Monday, November 25, 2013

The Video Watchdog Digital Archive Kickstarter Campaign!

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Help RESTORE DETOUR at Kickstarter

Please take a moment and help out this very valuable project at Kickstarter by pledging and sharing this link.  Thanks!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Moon in the Gutter Q&A With Author and Film Historian Casey Scott

Today I am very happy to welcome another one of my favorite writers and film historians to Moon in the Gutter, Mr. Casey Scott.  Many of you will already be familiar with Casey due to his online writing (from DVD Drive-In to The Grrrl Can't Help It) to his work with DVD companies (ranging from Media Blasters to Vinegar Syndrome) to his academic work.  I know Casey as a friend as well and I consider him on of the most knowledgeable film historians on the planet whose work has provided a lot of inspiration.  Casey can now add film-curator to his long resume as he has a truly exciting and important program coming up at New York's Anthology Film Archives called In The Flesh.  To celebrate this event Casey kindly agreed to answer a few questions for us here at Moon in the Gutter.  I hope everyone enjoys the interview, will check out some of Casey's work and, if you are in the New York area, please attend In The Flesh December 5th through the 8th. 



Hey Casey, thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule to participate in this! First off, can you tell us a bit about your background?


      Thanks so much for approaching me for an interview! This is my first time being on the other side of an interview, and I’m honored it’s for a blog I really love. Well, I’ve been a film enthusiast since I was a kid and, like so many of us movie nuts, it stuck with me into adulthood. I dabbled with the idea of making movies for a time during middle and high school, when I shot a few amateur efforts with the family camcorder and took a TV production course, where I really loved the editing process. I still do. But I decided writing and research was what I most enjoyed about the film world, so I pursued my M.A. in cinema studies at NYU and just graduated in May, so watch out, world!
 
 
Was there a particular film, song or artist that initially sparked your interest in the arts as a child?
 
 

      I can honestly say I was always an artistic child, very into books and music, and film kind of transformed my life after I started digging into the classics from the studio era. All About Eve (1950), Gone with the Wind (1939), the usual big name titles. I’m still a hardcore classic Hollywood fanatic. Turner Classic Movies is my best friend, which may surprise some people who learn I’m obsessive about adult films. Barbara Stanwyck is my favorite actress, Cary Grant my favorite actor, I love Capra and Wellman and Ford, the list goes on and on…
 
 
A behind the scenes moment in 1941 with Barbara Stanwyck and Preston Sturges.
 
 
     The classic Hollywood films of the sound era are probably the most discussed in the world but lets switch gears and talk about sadly the least discussed, namely the adult and exploitation films of the seventies and eighties.   You are one of the leading film historians on this period in the world. How did you first get interested in the genre?
 
 

     Wow, well first of all, thank you for speaking so highly of me. It means a lot! I have had a photographic memory since an early age, and that helps with absorbing and processing so much information about the genre. I just love these movies and the people who made them! My interest in classic adult stemmed from my ongoing fascination with exploitation and sexploitation of the pre-hardcore era. I followed favorite filmmakers from the soft and horror world, like Gary Graver, Roberta Findlay, Doris Wishman, Roger Watkins, and Dave Friedman, into the hard world. Before that, though, the first three adult films I ever saw were Jim Clark’s The Good Girls of Godiva High (1979), Svetlana’s Bad Girls (1981), and Gerard Damiano’s Deep Throat (1972), which were secretly recorded on unmarked Beta tapes a family friend gave to me since he knew I collected them. Based on those three films (though I have soft spots for the first two) I really had no interest in looking further into the genre. It wasn’t until I saw Damiano’s Devil in Miss Jones (1973), Graver’s Coed Fever (1979), and Findlay’s Angel on Fire (1974) that I realized there was so much more to classic adult than what I had previously encountered. Then the floodgates opened and I’ve really never stopped since.
 
 
A shot of the lovely Annette Haven around the time she shot Coed Fever.
 
 
 
      This genre and period has typically been all but ignored in film studies and film history in general but this thankfully seems to be changing. Do you feel like the tide is finally beginning to change and that these films, and the artists who worked on film, might finally start to get some long overdue acknowledgement and recognition?
 
 
      I definitely think the tide is turning and reappraisals are in store for the genre and specific filmmakers in general. Radley Metzger has been receiving the lion’s share of attention, but other directors like Chuck Vincent, Rinse Dream, and performers-turned-directors like Candida Royalle and Annie Sprinkle have been discussed in serious academic pieces. That said I don’t know yet if we’ll see someone seriously tackle, say, Phil Prince or Alex de Renzy outside of the book I’m working on. I’d love to be wrong! Kevin Heffernan is the man for the job if anyone does a de Renzy project. The big problem with writing about any part of the “golden age” of erotica is it’s a grossly under-documented genre. Where major studio films and even independent commercial films have some kind of paper trail and press coverage, adult films generally don’t. Primary sources are the way to go, and they unfortunately are not always around to present the full picture to researchers, or aren’t willing to depending on how far they’ve moved on from the industry. Plus some writers don’t want to go that extra mile and talk to a large number of people before writing something. The great thing about adult film criticism and scholarship is that there are many different voices out there working with varied approaches to the genre, and frankly I don’t think we can ever have enough people doing that.
 
 
      There is of course a lot of mainstream opposition in the critical community to even discuss this genre. Have you felt any of that opposition to your own work?
 
 
      Oddly enough, I personally have never felt any overt opposition to my work writing about and documenting the genre except from other similar researchers. But yes, there continues to be general opposition from different corners of the academic and critical community. In the academic world the fundamental argument of whether these films should exist is still being fought decades after Linda Williams’ “Hard Core” established a definition of the genre and why its existence matter. Authors like David Flint and Jack Stevenson, Gloria Brame and Constance Penley, and many others continue the dialogue in important and interesting ways. In the critical world, people tend to equate all adult films with the contemporary state of the industry, which is so different from how it used to be. It’s easy to forget Variety, New York Times, Newsweek, etc. reviewed adult titles when it was considered hip to do so. Now that it’s becoming hip again to like the classic films, maybe they’ll start getting more mainstream respect. Until then, the cult surrounding them is very loyal and dedicated to their favorites, as the filmmakers and performers learn.
 
 
      Okay, lets talk up about In the Flesh, the exciting program you a curating at the Anthology Film Archives! Tell us about the program.
 
 
      I’m giddy with excitement about this series! It all started when Anthology Film Archives, which is in my opinion the edgiest repertory theater in New York City, scheduled two back-to-back sexploitation series this summer, a Russ Meyer series and a Something Weird Video series. I approached Andrew Lampert, one of the masterminds at Anthology, and suggested the natural progression in the history of sex in cinema was to do a hard series. To my surprise, he’d always wanted to do one! So I offered to program the series for them, working with Steve Morowitz at Distribpix and Joe Rubin at Vinegar Syndrome, since the three of us work really well together and share such passion for these movies and their history. The great thing is that this is not a one-time series. It will be a recurring quarterly series, so in every Anthology calendar, there will be an “In the Flesh” event. Working with Steve and Joe, the possibilities are endless. The March series is already scheduled, featuring four “adult noir” titles, and Joe and I are hashing out the summer series to be a departure from the previous series. Jed Rapfogel, the head programmer at Anthology, has been tremendous to collaborate with on shaping and scheduling the series, and their publicist Ava Tews has been a dream, too.

                                                      Why did you pick these particular films?


      When you’re brainstorming a series like this, of course you have titles that jump to the front of the queue, especially when working with Distribpix and their incredible catalog of films. Two important factors made the job easier: the films needed to be screened on 35mm and they needed to have guests present to provide historical context. So we eliminated any films that were only available on 16mm (sorry, Taking of Christina) and I knew films with cast and/or crew who would possibly attend a serious appreciative screening of their work. High Rise and Through the Looking Glass were always at the top of my list, and thank God 35mm prints exist! Take Off was a major title, and I knew I wanted a Larry Revene movie because his great book just came out, he is a gifted storyteller, and the world needs to be aware of what a treasure it has in Larry. I would have been happy to show his first directorial effort, Fascination (1979), if there was a print of it, but Wanda Whips Wall Street is better-known and just as good, if not better. Veronica Hart and Tish Ambrose always make everything better.
 
 
 
 
      The program looks wonderful and I so wish I could be there. Through the Looking Glass and Wanda Whips Wall Street are two particular favorites of mine. I hope it is very successful and the first of many. What do you hope viewers take away from the series, particularly those who are newcomers to the genre?
 
 
      I wish you could be there, too! The bummer about the series is that it’s not a traveling roadshow. I’d love to take these films to different venues around the country so that all their loving fans could see the classics on the big screen, as they were meant to be seen. Maybe if you or any of your readers suggest screenings at the local repertory or independent theater, we can head to you! I think it’s a strong possibility if the interest is there. The reason I wanted this series to happen was specifically so these films would find a wider audience. Anthology’s audiences tend to be inquisitive and adventurous, and have great taste, so I hope they discover some new favorites and might develop curiosity into what else the genre has to offer. If the audience comes away singing the High Rise theme song, with goose bumps from the ending of Through the Looking Glass, moved by Take Off, and cheering for Veronica Hart after Wanda, I will be a happy man.
 
 

 
 
      As a wrap-up I was hoping you might share some personal favorites with us. Could you perhaps name ten or so vintage adult films that you think are seriously in need of rediscovery. Also, are there any particular performers of filmmakers that you would particularly like to see rediscovered?
 
       Wow, that’s a great question, and so different from the expected “list your favorites of all time”! Um…I’m gonna cheat and give you a lucky thirteen.
High Rise (1972) – We’re showing it in the Anthology series and it’s the least-known of the four, but should be wider regarded as the best early adult comedy. The soundtrack is Hollywood-caliber.
Resurrection of Eve (1973) – It’s way better than the Mitchell Brothers’ better-known Behind the Green Door and is also Marilyn Chambers’ best film.
The Seduction of Lyn Carter (1974) – Anthony Spinelli’s most neglected masterpiece, where Andrea True blows my mind as a housewife in an abusive affair with Jamie Gillis that she secretly enjoys.
Easy Alice (1976) – This is a marvelous meta film about the off-screen adventures of a San Francisco adult star, Joey Silvera, who also reportedly directed the film.
Punk Rock (1977) – Carter Stevens is all around underrated, and I think this is his best film tied with Pleasure Palace (1979). See both, they’re quintessential “adult noir”.
Skin-Flicks (1978) – Damiano’s most underrated film, wall-to-wall great performances, with special note made for Sharon Mitchell as an adult star eager for true love.
Tropic of Desire (1979) – Bob Chinn weaves a fascinating story of a WWII-era brothel in Hawaii. A personal favorite of Bob’s and I concur.
Randy (1980) – The one adult film from Phillip Schuman, this sex comedy following a clinical study of ‘anti-orgasmic’ women seeking a solution to their problem is one of the best films you’ve never seen. The theme song is a catchy gem.
The Seductress (1981) – Another of Bob Chinn’s most underrated, out of a filmography that needs more attention in general.
Mascara (1982) – Lisa de Leeuw and Lee Carroll are superb as, respectively, a sexually frustrated working woman and the prostitute she enlists to help her broaden her horizons.
Nasty Girls (1983) – Ron Sullivan’s most unsung “day in the life” film, following a group of people over one night at a bar as their lives intertwine.
American Babylon (1985) – The Roger Watkins film too few people have seen.
Getting Personal (1985) – Ron Sullivan directing Herschel Savage and Colleen Brennan as mismatched con artists. Funny, touching, beautifully acted. One of the last great FILMS in the genre before video took over.


      Performers in need of rediscovery: I mentioned Tish Ambrose earlier and she was a tremendous actress that needs a stronger following. She is easily one of my picks for best adult film actress of all time. So is Sharon Mitchell, who I think many take for granted given her years in the business. She hits all the right notes in her acting performances; so does Lisa de Leeuw. Merle Michaels is a favorite cult icon with superstar quality, and I’d say the same about Sue Nero and Desiree West, Suzanne McBain and Nicole Noir, Misty Regan and Jeanne Silver, the late Arcadia Lake and Kandi Barbour.

The much missed Kandi Barbour, who we lost in 2012.


      I’ll stop there! As a gay man, there are underrated studs like Jeffrey Hurst, Ron Hudd, Mike Ranger, and John Seeman I would follow anywhere. Their wives are very lucky!

      Directors in need of rediscovery: Alan Colberg was consistently great, as was Jeffrey Fairbanks, and both only made a handful of films so their names are not widely known as they should be. Two directors who are big names yet still don’t get the full credit they deserve are Bob Chinn and Ron Sullivan (Henri Pachard). But the most underrated are the French classic directors, like Claude Mulot, Gerard Kikoine, Francis Leroi, Didier Philippe-Gerard, and Claude Bernard-Aubert. Their films aren’t widely available here but they are almost always a guaranteed bargain.


Awesome Casey!  Thanks so much for participating in this and I wish you all the best of luck with In the Flesh and all of your upcoming work.  I look forward to doing another one of these down the road to discuss more of your upcoming projects. 

 

 

 




 






 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Sanskrit Read to a Pony: A World Without Lou Reed

A Sunday morning ago I awoke to my usual routine.  The alarm went off and I quickly silenced it as not to disturb my wife Kelley, who usually sleeps a bit later than I do.  Our dogs, Molly and Maizie, excitedly scurried around my feet as I put on the pajamas that always inevitably get kicked off during the night.  After a quick stop in the restroom, the three of us head downstairs where I let them take care of their business outside and then we all rush to my cat Mazzy's room, where he is anxiously awaiting, as he knows our morning arrival signals his breakfast time.  I flip the coffee on, feed the animals and then pick out some music.  My selection this past Sunday was my well-worn, but much-loved, autographed copy of Lou Reed's LP The Blue Mask, the very same copy my father had brought home for me more than twenty years ago from a trip to New York.  With the first cup of coffee poured I flipped my turntable on, dropped the switch, and waited for the opening moments of "My House" to fill the room but nothing happened.  I tried again but the needle strangely wouldn't drop and just remained in its resting position.  Frustrated, I manually picked the needle up and dropped it on the still shiny black vinyl but the sound coming out of the speaker was foreign to me...draggy...not right.  I verified the speed was at 33 1/3 and tried again but got the same result.  After a couple more attempts I gave up, figuring the belt needed replacing, even though when I tried again later in the day it played perfectly. 



A life is filled with Sunday mornings.  I have been thinking of a number of them these past few torturous days like the Sunday in the fall of 1987 when I found a copy of Lou Reed's Growing Up in Public in my father's record collection.  I was fifteen and within the span of just under forty minutes my life was forever changed.  It's funny, as many truly defining moments can happen without a person realizing it but I knew instantaneously.  I had found the voice I had been looking for...the meaning.  I had found the voice that I knew would be there from that day on and I knew I would never really be alone again. 

Kelley came down about an hour after I got up this most recent Sunday morning.  We quickly got ready to go out to get some final supplies we needed for the Halloween party we were having that evening.  I was feeling pretty rough due to an emergency root canal I had had the day before and I took some prescribed pain medicine to help forgot how uncomfortable I was.  We got back in the early part of the afternoon from the store and, as we were unpacking the groceries, I noticed I had a message on my phone.  Opening the notifications tab I saw it was a Facebook message from my friend John Levy.  Without opening the full message all I could see was "Hey Jeremy, I'm sorry to report that Lou Reed has..."  I didn't have to open the message to see the rest.  Stunned and feeling sick I made my way over to the steps next to our door and fell against them.  The tears didn't come immediately although I would have preferred them to the terrible feeling that surged through my entire body.  Our little dog Maizie sensed that something was wrong and came up to check on me.  I grasped on to her and whispered, "my voice is gone" and then the tears came...



The first time I ever got my heart broken came on a Sunday morning as well.  Getting your heart broke by an unrequited love is a necessary part of  growing up.  The first time I ever had my heart truly fractured came around the winter of 1992 when I was rejected by a very special young lady who had been my best friend for the better part of a couple of years at that point.  There is something really dramatic about being in love in your late teens and I was, of course, convinced the world would end.  After the Saturday night rejection I had made my way to my friend Trace's house as the sun rose on an extremely cold and snowy Evansville, Indiana morning.  The snow was beautiful, the roads were treacherous and a cassette dub of The Blue Mask, with Coney Island Baby on the flipside, kept me warm physically and spiritually that morning.  Before we lost touch for a painful spell in the mid nineties (due to a fall off the planet earth that I took) Lou Reed was able to offer some solace to her as well, on another Sunday morning, when I sent her the lyrics to "Magic and Loss" to help her deal with the passing of one of her grandparents.  On Sunday she was one of the first people to send me some much needed words of sorrow with, "I thought of you immediately. I can't believe he's gone."  I got similar messages from many friends throughout the week, all of which were greatly appreciated.

I did my best to put on my own personal blue mask during our Halloween party, as the last thing I wanted to do was ruin it for Kelley.  I had originally planned to dress as the mom from Psycho but changed my mind and attempted to morph myself into Candy Darling as my own internal tribute to Lou and a time that now seemed more far away than ever.  I laughed, I socialized and I watched Kelley's friends make their way in all through the night...all of them much prettier and younger than I.  I wondered what they thought of me, as the seven hour Halloween mix I had spent the week before creating played in the background.  I couldn't hear it though, I could just hear Lou's voice in the distance but instead of having a Peter Laughner type breakdown I maintained my cool and somehow even managed to enjoy myself even though I dreaded waking the next morning.



Years before I stopped speaking to nearly everyone I had loved, and that had loved me, I would spend many a Sunday morning with friends and lovers.  Late Saturday nights that bled into those mornings have been filing in and out of my brain all week.  An impossibly late night with my friend Ryan listening to different versions of "Heroin" in his basement room with his father occasionally interrupting wanting to know what we were doing.  A Sunday morning in 1994 spent with my most corrosive and passionate partner Shayna making love and listening to the Live in Berlin bootleg I had picked up the day before at a local Bloomington, Indiana record shop walking distance from her place.  Introducing Take No Prisoners to my friend Dave, who just recently recalled a bit of his favorite between song banter to me again all these years later, and seeing Lou for the first time live with my oldest friend Kimbre.  Memory after memory of hundreds of Sunday mornings have been coming back to me starring so many people from my past, a number of whom got in touch with me this week via phone-calls, texts and emails making sure I was okay. 

It was indeed all those incredibly kind messages that I have gotten throughout the week, from people (some of whom I have never even met) who recognized that this wasn't just another celebrity passing for me.  Lou Reed was family, the brother I never had, the best friend who I didn't let go of, the voice that helped me through every crisis (small and major) I have faced in my adult life.  For the past quarter of a century the knowledge that there would be more lyrics and music from him to help get me through the most difficult nights, and darkest days, has always been there.  Now that knowledge is gone and I don't know what to do.  What am I going to do without Lou Reed?  That thought has plagued and troubled me all week.  One friend noted that the music and words will always be there to offer their help and support but the idea that there won't be more coming, that the voice I have depended on for so long has been silenced, is absolutely devastating to me.  I still haven't been able to process the news of Lou Reed's passing.  I recall the story that Jerry Schilling told about Brian Wilson's reaction to Elvis Presley dying.  "What do we do now? I don't know what to do."  I know I am not the only one feeling that way right now. 

The world has felt and looked strange since Sunday October 27th.  Feelings of anger and despair have mixed with a strong sense of gratitude and love the past few days.  I feel different, dazed and not sure what my next move should be.  I am grateful for Kelley, and our little furry family, and I am grateful for the memories...grateful for all those Sundays since that fateful day more than 25 years ago when I first discovered the artist who would have the greatest impact of any on my life.  Lou Reed blew open my mind and introduced me to artistic, cultural and spiritual worlds I had never known of before.  Attempting to imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn't discovered and fell completely in love with his work is not only impossible but also unthinkable.  The Jeremy Richey I am today simply wouldn't exist...I wouldn't be married to Kelley, there would be no Moon in the Gutter, I wouldn't have the memories and friends that I do...none of it would be the same.  More than likely I would have become that middle class conforming douchebag I have always hated and, while I ultimately might not be worth a damn, I can at least look myself in the mirror each day with the knowledge that I am still, deep-down, that transformed 15 year old kid in Indiana discovering and embracing a world I found in the dusty grooves of a cut-out record my father had buried in his collection. 

 
 
I wish I could write a proper tribute to Lou Reed but I am just not capable right now.  I loved this man so much and his work meant everything to me.  I honestly thought he would never die...at least not in my lifetime.  If there is an "over there" then I hope Lou has seen all of the incredible tributes that have been pouring out of people he touched, all over the world, and I hope that he can feel all of the love.  We have lost the most important figure in popular American music since Elvis Presley and one of our finest poets.  I, and many other folks around the world, have lost a friend, mentor and spiritual guide.  Lou Reed taught us to see the light and we can all take some comfort in the thought that while the source is gone the reflection can still be found in the people touched by him. 
 
-Jeremy Richey, 2013-
 


Dedicated to Laurie Anderson and my Father.