Thursday, March 28, 2013

Stanley Morgan: The Courier

In my on-going exploration of British crime and adventure paperbacks, I dipped into The Courier by Stanley Morgan. I left it pretty soon when I noticed it wasn't crime-related, but I thought I'd say something about it.

Stanley Morgan seems to have a bit of a cult following these days, since he has a fan-based website - and it's quite good, too. There's something about him and his books that feels like targeted towards the recent laddie and GQ culture with its tailored, expensive suits, sports cars and pretty dames. Though I'm fond of pretty dames and well-tailored suits myself, I find the culture surrounding them pretty dated and even abrasive. The hero of The Courier is one Russ Tobin, the hero of Morgan's long series of books, free-wheeling bit-actor whose sexual escapades the book follows. There's an add for other books in the series in which Russ Tobin is called "romeo-rapist". Nice touch, eh?

I started to read this, since Morgan has one thriller translated in Finnish, Octopus Hill. Anyone read that?

One thing that comes to mind: the difference between the British and American sex paperback is that there are more crimes and more angst-filled feel of punishment in the American sleaze. And free-minded as I'm about all things related to sex, I find the American way more fascinating.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Kyor-ogly (1960)

Kyor-ogly is a Soviet adventure film from 1960. It was the first Cinemascope film in colour made in the state of Azerbaijan, and it tells about the national hero, Ker-ogly, who battled the evil tyrant who blinded his father. I saw the film on 35 mm last night in the Finnish Film Archive screening, with some 30 other viewers.

The film is stunning to look at, but there's clumsiness as comes to the story-telling. At times I didn't know what was happening and who the people on the screen were. Some characters came out of nowhere and dropped out of sight pretty quickly. I thought at first the copy I saw was a shortened one aimed at international markets, but I couldn't find any evidence on that. Maybe they thought everyone knows the story of Ker-ogly by heart!

The film is a lot of fun, some of its intentional, but most of its unintentional. There are some nice action scenes and some of the sets are spectacular. Even the matte paintings are pretty well made. Some of the funny scenes include the last battle during which Ker-ogly starts to sing this ballad to encourage his soldiers! If only Peter Jackson had Gandalf do something like this! (Actually I got to thinking about The Lord of the Rings quite many times during Kyor-ogly, I just wonder if Jackson saw this...)

Kyor-ogly has no English title, but in Finland it was shown as Maagillinen miekka, literally The Magical Sword. There's no magic in the film, however. In German the film was called "The Bloody Sword". There's not much of that in the film either, as the film shies away from showing lots of violence.

Here's the whole film without any subtitles:

More Overlooked Movies here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weasels Ripped My Flesh contest

You still have some time to take part in the Weasels Ripped My Flesh contest. Take a look here, you might win a copy of the book!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Book: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Forgotten book? Surely not. I must be an exception to have read this book only now, when I'm 40. I guess my teachers were suspicious of such radical stuff. And for some reason or another, I've been a bit wary of classics all my life.

What surprised me reading Oscar Wilde's book was that it's essentially a noir book. It's a crime-related novel about an individual crossing his boundaries and suffering from the consequences.

What bugged me a bit was that there's a bit too much talk and not enough action. Of course Oscar Wilde could throw a very funny line anytime he wanted to - I mean, the book is full of them! -, but it's probably just me being too American-related in my reading habits. And I'm actually a bit ashamed to have written the sentences above.

More Forgotten Books here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Une grosse tête

Une grosse tête from 1961 is a funny little French film written by Francois Truffaut and directed by his pal, Claude de Givray. The film stars Eddie Constantine. It's a forgotten gem, though not a great film in any meaning of the phrase, but entertaining, witty and inventive all the way.

The film is a parody of many Hollywood genres alongside with French genre films, especially those with Constantine in the lead: the Lemmy Caution, Nick Carter and OSS 117 films. There are some funny scenes in which Constantine fights some other guys and they are acted out like the outrageous scenes in those films. The film begins like a weird western film in which a stranger - Eddie Constantine in his glider! - comes to rescue an old man from some baddies who want to buy the old man's house and build a skyscraper instead. But then suddenly something completely different ensues! I'm pretty sure this is one of the very few feature films to have karting races at the center of things. The film changes tones in an instant and it also features some Nouvelle Vague type of loose editing and shooting. The ending made in a grand style of The Giant or some such epic is priceless.

The film also boasts two very beautiful female actors, Alexandra Stewart and (I believe, as not all the actors are credited in IMDb) Genevièvé Galéa (the mother of Emmanuelle Béart, no less!).

I'd recommend this to all friends of French New Wave and some others too, since it's so light and not to be taken seriously, but seems like it's very hard to find. I just saw the 35 mm print held in the Finnish Film Archive. The film seems to have been shown in American TV as A Fat Head and in England as A Swelled Head. In Finland it was called Kovat kurvit ("Hard Curves" or some such).

More Overlooked Films here.

Here's a French rock band featured in the film playing a song called "Rock des Karts":

Friday, March 08, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Book: Weasels Ripped My Flesh!

This isn't actually a forgotten book by any means, but some of the stories and their writers are forgotten, if anyone knew them in the first place.

I reviewed some of the stories earlier here, but now that I've finally gotten hold of an actual, physical copy, I can't but say: "Vow! This does look cool!" The book is hefty, and ripe with old illustrations and covers and ads from the sleazy men's adventures mags from the fifties, sixties and seventies. And there's lots of information about the authors, which is at times more important and more interesting than the actual stories.

I've had my hands full of other projects (for example, I just e-mailed my werewolf anthology to the publisher just five minutes ago), so I haven't had time to dip into the book again. But I mean to.

More Forgotten Books here.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

K J Wignall: Death

Death is the third and last installation in Kevin "K J" Wignall's Mercian trilogy, set of vampire books aimed at YA audience. I liked all three of them and I think I can safely say that I'd rather see kids reading these than, say, the Twilight books. I reviewed the two earlier books here and here.

As has happened before, I was a bit lost in the beginning of Death, since I'm not very good with plots and I keep forgetting all kinds of stuff that take place in books and in films - the same here with Blood and Alchemy. But the themes and the atmosphere are more important in any book, not to mention the style, and Wignall has both in abundance. The mystic and sinister character of Lorcain Labraid is given a satisfactory background in chapters that are forceful and well-built. The Mercian trilogy doesn't suffer from genre clichés.

I'll have to read the whole trilogy back to back at some point to really appreciate all the things in it, especially the ending of Death. I'm a bit sad to hear that this probably won't be out in Finnish after all, but here's still hoping.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie, or actually a loads of them

Theodore Rex: doncha just love 'em?
We held another movie festival at the cabin loaded with all kinds of weird stuff just last weekend. Here are the films we watched:

Race with the Devil, 1975 **½ (Warren Oates and Peter Fonda on the run from the hick satanists, not bad, but not memorable, except for the ending)
Gymkata, 1985 * or ***** (really stupid martial arts film that never slows down and is actually pretty good entertainment if you're drunk and with lots of friends around)
Beast in Space AKA La bestia nello spazio, 1980 * or ***** (absolutely inane and absurdly cheap space flick made with the same plot as Walerian Borowczyk's artsy horror film The Beast and the same lead actor, Finnish-born Sirpa Lane)
Wake in Fright, 1971 **** (Australian film thought being lost, but found in the early 2000's, very noirish stuff about a guy who gets stuck in the middle of nowhere with lots of Aussie drunks fooling around and shooting kangaroos just for the fun of it, Ted Kotcheff's strong direction)
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, 2010 **½ (mildly funny I Walk the Line parody with some good music, but almost 30 minutes too long)
Die Wand: human and nature
Die Wand, 2012 **** (or even ****½) (I'd seen this earlier, but wanted to show it to my friends: grim, ecological and possibly post-apocalyptic anti-thriller, with lots of gorgeous mountain scenery, made in Austria of all places, based on Marlen Haushofer's novel from the sixties)
The Foetus, 1997 **½ (Finnish lost film from the nineties which I've managed to salvage on VHS, uneasy mix of extreme gore, extreme perversions and highly experimental editing and storytelling, irritating at best, but almost always interesting, luckily only 40 minutes long)
The Last Circus AKA Balada triste de trompeta, 2010 *** (inventive, wild and unpredictable, but not very interesting thematically, the first film by Alex de la Inglesia I've liked)
Copkiller AKA L'assassino dei poliziotti, 1983 ***½ (see my earlier review here)
Vampire's Kiss, 1988 * or ***** (awful but funny "Nicolas Cage goes ape-shit crazy" vampire film from the yuppie era)
Theodore Rex, 1995 * (so awful I wanted to eat my brains, luckily it was very late and I was very drunk)
El ángel exterminador, 1962 ***** (one of Buñuel's masterpieces, very eerie drama of upper-class jerks who are suddenly not able to leave the room of a house they're in)
The Mechanic, 1972 **½ (Bronson actioneer trying to be deep, better when there's only action on the screen)

More Overlooked Films here. (And here's the lowdown on the last year's Cabin Film Festival.)