BLOG: YTC_Hollyweird: Episode VII: Let’s Party!

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

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The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…

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Hello. To those of you paying attention at the back, you will know that I have used up all of the Star Wars puns that I could for the titles. Given the giant back catalogue, I did consider starting 007-related titles (starting with ‘The Man With The Golden Pun’, naturally), but then I remembered that I’d sworn never to think of Die Another Day again. So instead I’ve opted for something unfounded and shocking. I’ve decided that from now on I’ll be… wait for it… be relating the title to each specific blog. Outlandish I know, but that’s how I roll.

 

So let me now invite you all to a Murder Party….

 

 

Of course you would be best not accepting the invite. It is exactly what that character of Chris does in this film, and things go from bad to worse pretty darn quickly for him.

 

Chris is one lonely dude. He is a bored office worker. He lives alone and it is Halloween. Chris’ plans amount to sitting in his flat with his cat and putting on a werewolf film. Frankly, if I had a cat I’d be worried someone had been secretly filming my life.

Before he settles in for a lupine-evening, Chris has the (mis)fortune on finding an invitation in the street- an invitation to a murder party. He figures what the hell, bakes some cookies, makes a cardboard outfit and heads on down. But he Murder Party is in fact a gathering of murderous art students. They are all seeking the patronage of rich weirdo who wants to pick the most ‘creative’ way to kill a stranger. Luckily for the students none of them think anyone from the public would be stupid enough to turn up to an event called a ‘murder party’ from invites spread out in the breeze…. Well, here enters Chris….

I’m not going to say any more about what happens. This is incredibly low budget so the majority of the action takes place with a small cast in a confined space. But the events get madder and madder as drugs, jealousies and infighting emerge. It is horror comedy so I am sure you can all guess that black-comedy tinged murders occur.

Let me be clear; This is not an amazing film, per se. Some of the acting is a bit off, particularly a diet coke version of Ryan Reynolds whom plays the Wealthy Art Patron. The sets are limited (at least until the last 10 minutes) which can make it seem a bit ‘samey’ at times. There is a limited soundtrack when at times it is really needed. BUT what this film does have an abundance of is heart. And let me explain why that is worth celebrating, because it is actually the core of this weeks blog.

 

Ladies, Gents and Miscellaneous, let me take you all back. There was once a dark time. A less coherent time. An age the likes of which the modern teen could never imagine. An age of no internet. Depending on your age, imagine/remember that!

 

Watching films was a different experience back in the day. And by the day, I mean my day. And by my day, I mean something approximating 1989- 1999. Upcoming trailers were something to get excited about. There was no way to view them other than in the cinema, or if you were very lucky via programmes like Barry Norman’s TV show (the older crowd will remember his show. It’s now one Claudia Winkleman desecrates with every panda-faced mumble). In today’s world of course trailers can be found and watched easily online. Convenient for sure, but arguably less satisfying as a big build up. Proof of this to me is that I’m now bored rigid by the amount of Prometheus trailers all around me. Whereas once I would have had to have scoured all around to watch them.

Beyond film trailers though, the biggest difference of film watching ‘now vs then’ I believe came down to the focus on Terrestrial TV.

 

 

There was no downloading of films to watch later. No tracking down obscure things via looking a cast member up on IMDB. No way to order find beloved films on Amazon. Nope, in fact unless you had Cable, in the days before Freeview the options were- for the most part- whatever was on TV that night or whatever you could find in your local Video Shop.

 

For me, and I assume others like me, this was actually a golden time for finding really unknown films by chance on late at night, and if one really held your interest you just HAD to stay up and watch it… or maybe record it onto a VHS, but you get the gist. In short; you had no idea if you’d ever find the thing again!

 

The amount of great, lost films I saw I couldn’t even begin to name. These were usually low budget films that just shone for one reason or another. Some I have no idea what they even were- but others are seriously burned into my brain. Films like Suture, Tremors, Underneath (1995 version), Heaven (1998 version), Delusion (1991 version) and El Mariachi just to name just a few.

 

Look at that imagery. Throw on some Sneaker Pimps and it’ like 199o’s again.

 

Given the modern age of digital media and varied outlets, I figured that the days of stumbling onto random movies late at night were somewhat over.

 

At least I thought that until I got 1month of free X-box Gold Membership and 1month of free Netflix access. I watched all kinds of things. And then, just as my freebies were due to end the next day, I put on something called Murder Party. BAM! This was once again a film I just had to watch all the way through then and there.

Now, as I mentioned earlier- Murder Party is not an ‘excellent’ film in a critical sense. But I just love the heart of it.

It is a micro-budget film where all the cast and crew swapped roles. They literally scraped the whole thing together. To me this is where it shines- there is a clear chemistry between all of the cast. The film certainly has a brilliantly average (and thus believable) protagonist, played to cowardly perfection. The true psycho of the piece (who I won’t name here) has an incredibly clichéd role but actually is quite menacing once they flip out. Oh, and it also features probably the most accurate portrayal of a cat that I’ve ever seen.

If you’re at all interested on more of the background for Murder Party then check out this link.

All in all, this a zippy 79min film that I’m incredibly glad I took a chance on one bored evening at 1am. So here’s to a film that came out of the blue and just made me smile. I thought those days were gone, but I’m glad to be wrong.

 

PS

In a truly ironic twist, I then tracked the film down on Amazon the next day and bought it. Hooray for the modern world! (Uh, when it suits me).

And speaking of the modern world, the 2nd podcast from myself and Mr Ennis is now available here.

 

Next time- “My initials are MJS B.A. and I am…. Wild! Stalyin!” (Singular)

 

Thanks for reading.

 

MJ

 

 

BLOG: YTC_Hollyweird: Episode VI: Witches Brew

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

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The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…

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Mr. Bungle. Two words that when I first heard I thought ‘that’s a weird name for a band’. And it was, but then again, they were a weird band. Over 15 years they released only 3 albums. In very broad terms, the first could be summed up as a funk-metal acid trip through teenagers mind that was obsessed with sex, vomit, freaks, clowns and more sex. The second was a strange peon to jazz and thrash in regards to going mad whilst underwater, final album was almost a do-wop attack of noise as it trawled through modern fears. If these quick summaries sound ridiculous/wrong/stupid/accurate/fun/intense then you’d be right- because Mr. Bungle was all of those things.


Shhh… don’t tell my sister that I still have her picture disc!

So what does this have to do with Hollyweird?? Well, the guitarist of Mr. Bungle also formed a band called Secret Chiefs 3, and a project of theirs is what we’ll be looking at today. In fact I’m even listening to it as I type!

 

Old-Skool ‘Chiefs

 


Now, Secret Chiefs 3 is in itself a tough band, if not a tough concept, to cover in just one blog- particularly a film blog Simplifying at best I can, Secret Chiefs 3 are actually seven different bands all based around Trey’s work with other musicians. Each ‘satellite’ band has its own sounds and its own purpose. Whilst Trey Spruance’s creation of all these satellite bands certainly allows him greater creative control since he can swop musicians or concepts at any time, it also serves a greater mystical purpose. I will not even attempt to get into in here- partly because I do not want to write a feature length novel, and partly because honestly I am too ignorant to do it justice. Let’s just say that Trey believes that music has ties to hidden codes within religious texts from ancient cultures and so he is seeking to explore the self via music. So suffice to say for this entire introduction that this is not just a simple band churning out songs to avoid getting day jobs. When they do something, they have a reason- and in 2010 they released an Italian, Supernatural film soundtrack. Kind of.

 

Didn’t see this? Don’t worry, neither did anybody else

70’s Supernatural, Italian cinema is pretty darn niche. Dario Argento, quite possibly the most famous Italian Horror director, made several films in this territory. He was not the only one, Mario Bava is notable to, as is Lucio Fulci. As a concise snapshot, rather than a researched piece, it may be best to describe this sub-genre as featuring excessive gore , dialogue closely resembling foreign porn via dodgy dubbing, pulpy narratives that play fast and loose with logic, lurid colours and masochistic bordering on the chauvinism. The protagonists are often young women and the Supernatural clashing with the faith of a Catholic nation often crept in.

Giallo films have many similar aesthetics, although feature their own tropes too. Giallo often features a killers POV, women being stabbed/strangled and a plucky young protagonist. Although Giallo and Italian-Witchcraft films of the same period do differ, there are many similarities that need establishing now for later on in this piece.

OK, so we’ve established the SC3 are a strange, talented band and that Italian Supernatural films feature violence, sex and the supernatural. But what are Italian Supernatural soundtracks, from the Seventies, and why did SC3 ‘kinda’ do a Supernatural soundtrack?

Well these particular Italian movies tend to synth-heavy scores that lack all subtlety. Often church bells would feature during moments of the reflection of evil, or the stabbing of keyboard keys would screech out during attack scenes. At other times, catchy melodies would be be lain over pulsing rhythms to hint at evils waiting underneath any happy scenario.

So if Trey & Co. fancied making one of these soundtracks they’d just need to wait for a modern day Giallo film to get made and try to get the soundtrack job, right? Well, turns out the answer is no Instead they formed an entire 90 minute film in their minds.

They plotted out the characters, the narrative and the beats. Then they sound tracked it. After that came carefully designed artwork. This is a mix of traditional staples of this cinema- blood, women, witches- combined all the usual coded Secret Chiefs pictograms. The listener is left to listen to the music, study the song names and also decipher the artwork and slowly the film almost unravels in your mind…. Le Mani Destre Recise Degli Ultimi Uomini

Now THAT’S an album cover

Tracklisting a.k.a. Hints Towards Plot Points:

  • “Faith’s Broken Mirror”
  • “Sophia’s Theme”
  • “What’s Wrong with Cytherea?”
  • “Mourning in Ekstasis”
  • “He Hates Us”
  • “Psychism 1: Cytherea’s Possession”
  • “Love Spell”
  • “Agenda 21”
  • “Subcutaneous Solution”
  • “Abyss of Psychic Enchantments”
  • “Subdermal Sequence (Nano-Correction)”
  • “RFID Slaverider”
  • “Dionysian Dithyramb (Eros-seed of the Egregore)”
  • “Zombievision”
  • “Perfectly Reasonable”
  • “Psychism 2: Fear is the Great Teacher”
  • “Abolish Believers by Abolishing Belief”
  • “Funeral for What Might Have Been (Sophia’s Theme)”
  • “Codex Alimentarius”
  • “Putting Forth the Hand to Take”
  • “Psychism 3: Sow the Wind, Reap the Whirlwind”
  • “Hypnotopia (Obey your Passion)”
  • “Nano-correction/Human Migrations/Faith Realizes”
  • “Chapel by the Sea (a Heart That is Broken and Humbled…)”
  • “The Strength to Sever”
  • “Baby Hedone (Harvest of the Egregore)”
  • “Zombievision 2012”
  • “The Great Die Off (He Mocks Us All)”
  • “Cytherea’s Awakening/Martyrdom at Romiou Point/Return to the Foam”
  • “To Love God is Sweeter than Life (Sophia’s Theme)”

 


I have tried to work out this plot consciously, and in doing so I have an approximate idea of what occurs in the ‘film’. But to explain it would be to defeat the purpose; SC3 want you to listen to it and form your own conclusion. It is akin to the metaphor of turning Lead into Gold, which was actually about attaining a purity of soul. It is not about the actual event, but the process you go to in order to make the event. In cinematic terms, if you remember the denouement of Pi then you get the idea.

All I can share here is that the ‘movie’ loosely involves a girls possession, the implications of self if one is fitted with an ID chip, the trio of witches who frequented Argento and Fulci’s work and the ultimate salvation of the soul. Nice easy going stuff, right?!

The music that creates this aural world is formed through an orchestral score that dips in and out throughout the run time, as it would during a real film. Further elements are violent strings screeching adjacently to flutes and female vocals. Analogue synthesizers, harpsichords and cellos lull over over prog-style rock outs. Psychedelic blasts that put The Mars Volta to shame slam up against calming church organs. Recreations of possessed shrieking voices disturb at the quietest moments. Oh, and there’s even a ‘scratched-vinyl jump’ at one stage, even on the Digital versions- a nice touch!

This is certainly different to my normal blogs, but if the idea of a fake soundtrack to exploitation cinema that requires the listener to decipher the story doesn’t sound downright Hollyweird, then I don”t know what does.

I’m going to leave this entry to the words of Mr. Trey Spruance himself;

How could you not trust this man?!?!

“The first thing to note is that Giallo cinema music has the distinction of having been graced by nearly all the great masters of Italian film music in general: Bruna Nicolai, Stelvio Cipriani, Ennio Morricone, Goblin, Pierro Piccioni etc. And though this area of music certainly has its appreciators, one still-underplayed element is that when considering the music, Gialloa harmonic language was developed by who, by current musical and aesthetic standards, set the bar. For any of us wannabes to share in the magic of this lost art form, we have to bring a bit more more to the table than some vintage amps, keyboards and vague undeveloped musical ideas based only in hipster aesthetics. Because if you ignore the deeper intricacies of the music theory at work, the orchestration, the arrangement, etc., you’re really only asking to make an ass of yourself (which is likely anyway no matter what you do). …The process should be likened to when someone is learning another language and begins to have dreams in that language…. So to state it plainly, these are original compositions that were dreamt into being in the harmonic language of the Giallo Horror Film Soundtrack. It’s that simple. The point is not to be strictly period-specific, or culturally-specific, but to be caring first and foremost about how to convey things that will affect the psychic state of the listener in the intended way. After all, the point of dreaming in this particular language, with all its sophistication, elegance and beauty, is to go that much more deeply into the territory.”

 

Next blog I’ll be back to normal (whatever that is), and writing about a film that brought back memories of catching late night movies on an old black and white TV in my room. Knowing that I had to go to sleep but maybe I could just stay up to 4am and school would still be fine…..

PS

Just in case I have whetted anybody’s appetite…

BLOG: YTC_Hollyweird: Episode V: The Disabled Strike Back

 

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

BLOG PIC

The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…

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During a rare crossover period at the height of Grindhouse and the tail end of Kung-Fu-sploitation, The Crippled Masters……… WHOA! WAIT! What am I doing?!?!?

We interrupt this blog to report that my hetro-life partner, Craig, and I are now podcasting- and that’s not prison slang, folks.

Ant and Dec had never looked better

 

 

Podcasting is a lot like blogging but quicker for us to record. Meanwhile, you don’t have to use your eyes to enjoy it, just your ears. So podcasts are theoretically more useful for Ray Charles rather than Beethoven, but Helen Keller had no chance either way…. Though to be fair she probably didn’t experience films much anyway.

 

Should you decide that Hollyweird just does not cover your cult of comedic needs then below is the first entry of You Total Cult. Within its realms two men act like bickering children whilst revealing why they will never EVER be cool. The least you can do is listen out of pity for their wastes of adulthood.

[wpaudio url=”http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/YouTotalCult/~3/IWmNnlF9yks/ytc_e1_07052012.mp3″ text=”You Total Cult ep1: The Geekest Link” dl=”http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/YouTotalCult/~3/IWmNnlF9yks/ytc_e1_07052012.mp3″]

You Total Cult is also available at http://feeds.feedburner.com/YouTotalCult and on that fancy iTunes thing. So please review it on iTunes if you like it, and please keep it to yourself if you don’t like it.

 

Right,we now return back to our main feature………

 

He looks hard, but you could just push him over

 

During a rare crossover period at the height of Grindhouse and the tail end of Kung-Fu-sploiation, The Crippled Masters stood out like Mike Tyson at a Klan rally; It was hard to believe that it had turned up, nobody knew what to say, and all you could do was wonder how in the hell this had come about.

 

Allow me to explain. The Crippled Masters uses a pair of real-life, disabled martial arts masters- or ‘crippled masters’ if you will.

 

In this tale, a fella called Lee Ho, is betrayed by his Kung-Fu brethren and has his arms chopped off. Yep, just like that. It’s how the film begins. This attack was ordered by the evil Lin Chang Cao, who you can tell is evil as he has a scar and a hump. Soon after, the thug Tang, who was wielding the swords on Lee Ho, is similarly betrayed by ol’d Humpty Dumpty, Lin Chang Cao. Tang has his legs burned off -by acid, for no particular reason. But I suppose in medieval China, this was the closest thing to enjoying others pain like on Britain’s Got Talent, so let’s not judge Lin Chang Cao too harshly.

Ironically they would have each traded an arm and a leg for the others outfit.

 

As luck would have it both Lee Ho and Tang end up running into one another (well, not exactly walking…). Before Lee Ho can kill Tang in retribution, a wizened, old, alcoholic Sensei appears and begins to teach Lee Ho and Tang to fight back in their new states; one man with no legs and the other with no arms. Frankly I have yet to meet an old drunk who can teach me an exclusive skill set beyond the ability to puke on ones shoes without noticing, but perhaps I need to go to Asia.

 

Along the way various things happen, but ultimately it comes down to the fact that even the Crippled Masters skills are not enough to defeat the evil hunchbacked gang boss- for it turns out that his hunch is metal and he can block any attack with it! That’s right, just when you thought that this film couldn’t get any weirder you were proved wrong. Perhaps the only way for Tang and Lee Ho can defeat Lin Chang Cao is if the could somehow team up… perhaps even be strapped together to form a solitary mighty Un-crippled Master!!! I won’t ruin the end, but…. uh, I suspect I may have just done so.

 

But seriously, how can you not be at least curious to watch a film that involves real life-disabled marital artists, a metal-humped villain and absolutely no good taste whatsoever?!

 

Make no mistake, beyond the shock-value, The Crippled Masters is not a good film. The dubbing is atrocious, the plot all over the place, the quality of the film footage poor and the very taste of the whole project is beyond questionable.

 

Yet I do put it to anyone reading this piece, if you were a qualified martial artist with no arms, wouldn’t you want a chance to showcase what you had achieved? To inspire other people with disabilities? To get to be a film star for once? Heck, even just to purely show off how cool you are? These are the reasons I can justify owning this film and also promoting it here. In truth I cannot recommend this from any quality perspective, but also in truth I can greatly recommend it from an eye-opening life-experience perspective.

Next time will be something very different indeed- a fully realised and immersive Soundtrack for a Giallo film… even though the Giallo film was never due to exist at any point. Hmmmm.

 

Thanks for reading… and hopefully listening, too.

 

MJ