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August 19, 2017

Book Review: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (2012)

Growing up in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s, I heard a lot about serial killers and mass murderers. John Wayne Gacy and Richard Speck were from Chicago, and they were both executed for their horrendous crimes. We were also affected by another bizarre killer at that time. He wasn't from Chicago, but he often traveled there, and some of his victims were part of the Chicago gay scene. I am speaking of Milwaukee's cannibal killer, Jeffrey Dahmer.

Dahmer was a strange case. When an intended victim escaped and led police to his apartment, what was discovered was a nightmare that Wes Craven couldn't imagine. A refrigerator full of human remains was only the tip of the iceberg. Dahmer had a long and unnerving history. My Friend Dahmer dips into the early part, up until his first killing. How do we know it's accurate? It's written by one of his high school friends.

August 17, 2017

Movie Review: A Touch of Genie (1974)

Directed by Joe Sarno                                  

Nebbish Melvin Finkelfarb’s (Doug Stone) life revolves around to tending to his Antique/Junk shop, being berated by his yenta mother (Ultramax) and sneaking off to Times Square to catch the latest skin flicks. Finding a discarded vase in an alleyway, Melvin “rubs” it in an intimate manner and out pops a sprightly female genie (Chris Jordan) who grants him five wishes. Melvin’s wishes are to take the male roles in various hot sex scenes with his favorite adult actors and actresses. This is represented by such skin flick regulars as Harry Reems, Marc Stevens, Eric Edwards and plain Jane Tina Russell boffing away on a $1.98 harem set. All well and good, but these scenes are interrupted with Melvin’s mother barging her way in to join in the action! Paging Dr. Freud? All’s well that ends well.

As Joe Sarno and Doris Wishman scholar Michael Bowen points out in his interview included on this Vinegar Syndrome DVD and Blu-Ray combo, A Touch of Genie was Sarno’s second reluctant attempt at hardcore – and it shows it. Many cast and crew members hide behind pseudonyms and the actors doing the “comedic” scenes are kept separate from the actors getting to the nitty-gritty (with the exception of Ultramax and Russell, who appears briefly as a strait-laced virgin). Bowen also rightly points out that A Touch of Genie is self-reflexive on the porn genre in general, where those stuck in undeclared celibacy live vicariously through the actors on the Blue Screen.

August 15, 2017

Movie Review: The Hearse (1980)

Directed by George Bowers                        

Jane (Trish Van Devere) decides to chuck her job in the city to move to her late aunt’s isolated mansion in the country.  Perhaps it wasn’t the best decision, as the townspeople are unexpectedly unfriendly and on top of everything else are as RUDE as FUCK. When they aren’t openly sneering at her at the country store, they pop up unexpectedly – without knocking the door or calling ahead or anything – right dab in her house! Jump scare. The reason for all the antipathy becomes obvious later on. It seems like her aunt was a devil worshiper who romantically took up with a black-clad no-goodnik and made the local area highly uncomfortable. According to local old soak Walter Pritchard (Joseph Cotton, who probably did a little too much research for this role) claims that Jane’s aunt, following her funeral was carried away in a hearse that spontaneously combusted – her aunt’s remains never found. Jane begins an affair with the vaporous, mysterious Tom Sullivan (David Gautreaux) who lacks a vampire cape to make his intentions even more obvious. Oh, yes, it’s called The Hearse – Jane has a bunch of nightmares involving a ghostly chauffeur (Dominic Barto) chasing her about in an old Packard, but it doesn’t really add up to much.

In the Eighties, when I made it my business to see every last horror movie on VHS, I never was in a rush to see The Hearse. Finally catching up to it now, thanks to Vinegar Syndrome, I can see why. It confirmed my suspicions that it was just a blatant rip-off of Dan Curtis’ Burnt Offerings (1976) that likewise had a ghostly chauffeur (Anthony James). The chauffeur in The Hearse, Barto, is bigger, beefier, but not the slightest bit scary. Whereas James creepy, grinning specter chilled spines, Barto imposes a physical menace but is as frightening as a second-string football player on a bender. Even worse, The Hearse skates around the devil worshipping angle with a few read-aloud diary entries but no tangible dread. While beautifully photographed by Mori Kawa, the film’s main setting is brightly lit and Country Corny. One hopes that Jane will stumble into a dark alcove full of pentagrams and occult kitsch – but no luck. Even the overly serious, overbearing The Blackcoats Daughter (2015) threw the audience a bone in this respect. The closest The Hearse gets to this is a mist-laden nightmare sequence in a funeral home that is over far too soon.

August 1, 2017

Cinema Head Cheese: Podshort! - Friends From College (Netflix, 2017)

Kevin Moyers discusses the Netflix comedy about a reuniting group of college friends and how it perfectly relates to Generation X.

Click here to listen or right click and choose "Save Link As..." to download.

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