THIS JOURNAL DOCUMENTS MY INTAKE OF ONE BOOK, ZINE, CD OR DVD A DAY. RATINGS ARE: ***** = Godhead, **** = Great, *** = Good, ** = Fair, * = Why Bother?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Woe is Poe On Film?

Are Poe's short stories best served by shorts?

In today's Baltimore Sun, Chris Kaltenbach penned an article ("Macabre movies miss the mark") about the dearth of quality film adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's tales. While Kaltenbach liked Jules Dassin's 1941 adaptation of The Tell-Tale Heart (which is available as an extra in Warner Brothers' The Complete Thin Man DVD boxset), he regretted that it was only 20 minutes long, lamenting that most feature film adaptations - usually by Roger Corman during his reign at AIP - missed the mark, though he gave a grudging pass to Corman's Nicolas Roeg-lensed 1964 version of The Mask of Red Death.

It's an interesting debate, one that makes me think that Kaltenbach was onto something. Maybe the master short story teller was best served by the short film medium, and maybe The Tell-Tale Heart was the Poe story best translated to film. In that case, here's a shout-out to my favorite Poe short, the 1953 UPA animated version narrated by James Mason.

The Tell-Tale Heart (1953)
Directed by Ted Parmelee
Narrated by James Mason

This Oscar-nominated short is essential viewing for Poe afficionados. It surprisingly comes from UPA, the studio whose animation style is most often associated with Mr. Magoo cartoons (as well as Gerald McBoing-Boing, for those who remember him!). James Mason's narration is inspired and atmospherically pitch-perfect! It captures the mood, tone and feel of Poe's story perfectly and is an incredible piece of work. Director Ted Parmalee also helmed a critically acclaimed adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's The Emperor's New Clothes (1953) and went on to direct many TV episodes of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Watch it here:

For some reason this short turned up as an extra on the 2004 DVD release of the feature film Hellboy.

OK, while we're on the subject of Tell-Tale Heart shorts, another of my favorites for your consideration - though it takes outrageous comedic liberties with the Poe tale - is Jill Chamberlain's (much sought after) Poe-meets-Sex-in-the-City spoof The Tell-Tale Vibrator.

The Tell-Tale Vibrator (1999)
Written and Directed by Jill Chamberlain
(USA, 9 minutes, color)

"Let's just say that the title says it all in this provocative and extremely funny film"- RISD Film Festival catalog

I first saw this at the MicroCineFest in 1999. It played the festival circuit that year, winning the Jury Prize for Best Screenplay at the Atlantic City Film Festival and Best Short at the Saguaro Film Festival. As the title suggests, this humorous short tells the story of a single woman who, when her parents come to visit her in her new apartment in New York City for the first time, becomes unnerved by the tell-tale, albeit familiar, buzzing sound coming from her bedroom bureau.

Does anyone have a copy of this (hmmmm, Skizz?)? I remember it being really funny.

Related Links:
UPA's animated Tell-Tale Heart (YouTube)

Friday, October 23, 2009

American Psycho: The Mix Tape

"Hit play baby!"

I watched American Psycho (2000) when it was on TV a few nights ago. It's a fun film, as far as over-the-top black comedies based on novels by Brett Easton Ellis go, with a number of great quotes - like Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale)'s Worst Pickup Line Ever ("You're a fucking ugly bitch. I want to stab you to death and then play with your blood" - c'mon, has this line ever worked, fellas?) - but what was most memorable to me wasn't all the severed heads in Bateman's fridge or all the bodies hanging on meat hooks in his closet. No, the most shocking aspect of the film (and book) was Patrick Bateman's music library: Phil Collins, Huey Lewis, and Whitney Houston. Yes, I know: surely this is tell-tale signs of a sick and twisted mind!

To see a video montage of all of Patrick Bateman's monologues about his favorite musical artists, click here.

And here, for all you text lovers, I give you the American Pyscho Mix Tape, a Populist Manifesto of Song:

1. Genesis - "Susudio"
(from the 1986 LP Invsible Touch)

Patrick Bateman: Do you like Phil Collins? I've been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, I really didn't understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual. It was on Duke where Phil Collins' presence became more apparent. I think Invisible Touch was the group's undisputed masterpiece. It's an epic meditation on intangibility. At the same time, it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding three albums. (Christy, take off your robe.) Listen to the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford. You can practically hear every nuance of every instrument. (Sabrina, remove your dress.) In terms of lyrical craftsmanship, the sheer songwriting, this album hits a new peak of professionalism. (Sabrina, why don't you, uh, dance a little.) Take the lyrics to "Land of Confusion." In this song, Phil Collins addresses the problems of abusive political authority. "In Too Deep" is the most moving pop song of the 1980s, about monogamy and commitment. The song is extremely uplifting. Their lyrics are as positive and affirmative as anything I've heard in rock. (Christy, get down on your knees so Sabrina can see your asshole.) Phil Collins' solo career seems to be more commercial and therefore more satisfying, in a narrower way. Especially songs like "In the Air Tonight" and "Against All Odds." (Sabrina, don't just stare at it, eat it.) But I also think Phil Collins works best within the confines of the group, than as a solo artist, and I stress the word artist. This is "Sussudio," a great, great song, a personal favorite.

2. Huey Lewis and The News - "Hip To Be Square"
(from the 1987 LP Fore)

Patrick Bateman: Do you like Huey Lewis and the News?
Paul Allen: They're OK.
Patrick Bateman: Their early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, commercial and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He's been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far much more bitter, cynical sense of humour.
Paul Allen: Hey Halberstram.
Patrick Bateman: Yes, Allen?
Paul Allen: Why are their copies of the style section all over the place, d-do you have a dog? A little chow or something?
Patrick Bateman: No, Allen.
Paul Allen: Is that a rain coat?
Patrick Bateman: Yes it is! In '87, Huey released this, Fore, their most accomplished album. I think their undisputed masterpiece is "Hip to be Square", a song so catchy, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it's not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it's also a personal statement about the band itself.
[raises axe above head]
Patrick Bateman: Hey Paul!
[he bashes Allen in the head with the axe, and blood splatters over him]

3. Whitney Houston - "The Greatest Love of All"
(from the 1985 LP Whitney Houston)

Patrick Bateman: Did you know that Whitney Houston's debut LP, called simply Whitney Houston had 4 number one singles on it? Did you know that, Christie?
Elizabeth: [laughing] You actually listen to Whitney Houston? You own a Whitney Houston CD? More than one?
Patrick Bateman: It's hard to choose a favorite among so many great tracks, but "The Greatest Love of All" is one of the best, most powerful songs ever written about self-preservation, dignity. Its universal message crosses all boundaries and instills one with the hope that it's not too late to better ourselves. Since, Elizabeth, it's impossible in this world we live in to empathize with others, we can always empathize with ourselves. It's an important message, crucial really. And it's beautifully stated on the album.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Greatest Mix Tape Ever

That there independent music the kids are listening to nowadays, seriously...you would never understand. I'm going to ride my fixed gear bike to the copycat - Vol. 1
A Tophat Production (2009)

My friend Chris Schatz just made me the best CD "mix tape" ever, the sarcastically named That there independent music the kids are listening to nowadays, seriously...you would never understand. I'm going to ride my fixed gear bike to the copycat - Vol. 1. It's great because this two-disc compilation saves me the headache of deciding which of today's Generation YouTube bands I need to check out, as I only know three of the bands in Chris's superlative mix, specifically Of Montreal, Dengue Fever, and MGMT (and the latter only because their "Time To Pretend" is used as a theme song on cable TV's Sundance Channel). But with a primer like this, I'm ready to jump on the listed bands' respective bandwagons.

Thanks, Chris! You rock!

Here's the song tracking - and beautiful accompanying packaging - of this epic Photoshop production. I've only listened to the first disc so far, because I like to listen to stuff over and over until I get sick of it, but so far the standout tracks to me are The Faint's "The Geeks Were Right" (from their debut album, Fasciinatiion), Be Your Own Pet's "Becky," and twee-twangers Tullycraft's hilarious "Georgette Plays a Goth."

That there independent music - Vol. 1, Disc 1

That there independent music - Vol. 1, Disc 2

"They are young and on the edge of this extraordinary Baltimore..."
That there independent music, inner sleeve

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Fat Mattress

Hey, I forgot to mention in my Globe Poster posting an important detail about this Jimi Hendrix poster...namely, the band listed in the lower right as the support act: The Fat Mattress. Despite the dumb name, which sounds like some jam band, the Fat Mattress is actually a rather significant band for Hendrix completists, as it was the folk-rock side group Noel Redding formed during his time as the bassist in the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

According to Wikipedia, Redding formed the group in 1968 in Folkestone, England, with vocalist Neil Landon. Redding played guitar and also sang, with the band rounded out by multi-instrumentalist Jim Leverton and drummer Eric Dillon. The band released two albums, Fat Mattress (1969) and Fat Mattress II (1970), before splitting up in 1970.

According to a reviewer of their first album on Amazon,
"What the listener got with Fat Mattress was a solid, sometimes folky/woodsy, sometimes mystical rock band - very English and very stripped down, without pyrotechnics or pretensions. Songs like "Mr. Moonshine," "She Came In the Morning" and "All Night Drinker" (with Chris Wood of Traffic fame lending his flute, giving the song a style similar to early Jethro Tull) could have been staples on FM radio had the album been properly promoted. If you're at all into this type of music and wish to hear some of the little post-Experience music available by the late Noel Redding, you owe it to yourself to dig for this one."

Related Links:
Richie Unterberger's Bio of Fat Mattress (allmusicguide)
Fat Mattress (Wikipedia)