Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hot Digital Dog!

You've asked for it and, after months of intensive labor and development... we've done it!

VIDEO WATCHDOG is going digital... and so is my Saturn Award-winning book MARIO BAVA - ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK!

And they're not coming soon... they're available NOW!

Get 'em for your PC, iPad, iPhone, iPod, and anything that supports Flash. Head over to our website and read all the juicy details. But there are some things you'll want to know...

First things first:
No, we are not abandoning print. VIDEO WATCHDOG will continue to be published the way it has always been! The print version gets done first and while it's at the printer, we'll knuckle down to the digital edition -- loading it up with interactive material (trailers, pop-ups, audio samples and extra content) that will bring you, as our reader, much closer to the films and other subjects under discussion. Just look for all the little play arrows and icons, feel your way around... I'll explain more when you get there! This is a wholly immersive experience, like reading VIDEO WATCHDOG in 3-D.

And here's the sweet part...
Each new digital edition of VIDEO WATCHDOG will be absolutely free!

What? Are we crazy? You bet! Donna has conceived a business model for this baby that's sure to please everyone. Our back issues will be priced at $3.99. So as long as you get the current issue before it becomes a back issue, it's yours for the taking!

The digital version of my critical biography MARIO BAVA - ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK is reasonably priced at $29.99. Remember, text-wise, this is the equivalent of 10 regular-sized books, plus you need to factor in the value of its hundreds of meticulously restored, full color illustrations, many from the Bava family's own personal archives. To further sweeten the deal -- and make it an essential acquisition even for those who own and cherish the hard copy -- the Bava book has been likewise enhanced for its digital edition with a slew of trailers, commercials and short films. Most of these are available elsewhere online, but here they are uniquely cued to the story of Bava's life and career! We think it makes a great book even greater, but we're not quite done with it. We are planning to make further special amendments, additions and corrections to ATCOTD to coincide with the Mario Bava Centenary next year... and if you buy the book now, your copy will be automatically updated to our Centennial edition at the time of its publication! At no extra charge!

Our goal is to make this material available to all formats, but as of right now, at the time of this launch, they are available only for Flash (ie., your PC) and Apple products like the iPhone, iPod and (the ideal delivery system, in our opinion) the iPad.

When I got my first look at the Bava book on the iPad, I had the strange, elating sensation that I was finally seeing the book I labored so long to create in its native technology. I know the tangible book is a glorious thing, an epitome of the bookmaker's craft, but it's 12 pounds and bulky, so not the most comfortable book to hold and read. The hard copy is also a little expensive, as many of you have pointed out! But now, at last, it's within everyone's economic reach -- and easier to read and use than ever! Now the pages can be enlarged for detailed perusal without even an inkling of distortion... now the entire text is completely searchable so you can immediately access the information you're seeking (eliminating the need for the Index it took us six months to prepare!)... but, best of all, it's no longer 12 pounds! In its digital edition, the Bava book is now something you can carry with you anywhere. You can read it on the bus. You can read it in bed. In the dark!

What about those of you who use Android, Kindle Fire and the other formats?
Well, Donna is still working to make these, and our other future ePublications, adaptable to these and other formats. It will get done, but this much we can deliver now.

Since 1990, we at VIDEO WATCHDOG have made it our business to redefine what genre film criticism is, what a magazine about genre films can be, what a book about a genre filmmaker can encompass. This is the most important step we have taken since the publication of the Bava book in 2007, and it's only the beginning of a new era in our history.

So what are you waiting for? Visit our website, get your VIDEO WATCHDOG app, and experience the new digital realm we've envisioned!

Friday, October 11, 2013

My "Citizen Clarke" Published

In stores shortly: LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS #31, with its DEMONS OF THE MIND cover story. This issue also features my long-promised memoir "Citizen Clarke," a 10-page look back at my eleven years of training for my life's work under Frederick S. Clarke at CINEFANTASTIQUE. Editor Richard Klemensen has done a really nice job with the presentation, which is nicely illustrated with vintage pics of Fred, Donna and I. This is my first-ever appearance in the pages of LSoH -- a marvelous magazine I first discovered in a Toronto bookstore back in 1981, while I was up there covering the making of VIDEODROME for CFQ -- and it's an addition to my working roster that pleases me particularly.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Eight Years A Blogger

Yes, it was eight years ago today that I decided, very spur of the moment, to launch this blog. I still post things here, although I now have another blog (Pause. Rewind. Obsess. II) where I tend to post my free-floating ideas and responses to the movies and other programming I watch... primarily because I much prefer the template I have over there to this one, which I don't feel right about changing. Besides, as a Gemini, it somehow makes sense to be running two blogs at once. Blogger tells me that Video WatchBlog has chalked up... well, this will be the 1,060th posting. That still averages out to 132.5 postings per year, so my overall average isn't that bad, especially with everything else that's been going on. Even so, I'll try to do better.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, Video WatchBlog seems to have become a kind of obituary blog this year. I need to discourage this tendency because people then look to me for formal acknowledgements of the passings of numerous worthy luminaries, and I don't always have enough time to balance my surplus of heart. Hammer's Anthony Hinds recently passed away and, although I wasn't able to write something appropriate here at that time, Constantine Nasr has agreed to write a eulogy for the next issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG. It was also terrible news to hear of the death of that charismatic Italian actor Giuliano Gemma at age 75, as the result of a head-on traffic collision. Less than an hour ago, I learned from a friend of the passing of Diana Harryhausen, since 1963 the wife of animation legend Ray Harryhausen, who passed away just five months ago.

Just yesterday, the news came of the death of Philip Nutman -- novelist, screenwriter, journalist and FANGORIA foreign correspondent -- at the age of 50. I didn't know Phil well -- when you love the same things and produce work in a similar vein, it's almost like there's no need; you know you've got each other's back. What people like that do well together is socialize, and we never had that opportunity. But we were friendly acquaintances for a long time; every few years, Phil would call the office and we'd catch up; he would regale me with stories of his adventures in the film trade in that funny, larger-than-life, almost Australian cardsharp's voice of his. I remember him telling me about years that were wasted trying to get a film together with members of The Doors. I thought of Phil first when Ray Manzarek died. When he joined FB, I hoped it would be an opportunity to stay in closer touch with Phil, but his behavior was taking erratic turns and I finally just minded my own business. A talented man. I'm just so sad that he wasn't looking out for his own best interests. If you were a friend of Phil or a fan of his work, please make whatever contribution you can manage to his funeral fund.  

Things here at the homefront have been extremely busy, engrossing and promising. Donna has been deeply engrossed in a project concerning VIDEO WATCHDOG whose details we hope to be sharing with you very soon. In the meantime, I have been supplementing my time with scripting and recording audio commentaries for various upcoming Blu-ray and DVD releases. I was recently engaged by the BFI (British Film Institute) to record commentaries for five Alain Robbe-Grillet films they have licensed, beginning with TRANS-EUROP-EXPRESS (1966) and SUCCESSIVE SLIDINGS OF PLEASURE (1974), which were first announced for this December but which I now hear may be slightly postponed. The other three titles have yet to be announced. I've also agreed to record two commentaries for Britain's Arrow Films: Roger Corman's PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1962) and Robert Fuest's DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972), which should surface sometime before next Spring. I've already recorded the commentary for SUCCESSIVE SLIDINGS and will be recording TRANS-EUROP-EXPRESS very soon; Robbe-Grillet was one of the writers whose work and example persuaded me to become a novelist, so it was a great honor to be invited to speak at length about his films, which has given me permission to delve back into his books and also into some of the fine books written about him. The strange thing about this assignment is how much I feel that the liner notes I wrote for the Redemption Jean Rollin discs, and the commentaries I recorded for their Jess Franco titles (especially NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT) and for Kino Lorber's recent disc of Mario Bava's FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON prepared me for it. There is a continuity with all this work I think you'll find surprising and interesting.

Beyond that, I've also contributed to a couple of books now newly on the market: the BFI Companion book GOTHIC: THE DARK HEART OF FILM, to which I contributed two pages on Italian Gothic cinema; and John Szpunar's account of the diabolic side of desktop publishing, XEROX FEROX: THE WILD WORLD OF THE HORROR FILM FANZINE, which includes a lengthy new interview with me about VIDEO WATCHDOG and our 23-year publishing history.

But the most exciting news concerns a certain screenplay of mine, which is finally moving forward and should be going into production next spring. 


Sunday, October 06, 2013

THAT'S SEXPLOITATION! (2013) reviewed

Frank Henenlotter's new documentary for Something Weird, THAT'S SEXPLOITATION! is a rollicking ride through the tassled hills and cat-masked valleys of America's uniquely uncomfortable history of silver screen erotica.

Co-hosted by Henenlotter and veteran exploitation king David F. Friedman (who died in 2011), the movie covers a lot of varied ground in its generous 136-minute running time: arcade shorts, pre-code peekaboos, nudie-cuties, pious STD mellers, goona-goona, '50s Euro imports, burlesque films, nudies, roughies, druggies, white-coaters and more, everything up until the time, as Friedman groans, "hardcore put an end to everything." Each excerpt is properly identified and their particulars are so fascinating (absurd/silly/funny, rather than seriously erotic), and the gear shifts between chapters so extreme, that each subheading begs for its own feature documentary -- or further investigation of the Something Weird back catalogue, which was surely part of the plan.

Though the necessarily shared narrative duties give this the feel of television rather than documentary, it holds together because the footage is always lively and interesting, because each new twist in the tale says something different and valid about the changing face of 20th century America, and because Friedman keeps the story's focus on how these films filled a need and were sold. Because the story is left to a producer's perspective than that of directors, it's not really about who set the highest artistic standards in the genre (Radley Metzger and Joe Sarno don't really get a mention or a showing) as much as it's about less-than-beautiful hootchie-coochie girls coyly modeling 1930s pubic hair or motor-boating the camera. As the narration freely admits, most of these films seemed able to cope with their content (and remain within the bounds of the law) by keeping it as infantile as possible, or, in the case of the roughies, as violent as possible to counter the temptations of the imagery. Adding to the fun, Henenlotter sometimes uses screen text on clips to direct our gaze, to help us overhear things we weren't meant to hear (like one hapless man in an orgy scene, telling his partner that he's wearing two pairs of briefs to help discourage his arousal), and to follow-up on unkept promises like the "Coming Soon to This Theater" OLGA'S GARDEN OF TORTURE.

The on-camera host approach probably doesn't work as well as a traditional narration/montage approach would have (Henenlotter taking a long walk to Friedman's house, in the rain, no less, and elsewhere addressing us from a stool in a nude bar, while ogling a nude male bartender, feel particularly forced), but the film deserves particular credit for allowing men a place in this history, reserving space for gay exploitation and the history of male nudity in straight features. The clips are extremely well-selected and cleverly edited together throughout, and Friedman's raconteur revelry, albeit token, nevertheless brings us into the raucous presence of the enterprising, carny-barker spirit that got most of these films made in the first place.

THAT'S SEXPLOITATION! is presently playing different film festivals here and abroad. There has been no announcement as yet about its home video release, which is surely forthcoming.