Friday, July 31, 2015

Twice Shy: The Return of Art Bell


We've all heard the saying (or at least the song) "once bitten, twice shy." Well, that's how I feel about the latest return of Art Bell. He keeps going away, and then unexpectedly coming back, only to leave again just as unexpectedly. I'm a fan, but I really have to wonder how many fans he really has left after all these boy-who-cried-wolf returns and retirements. Pretty soon, no one will care, if it hasn't gotten there already.

The double-edged Sword of Damocles is that while Art Bell is perhaps a broadcast legend and one of the best interviewers in the business, he is also just as dependable as groundhogs are at predicting the weather. As in the past, I can't help feeling that Art will eventually let me down.

Rather than talk about what a crappy host George Noory is in comparison, and how he's destroyed Coast to Coast AM, a once reputable program despite its questionable content - I will concentrate on Art's newest incarnation. If you want to read about how much Noory sucks and has ruined the show, you can go here and here.

After Art's abortive attempt at satellite radio, resulting in thirty-odd pretty cool episodes (about which he said this week "satellite doesn't like me"), he has retained that show's name for his online radio network, Dark Matter. It appears to be 24/7 with genre programming, also available on the TuneIn Radio app, on which many of us fans listen to his hundreds of Coast reruns.

Apparently there are a number of radio stations who have agreed to broadcast the new show, called Midnight in the Desert, live from midnight to three in the morning. Art's insistence on only broadcasting live, and at that time has been problematic for this fan who usually is just getting to bed at two or three. At least do a repeat right after, ya know?

The format, topics, and guests are much the same as they were back in the classic Art Bell Coast to Coast AM days. Art has not lost his skills as an interviewer, and the commercials are not just fun and off, they are insane - the show is worth a listen just for that. The 'news' segments however border on the truly insane, more like "Ancient Aliens" meets a fanatical End Times website - my least favorite part of the show.

One of the things I always enjoyed about the old Art C2C was how interactive it was with its fandom. This is something that has been lost with Noory's reign on Coast and their absolute refusal to answer anyone on Facebook or Twitter. Why have them if you won't use them? With Art's new show there is a new excitement in social media. I have been enjoying a few listening parties with new friends on Twitter that have been a lot of fun.

So far so good, but how long before that sword drops? Time will tell, enjoy it while you can. Once bitten, twice shy...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Vanishing Point


Vanishing Point ~ Now this is a film of legend. The only way it could be seen when I was a kid was on late night Friday nights on local ABC affiliate channel 6. It was notorious to many teenaged boys in the pre-cable 1970s for having ever-so-quick topless scenes the censors forgot to clip.

Later in life when I managed a video store, it was one of those films like Disney's Song of the South and John Wayne's The High and the Mighty - it just wasn't available on video. If I had a dime for how many times I had to tell some disappointed customer one of those titles wasn't available... well, I'd have a whole buncha dimes. Vanishing Point from 1971 eventually came out, as did High and the Mighty (don't hold your breath for Song of the South) but in the meantime the film achieved a sort of cult status.

The premise is simple. Vietnam vet Kowalski has to deliver a car from Denver to San Francisco over the weekend. Already exhausted, he makes a bet he can get the car - a beautiful white 1970 Dodge Challenger - there the next day, in just fifteen hours. The race begins. Pursued by the police, and guided by the words of a blind disc-jockey Super Soul in Las Vegas, Kowalski becomes a folk hero as he makes the impossible run.

Now from the above, this might sound like a precursor to Smokey and the Bandit or any of the sillier car chase movies of the seventies, and they do owe a certain extent to Vanishing Point, but this is a spiritual journey. One could even say the weird almost-psychic connection Kowalski shares with Super Soul is supernatural. This movie is a lot more than it at first appears.

Barry Newman plays the at times inexplicable Kowalski, a man on the hero's journey across a short western expanse of Easy Rider America. His companion on the car radio, with whom he shares an empathic kinship is Super Soul, played with the youthful enthusiasm of a young Stevie Wonder crossed with an evangelist in the spirit is a pre-Blazing Saddles Cleavon Little. How these two escaped Oscar nods for this is a mystery.

Another mystery is the plot of the film itself. Why does Kowalski do the things he does? Why is he driving to what is eventually his death? Does he know? And what is the weird psychic connection between him and Super Soul? Is the entire film an allegory? An after-death flashback, a loop in Hell that Kowalski must somehow keep running? There are so many theories, and will probably continue to be.

No matter what you think happens in Vanishing Point, it has become a cult film, a legend. It has inspired so many, from the kids who drove Dodge Challengers in the 1970s because of it to Quentin Tarantino who honored it in Death Proof. It is probably one of the greatest car movies of all time, and worth seeing for the fortieth time or the first. Great soundtrack, great scenery, highly recommended.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hardware


Someone recently recommended Lost Soul to me, the recent documentary about writer/director Richard Stanley and his journey making 1996's The Island of Doctor Moreau. Before I watched it I thought I might revisit Stanley's first mainstream film, Hardware from 1990.

I remember being very into cyberpunk when Hardware came out, seeing it the Friday night it was released, and liking it enough to buy the VHS when it became available - but if I'm being honest, I remember almost nothing else. It was one of those videotapes I owned, put on the shelf, and never watched. Yes, it's time to watch Hardware, but on Netflix, the VHS is long long gone now.

Hardware portrays a post-apocalyptic world some time in the 21st century with nations at war and radiation everywhere. The technology is dated, yet somehow refreshing, even if the fashions are very 1980s MTV doomsday. Written and directed by Stanley, and based on a short story from 2000 A.D., is the story of a sculptor who inadvertently reactivates a killer robot from collected junk, which then rampages.

This is both something we've seen before and yet haven't. Stanley adds a punk attitude and style to old school scifi and horror, then turns the dials up to eleven. Hardware is sexy, dirty, and slick, fastpaced to a eclectic score and soundtrack. I found I still dig this after twenty-five years, and had to scratch my head about why I hadn't seen either of Stanley's other two films, Moreau and Dust Devil.

Stacey Travis, John Lynch, and pre-"Practice" Dylan McDermott are very good and better than the usual for this kind of genre flick, but the movie is quite easily stolen by Motorhead's Lemmy, and Iggy Pop as DJ Angry Bob. Hardware was a pleasant ride through cyberpunk nostalgia, recommended, but not for the squeamish.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The New Electra Woman and Dyna Girl


If you listened to The GAR! Podcast's interview with Bryan J.L. Glass at this year's Camden Comic Con, you know how big a fan of Sid and Marty Krofft's "Electra Woman and Dyna Girl" I am.

The very short-lived series aired Saturday morning in the disco spandex era of the late 1970s. Though it looked kinda cheap because it was shot on videotape, it was a loving send-up of the camp superhero antics of the 1960s "Batman" TV series, and also had something we just don't have today - female lead protagonists, as Kristin Battestella and I discussed recently on Morning Coffee, more on that here.

Imagine my surprise when this rather unorthodox preview dropped…



The new version will be a digital series from Legendary and star YouTube phenomena Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart in the title roles. Hmmm… we'll just have to wait and see. What do you all think?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Marvel Morning Coffee


This past Friday I had the opportunity to speak with friend, fellow writer, and TV host Kristin Battestella at the RadioVision Network on their program "Morning Coffee." The topic was Marvel, in the movies, on television, and other media platforms.

We discussed Ant-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron, the films that have worked, and those that have not. In the second segment we talked "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Agent Carter," and in the third segment, "Daredevil" and the rest of the Netflix series.

We also go off topic a bit talking about Ben Affleck's viability as Batman or Daredevil, what's good and about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as what's coming up in the future. You can see it right here. Good times, it was an awesome chat, with shout outs to Biff Bam Pop! and The GAR! Podcast. Thanks to Kristin, Morning Coffee, and the RadioVision Network.