Greetings, everyone, to Son of Oddservations – this “rebirth” column contribution to the venerable Dread Central website!
I would like to personally welcome one and all: horror fans, science-fiction enthusiasts, independent filmmakers, sword & sorcery wizards and warriors, space fantasy readers, RPG players, midnight movie minions, renaissance fair minstrels and mistresses – and remaining factions of fandom.
Thanks for taking time out of your day to have a close encounter with the musings of a self-proclaimed “well-rounded fanboy”! Special note of thanks to Dread Central co-founder Uncle Creepy for recalling the column formerly known as “Oddservations” and for being the prestidigitator who conjured its resurrection.
But why did Oddservations lay an egg that has now birthed a bastard son?
In its original incarnation, Oddservations was a weekly fannish opinion column featured as part of “Crazed Fanboy,” a Tampa, Florida-based website specializing in pop culture as related to the fantastic genres. Oddservations rampaged from 2005-2008 and enjoyed a solid, but controversial romp. Topics ranged from ‘70s horror films, cult TV, SF novels, current fanboy events, or anything I deemed worthy of my two cents.
You will quickly discover, as you read Son of Odd over time, a distinct “Purist” glaze baked into the opine loafs. Purist (I capitalize it) meaning: an unwavering reverence for fantastic fandom dating from the days of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells to the mid-1980’s. As a horror genre oddserver and knowledgeable veteran fanboy, it is my firm opinion that post that specified era, the horror, science-fiction, and sword & sorcery genres began an alarming decline (with some notable exceptions). Fright films were becoming silly and juvenile (particularly the A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Friday the 13th franchises), and since Return of the Jedi science-fiction was quickly becoming a creative medium only for those who wield Wacom tablets and commandeered CGI software.
We lost our way in the late 1980’s. The great filmmakers of the ‘70s and early ‘80s … Lucas … Spielberg … Carpenter were losing their King Midas touch. The fire in their bellies was doused by fame, riches and the simple fact that they ran out of ideas. Their once-admired creative genius shriveled like a victim sucked dry by a Body Snatcher. Sure, they made more movies since the early ‘80s and were even prolific, but let’s face it, fans – their work since has been sub-par at best compared to their seminal classics: Halloween, Escape from New York, Raiders of the Lost Ark, THX-1138, Animal House, John Carpenter’s The Thing – the list goes on. Must I mention Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or The Phantom Menace?
Adding to the creative calamity was the rise of “CGI Porn.” Truth be told. there have been examples of science-fiction films that used computer graphics on a primitive level, exemplified by Futureworld in 1976, but in 1985 it became a key visual in the movie The Last Starfighter and continued its prominence (and dominance) beginning with the 1989 James Cameron movie The Abyss. Fans and the general public have been entranced by CGI since, and it has sadly become the go-to effect in major motion pictures. In CGI’s wake, practical effects craftsman who trained themselves using 20th century techniques would now have to worry about digital artists taking their jobs.
A one-two punch, only to be made worse by the cheat strategy of Hollywood purchasing licenses from every existing property and franchise in sight in order to produce an endless stream of adaptations, reboots, and sequels – of (traitorously!) 20th century media! The result is a crisis shortage of original ideas and screenplays. Only the indie filmmaker seems capable of original storytelling, and Son of Oddservations supports the indie scene 1000%!
Also realize that CGI and high technology filmmaking contributes to the demise of the horror genre. As technology advances, consequently so does our tendency to fear the unknown. CGI is the enemy of horror and exploitation. It robs us of the “Grit and Grindhouse” of the ‘70s and early ‘80s in favor of crystal-clear imaging and digital wonderscapes.
In conclusion, it appears we all may be sentenced to live out the rest of our lives with CGI as the main visual component in major motion pictures. As Mad magazine would belch: “YEECH!” Is that what most fanboys desire? According to box office take – the answer would be “yes” – progress, or more accurately what we perceive progress to be, is a tough beast for Purist fanboys to slay.
All hope is not lost, however. On a parallel track to the advancement of computer FX is a protest movement largely consisting of Purists who spurn the technique. There has been an increased demand for non-CGI effects, one could argue, due to the efforts of select modern-era films that have gone out of their way to brag about their inclusion of practical effects: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road, among a precious few others. Amusing and mildly admirable cinematic efforts, but both are hardly satisfying to fans who have grit and grindhouse in their blood. Despite the bragging, they are both big-budget bloated beasties who have to scarf off the ‘70s and ‘80s to gain attention, and in the case of The Force Awakens, we have a hollow tool of the hated Disney corporation who have bastardized Star Wars and the Marvel superhero properties.
I personally believe that no current big Hollywood cinematic effort can do justice to properties largely birthed in the 20th century: the Age of Illustrators and practical SPFX. They instantly become cookie-cutter CGI epics by studios willing to spend hundreds of millions to ensure butts-in-seats with insulting mass marketing campaigns. I’d like to think there is still a rebellious spirit out there against the big studios (especially Disney) for desecrating beloved properties, such as Marvel comics, but most of the time the voice of a Purist is drowned out by those who’ll plunk down $15.50 for a movie ticket to see 2.5 hours of CGI porn. But if one does hop on board the movement to banish CGI from the filmmaking process, be sure to kiss a Purist today!
For Purists at least, while others watch Batman vs. Superman, we’ll be watching Without Warning (1980), Sting of Death (1966), The Giant Spider Invasion (1975), or any other combination of beloved cult classics!
We don’t “digi”!
Critics vs. “Tabnam vs. Stuporman”
An interesting dogfight has developed within the fannish etherealm: critics who have lambasted the new (*gaak!*) “superhero movie” called Tabnam vs. Stuporman are at odds with fans themselves!
For once… I’m squarely on the side of the critics!
I’ll welcome any ally afforded in my personal vendetta against modern-era “superhero movies” – even strange bedfellows! The relevance of the movie critic in the day and age of the internet has suddenly been called into question. Fans who plunked down $15.50 for the privilege of occupying 2.5 hours of their life watching a rampage of cookie-cutter CGI effects – and… uh, Ben Affleck (*gaak!*) were well-rewarded by a week full of boasting about just how much revenue Tabnam vs. Stuporman amassed. Critics were caught off-guard; the perceived expectation being the movie’s certain fiscal failure in the wake of soggy reviews, thus empowering the critics! But fans fought back, ensuring we’d all be suffering through more of these Xboxian “superhero movie” nightmares.
It was an interesting experience witnessing print and online critics defend the service they provide to consumers of creative offerings (or in most cases, not-so-creative). Many a fan over the years has been at odds – even enraged – at the vitriolic stance of all movie/TV/book critics at one point in time. Is this their way of wreaking revenge?
Yet, critics are emerging as champions in this fight of cinematic purity vs. the mainstream/corporate. Because whether one likes it or not, the Marvel and DC properties are squarely in the grip of the suits, as is every other genre property out there that once started at the grindhouse or at independent publishing companies. Whether movie critics panned the film over an innate distaste for the bloated and big-budgeted, or if their opinions on storyline and character are truly warranted, we’ll never know for sure. Critics insist they’re not out to target big Hollywood blockbusters, claiming it would be too easy to be in the back pocket of studio marketing companies. But just as critics endow their “manhood” by collectively panning or praising a movie and thus having influence over opinion, fans do the same by embracing these big-budget “superhero movie” juggernauts while ignoring the independent, exploitative, and intellectual.
But I fear that though I admire critics sticking up for the dead art of filmmaking, they’re clearly on defense and under scrutiny by fanboys. Maybe in some cosmic way critics realize that the best way to convey the tale of superhero characters is to purchase back issues of 1970’s or earlier actual comic books (or Essentials/Omnibuses) and imagine the action in our heads. We don’t need GGI to imagine for us.
(with apologies to Gary Collins, star of many a “Night Gallery”/”The Sixth Sense” episodes!)
Hundreds of Cult Horror Movies!
One of my favorite viewing hobbies is breaking in my Mill Creek’s PD movie collection DVD sets! “Chilling” … “Nightmare Worlds” … “Tales of Terror” … “Horror Classics” – many treasure troves of scintillating Cult, Horror, Sword & Sorcery, and Sci-Fi films to absorb!
I’ll take these luscious 20th century cult classics over cookie-cutter CGI epics any day! Truth be told, I have watched literally hundreds of cult movies over the years thanks to these generous collections! It’s nice to enrich my grindhouse sensibilities!
The Mill Creek collections feature an astounding number of easily-available cult titles (most all available on YouTube with no copyright headaches), but – VHS, Betamax and Laserdisc aside – DVD is a great, somewhat portable way to experience them.
Here are but a few that I’ve recently indulged in:
The Revenge of Dr. X (1970): Produced in 1966 but released in 1970. Sources conflict on who actually directed this bumbler – could have been Kenneth Crane (director of similarly-themed The Manster!), Eddie Romero or Norman Thornson. Best of all – an uncredited screenplay by Edward D. Wood Jr.! Original title: Venus Flytrap. A bizarre and entertaining cult-er about a NASA mathematician with an interest in botany(?) who crosses a Venus Flytrap with a carnivorous undersea plant. The result being a humanoid plant creature with a tentacled head (like a sea anemone) and venus flytrap leaves (mouths) for hands! Showcases very topless Japanese scuba girls – a big surprise for such a tame movie, and great stock shots of a volcano erupting as Dr. Bragan (James Craig, also in the PD The Doomsday Machine) winces at the explosions. Even a hunchback assistant who plays Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D on a spooky organ!
Medusa (1973): A Greek crime thriller posing, in this collection, as a horror film. One of the few elements of interest for horror fans is cast member Cameron Mitchell, and to a lesser degree, tanned icon George Hamilton, the suave vampiric star of Love at First Bite (1979). Hamilton plays “Jeffrey,” a slacking playboy in the Greek islands who resorts to murder to maintain a luxurious lifestyle. Cameron is a mob boss whom Hamilton’s character crosses. Includes an amusing scene of Hamilton decorated like a ‘70s Elvis Presley, sabotaging his sister’s wedding. There is an odd sense of incestuousness throughout by Hamilton and his sister, Sarah (Luciana Paluzzi) Features Hamilton’s wife at the time, supporting cast member Alana Hamilton, who later married Rod Stewart. There’s a good, tense ending on an old tower, and it’s odd to see Hamilton in a mean-spirited role, as charming as his persona is.
Horror Express (1972): An imaginative, fast-moving tour-de-force mash-up of horror and science-fiction. One of the greatest horror films ever made. The preserved corpse of a primitive missing link that possesses a terrifying secret is brought aboard the Trans-Siberian Express railway. The unbeatable team of Cushing and Lee play dueling scientists, who discover to their horror that the missing link has escaped and is possessing the passenger’s souls, one-by-one.
But why? How? The initially ludicrous plot device slowly begins not only to make sense, but is treated with sober seriousness as the film barrels like a runaway train toward a speeding finale.
On board to make trouble for our heroes is a crazed, scary-looking monk resembling Rasputin portrayed unforgettably by Spanish actor Alberto de Mendoza and Telly Savalas who plays a Cossack raider. Make-up, music, script, direction, costumes, miniatures are all top-notch in this Spanish/English co-production, loosely based on Joseph W. Campbell’s infamous short SF story Who Goes There? (which I remember reading when Starlog magazine reprinted it in 1982). Spanish filmmakers and artisans have a good knack for adapting genre films, be they original works or sequels.
Visit Son of Oddservations on Facebook! Chime in with your thoughts and opinions about the Wild World of Fandom! Fan Purists welcome, you have found a new home!
About the Conductor: Andy Lalino
Andy Lalino is a filmmaker, event organizer, and horror journalist, noted for co-directing/producing and writing the 2002 award-winning horror featurette Filthy and producing two modern-era cult classics: H.G. Lewis’s The Uh-Oh! Show (2012) and Brainjacked (2010). Lalino has authored articles that have appeared in print and online: Fangoria and Sirens of Cinema magazines, Dread Central, and Crazed Fanboy. From 2007 to present he has organized film festivals, vintage spook shows, and movie theater screening series, including: The Cult Movie Mania Screaming Cinema Series (Tampa, FL), Wolfman Mac Kelly’s Monster Matinee (Tampa, FL), Satan’s Children and William Grefé’s Impulse 40th Anniversary Cast and Crew Reunion screenings at Tampa Theatre movie palace, the Horror + Hotties Film Festival 2007 (hosted by Dread Central’s Steve Barton a.k.a. “Uncle Creepy”) and the One Scream Beyond Vintage Spook Show featuring magician Roy Huston (Clearwater, FL)
Order my movie! It’s sick and it’s cheap – Filthy (DVD) – The Most Disturbing Film Ever Made!
For movie fans who appreciate extreme horror, please visit the official Filthy website. Filthy is a 2002 short horror film, running 32 minutes and filmed in Super 16mm film. Winner of 26 Awards and Honors, all of which are listed on the official website. Autographed DVD is available for purchase directly from the filmmaker.
Filthy is the story of sexy and gorgeous reporter Dana Diamond, who while covering breaking news in a decrepit section of Miami on Halloween night (“Devil’s Night”) gets lured into an old house by a members of an insane family. Inside, Dana discovers a house stuffed with stinking, rotting garbage – but greater horrors lie within as more members of the cannibalistic family slither out of the darkness to torture poor Dana relentlessly – pushing her mental and physical boundaries to horrific limits. Multiplying the horrors are hallucinatory monsters also dwell within…further driving Dana to the brink of insanity, led by “MeatMan,” a humanoid creature made of rotting, rancid meat pieces! Will Dana survive “Devil’s Night”?
Find out by purchasing an autographed copy of Filthy – this is a real, shrink-wrapped DVD folks – NOT a DVD-R! Packed with extras – over 2.5 hours of goodies! Find out why Filthy is regarded as one of the most disturbing films ever made and enjoys a loyal cult movie fan following by fans who appreciate the real deal.
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