend #1 back, who also got excited about the prospect of seeing "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist." He thought it had a nice John Hughes retro vibe going, and figured we could catch "Choke" sometime the same day, so I agreed. It was also a chance for one of them to bring his fiance along, so swell.

I remember the first (and only) time I saw "Garden State," which I liked better when it was sexy and titled "The Graduate." I guess it was as alternative as you can get while carefully following the blueprint of a 35 year old movie, down to the big nosed schmuck lead and updating Simon & Garfunkle with The Shins. Oh wait, the soundtrack actually had Simon & Garfunkle, as well. Like "Garden State," "Infinite Playlist" soundtrack is full of twee, navel-gazing retreads that tend to run together, best enjoyed as background noise during a make out session and/or the plotting of your suicide. Maybe its the context, though. Also like "Garden State," "Infinite Playlist" follows a formula, this time being that of '80s "one crazy night" teen movies, but far less faithfully.

In fact, the movie seems disinterested in its own plot, going through familiar motions as it must. No one invests in it, and it proves a distraction from what works about the movie: acting as a extended video for the bittersweet indie pop soundtrack. You've seen movies with a hard rock theme that try to level explosions in time with the beat, right? Well, this is the precious oughts equivalent. You've got the lead actors trying to appear as unaffected, introspective and clumsily affectionate as possible in a sea of bullshit and stereotypes. Nick and Norah define themselves by their love of a pretty specific type of music, to the degree of actualizing the music with their beings. They're just going through the motions the plot dictates on their way to mooning over one another to their best loved sounds.

Michael Cena plays Nick, in theory, but as far as I can tell he's playing Michael Cena. If that's your thing, here's a delivery. Kat Dennings plays Norah, and seeing as I haven't seen her in much, I'll assume she nailed the part. She certainly had my attention, tapping into my teenage love of Winona Ryder to great effect. She's very attractive, and Norah is very, very my type, which means I totally understand the girls crushing on Cena giving him a total pass for sleepwalking through his part. Unfortunately, even though characters tell us Norah ain't so hot, especially compared to Nick's trifling ex and party girl best friend, the film felt the need to handicap every other actress to insure your eyes never leave Dennings. The lovely Alexis Dziena from "Broken Flowers" is tarted up like a "Pink Lady" after her first divorce from a T-Bird, while Ari Graynor (Meadow's bumpkin roommate from "The Sopranos") spends the majority of her screen time on the verge of puking, or even more heinous activities. There are some other guys in the cast as well, but they're either playing well-intentioned fairy godmothers or forgettable douchebags, so Cena is himself insulated from negative comparisons.

You might think I hated the movie from my tone, but it's entirely agreeable. I joined the audience for some chuckles, and everyone in my party was pleased with the flick. Just don't expect to carry anything out with you after the show. I'd say "Playlist" is more "200 Cigarettes" than "16 Candles," but "Cigs" was comparatively weighty. I understand this movie was based on a young adult book with a wealth of cursing, where thanks to a PG-13 rating, there is none on film. There is, however, an off-screen teenage fingerbang, which makes me think maybe our nation's priorities are finally moving in the right direction.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Volume 1




When I started to become a die hard Wonder Woman fan in the early '90s, I had the luck of finding some old "mod" '60s copies for cheap, and my enjoyment of them only increased my fervor for the character. Truth to tell, my specific enjoyment of the William Messner-Loebs and Mike Sekowsky runs, which revolved a more rough and tumble yet humanly vulnerable Princess Diana, probably helped poison any appreciation I might have had for runs by guys like John Byrne, Phil Jimenez and Greg Rucka. Then again, all of those guys have forced me to wade through completely unrelated pools of shit, maybe they just sucked that bad.

My concern was that, after hearing much criticism of those issues from Wonder Woman fans over the years, that they might not hold up to review fifteen years after my initial exposure. I was certain I'd have issues with the misogynistic tendencies of Denny O'Neil on the issues he scripted, and Sekowsky was best known as an artist. Would I have cause for regret over having boosted those retro oddities over the years?

Nope. From the first page on this trades' reprints I was presented with a Wonder Woman book far more dynamic than most. #178 opens with detectives attempting to arrest Steve Trevor for murder. The second page features an impressive splash of Trevor on the witness stand, while a monochromatic body hovers symbolically over his head. Admittedly, the rest of O'Neil's script is a bit of a hack job, reading like an episode of a bad period detective show involving counterculture elements the writer had slight command of. Still, the pages were psychedelically colorful, yet grounded in a semblance of reality unseen in Wonder Woman comics probably from inception. On the other hand, Diana's mid-story fashion extravaganza is only the highest quality connoisseur cheese. While the story isn't exactly good, by comparison to the dreck Robert Kanigher was responsible for prior, it was a quantum leap in craftsmanship.

The changes really begin in #179, where Steve conspires with a general to frame himself for treason as part of an investigation. By page two, Steve's beaten up the general and several MPs, and the fourth page is a splash og Trevor leaping through a window, sending glass hurtling at the reader. Sekowsky is excellent here, as his lack of grace lends the fantastic action an awkward realism, as though he were marrying Neal Adams to Steve Ditko. The polished inks of Dick Giordano certainly contribute to that comparison, as he renders Sekowsky with the glamour of a newspaper, without bogging it down with static rigidity.

The changes continue in a second chapter, where Diana is forced to choose Man's World over her Amazon sisters, who must endure an other dimensional exile to renew their magical powers. The former princess must now scrounge for work and a fleabag apartment. Diana is also introduced to I Ching, a diminutive blind Asian martial artist in a derby. I'm sure Messrs. Steed and Bond were not consulted in the matter. Ching plays Mr. Miyagi to Diana's Daniel-San, insuring she can continue to express loving dominion over man even without super powers. To emphasise the "loving" portion, Diana's first new uniform involves dark green skirt-shorts and thigh high boots. To really bring home that this was a new era, the issue even ends on a bit of a cliffhanger.

#180 features the third iconic cover in a row, as I-Ching consoles a tearful Diana, who holds an off-panel Trevor's hand while crying, "Steve... What have I done to you?" Inside, Diana meets hardboiled dick Tim Trench in the midst of an attempt on her life. Sekowsky and Giordano clearly relish the opportunity to toss Diana about in a bright yellow, skin tight miniskirt. In action though, she switches to a bulkier purple and yellow ski suit, which in no way inhibits her martial prowess. While the chauvanistic Trench swaggers, we learn he's in pursuit of Doctor Cyber, the mysterious big bad of the trade paperback. Cyber's global criminal organization is a sight to behold. While it's no SPECTRE, I expect Derek Flint would be right at home, and Mr. V should take notes.

The revelations, deaths, and betrayals continue into #181, and sans O'Neil, #182. Sekowsky's early attempted at scripting for himself was quite a mess, with characters running all over creation for no apparent reason, and a third completely unneccesary love interest is introduced. The resolution to the first Dr. Cyber arc was deeply unsatisfying, but thankfully her tale was far from done, just not continued in volume one. Instead, Sekowsky returns to the Amazons of Paradise Island for a final two-parter. Diana's mother had pulled a Sleeping Beauty, leaving her people in desperate need for leadership against the forces of Ares, God of War. As her mother would wish, Diana refuses to surrender the secret of interdimensional travel to Ares, and instead chose to rally her army for an impossible fight. "Return To Paradise Island" is brimming with striking visuals, casting Diana as an inspirational heroine to be admired. The second half weakens, as Diana is forced to rely on the kindness of men to take the day, but Wonder Woman is victorious nonetheless.

I stand behind these tales as some of the best in the Wonder Woman cannon, and an excellent introduction to the character for readers with negative suppositions about her merits. I expect I'll have to get cracking on volume two so I can see how things roll from here...

Friday, October 3, 2008

1968 "Marvel Super-Hero T-Shirts only $1.60 Ea." Ad



I've always wondered if the actual shirts had that sort of Hedwig turtleneck, or if that was just a shoddy artistic rendering. It's tough to beat a whole t-shirt for half the cost of a Marvel comic these days, so who am I to complain. Sure, the big names were great, but what always got me was seeing that the first Gene Colan Kree Captain Mar-Vell actually wrangled merchandising back in the day. Also, note the $3.15 sweatshirts. Those would go for what, $30-40 today?

As an added bonus, an ad for the Merry Marvel Marching Society, just $1.00. Y'know, the only time I tried to send away for something like this, it was the Get-Along Gang, and those anthropomorphic fucks never sent me dick! Bet the MMMS would have come through, had I been born a decade or so sooner. Props for finding the handicapped work in a sales position as well. I know I'd sure want a blind super-hero sorting out my mail and check for one club kit. Daredevil, did you ever temp for the Get-Along Gang?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

1976 "Just For You... Our Magnificent Marvel Goodies!" Ad



Sorry about the lack of a post yesterday, but I got pulled away by picking up a friend at the airport, roaming the streets, and catching the VP debate. I'll throw out another scan later to play catch-up. In the meantime, here's another great ad for Marvel merchandise from the decade of my birth (though not of my heart.) Things are rather Spidey-centric in this ad for the Superhero Shop, between the suction cup Web-Shooter, plastic cup, Spidey-Cycle, bike horn, Mego figure, Vs. Superman comic, and Web-Head's own huckstering efforts. My primary interest is in the other two cups though.

"Super-Stan?"

"Clea?"

Was this some kind of weird licensing issue? Sure, Stan was always a character, but do you really want to chance the Man's Magnum 'stache tickling your chin while downing chocolate milk? This also reminds me of that airbrushed Fleer trading card that morphed Stan into a variety of Marvel heroes. What is with that? I'm sorry for fixating, but it bothers me.

As for Clea-- loves the Clea. She was among the first "babes" of my comic reading experience, and tossing through the Gene Colan Dr. Strange issue I scanned this from, I'm sure she played a role in giving me a head start on puberty, as well. Shame no one could be bothered to give her a proper logo, or present her in a less submissive pose, but that was always sort of Clea's appeal. You've got to figure from the get-go, Ditko's rooming with Bill Ward had an influence on Clea's very existence, so she was never going to be a feminist icon, right?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman (1975)



Character Name: Emmanuelle
Actress: Sylvia Kristel
Actual Movie Title: "Emmanuelle L'Antivierge"
Known Aliases: "Emmanuelle II," "Emmanuelle 2," "Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman," "Emmanuelle: The Anti-Virgin"
Country of Origin: France
Character Nationality: French
Character Age: Early-Mid 20's
Occupation: Housewife
Married: Jean
Locales: Hong Kong
Release Date: December 15, 1975 (USA)
Director: Francis Giacobetti
DVD: Emmanuelle 2 - The Joys of A Woman, The Emmanuelle Collection
Stats: Third official Emmanuelle film.

Story: Before I even get started, an explanation is in order-- the original manuscript for the novel "Emmanuelle" was halved for publication and released a decade apart. The second film adaptation of "Emmanuelle;" the most successful, and the only remotely faithful one; combined the two novel releases to tell a complete story, such as it was. The "Anti-Virgin" and a few carryover names were about all there was to be found in common between the second book and film.

Also worth noting in advance is that while only one year had passed between releases, a more significant period of time has lapsed for the characters. The awkward, almost tomboyish young Emmanuelle has given way to a more sophisticated and glamorous model, though still portrayed by the same actress.

Emmanuelle seems to have settled into her role as an aristocrat, which doesn't quite make sense, as her husband is now inexplicably an engineer. Booked first class on a ship, Emmanuelle's attitude was imperious as she protested her ending up in an all-female dormitory bunk. A fair-haired girl with glasses complained of the same incompetent treatment, though blame was spread between the ship's crew and the travel agency. Emmanuelle paid a visit to the overly forward radio operator Igor (Henry Czarniak,) who was asked to send a telegraph to her husband. Igor went for an unbidden kiss, and was slapped in response. Clearly, this is a more assertive Emmanuelle, at least.

That night, the sultry dormitory yields gratuitous nudity (largely posterior) as the girls sweat in their slumber. The fair-haired girl couldn't sleep, and was in an anxious state as she sat on her cot in her underwear and smoked. Emmanuelle asked what was the matter, and after pressing, she confided that the all-girl situation scared her. At sixteen, and still a virgin, she had been raped by three fellow schoolgirls while at boarding school in Macao. The Filipinos took her in the library, and gave their victim her first orgasm. "It was a big scandal in school. Later, when girls came to my bed, I enjoyed it. Do you understand?" Emmanuelle was silent but incredulous, smiling and taking small delight in the tale. Before long, Emmanuelle had her hand between the girl's legs as the two made out. Between this encounter and the flashback, the only nudity was a brief shot of a body double. The sequence was effective thanks to voice over narration, though a bit confusing, as the lighting was inconsistent during the obscured present-day encounter.

Emmanuelle disembarks in Hong Kong, where her lavish home has done without her for sixty-three days spent in Bangkok. So too has "Mr. Jean," who Emmanuelle's servant Chang informers her is on the veranda. The lovely Huang (Claire Richard) was hunched over Jean (Umberto Orsini,) giving him a shave in a tight white dress, when Emmanuelle approached. A towel covering Jean's eyes, Emmanuelle was able to trade places with Huang, then began massaging his chest. Huang seemed to squint in slight annoyance as she watched Emmanuelle work her way lower, and more significantly, affect a mildly offensive Asian accent. Jean finally gives up the ruse with, "It's very pleasant, Mrs. Jean." Emmanuelle complimented her husband's moustache, as she should, since she pushed him to grow it. While Emmanuelle went up to the bedroom, Jean had Huang finish his shave before joining her.

Along her way up, Emmanuelle noticed an airplane propeller lying on a guest bed, and investigating, found a man in the bath. She unplugged the fan he had set near the tub. "I like to bathe dangerously." Jean joined them in introductions, for which the English-American pilot Christopher (Frédéric Lagache) had the courtesy to stand, modesty be damned. As the couple moved on to their own bedroom, Jean explained that Christopher was a pilot and art smuggler friend, staying only a few days. Emmanuelle abruptly turned and demanded, "Fuck me." Jean was unable to oblige, as he had an appointment with Mr. Piang he could not cancel. Emmanuelle joined Jean on the lunch date, regarding a front page newspaper article about his engineering work in Hong Kong. After Mr. Piang left, Emmanuelle smoked a cigar and related the story of the French girl she had slept with on the boat, whose "boring as hell" story Emmanuelle believed was only a ploy to wind her up. The account was interrupted by a visit from Laura (Florence Lafuma,) whom Jean had been sleeping with while Emmanuelle was away. Laura invited the couple to dinner with her husband Peter, and the two women throw a few barbs. Emmanuelle pressed Jean for further details after Laura left, ribbing him about their having frolicked in the ocean.

Returning home, Emmanuelle strips down to only leggings. She then engages in auto-eroticism while sidesaddle in a stiff-back chair. Jean kneels to kiss her hand. Emmanuelle mounts him on the floor, until he sits up to meet her. Jean next takes her from behind, as she rests her head on the chair for precarious support, intermittently sucking and biting her thumb. After, they share a smoke, and tell one another, "I love you."

Next morning, Huang brought Jean breakfast at his drafting table. Huang tapped Jean in a familiar way on the shoulder, ordering "You must eat everything. Madame said you lost weight." Madame was in fact working out a few feet away, and enlightened, "The special menu for overworked frogmen... Don't think that I'm jealous, but it does seem that your mermaid has the exclusivity of the rapture of the deep. With me, it's rather the tub and the shower." Jean reminded Emmanuelle his "siren" had invited them to Peter's get-together that night. Emmanuelle would rather stay home, but Jean informed Peter was with UNESCO, in charge of musical research in the Far East. It should be noted that Emmanuelle's author was a member of UNESCO, and most likely Jean in the first movie as well.

Emmanuelle was off to buy a new dress for the party, and took Christopher along for company. Emmanuelle brought up Christopher's preference for Asian women, particularly time spent with them nightly at the sleazy "Jade Garden." Christopher was displeased by his best friend's loose lips, but Emmanuelle explained she had no secrets from Jean, even second hand ones. Emmanuelle began to flirt with Christopher, as the pair entered a curio shop. An old Asian woman sold Emmanuelle on a "good magic" potion to enhance her sensuality, then invited her to visit the accupuncturist upstairs. Emmanuelle confessed first that she was frightened, and then that she loved to be so. After the procedure had begun, Emmanuelle started fondling herself in front of Christopher, while imagining a sexual encounter with him. Between the Asians, the synth music, the limber acrobatics, the cool blue backdrop and the long needle between Emmanuelle's teeth, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was an excised scene from "Blade Runner."

Cut to a fan dance performed by the Doan Gong Chanh Ballet at Peter and Laura's soiree. Laura fished for compliments, which begged for more teasing from Emmanuelle, though Laura took it less well than Jean. Laura in fact took Jean to task for those aforementioned loose lips. An important difference between the translations is found here, as when Laura asks Jean if Emmanuelle is jealous, Jean responds, "That's not her style" in English. The original French was simply, "She's smart." Despite her seeming aplomb, Emmanuelle's frequent return to the subject of the oceanic affair makes her seem threatened by Laura, and her interest in Laura's daughter Anna-Maria (Catherine Rivet) might just bear out as an alternative retribution.

Peter and Emmanuelle have a chat, in which he mentions that his daughter had been meant to join the dancers, but "as usual, she let me down... Yes, that's the little idiot over there." Emmanuelle seems to take a dislike to Peter's tone, excusing herself to talk with Anna-Maria, who looks a bit like a young Charlize Theron. Anna-Maria explains that while her father was furious, she refused to make a spectacle of herself for tourists. She notes the mistakes the other dancers had made, imperceptible to the unstudied eye, and invits Emmanuelle to watch her perform at her studio.

Another day, and Christopher is being questioned by police out on the lawn. Jean returns home, and tells Christopher the police had also been by his office, asking about him. Grounded by the investigation, Jean feigns a lack of concern about Christopher needing to stay a few extra days. Christopher presses further, asking how Jean felt about his wife's erotic acupuncture treatments and general screwing around. Jean exlains that no one "screwed" Emmanuelle-- she "chooses." Christopher whistles and calls Jean's words empty. Jean finally removes all doubt about whether he was the same character from the first film by espousing his philosophy about freedoms and rights regading his open relationship with Emmanuelle.

Emmanuelle visits Anna-Maria at her dance studio, though her instructor Naim insists that Emmanuelle has to wait in his study until after class. Emmanuelle found an animated nickleodeon, which depicts a ballerina having her clothes ripped off by a fetish queen. The black instructor enters the study, and Emmanuelle gives him silent approval as he lifts her dress and fondles her. The cartoon progresses to oral, until the ballerina is taken at both ends by the fetish queen's strap-on and a male member (unclear as to whether he too was black, or covered in leather. The member was rather pale, you see.) Really nice musical accompaniment, a hallmark of the Emmanuelle films.

Anna-Maria was left to wait patiently after class, indulging only in a panty shot. Emmanuelle talks with Anna-Maria for a while, learning she's the only girl in class not in love with Naim, and that she has a boyfriend named Sam. The girls have tea on a yacht where a male body-building tournament is taking place. The well-oiled Asian boys flex while the girls chat in a sparsely filled dining hall. Contradicting what she told Marie-Ange in the first film, Emmanuelle claims she lost her virginity to a clumsy but sweet boy. She lied to him in an effort to make him feel better about his performance, and only did it to relieve herself of virginity. It was six months later before she tried again, with another, who made her come for the first time. The girls left the yacht, and Emmanuelle invites Anna-Maria to the house, but she is tired. On the boat trip back to shore, Emmanuelle learns Anna-Maria had only gone so far as kissing. Emmanuelle doesn't buy it, and works the truth out of the girl that Sam was imaginary, an ideal boy to masterbate to.

Emmanuelle and Anna-Maria attend a polo match Jean was playing in, where Emmanuelle took a phone call for her indisposed husband in the locker room. A jockey (Venantino Venantini) who had been injured enters and begins to strip obliviously. From an obscuring corner, Emmanuelle takes in the jockey's tattoos, which cover much of his body. She approaches the polo player, who was at first stunned to see her while tending his injury. As she began to caress and lick his illustrated form, the player turns forceful. The player tugs at Emmanuelle's head by the hair, grinding his bearded lips against hers. Laid across a bench, the player's forearm pistons under Emmanuelle's dress. Emmanuelle pulls at the straps across her breasts, exposing them to the player's mouth. The jocky starts to ride Emmanuelle, accompanied only by her sighs and the sounds of the polo match outside. Emmanuelle bunches his flesh in her fist, causing the geisha on his back to writhe.

Jean finds Anna-Maria, who confirms Laura is also present. Anna-Maria asks if Jean loves Laura, which he denies. Anna-Maria explains that she likes Emmanuelle, "But there's a side to her and to you which I can't accept. You're playing with love." Jean explains that sleeping around was not so dangerous as falling in love. Besides, Jean and Emmanuelle like risks, which might have compelled Jean to launch into another free-love lecture and naked attempt to seduce the daughter of his lover. Emmanuelle interrupts, whispering details of her latest conquest in Jean's ear.

Back home, Christopher is concerned about an incoming typhoon grounding him further, as he's hot to make a trip to Australia. The house is sweltering as Christopher heads for the hanger. Jean, Emmanuelle, and Anna-Maria are lethargic on the couch, when Emmanuelle cons the girl into go with them to the bath house. This leads to the most infamous sequence in the film, as Anna-Maria is asked to choose her favorite of three gorgeous Asian masseuse: a long, lean girl with flowing raven hair, and delicate fingers. This masseuse was played by one Laura Gemser.

Because of the longer lead time on this higher quality production, "Emmanuelle 2" was released after Gemser had already filmed and released the first installment of the most famous Emmanuelle knock-off series, "Emanuelle Nera," a.k.a. "Black Emanuelle."

The titular Emmanuelle looked up at her husband and growled, "As a matter of fact, she's the one I would have chosen." The actresses Gemser, Eva Hamel, and Christiane Gibeline lay the three customers on individual tables, running their nude bodies against their backs. Soap is applied liberally and massages administered. Positions and degrees of friction varied. Anna-Maria enjoys her time, and is glad both Jean and Emmanuelle were present.

Later, Jean has to insure the drilling station is secure in the face of the incoming storm, leaving Emmanuelle to her own devices. She decides play dress-up as an Asian with the help of Huang, making sure to be culturally insensitive by making with Chi-a-nese-if-you-please eyes and voice at her. Emmanuelle receives a call for Christopher, urging him to contact Mr. Ming. Emmanuelle asks Huang where he might be, and Huang suggests the Jade Garden. Emmanuelle tries to send Huang there, but the servant is afraid to go to a house of such ill repute. Emmanuelle is far from averse to such affairs, and makes the trip herself.

Emmanuelle is refused entry unescorted, so she joins a party of American sailors to gain access to the Jade Garden. Despite the name, crimson is the color of choice inside, as Asian prostitutes and johns cover a massive floor level saloon. Dancing, heavy petting, fornication-- all fair game. Emmanuelle makes her ay upstairs, where an overview shows a variety of debauched activity partitioned by wardrobe screens for those wishing for greater privacy. Unable to locate Christopher amongst the mass of writhing bodies, Emmanuelle starts calling his name. Christopher, annoyed, answers immediately. He could care less about Ming, and is more concerned with giving the tarted-up Emmanuelle the bum's rush. Emmanuelle accuses, "Is it this virility circus that has this effect on you? Is it forbidden to be excited? Is that reserved for men, or what?" Christopher returns fore with, "The ladies are paid to give orgasms, not to get excited themselves." Emmanuelle is rightly disgusted. "Poor jerk! The ladies! For you, women are screwing machines. You think you have contempt for them but, in fact, you're scared." A random john moves in to try to pay for Emmanuelle's services with casino chips, the coin of choice here. Irritated in more ways than one, Emmanuelle chooses to stay at the Jade Garden, but refuses Christopher's limp interest. "Too late, Christopher. I wanted you very much. I make love with whom I want and when I want. Goodbye."

Christopher bows out, returning to Jean and Emmanuelle's home in preparation for his departure from Hong Kong the next morning. There he finds Anna-Maria smoking on their couch, and announces, "Well, if it isn't the beautiful immaculate virgin." Anna-Maria couldn't handle her father anymore, and had come to stay with her friends. Christopher made additional snide comments about Jean and Emmanuelle, as well as confessing he would have liked the chance to give Anna-Maria a tumble. On learning Anna-Maria is still afraid to be with a man, Christopher shows rare signs of decency, giving her a pep talk about frogs and princes before driving off.

Emmanuelle found Anna-Maria asleep on the couch the next morning, and tells her she was right to come there. Finding Anna-Maria miserable, Emmanuelle invites her along on vacation to Bali. With Jean away, Emmanuelle invites Anna-Maria to sleep in her bed, but she prefers to remain on the couch. Later that morning, Jean returns to catch Emmanuelle after her bath. Emmanuelle tells him of her adventure at the Jade Garden, where three men paid to have sex with her... en masse. Flashbacks trade places with Emmanuelle and Jean indulging in one another.

The movie drops anchor in Bali for an extended travellogue. Emmanuelle, Anna-Maria, and Jean take a ride with a truckload of singing grade schoolgirls in knee socks to some sort of ceremonial dance exhibition involving dozens of chanting topless men. It's over five minutes of "wha?"

Anna-Maria takes up with some blond guy named Michael brandishing a porno moustache,

Emmanuelle has some fun with Jean while he showers, having him explain how excited Anna-Maria makes him while she was, unbeknownst to him, in earshot. "Little bitches," he wryly says upon exiting and finding the pair were making sport of him. Anna-Maria kisses Jean, and the game is truly on. Emmanuelle and Jean trade meaningful glances while Anna-Maria is distracted. Emmanuelle takes her turn, French kissing the novice and pulling her down into bed. Emmanuelle's mouth then travels further south, while Jean's hand massages Anna-Maria perineum. Anna-Maria hovers over Emmanuelle as Jean removed the girl's bikini top. On all fours, Anna-Maria is mounted, while Emmanuelle continues to kiss her lips, breasts and body in general. Later, Anna-Maria on her back, Jean offers a loving hand and Emmanuelle a willing tongue. Anna-Maria is ecstatic, shaking her head in a callback to Bee from the first film. Jean kisses Anna-Maria upside down from the edge of the bed. He then props her legs against his shoulders, and plunges in. Emmanuelle assumes his role at the head, kissing Anna-Maria and Jean in turn. Emmanuelle looks up, heavenward, and then through the fourth wall, staring at the audience as the camera closes in on her eyes.

Notes: Text relates to the 83 minute U.S. cut of the picture, but represents both the French and English language translations.

Summation: Right off the bat, there is so much to say, and already well said at 1000 Misspent Hours, I'll direct you there. More from me next week.

...nurghophiles...

Blog Archive

Counter


Surrender The Pink?
All books, titles, characters, character names, slogans, logos, and related indicia are trademarks and/or copyright of their respective rights holders.