Saturday, September 17, 2016

RIP Edward Albee

There are few things more annoying than an author, actor, or other artist getting off on the sound of their own cleverness and describing in endless, hellish detail how their "creative process" works. Artists of any kind can easily become too smart for their own good (and the good of their audiences). So I will say "Rest in Peace" to Edward Albee with this wonderful Albee quote:

"Few sensible authors are happy discussing the creative process. It is, after all, black magic."

Saturday, August 27, 2016

RIP James Whiton, Dr. Phibes' co-creator

I'm saddened to report the death of writer James Whiton, the co-creator of "The Abominable Dr. Phibes." I was one of the only people to ever track Whiton down to interview him about the film, and he proved to be alternately incredibly helpful and incredibly unhelpful. He was almost as odd and reclusive, in his way, as Dr. Phibes himself, but he was responsible for helping bring one of my all-time favorite fictional characters to life, and provided me with vital information that I will always be deeply indebted to him for. As I put the finishing touches on my "Dr. Phibes Companion" book, his passing feels all the more poignant to me because he contributed so much to it. RIP.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Where are you, Benny Hill, when we need you most???

I wish that Benny Hill was alive for many, many reasons, but, right now, mainly because I want to see a Trump-Hillary debate with Benny playing both Trump and Hillary.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Love Letter to "Taxi Driver"

I've seen Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" a ridiculous number of times, but no matter how much I revisit it, it still astonishes. It's so sophisticated, it's like watching a movie from the future that happens to have been made forty years ago--so much more modern than any 21st century movies. The sheer virtuosity of the thing, the incredible balance of bleakness and humor, every last element coalescing into a perfect alchemy of genius . . . And I would love to hear spoiled NYC hipsters' reactions to rancid old '70s Manhattan: "You can't fool me--that's not Manhattan! That's the Gaza Strip! Or Mordor! It HAS to be!"

Monday, March 7, 2016

Silverstein Fever?

What's with the wave of Shel Silverstein lookalikes roaming around these days?

The bald/beard look is kind of beyond me. I guess "The Giving Tree" is hugely popular with thirty-ish guys nowadays.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

An Open Letter to Death by Justin Humphreys

Dear Death,
You've been playing the motherfucking fool a LOT lately, and, speaking for the entire human race: lighten up a little and work on your aim.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Rory as I remember him. RIP Angus Scrimm.

Last weekend, we lost a horror star of the first magnitude: Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man of Don Coscarelli's wildly imaginative and endlessly entertaining Phantasm  series. But I seldom think of him as "Angus Scrimm"--he will always be Rory Guy to me. This ominous figure from so many movies was actually Lawrence Rory Guy of Kansas City--a well-read, cultured cinephile and music-lover who brought new meaning to the word "genteel" beloved by all who knew him. 

I first met Rory at a convention when I was fourteen and we hit it off from the start. We sat down over Cokes and proceeded to talk for about three hours about everything from James Whale's The Old Dark House (which I hadn't seen at the time) to Orson Welles. Rory told me that his only Welles sighting was in the 1980s. He decided to treat himself to a meal at Ma Maison, Welles's favorite restaurant. During the meal, he looked over and saw a gigantic shadow spreading over the restaurant's wall, and then a tiny dog on a leash  appeared followed by Orson Welles--a properly Wellesian entrance. 

Before he became legendary (rightly so) to horror fans, Rory attended USC with Sam Peckinpah, and even appeared in a production of "Arsenic and Old Lace" that Peckinpah directed. Just the idea of those two collaborating on that play makes me levitate. Rory wrote liner notes to albums like Meet the Beatles and at least one Martin Denny LP. 

He was also an inveterate movie-lover, writing for Curtis Hanson's Cinema magazine (and even acted in Hanson's early film Sweet Kill, aka: The Arousers). I recall Rory telling me that seeing Satyajit Ray's "Apu" trilogy was one of the greatest movie-going experiences of his life. Rory's interviews with Golden Age Hollywood actors like Paul Henreid and (as I recall) Elisha Cook, Jr. appeared in a book that he co-authored with James Silke--Rory felt that Silke had hogged the credit on the book, and openly told me so. 

I corresponded with Rory for years and spoke with him regularly by phone; we would catch up whenever I was in L.A. at places like Sam Woo's in Chinatown. I have nothing but pleasant memories of him. He was unfailingly pleasant, generous, and good-natured with me. He was such an erudite person that hearing his occasional use of profanity was genuinely shocking. One of his final film roles, in Coscarelli's John Dies at the End, involved him "using words I've never said before on film," he told me; his hilarious cameo as the beatific Father Shellnut involved a (justifiably) profanity-laden rant that qualify as his most unforgettable scene in a Coscarelli film--for me at least, mainly because it was so uncharacteristic of Rory, the man. 

My memories of Rory are many and somewhat random. I recall him talking about how he was finally reading Moby Dick-- a kind of obligation that he felt was "a chore." I remember how enthusiastically he described acting in a stage production of Ray Bradbury's "Let's All Kill Constance," and how warmly Bradbury had responded to his performance. Then there was the time I was watching a tape of vintage "classroom scare films" and ran across Rory's appearance as a father explaining the facts of life to his son in a VD-scare movie. Rory recalled shooting his scene in it somewhere in the Valley back in the '70s and earning about $100 for it. He improvised his dialogue, and he said the crew cracked up when, off the cuff, he broke out with "Son, do you know what this is? It's a condom. So if the fellows as you what this is, you can say 'That's a condom.'" 

In all of the eulogies I have seen of Rory, very few of them have given proper credit to his performance in Coscarelli's Jim, The World's Greatest. Like Coscarelli's other early films, it was made on a tiny budget and still looked astonishingly good. (I don't say that lightly--YOU try shooting a movie in 35mm with that kind of money.) In the film, Rory played high school football star Jim's (Gregory Harrison) broken-down, alcoholic father. The character he created was wholly unrecognizable as him: a pathetic, wasted, bitter loser. He regularly Jim's younger brother because he hatefully assumes that the boy isn't really his son. It is a painful, pitiful performance, not unlike Stacy Keach's in Fat City. (SPOILERS AHEAD.) Universal chose not to release the film because of its downbeat ending where Rory's character beats the little boy to death. It's a terrible shame that Rory's extraordinary performance in this excellent little film have been so seldom-seen. (I once stumbled across a rare photo of Rory in the film that he didn't have and made sure to send him a copy.) 

There is much more to say about Rory, which I will add later. For the moment, I will suffice it to say that he is dearly missed. RIP.