Saturday, February 26, 2011

Picture Perfect Special: Princesses of Mars, Part Four

Who needs Venus when you have Martian Princesses? Here are more visions of Dejah Thoris and other Martian beauties from a variety of artists. (Click on the byline to see more of that artist's work.)

By Steven Butler
By David Finch

By Talent Caldwell

By Adam Hughes

Saturday Scream Queen: Sharon Stone

While there are any number of actresses who reportedly got bought their way to fame via the "casting couch", few mainstream performers got there by spreading their legs on screen. Sharon Stone is one of those few. She even got a Golden Globe nomination and won the Best Female Performer and Most Desirable Female MTV Movie Awards of 1993 for doing so.

Sharon Stone spent the 1980s laboring in obscurity in short-lived television series in small movie roles. As her star rose, she was seen along-side Richard Chamberlain in a pair of Allan Quartermain films; in one of Steven Seagal's better pictures, "Above the Law""; and with Arnold Schwartznegger in the sci-fi thriller "Total Recall".

In 1992, Stone appeared as the possibly bat-shit crazy sexual predator Catherine Tramell "Basic Instinct", flashed her nether-regions at the camera... and a star was born!

In the two decades since, Stone has made over 30 movies, starred in several other short-lived TV series and made guest appearances on many others. Several of her films have been supernatural thrillers or horror movies, such as "Sphere" "Cold Creek Manor", and "Catwoman" (although "Catwoman" is more horrible than horror).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

'The Devil's Daughter' is short, but feels long

The Devil's Daughter (1939)
Starring: Nina Mae McKinney, Ida James, Emmett Wallace, Hamtree Harrington, Jack Carter, and Willa Mae Lang
Director: Arthur Leonard
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Sylvia Walton (James) returns from the United States to Haiti after a long absence when she inherits her father's banana plantation. Her disinherited half-sister Isabelle (McKinney), who managed the plantation for several years, has vanished without a trace, and Sylvia is desperate to find her, to offer her a fair share of the inheritance. Meanwhile, two rival suitors vie (Carter and Wallace) vie for Sylvia's attention and mysterious voodoo drums are heard from the depths of the jungle... where a vengeful Isabelle plots to regain all of what she considers rightfully hers.

"The Devil's Daughter" barely runs barely 50 minutes, but it feels much longer than that. A melodrama with horror overtones--very faint overtones, as the film repeatedly makes the point that the voodoo rituals are just hoaxes to drive off Sylvia and her dippy manservant Percy (Harrington)--about a quarter of the running time is wasted on a lame subplot involving the unfunny comic relief character trying to protect his soul from voodoo spirits and later to save his boss and her sister from a crooked plantation foreman. The film is further doomed by the fact that it features some of the worst dialogue I've ever seen outside of fiction written by grade schoolers, and acting styles that were passe in films in early 1932. In fact, every thing about this movie almost everything about this movie is stilted and stagy, even during the one scene where a little cinematic energy finally creeps in.

This is a film that's primarily of historical interest. It's an example of the movies produced during the early part of the 20th century for the 700 or so movie theaters that catered to Black audiences during America's period of Segregation. It's interesting to note that the same sort of characters that get slagged as racist in movies from the same period made for general audiences can be found in this film as well, specifically the bug-eyed superstitious servant character that Mantan Moreland made his signature. In fact, the only difference between characters portrayed by Moreland and the character of Percy in this film is that Percy is fundamentally unsympathetic. (And I'm not sure he was intended to be viewed as such by the filmmakers; I suspect he was intended to be a lovable, if not very bright, rogue, but to my eyes he was an obnoxious jerk who first tried to take advantage of what he considered to be backwards islanders, only to have the tables turned on him. The cultural and political tensions between the "cultured" daughter and her servant and the "native" daughter and her supporters lends a little bit of interesting flavor to the film, but it's not enough to make up for its shortcomings and outmoded style.

Although this is a film that history has left behind in every conceivable way, the climactic voodoo sequence is a nice pay-off for sitting through it. The song performed is catchy, and a little bit of cinematic life finally finds its way into the proceedings. The scene also showcases the screen presence of Nina Mae McKinney, a talented and charismatic singer actress who was not fated for screen-stardom.

If you want to get a taste of the "race films" from the 1930s, this isn't a bad place to start. If you're looking for a look at classic voodoo-oriented horror films, you're better off with "White Zombie", "I Walked With a Zombie", or even "King of the Zombies".

Wednesday, February 23, 2011



Picture Perfect Wednesday: Josephine and the Amazing Edible Dreamskirt

Born in St. Louis, MO, in 1906, Josephine Baker started dancing professionally in her early teens. She fled Missouri for Europe by the time she was 17, frustrated by the rampant racism in her hometown.

She quickly became a favorite in Paris revue clubs, and in 1925 she first performed her famous "banana dance" and was catapulted to international fame.

In 1937, Baker renounced her American citizenship in favor of France, as she was deeply disgusted by the many racist government-sanctioned institutions and regulations that existed in American society at that time. Although she occasionally visited the States over the following decades, she made her home in France and Monaco.

Baker always refused to perform in clubs that practiced segregation, and in 1951 she filed racism charges against the famous Stork Club in New York City when she was refused service because she was black. She later was the only woman to give an address at Martin Luther King's famous March on Washington rally.

Baker passed way in 1975.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

'Son of Terror' requires your patience

Son of Terror (2011)
Starring: Ben Andrews, Alan Sutherland, Marcel Davis, and Meredith Binder
Director: Antony De Gennaro
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

A reclusive artist (Andrews) discovers he has a psychic link to a serial killer (Sutherland) who is murderng vagrants around Seattle's Pioneer Square.

"Son of Terror" is one of those movies I wish I liked more. It was made by filmmakers in my home state of Washington, and it features a great deal of creativity in every technical aspect of its production. The use of sound is particularly ingenious, with the music soundtrack and ambient sound mixing and fading in and out in ways often so subtle that you won't realize why the scene your watching is as hair-raisingly creepy as it is. An impressive level of artistry and skill is on display in this movie, especially considering that it's the product of a first-time director who wore many hats and worked with a very tight budget.

Unfortunately, De Gennaro spends too much time putting his artistry on display and the end result is a film that you have to be very patient with. Not only does the story move slowly, but De Gennaro doesn't set up the somewhat unusual method he uses to tell it--switching back and forth between the main character (played by Ben Andrews), and the film's monstrous killer (played by Alan Sutherland), as well as other sequences that initially seem unconnected to anything else, and using television screens to denote the switching--and it doesn't become clear what he is doing until about ten minutes in. Compound the mild frustration and disorientation with the way nearly every scene seems to unfold at a leisurely pace and in a self-indulgent fashion that seems more concerned with making sure viewers notice the creative cinematography and (eventually catch onto) the very effective sound design that proper timing of the story, it's a film that even the most fair-minded viewer will be tempted to turn off before you reach the halfway point.

When it finally becomes clear what is going on in the film, patient viewers will be amply rewarded as it just keeps getting creepier and creepier. But you'll have to be very patient.

"Son of Terror" premiered at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival a couple of years ago, and it debuts in wide distribution on DVD and VOD on March 8, 2011. Although flawed, it's worth checking out for lovers of off-beat, psychological terror flicks, and I think Antony De Gennaro is destined for great things if he sticks with filmmaking. (I had a very hard time choosing between a Four or Five Rating for this film, but I ultimately went with the lower rating, because of the numerous pacing issues. But I still think it's worth a look.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The ultimate Numa-Numa song and video

Is this the ultimate Numa-Numa song/video?

Or maybe this?

And then there's this one...

Or maybe this Old Skool version from the crew of the USS Enterprise?

Or this from #1 Numa Fan?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday Scream Queen: Amber Tamblyn

Short-statured and baby-faced, Amber Tamblyn has spent much of her career so far portraying characters younger than her true age, such as playing a suburban high school student who was a modern-day agent of God on the tragically short-lived television series "Joan of Arcadia" in 2003 when she was 20, and the medical kid genius during the 2010-2011 season of "House", filling in for Olivia Wilde while she was working on "Tron: The Legacy" for Disney.

Born in 1983, Tamblyn got her start as a child actress on "General Hospital" in 1995. She appeared on the show for six years, and successfully navigated the perilous transition into a career as a working adult actor with small parts on a number of television series, including an appearance on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and the revived "Twilight Zone" series.

Following her starring turn on "Joan of Arcadia", Tamblyn has starred in or played major supporting roles in an even mix of comedies, thrillers, and horror films, with "The Ring", "Grudge 2" (which reunited her with "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" star Sarah Michelle Gellar), "Blackout" and "Spiral" being of greatest interest to readers here.

Tamblyn is currently writing and producing a screen adaptation of "Paint It Black", a psychological thriller in which she plays the lover of a suicide victim who begins to walk the path that may have led him to kill himself as she searches for answers.