Some things are better left undimensioned.
Stuart Gordon's cult classic horror film From Beyond premiered in the U.S. today in 1986, but we're sharing this Thai poster because it's more attractive than the American promo. For the uninitiated, From Beyond is loosely based on an H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name about a scientist who discovers what is today a standard terror motif: if you can see them, they can see you. Lovecraft came up with this idea way back in 1920, spinning a tale about a machine called a resonator that enables humans to see horrific beings that surround us but reside in an invisible adjacent dimension. But once the scientist perceives them, the monstrous entities likewise perceive him—and come calling.
The film starred Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, two alumni from Gordon's bravura gorefest Re-Animator, released the previous year. From Beyond doesn't push the envelope as far as the earlier film, but that doesn't mean it's bad. It just means Gordon tempered his vision a bit. In other ways the films are quite similar. Both play the naked-woman-as-victim card, which can be uncomfortable to watch, since these days such sequences are not benignly received. As always, times change.
In From Beyond the nudity isn't gratuitous exactly. One of the side effects of the resonator is that it frees the id, which is why you see Crampton go from buttoned up schoolmarm to brazen dominatrix in the promo shots below. Males are similarly affected. We searched for shots of co-star Ken Foree in his banana hammock undies—one of many famous moments from the film—but came up empty, so to speak. Regardless of the cultural shift that has placed movies like From Beyond, with its depiction of sexual assault, on shaky ground in 2017, we recommend it for true horror fans. The viewing may discomfit, but the villain is after all both man and monster, which makes him/it an interesting symbol for our modern age.
Sharky's Machine hums along nicely, but only up to a point.
This poster for the 1981 thriller Sharky's Machine was made for the movie's premiere in Bangkok. Every blue moon or so Hollywood decides to update a ’40s film noir. Sometimes these are excellent movies—Body Heat as a rework of Double Indemnity comes to mind. Sharky's Machine is based on William Diehl's novel of the same name, which is a restyling of 1944's Laura. If you haven't seen Laura, a detective falls in love with a murdered woman, focusing these feelings upon her portrait, which is hanging over the mantle in her apartment. In Sharky's Machine the hero, Atlanta vice detective Burt Reynolds, falls in love with Rachel Ward via his surveillance of her during a prostitution investigation, and is left to deal with his lingering feelings when she's killed.
When Ward observed years back that she had been too prudish in her artistic choices, we imagine this was one movie she had in mind. We agree. Reynolds' 24/7 surveillance of a high priced hooker is not near frank enough. This is where vice, voyeurism, and sleaze as subtext should have come together overtly, as it does in Diehl's unflinchingly detailed novel, rather than as stylized montages, which is what Reynolds opts for.
Sex and nudity aren't always gratuitous. The plot driver in old film noirs is often sex, but it couldn't be shown. Remaking a noir affords the opportunity to explore the sexual aspect further, as in Body Heat, where it's literally the lure of sex with no boundaries—exemplified in that famous (but implied) anal scene—that snares the hero in an insane murder plot. In Sharky's Machine it's sexual objectification that is the initial driver. Reynolds' loves Ward's body first and her personality later, but the surveillance that is the key to this is barely explored.
It's a missed opportunity to not only make a better thriller, but to examine this lust-to-love transition as an aspect of all romantic relationships. Reynolds doubled as both star and director of the film, and while his relative newbie status in the latter realm may be a reason he didn't push the envelope, he still manages in his third outing helming a motion picture to put together a final product that is stylish, dark, and neon-streaked—everything a neo-noir should be. Upon release many critics had problems with tone—violence and humor seemed to clash. Reynolds' was a semi-comedic cinematic figure and his previous two directorial efforts had been comedies, which may have led to jokes leaking into unusual moments of the film. But these days the mix of violence and comedy is common, so we doubt you'll be terribly annoyed by these few incongruities.
The main flaw with the movie, besides its chasteness, is not its tone, but that it feels compressed in the latter third, especially as relates to the love subplot. True, the film is already a shade over two hours long, but it's time that flies by, populated as it is by so many interesting roles and great actors (Bernie Casey, Brian Keith, Vittorio Gassman, Charles Durning). Another seven minutes would not have hurt. Still, we recommend this one. It should have been as bold a noir rework as Body Heat, but there's plenty to entertain in other areas, and Hollywood may make this film perfect yet—a new version of Sharky's Machine is in development with Mark Wahlberg in the lead. Hah hah—who are we kidding? They'll screw it up completely. You already know that.
Bond takes a shot at Thai readers.
The above book covers for the James Bond novels Live and Let Die, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, For Your Eyes Only and Goldfinger come from Thailand, where a martini is a “hăy láa bprà-pâyt kók-tayn,” a phrase sure to leave even international badass James Bond a sputtering mess. At the very least, he can forget about getting it shaken not stirred. No way he can pronounce those words, cunning linguist or not. Of course, being Bond, there’s always some slinky English-speaking femme fatale happy to help him out before a) bedding him and b) trying to kill him. It’s the same for us, except the slinky femmes are the Pulp Intl. girlfriends, and after bedding us they make us help with chores, which is a little like being killed. Bond never did chores. And next time they ask us we’re going to say that to them with a straight face—James Bond never did chores. We’ll let you know how that works out.
Confidential dishes dirt but tries not to cross the line.
Confidential gives Kim Novak the cover and Lili St Cyr the inset on an issue published this month in 1965. Inside, the editors offer readers mostly lukewarm rehash, as was Confidential’s usual approach during its fangless mid-1960’s years, but there are also a few interesting tidbits. We learn that Lili St. Cyr took more than thirty Nembutals during her 1958 suicide attempt, yet still managed to survive though as few as three pills can be fatal. Ramfis Trujillo’s wild Parisian parties are detailed, including the time he and his entourage shot up the lobby of the Hotel George V. And we find out that Frank Sinatra paid a $400 fine in Spain for disturbing the peace when he blew up after a woman threw a drink on him.
But make no mistake—the once mighty Confidential was walking on eggshells after being on the wrong end of some costly lawsuits. Maverick owner Robert Harrison had sold the magazine to Hy Steirman, who realized the easiest way to avoid litigation was to take on targets that either wouldn’t fight back or couldn’t be bothered to care. Ramfis Trujillo, for example, was a mass-murderer and likely found articles about his crazed partying flattering. Thailand’s dictator Sarit Thanarat is also slammed in this issue, and you can bet he gave less than a shit about the write-up—if he was even aware of it. Editors sling mud at Marilyn Monroe, who was dead. Amorphous group targets, like the “limp wrist set,” the Mafia, real estate swindlers, and escaped Nazis make up the rest of the subject matter.
But even if Confidential wasn’t kicking ass and taking names in 1965, its visuals were still quite nice, with those impactful black, white and red graphics, and that super hip language that’s so much of its time but which is still amazing to read today. Try this on for size: “Call the men in the white coats and get the whacky wagon rolling, your favorite swinging correspondent is ready for Flipsville!” We’re always ready for Flipsville, and we’re always ready for mid-century tabloids, too. How many of these do we have left in our collection? You wouldn’t believe us if we told you. We’d sell some, but how could we possibly part with them? We’re stuck with them. And so are you. Twenty-plus scans below.
Who knew doom and destruction could look so pretty?
Something a little different today, above are five Thai sci-fi and horror posters, showing the baroque stylings that make them so visually pleasing. The movies are, top to bottom, The Hidden, Scanners, Hex, Lifeforce, and The Believers.
A fight between two falang leads to murder in a Thai resort town.
In Phuket, Thailand—a place known as one of the hellraising capitals of the world—a manhunt is underway after a British kickboxer killed an American marine following a fight at a nightspot called the Freedom Bar. The alleged killer is 28-year-old Lee Aldhouse, above left, who had lived in the Phuket area for about four years. According to witnesses, Aldhouse instigated an altercation with Dashawn Longfellow, 23, who was in the bar visiting a female employee. The fight between the two foreigners—who are “falang” in Thai parlance—ended with Longfellow as the victor, and shortly thereafter he and the employee left the bar.
Aldhouse then went into a nearby 7-11 store, where he was caught on security cam (above) either stealing or buying a knife. He immediately went to Longfellow’s apartment, knocked on the door, and allegedly stabbed the marine to death in front of a witness. Official accounts stop there, but unofficial accounts posted on a Phuket-based internet forum describe Aldhouse as a well-known troublemaker, someone police were well aware of due to previous run-ins and who locals avoided because of his violent temper and knowledge of Muay Thai kickboxing. He had fought professionally, and considered himself a disciple of the art. At least one witness described Aldhouse as enraged to have lost a fight to someone with no professional ring experience, and suggested that, for a man with such an erratic nature, embarrassment was motive enough for murder.
The killing is one of several so far this year in Phuket involving falang, including one just last month in which a former U.S. Navy officer killed a local girl and disposed of her body by stuffing it in a travel bag and dumping it by a deserted roadside. The expat propensity toward violence is a constant source of friction in Thai resort towns, and the Aldhouse/Longfellow murder has only served to ratchet up tensions even more. Police are scouring the Phuket area for Aldhouse, but so far haven’t located him.
Horror is a universal language
Above is a worldwide assortment of the creepiest posters we could find in honor of Halloween. Interestingly, Halloween is getting more popular internationally all the time. Where we live it was virtually ignored as recently as ten years ago, but nowadays it’s not a rarity to see both kids and adults dressed in costumes for the occasion. Trick-or-treating hasn’t quite taken hold, just because the layout of the communities don’t really allow for it, but adopting new personas or playing characters is something everyone seems to love, no matter where they live. Everyone likes a good scare, too, and these films do the job nicely. They are Halloween, Halloween again, Rosemary’s Baby, Zombie Holocaust, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Squirm, Return of the Living Dead 2, The Shuttered Room, Evil Dead 2, Hellraiser, Suspiria, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Vampire Women, The Omen, The Thing, The Shining, Backwoods, Fright Night, and Seuseung-ui eunhye. Happy trick-or-treating.
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.
We featured French actress Anne Parillaud as a femme fatale recently and now this morning we spotted this kick-ass Thai promo poster for Nikita, aka La Femme Nikita. Parillaud plays a thief and murderess who, instead of being sent to prison for her crimes, is transformed by a shadowy government agency into an assassin. It was remade in the U.S. as Point of No Return in 1993 starring Bridget Fonda, and while that version has it merits—mainly the underrated Fonda in the lead role—the original directed by Luc Besson has a sublime coolness that’s hard to beat. We just watched this recently, and we're going to watch it again. Highly recommended.
She'd like to teach the world to sting.
We know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking she has a penis coming out of her armpit. But no, it isn’t a penis—it’s a stinger. However, like a penis, it isn’t much to look at until it gets excited and wants to play. The game it prefers is the one where it gives you a dose of rabies so advanced you turn into a frothing homicidal maniac. We showed you the American promo art for Rabid not long ago, but you didn’t get a cockpit shot in that one, so we figured we’d be completist and post this amazing Thai art. Also, we figured another tribute to the recently departed Marilyn Chambers was appropriate. She’s been eulogized mainly as a porn star, but the best film she ever made was this one, in which she pricks the boys and makes them die.
Hello, desk? There’s some sort of loud disturbance next door in room 666.
A couple of days ago we were riffing on a movie called The Beyond, aka Spirit City of the Damned, aka Seven Doors of Death, and showed you the colorful Thai poster. By contrast, the sinister and almost monochromatic promo art you see above accompanied the film’s earlier Italian release as E tu vivrai nel terrore—L'aldilà. The story concerns a hotel perched atop an entrance to hell (hope that isn’t giving too much away), but of course when Catriona MacColl inherits the property she doesn’t know anything about that and thinks she’s actually getting a sweet deal. But the difficulties of maintaining a dead & breakfast soon prove overwhelming, not least because staff turnover in a place inhabited by demons can be pretty high (though heating bills are low). L'aldilà is a bit incoherent, truth told, and the fx are clunky even by 1981 standards, but it does possess unbridled exuberance thanks to the unflinching direction of Lucio Fulci. That’s all we’ll say about the film, except that there’s a character here named Joe the Plumber who meets a gory death, so depending on your political beliefs, this could be a must-see. L'aldilà premiered in Italy today in 1981.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Blimp Crew Disappears without a Trace
The two-person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L-8 disappears on a routine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crashes in Daly City, California. The mystery of the crew's disappearance is never solved.
1977—Elvis Presley Dies
Music icon Elvis Presley is found unresponsive by his fiancée on the floor of his Graceland bedroom suite. Attempts to revive him fail and he's pronounced dead soon afterward. The cause of death is often cited as drug overdose, but toxicology tests have never found evidence this was the case. More likely, years of drug abuse contributed to generally frail health and an overtaxed heart that suddenly failed.
1969—Woodstock Festival Begins
The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, which was billed as an Aquarian Exposition, takes place on a 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York. It would run for three sometimes rainy days and feature thirty-two acts performing at all hours of the day and night. Today the festival is regarded as one of the greatest events in popular music history.
1977—Radio Signal Arrives from Deep Space
An unidentified radio signal, nicknamed the WOW Signal for the notation a scientist made on a computer readout, is briefly detected by the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) project's Big Ear radio telescope. Despite a month of searching the same section of space, the signal is never found again.
1912—U.S. Invades Nicaragua
United States Marines invade Nicaragua to support the U.S.-backed government installed there after José Santos Zelaya had resigned three years earlier. American troops remain for eleven years.
1936—Last Public Execution in U.S.
Rainey Bethea, who had been convicted of rape and murder, is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky in what is the last public execution performed in the United States.
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