Recent Posts from my Official Site

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lou Reed's Metal Machine Trio

Lou Reed has a new album out although you might not know about it yet. Metal Machine Trio: The Creation of the Universe is an instrumental double album recorded over two nights at Los Angeles' Redcat. Please visit this link for purchasing details on what promises to be an exciting and delightfully combative release. I am going to get mine ordered as soon as I get moved completely and settled in to my new place.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jean Rollin Posters: The Demoniacs (Rare French Version)

Clifford at the always excellent Zines was nice enough to send me this scan of his own rare poster design for The Demoniacs. Thanks so much Clifford for the picture, and now everyone head over to the awesome Zines.

Also, please excuse my recent slowness in posting. I am in the process of moving and am extremely busy with it. Things will hopefully be back to normal speed in the next week or so.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Classic Song Chronicles: Kris Kristofferson’s "Help Me Make it Through the Night"

Simultaneously erotic, lonely and altogether heartbreaking, Kris Kristofferson’s landmark “Help Me Make it Through the Night” has been recorded by hundreds of major artists ranging from Kris himself, to Johnny Cash, to Gladys Knight, to Elvis Presley.
The legendary and influential singer song-writer wrote the song in a highly unusual place, as Kristofferson recalled in the essential book on Elvis Presley songwriters, "Writing for the King" with, “I wrote the song when I was still flying petroleum helicopters out in the Gulf of Mexico. I wrote it out there on one of those lonely oil rigs where we lived at for a week at a time. It was a good way to deal with the loneliness out there…” It is that loneliness that comes through the most in the song’s haunting lyrics of a man so desperate for a night of human contact that he is literally willing to ‘let the devil take tomorrow’ for it.
Kris’ version first appeared on his seminal self-titled 1970 album that would alert the world to his considerable skills as an interpreter of his own material. "Help Me Make it Through the Night", ironically and controversially, first became a hit for a woman when country singer Sammi Smith recorded it for her album named after the song also in 1970. Smith’s version was a smash hit and landed at number one across the country charts and was seen as a major leap forward for many conservatively minded radio stations and listeners, as it helped correlate country music with the sexual revolution that was sweeping the country in the early seventies.

Kristofferson’s favorite version of the song was recorded shortly after Smith’s when Elvis Presley recorded a splendidly laid back and chillingly heartfelt take in
1971. Kris said of Elvis in "Writing For The King" that, “I found out that Elvis recorded it when I was on the road” and that even though “all my heroes were recording my stuff” that “To have Elvis record your song was amazing.” Kris recalled the first time he heard Elvis’ eerie take later with, “I was in Bob Beckham’s office at Combine Music in Nashville when I first heard Elvis’ version of "Help Me Make it Through the Night", We played it and it was just like being at church…the fact that it was Elvis singing your song was an honor…I like everything that Elvis did. I just liked his approach.” Not totally sure why Elvis picked the song, Kris finally decided that, “Certainly it’s a situation he could have identified with. I mean, 'Help me make it through the night', I’m sure he could have identified with that emotion.”

The song became one of the most recorded of the seventies and appealed to country, pop, soul and rock fans. It even appealed to director John Huston, who used it to great effect in his 1972 feature Fat City, a film in which Kris appeared.
Some of the most notable version include this wonderful rendering by Gladys Knight and the Pips for the mid seventies:

And here is Johnny and June Cash singing the song famously as a duet:

Kris himself has continued to make the song a staple of his own live shows and this performance of it on the Old Grey Whistle Test with Rita Coolidge remains a particular favorite:

A humorous anecdote about the song came out recently courtesy of Criterion’s excellent Two Lane Blacktop set, on which director Monte Hellman interviews Kris. Kris recalled that during Bob Dylan’s recording session of his legendary Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid Soundtrack, a film in which Kris starred as The Kid, director Sam Peckinpah drunkenly interrupted it one night telling Dylan he wished he would stop what he was doing and lay down something like “Help Me Make it Through the Night.”
Despite all of the versions, Kris seems to remain proudest of Presley’s and would say in Writing for the King that, “It’s one of the highlights for me to have had Elvis cut one of my songs…I would have never dreamed that Elvis would sing one of my songs (and) with so much soul. I feel a lot of gratitude for that.” Elvis would record two other Kris Kristofferon songs in the seventies, “For the Good Times” and “Why Me Lord” before his untimely death in 1977. The mind boggles at the kind of collaborative work the two could have done as songwriter and interpreter had things worked out differently.

Roger Ebert Weighs in on The Wrestler and Mickey Rourke

"I cared as deeply about Randy the Ram as any movie character I've seen this year. I cared about Mickey Rourke, too. The way this role and this film unfold, that almost amounts to the same thing. Rourke may not win the Oscar for best actor. But it would make me feel good to see him up there. It really would."

-Roger Ebert's closing to his four star review of The Wrestler.-

Click over to his site to read the full review and also check out the vintage Barfly posts at the bottom of the page Ebert has posted. Roger was typically someone who gave Rourke a lot of love back in the day, so this review really brought a smile to my face. My most anticipated film is still not playing anywhere around me but I will see it as soon as it is within driving distance.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jean Rollin Home Video Designs: The Demoniacs

Here are several different home video designs for The Demoniacs. There are a few others I will post if I can find good scans of them.

Demoniaques DVD 2

Demoniacs DVD 4

Demoniacs DVD 5

Demoniaques DVD 1

Demoniaques DVD 3

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Personal Note

I wanted to let everyone know that posts here in the next week or so might be a bit more sporadic than usual. I am in the process of moving upstate, so my time to write is limited. I must admit that the last month or so has been among the most stressful that I have had in a very long time, and sitting here surrounded by all these boxes just trying to get through the next week is not helping matters. Still, I am excited about the move and hope that it marks a new happy chapter for myself, my girlfriend Kelley and my misbehaving cat, Mazzy Star.
For Moon in the Gutter readers the move should be a most promising one as I will be back in an area where it's possible for me to see more foreign and independent films, plus more club shows that I can write on.
Anyway, I apologize if the posts are few here in the next week or two and if they are mostly of a visual nature. I really appreciate all the comments and emails I have been getting lately and will respond (but it might take me a bit). Send me a good thought if you will on the upcoming move, as it has me a bit against the ropes right now.

Jean Rollin Posters: Les Demoniaques

I hope to post some alternate designs soon but, in the meantime, here is the most commonly known design for The Demoniacs.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Robert Mulligan R.I.P.

The director of two of my favorite Natalie Wood films from the sixties has past away at the age of 83. Of course Oscar nominated Robert Mulligan is known for much more than just Love With the Proper Stranger (1963) and Inside Daisy Clover (1965) but those are my two personal favorites from him.
Mulligan, an always interesting and solid director, got his start in television in the early fifties and is best known for his remarkable adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird (1962). Other fan favorites include Up The Down Staircase (1967), Summer of ‘42 (1971) and the interesting little thriller The Other (1972). Mulligan remained active up until the early nineties and finished out his career with the lovely The Man in the Moon, in which he garnered a terrifically engaging and subtle performance from 14-year-old Reese Witherspoon, in what was her debut performance.
Film fans all over the world will miss Robert Mulligan, myself included. My best wishes go out to his friends and family.

Rhoda Hits DVD

One of my all time favorite sitcoms is finally scheduled to hit Region 1 DVD on April 21st. The Mary Tyler Moore spin-off Rhoda is being brought to disc courtesy of the typically reliable Shout Factory on a 4 DVD set. The multi-Emmy winning pioneering show starring Valerie Harper, Julie Kavner, Nancy Walker, Harold Gould and the much missed Dave Groh was a real favorite of mine growing up and I am thrilled to see it finally getting released. Hopefully sets of the other MTM spin-offs Phyllis and Lou Grant won't be far behind. Sadly, there is still no more information on the rest of The Mary Tyler Moore box sets that many fans are praying for. Shout Factory's set will include every episode from Rhoda's first season and hopefully some extras, although they haven't been announced as of yet.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cinema Viewfinder Responds to my post on Sin City

I didn't expect last week's selection in my Greatest Films of the Decade series would get much of a reaction, but my post on Sin City has turned out to be one of my most commented on. To top it off, Tony Dayoub over at the excellent Cinema Viewfinder has written a terrific piece entitled "Sin City and Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Neglected Value of Artifice in Cinema", that was partially inspired by my post. Thanks to Tony for the mention and everyone should check out his really nicely written and thought out piece.

Poll Results (Actors in need of a Comeback)

Thanks to everyone who voted in Moon in the Gutter's newest poll. De Niro just edged out Walken as our greatest actor in need of a serious artistic comeback. The full results are as follows:

Robert De Niro 52 (40%)

Christopher Walken 51 (39%)

Harvey Keitel 48 (36%)

Winona Ryder 43 (33%)

James Woods 43 (33%)

Al Pacino 39 (30%)

Dennis Hopper 37 (28%)

Nicolas Cage 27 (20%)

Dustin Hoffman 26 (20%)

Burt Reynolds 25 (19%)

Eric Roberts 22 (16%)

John Travolta 16 (12%)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Cinema of Jean Rollin: La Rose de fer (1973)

Perhaps no other major production in Jean Rollin's career has divided fans more than 1973's La Rose de fer. The film, known alternately as The Iron Rose and as The Crystal Rose, is seen by some as one of Rollin's greatest achievements, a haunting poetic production that shows the director at his minimal best, while others, turned off by Rollin's abandoning of his usual Vampiric elements, find the film a failure, and at best a bore. Regardless of one's opinion of the work, two things are for certain, The Iron Rose is one of Jean Rollin's most personal projects, and its failure in 1973 changed the direction of his career drastically.

Jean Rollin was looking for a change in early 1973 after a string of films cornered him into being known as just a maker of erotic vampire films. He recalled to Peter Blumenstock in the pages of Video Watchdog and Virgins and Vampires that, "it was very important for (him) to make a very serious, profound film, far away from the softcore stuff" he had become infamous for. He would go onto to recall that The Iron Rose began life as short story he published earlier in a French publication and, like Rollin's best work, the film retains that strong literary backbone throughout its extremely slim running time.

The Iron Rose, which Rollin admitted to Blumenstock was destined to be a "commercial disaster" from the outset, was financed completely by the ambitious filmmaker even though he knew he, "would never get (the money) back." The fact that Rollin was risking complete financial ruin with a project destined for critical and popular failure makes him a brave, admirable and downright inspiring figure in an industry known for its greed and all around obsession on the dollar.

Of course, Jean Rollin is a smart man and a deal he made before beginning the four week production schedule on The Iron Rose eased his financial troubles but it did cause a shift in his filmmaking career. Rollin admitted to Blumenstock that, "with a safety net in mind" he accepted a deal with Impex Films to, "direct six or seven hardcore films in the next couple of years" under the Gentil and Xavier pseudonyms. So essentially, Rollin was willing to possibly sacrifice the next few years of his artistic life for The Iron Rose, which he told Blumenstock was a project he, "loved very much" and that it was far and away his, "most personal effort."

The Iron Rose is among the most minimal modern films one could possibly imagine. Outside of an opening party sequence and a few scattered one scene appearances throughout the work, the film only features two characters. The storyline, centering on two young lovers finding themselves lost in a huge expansive old cemetery, is so spare that it is nearly non-existent. In his introduction to the film in Virgins and Vampires Rollin admitted that what interested him about the film was the notion of, "a woman's dramatic self-destruction", and that ultimately it was, "a dark and desperate film." Less a successful modern narrative film and more of a poignant tragic poetic work more akin to silent cinema, The Iron Rose is a remarkable work that grows more and more resonate with each passing year. Like Lou Reed's Berlin, that also came out in 1973, The Iron Rose is a work made by an artist not looking to satisfy the time it is in, but is instead looking to transcend it.

Shot in the near deserted city of Amiens, production on The Iron Rose was fraught with difficulties. Rollin had problems throughout the shoot with male star Hughes Quester and was never fully happy with female star Francoise Pascal, even though she finally turns in one of the greatest performances in any Jean Rollin film. The cemetery Rollin chose proved to be an inspired choice though and he recalled in Virgins and Vampires that he, "fun shooting in the cemetery. Wherever we put the camera we immediately found an angle" and that, "a sense of depth was created in the environment of tombs and old iron crosses." He also pointed out that the film proved to be perfect for regular collaborator Jean-Jacques Renon who found the work like, "an animated painting."

While the film features basically only Quester and Pascal, a few familiar Rollin actors pop up. Michele Delesalle can be briefly seen and Requiem for a Vampire co-star Mireille Dargent appears playing what very well might be the ghost of her character in Requiem. Rollin himself also pops ups in a cameo as does regular behind the scenes collaborator Nathalie Perrey, delivering a performance Rollin recalled as very 'moving'. Regarding Nathalie's tearful performance, Rollin pointed out that the tears were apparently for real as she, "had just learned of (French actor) Rene Chauffard’s death" and the film's dedication to him reflects this fact.

Rollin completed his masterful film within the four week shooting schedule and decided to present it to the public at the 2nd Annual Convention of the Fantastique in Paris in mid 1973. Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs wrote on the film's disastrous reception in their essential book Immoral Tales. The film historian's wrote, "The place was packed with French Horror fans" and that Rollin knew he was in trouble when, "The film had hardly begun before the walk-outs commenced. Pretty soon it was obvious that he had a disaster on his hands." The problems didn't end with the intital screening as the critics had their knives sharpened for Rollin and that, "Cinematographe recounted how both he and his film had been roundly booed by the audience, in a way that the writer had never seen a director booed before." Tohill and Tombs went on to write that, "Rollin was devastated" and, "for the next few years Rollin was unable to find backers for any of his personal projects."

I must admit that the more I revisit The Iron Rose, the closer it comes to becoming my favorite Jean Rollin film. It is technically the most imperfect of his early works, with several continuity problems plaguing it, but despite these relatively minor issues I find the film to be an extraordinary and powerful work fueled by Rollin's unbelievable dedication and artistic skill, Jean-Jacques Renon's bold lighting, the eerie and striking score of Pierre Raph, and the strange and quite majestic leading performance of Francoise Pascal. Rollin's film of, "a passionate love that can not be found" is one of his most daring and is admittedly not for everyone. I suspect though that the absolute heart and spirit of Jean Rollin as an artist can be found in the sequences of Francoise Pascal alone in this film, deliriously lost and entranced by something from the past...something that we perhaps cannot see, but that Jean Rollin is able to make us feel.

The Iron Rose has unfortunately not been given the special edition treatment awarded to many of Jean Rollin's other key works. It is available from Redemption in the US in a fairly solid if unspectacular print, and several European versions are out as well, although none of them to my knowledge feature any real film specific extras.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Classic Song Chronicles: "To Love Somebody" (Barry and Robin Gibb)

Originally written for soul great Otis Redding, who was tragically killed in a plane crash before recording it, at the request of their ambitious manager Robert Stigwood, “To Love Somebody” is one of the great songs of the sixties and one of the most important tracks the legendary Bee Gees ever delivered.

With the hopes of Redding recording it destroyed, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb recorded the Barry and Robin penned track themselves in 1967 for their historic third LP, Bee Gees 1st. The song, one of the album’s most majestic, would become The Bee Gees second single taken from the influential LP and would turn out to be a solid if not massive hit. Peaking just inside the Top Twenty in The United States and barely scratching the Top Forty in Britain, the song’s impact didn't begin to really be felt until 1969 when both Nina Simone and Janis Joplin recorded stunning versions of it.

Barry Gibb, recalling the writing of the magnificent track in the liner notes Rhino’s great 2006 reissue of Bee Gees’ 1st, stated “I wrote that in New York, and I think the last verse I finished with Robin in London after that". Barry also noted that he had in fact met Otis Redding the night the song was written, and it was that meeting that gave Stigwood the notion of the Bee Gees giving the song to the legendary soul Stax soul singer.

Covered literally hundreds of times by artists ranging from Rod Stewart to The Flying Burrito Brothers to Damien Rice (seen above) to Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins (seen below), "To Love Somebody" is one of the earliest examples of The Bee Gees absolute mastery of their songwriting craft. Working as both a soaring love song and a devastating lament for a lost love, "To Love Somebody" remains one of the Bee Gees most powerful compositions, and acts as one of the earliest chapters in what was soon to become one of the most successful and legendary songwriting teams in all of popular music.

While the Bee Gees original studio-take is a work of perfection, it can be argued that a couple of the later cover versions are even more accomplished. Nina Simone’s bruising and beautiful take from 69 especially adds further dimensions to the song, as does Joplin’s searing version of the song from the same year. Favorite version arguments aside, "To Love Somebody" is at the end of the day one of the essential Bee Gees songs.

While history often attempts to push the band into a separate corner from their peers, the wide ranging artists that have covered "To Love Somebody" show the Bee Gees as being very much at the head of the vanguard of the greatest sixties rock musicians. The fact that their own recordings remain so immaculate and individualistic make them all the more transcendent, important and inspiring.

Jean Rollin: The Collaborators (Françoise Pascal, Part Two)

Francoise Pascal 3

The career of one of Jean Rollin’s most beguiling leading ladies has been an adventurous one that has taken her from being in the center of Swinging London in the mid sixties, to cult status as a model and actress in the seventies, to finally finding solace as a humanitarian dedicated to helping the under-privileged and elderly.
Françoise Pascal was born on the Island of Mauritius in October of 1949. Educated first in Paris and then later in London, Françoise’s striking and distinctive good looks began to get her noticed as a teenager in the mid sixties. She landed a gig dancing on England’s famed Top of the Pops soon after, and became a favorite of the BBC’s and many viewers who tuned in each week to watch the show.
The Top of the Pops gig led to a blossoming modeling career and interest from many film producer’s for the young Pascal and in 1968 she made a brief appearance as herself in Jean-Luc Godard’s ferociously original Rolling Stones feature, One Plus One.
Françoise’s first narrative feature arrived at around the same time Godard’s docu-drama was shocking and alienating audiences in 1968 and it couldn’t have been any different. Pete Walker’s School For Sex gave Françoise a small but memorable role that highlighted both her sex appeal and comedic skills, two gifts she would continue to use to great effect throughout her carrer.
After an appearance in Norman J. Warren’s Loving Feeling in 1969, Françoise had a banner year in 1970 when she appeared in a scene-stealing role in Roy Boulting’s funny There’s a Girl in My Soup opposite Peter Sellers and Goldie Hawn. Françoise also turned many a head when she appeared on the cover and as a Pet of the Month in a 1970 issue of Penthouse Magazine, where Amnon Bar-Tur photographed her. The tasteful spread became one of the decade’s most popular for the controversial Bob Guccioni publication, and it solidified Françoise Pascal as one of the most memorable beauties of the early seventies.
After an injury sustained in 1971, Françoise took a break from the big screen and returned to British television throughout the next few years. In 1973 it was rumored that Kirk Douglas personally offered her a part in an upcoming project he was working on, but Françoise turned him down as her interest had turned her to an intriguing film set almost entirely in a cemetery.

Producer Sam Selsky is reportedly the person who introduced Françoise Pascal to Jean Rollin for The Iron Rose, and while Pascal was initially not what Rollin had in mind for the leading role, the collaboration would turn out to be an inspired one. As the nameless girl who becomes lost in and then entranced by the seemingly endless cemetery in one of Rollin’s most peculiar and brilliant films, Françoise Pascal is absolutely inspired and it is hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Working with a seemingly total abandonment, and with a poetic grace, Françoise would help make The Iron Rose one of the dark horse candidates as Jean Rollin’s best film for not a small number of fans.

Francoise Pascal 4

Françoise Pascal would all but abandon the big screen after The Iron Rose, with just a few exceptions, and worked almost exclusively in British television before her retirement in the mid eighties. Her most famous role for British audiences is her two-year stint on Mind Your Language, and her memorable work on the cult comedy continues to bring her new fans each year.
Reportedly very happy and currently living back in England, Françoise Pascal has worked within a charity organization for the past decade or so designed to help the elderly and other people in need. While her career in film is behind her, one would hope that if ever approached for a special edition DVD of The Iron Rose, Françoise Pascal might share her memories on what stands as her most mysterious and beguiling performance.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jean Rollin: The Collaborators (Francoise Pascal Part 1)

I will be posting a full tribute to The Iron Rose star Francoise Pascal in the next day or so. In the meantime, I thought fans of Pascal and the film might get a kick out of looking at some screen shots from Francoise's second film, Norman J. Warren's Loving Feeling from 1969. Warren's odd film features Francoise in a few scenes as a character only referred to as 'the model' but she proves to be quite unforgettable.

Jean Rollin: The Collaborators (Hughes Quester)

In a career covering nearly four decades, prolific French actor Hughes Quester has tallied up an impressive sixty or so films with directors ranging from Eric Rohmer to Krzysztof Kieslowski. For Jean Rollin fans though Hughes Quester will always be known best as actor Pierre DuPont, the young man who co-starred with haunting Francoise Pascal in The Iron Rose.
Quester was born in early August of 1948. His first film role came as a bit part in 1969 with William Klein’s Mr. Freedom, an ambitious film starring Delphine Seyrig and Serge Gainsbourg (a man who would play an important part in Quester’s career down the road).
Quester would continue working as a bit player in films throughout the next few years before landing his first substantial role in director Yannick Bellon’s Quelque part quelqu'un in 1972 (a film finally released in the United States in 1979 as Somewhere, Someone).
Some television work would follow for Quester before he would land what has turned out to be one of his most memorable roles, as the nameless title character in Jean Rollin’s Le Rose de Fer. Sadly Quester and Rollin did not have a good working relationship, a fact detailed by Rollin in this interview with Peter Blumenstock that can be found in Video Watchdog 31 and Virgins and Vampires:

“I had a lot of problems with the lead actor, Hughes Quester. He didn’t like me, which was quite a problem, because there are only two persons in the film, so we had to work together all the time. This eventually led him to taking his name off the film, so now, Hughes Quester is credited as Pierre Dupont.”

Regardless of the problems behind the scenes, Quester is fine in his role as the doomed nameless young man, although few would argue that The Iron Rose is talented Francoise Pascal’s film all the way. Perhaps this is something Quester sensed while shooting the film. Whatever the problems were between Rollin and Quester, The Iron Rose has survived much longer than most of the other films the young actor shot in this period.
Quester continued to work steadily after his time with Rollin, including a solid turn for Serge Gainsbourg in 1975's audacious Je t’aime moi non plus opposite Jane Birkin and Joe Dallesandro. Many films and television roles followed before Quester struck cinematic gold in 1990 with his role as Igor in Eric Rohmer’s masterful A Tale of Springtime.
Quester would continue his late period resurgence with a role in Kieslowski’s incredible Three Colors: Blue in 1993 and in 2006 he would be awarded the distinguished Commander of Arts and Letters title from France for his long and noteworthy career.

Moon in the Gutter (Month By Month)

BLOG CREATED, EDITED and WRITTEN BY JEREMY RICHEY: Began in DEC 2006. The written content of all posts (excepting quotes from reviews, books, other publications) COPYRIGHT JEREMY RICHEY.