yet more movie reviews...

Some foul-ups on the part of my incompetent-fucking-bank-which-I-hate have me in too bad of a mood to write anything all that entertaining, and I haven't watched much this week except season 2 of Sons of Anarchy (which is excellent and way better than anything you're watching - yes it is and don't dispute me! - so you should go dig up some SOA episodes instead of reading this anyway), so I'm going to just drag a few old reviews out of a file I had somewhere. For some reason the file killed off all the hyphens and screwed up some other punctuations, so if there seem to be a lot of errors, it's not because I'm a bad grammarian, it's because I'm a bad editor and in a hurry. Hopefully they'll be a'ight... I'll add some YouTube clips so I won't be completely lazy...


Abby (C, 1974) aka Possess My Soul Rarely seen blaxploitation variation on The Exorcist, directed by William Girdler. Carrol Speed is a nice churchgoing wife who becomes possessed by an African sex demon when her archaeologist father in law (William "Blacula" Marshal) digs up an artifact. Whirlwinds fill her house, she slices her arm with a knife, pukes on people in church, and she engages in all kinds of nasty, obscene behavior. Her husband becomes very concerned and calls William Marshal back from Africa and has medical tests done on her. She escapes from the hospital and starts looking demonic... which, perhaps not so ironically, causes her to start resembling Condoleeza Rice! They have an exorcism in a bar to try to stop her rampages. The makers of The Exorcist sued, based on many similarities to their film (which is why it went a long time without being seen), but it's different enough, and it's pretty funny, but is also creepy, too... it kind of depends on what mood you're in. In any case, it's definitely interesting enough to seek out. The DVD looks like it was mastered from a second gen tape dubbed from a faded print, but it's not so bad if you're not spoiled and appreciate the rarity of the film.

Adventure in Iraq (B&W, 1943) aka The Green Goddess A pilot from the Flying Tigers, another guy, and a woman have a forced landing in Iraq due to engine trouble, and they become the guest of a guy who's apparently an ancestor of Saddam Hussein: a devil -worshiping sheik. They're treated well, but he's working with the Nazis and plans to hold them hostage in exchange for the release of some of his brothers who've been arrested for spying. The brothers are due to be executed, and if they are, he'll let the prisoners be executed in a Satanic rite. Most of this "adventure" consists of standing around waiting and talking, but there is a little action toward the end, which includes a really obvious mannequin being thrown off a balcony. It has novelty (not many WW II movies were concerned with Arabs) and decent production values (it looks really good for a B- film) on its side, but is too slow and mundane overall to be very tempting.

Aerial Gunner (B&W, 1943) An ex -D.A. named Davis enlists to fight WWII and finds himself in gunnery school to learn to handle machine guns on bombers. To his dismay, his instructor is Foxy Pattis, a guy who hates his guts because he blames him for his father's suicide. Foxy stays on Davis's case and tries to flunk him out, but Davis is too dedicated and even saves Foxy's life when he's knocked out aboard a runaway target towing train. To make matters worse, Foxy and Davis both want the same girl, and Foxy intends to marry her. While their rivalry plays out, there are little sub -anecdotes, such as a kid with personal reasons for wanting to be a gunner getting cold feet, some comedic bits with a gadget happy would- be inventor, and Foxy betting enough money for a wedding ring that his guys score better than Robert Mitchum's (who's in the movie for all of about 30 seconds but still manages to grab star billing on DVDs of the movie nowdays). It mostly focuses on gunnery school but still manages to fit in plenty of action, including some decent (if too brief) aerial combat at the end. It's propaganda and doesn't have much of a budget, but I've seen it several times and it's always entertaining. The major drawback is that our two stars (Richard Arlen and Chester Morris) look too much alike, sometimes creating a little confusion.

Whole movie:

Africa Addio (C, 1966) aka Africa Blood and Guts, Farewell Africa From the makers of Mondo Cane comes this documentary about the disappearance of traditional Africa amidst political uprisings, massacres, and wholesale slaughter of animals... all of it shown as graphically as possible, but with a sly (yet bitter and always ironic) sense of humor to offset the gore and brutality (or to make it even more offensive, depending on how you're approaching this). For instance, scenes of elephants and hippos being hunted to the point of extinction (it's unbelievable how many they kill, and it happens every Friday) are followed with silly girls jumping up and down at the beach and lions who've forgotten how to hunt having dead buffalo delivered to them by truck, to keep them around so that tourists can watch them mate (and honk at them for not doing it faster). Also shown are pogroms in Zimbabwe that exterminated entire villages; you see thousands and thousands of human corpses being thrown in mass graves in the jungle and wonder why there was no bigger outcry about it. Muslims are slaughtered in masses, Simba rebels kill (and partially eat) hundreds and then end up dead themselves, lining the roadways with unburied bones. There's footage of mercenary troops violently putting down uprisings, including several on camera deaths. It's amazing the filmmakers weren't killed themselves getting the footage; there are several scenes with genocidal rebels on the ground shooting at the airplanes they're filming from, and at one point a soldier smashes out their windshield and puts them against a wall to shoot them. The full length film makes a powerful point about colonialism and apartheid and the thin line that separates savagery and civilization, and how each is built upon the other. Plus, the animal slaughter's almost enough to make a Republican join PETA. A grindhouse version marketed by the infamous Jerry Gross was shortened by about an hour of the less sensationalistic and shock oriented footage, and it made a big splash on the exploitation circuit as Africa Blood and Guts, (the trailer is seen more often than the movie nowdays "Every scene looks you straight in the eye... and spits!"), after the full -length politically -relevant version was pulled because of controversy (the film is against racism, yet the filmmakers were accused of exploiting it). It is exploitative in a way, but is also extremely well- made and very powerful and should be seen by anyone whose stomach can handle it.

Whole movie starting here:

Agneepath (C, 1990) aka Path of Fire. Electricity is on its way to a nothin'- happenin' little town in India, and a drug trafficker doesn't like that the town must remain obscure to suit his purposes. So, his men spread evil rumors about the noble schoolmaster who's spearheading the electrification efforts, and finally they murder him. His son is sent away but vows to return and give the village to his mother. He lives a dirt poor existence in the city but takes no crap and his toughness impresses some local gangsters, so they recruit him, and he grows up to be a crime lord (Amitabh Bachchan, with his cheeks stuffed with cotton like Brando's in The Godfather). He's gunned down by rival gangsters but a coconut salesman rushes him to the hospital and he survives, then returns the bullets to his attackers and adding a few of his own as interest. Other than all the killing he does, he's a very moral gangster, hating drugs and demanding that all his workers give some of their profits to the poor. In fact, he's so moral that it's unclear what criminal activity he's actually involved in, but it must be bad because his mom despises him, which bothers him more than bullets or bombings (he shrugs off an explosion when someone bombs his boat, and he swims to keep an appointment). After a lot of family turmoil and some more violence, he buys the town for his mother, changes his ways, gets married, and has a son. But rival gangsters try to take the town back and Bachchan ends up having to run a gauntlet of explosions to stop them and redeem himself for his past crimes (whatever they may have been). This is supposed to be a Bollywood remake of Scarface, but other than heavily trading on Bachchan's resemblance to Al Pacino and dressing him in a white "Tony Montana" outfit, plus a few similar scenes (including a ludicrous riff on Scarface's "say goodnight to the bad guy" scene that just comes off as public tantrum), there's not a whole lot of similarity. The melodrama is even more overblown than is typical for Bollywood (and that's sayin' somethin'!), and it gets tiresome after a while. Overall, this is one of the more ridiculous Indian movies I've seen, although the climactic gauntlet is pretty memorable.

Whole movie starting here (but not subtitled):

Air Force One
(C, 1997) This is one of the most ridiculous action movies you're likely to find in the mainstream. It's Passenger 57 with the implausibility factor cranked to the redline. Harrison Ford plays the president of the United States (and some people thought Al Gore was too stiff to be prez!) who takes a tough (if ideologically simpleminded) stand against terrorism, then, on the way home, he and his family become hostages when Russian terrorists very easily take over Air Force One (boy is that just blown off. They had fake IDs and luckily there's an arsenal of machine guns on the plane. Perfect!). The terrorists want the release of a bad guy leader, but Ford doesn't negotiate any better than he emotes, so he just gets in gunfights with them and manages to scrape through cliffhanger after cliffhanger. It's all a goofy fantasy for those naive enough to think the government's full of heroic types who kick ass. That's nearly as hard to believe as people standing around in depressurized cabins and such. Turn your brain off, though, and this isn't bad. Hell, if you're a complete idiot, it may even be great! It moves fast enough and doesn't miss any opportunity for tense situations. Director Wolfgang Peterson does a decent (although rather formulaic) job, but I'm afraid he'll never get close to topping Das Boot. It's okay, and it's entertaining throughout, though not far removed from things you've seen before in this post Die Hard era of action flicks.

Whole movie starting here:

All Night Long (C, 1992) First in an infamous Japanese horror trilogy that seeks to prove the point that human beings are garbage. You could prove the same thing by observing certain Southern Baptist church services, but this is more interesting (and, at the end of the day, probably more wholesome). Three high school boys become friends after they witness the bloody stabbing of a female classmate by a random psycho. They decide to have a party, and they're all supposed to bring girls... which won't be easy because they're all pretty nerdy. They do manage to find girls, but things don't turn out well. One's so nervous that he throws up on his blind date (who was only out to break his heart for fun, anyway), one ends up chained to a fence and humiliated by the evil headcase he picks up, and the third finds a nice, sweet girl who's nearly as alienated as he is... but she's gang raped by some sadistic creeps as they're on the way to the party. The boys decide to go after the rapists, but their revenge plans don't work out much better than their dates did. The violence isn't really very graphic at all and the gore effects are simple and almost PG -rated, but there's a dark and nihilistic tone that creates a strong disturbing effect... especially since the film is quite well made and artistically aesthetic. It's not just an exploitation film made for the purpose of shocking the audience, but instead has a message. Concisely what that message is would be hard to say, beyond that humans are animals and can do some really heinous stuff to each other, and none of us are exempt, and happiness is a momentary dream that some jerk is always too happy to wake you up from... but there's still more to it than that. So, it's great for anyone who can handle it but should probably be kept out of the reach of the impressionable. The sequels are even harsher.

All Night Long 2 : Atrocity
(C, 1994) A nerdy high school boy gets bullied and victimized by a sadistic homosexual gang. The leader of the gang has a crush on him, but the nerd's not into that: he's in love with a little model he made of an anime girl. They beat him up and break the model, and the gang leader tries to seduce him by showing him a girl they've raped and tortured to the point where she's become a pathetic subhuman animal, totally degraded and insane. The gangster wants to teach the nerd that it's fun to abuse people. The nerd isn't into that, either, so he goes online to find some friends to help him combat the bullies, but the internet friends prove no help, since the gang kidnaps them and does some sick things to them. They're pretty vicious, but you can imagine worse (and probably have if you've read reviews of this: it's nasty for sure, but it doesn't cross a lot of the lines I'd worried that it would), and there's a lot of blood and gore but none of it is as nasty -realistic as the Guinea Pig movies. In any case, it's enough to twist the mind of our hero and teach him the lesson the gangster wanted him to learn... much to the gangster's chagrin. Heavier than the gore, however, is the tone and general life is cruel and ugly and meaningless vibe of the whole thing. Very well made (although it loses points for being shot on video) but it's definitely not for everybody; viewers already hardened by extreme horror films will find it intense and scary, but average citizens might just be traumatized and get messed up by this kind of message. Know yer limits...

All Night Long 3 : The Final Chapter (C, 1996) In case you missed the whole "human beings are garbage" motif in the first two (it's right there on the DVD case fer fuxsake), then here's the blunt object. A high school kid who has something really wrong with him likes to collect flies and go through other people's garbage. He becomes obsessed with a cute neighbor and begins collecting all her trash: hair, papers, sanitary napkins (he papers his walls with those), toothbrushes, etc. He even eats the food she throws away. Meanwhile, he's working cleaning up a hotel (another guy saves pubic hair he finds on the sheets) and witnessing the debasement of a scar legged girl who's hideously abused by her classmates. Then he meets a "dust hunter" who also saves people's garbage and organizes it into files and scrapbooks; biographies in refuse. The nerd's friends beat and rape a prostitute/con artist into a coma, so he brings her home, chains her up to his bed, and tries to transform her into a substitute for his goddess. He has no luck with that and ends up dismembering her. Then he sees the girl he's stalking having sex at the hotel, gets completely unhinged, and becomes a murdering automaton, leading to more bloody violence. A no- punches -pulled exploration of obsessive human depravity, and, like the others, well done and more than just an exploitation film; it does make a point. O' course, it's a point that many people would rather not face, so most viewers will want to stay far away from these ugly films. People wanting to explore the darkest cinema that humans can produce, however, will need these on their resume to have any street- cred...

All The Colors of the Dark (C, 1972) aka Tutti i colori del buio, Demons of the Dead, Day of the Maniac, They're Coming to Get You, Todos los colores de la oscuridad . Sergio Martino tries his best to be Dario Argento mixed with Roman Polanski, and he doesn't even come close but still turns in one of his better efforts. Edwidge Fenech (who Martino also featured in Next!, aka Blade of the Ripper, aka Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh) stars as a woman who's having terrible nightmares after the miscarriage of her child. In the dreams a psycho with weird blue eyes (Ivan Rassimov from Eerie Midnight Horror Show, whose demonic, satyr like face dooms him to mostly such roles) is stabbing her. She starts seeing him in real life, which gives her panic attacks. A woman in her building suggests that going to a black mass sabbat would cure her, so she agrees and they make her drink dog's blood and everybody makes out with her. That doesn't help, though, and she starts to think that her husband (George Hilton, star of numerous spaghetti westerns) is part of the cult (which she continues having orgies with), and her world becomes increasingly paranoid and surreal. This is kind of a giallo variation of Rosemary's Baby with a bit of Repulsion thrown in, and it has plenty of hallucinatory style and a relentless atmosphere of persecution (aided greatly by the lovely Ms. Fenech's strengths at conveying confusion and panic she's pretty flat with all other emotions, but she has those two down). Martino's direction is less sloppy than usual you can tell he was trying on this one. Not a masterpiece, but it's a pretty decent giallo. Tim Lucas borrowed the "All The Colors of the Dark" title for a book on Mario Bava. The USA Network (long ago, when it was still worth a damn) used to show this retitled as Demons of the Dead.

All The Kind Strangers (C, 1974) aka Evil in the Swamp Stacy Keach learns the hard way not to be a good samaritan when he gives a little boy a lift home while driving through backwoods Kentucky. After driving through nearly impassible back country they arrive at a big house in the middle of nowhere, where there are seven kids. The oldest (John Savage) is fifteen. One of the other kids is Robbie Benson. They're being looked after by Samantha Eggar, their "mother," who Keach learns is being held hostage... and so is he. The kids want parents, so they've been luring strangers off the main highway and keeping them there with the aid of some mean dogs. If they end up not being good parent material, the kids kill them and burn their bodies. Keach is determined to escape despite the danger, though, but that doesn't work out so well... This is one of those 1970's made- for- TV 70 some minute movies that I'm a sucker for, and it's nicely done with well- paced suspense and some effective atmosphere of backwoods stagnation, plus good performances. The DVD came from a print that looks to be in better shape than most old TV movies you can find, and I got mine from the 5- buck bin at Wal- Mart. The ending is pretty weak and compromises the rest of the movie a bit, but what the hell, it's good anyway.

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Americana (C, 1981) aka You and Me What if Rambo came into a different town and tried harder to be peaceful? What if Kwai Chang Caine did his wandering around in the early '70's? What if I stopped trying to be fucking clever and just told you about this movie already? David Carradine directed and stars as a troubled drifter home from Vietnam who walks into a small Kansas town, looking for work. There's an old merry go round out in a field that fires his imagination maybe he's reminded of his lost childhood or it's a symbol of a time when America still had her blissful innocence, who knows? and he decides to restore it. This makes the locals think he's pretty kooky, but some are sympathetic and help him out by giving him work to fund the project. Others, like some teenage scumbags, take time out from trying to run over dogs to give him a hard time. He falls out with his friendlies when he doesn't want to watch cockfights at the local church, and then they get hostile and mean spirited. No matter what dream you have, there's always gonna be some status quo asshole who'll get his sadistic jollies by try'n to wake you up from it. Nicely done low- budget existential slice -of- life flick, one of the last gasps of the kind they made in the 70's. Look close for Dan Haggerty. The Rhino DVD is cheap but looks mastered from a VHS tape and has pretty bad sound. Still worth it.

Amuck! (C, 1972) aka Alla ricerca del piacere, Hot Bed of Sex, Leather and Whips, Replica di un Delitto A new gorgeous blonde secretary named Greta comes to work for a writer, typing up novels he's dictated onto a tape. The real reason she's there is to find out what happened to the previous secretary (her lesbian lover), who disappeared. The writer's wife Eleonora is very attracted to Greta, and the movie's not subtle about its preoccupation with lesbian scenes; any time two women are naked together, the movie goes into slow motion to make it last as long as possible. Eleonora has "psychic fits" and warns that Greta will die soon. They take Greta duck hunting and try to shoot her, but then rescue her from quicksand. The tapes he gives her to type up become more and more about her girlfriend's murder and the trouble she's heading into. Complex giallo is fairly crude stylistically but the plot is intriguing. There's no gore, though, so that may drop it a few points in some giallo enthusiast's rankings. The hard to find Eurovista DVD was mastered from a videotape that had some serious damage near the end. Barbara Bouchet is a knockout, and Rosalba Neri's not exactly hard to look at, either, so you're in good shape for Euro babeage.


The Re-Return ofTrash Lit From Hell: Vengeance Is... These Guys'

Back into one of my obsessions - those trashy "adventure series" paperbacks that only a few of us (including this guy - one of my favorite blogs, and if you like this post you can get happily lost reading back-entries there for days) still care about, much less remember. They were basically what the pulps of the 30's and 40's turned into during the 70's and 80's. I discussed that earlier, with a bit more here, if you missed it and are interested).

Anyway, I scanned some covers, 'cuz, really, that's the funnest part of these posts, ain't it? I haven't read some of these series yet, so the information will be pretty superficial, but whenever I get around to reading 'em I'll probably revisit them; this'll just be a "did you know these things exist?" post. Here goes...

1. The Bounty Hunter - Tiny Boyles and Hank Nuwer

Real-life bounty hunter Tiny Boyles (that's him sweatin' Seagrams on the cover) supposedly recounted some of his real-life adventures to Hank Nuwer (who probably did the heavy lifting when it came to the writing) and published four (I think) books as the adventures of a bounty hunter named Tiny Ryder. He's 6'6", 389 pounds, and rides a Harley (because a Suzuki's suspension just wouldn't handle that kind of bulk). And he deals out countrified justice with a .45 and a .357. I can't wait to read these, I'm totally expecting something Shakespearian. Vicar of Wakefield, with unfiltered Luckies.

2. The Lone Wolf - Mike Barry

Burt Wulff (not to be confused with the chef... or, what the hell, go ahead and confuse 'em, that'd be hilarious!) is another one of those cops who gets fed up with the system after a loved one dies, so he goes renegade vigilante and declares war on organized crime, specifically the drug trade that led to his girlfriend's O.D. I started one of these once and quit early because I hated the writing style... and only recently did I figure out why: it's written by noted sci-fi writer Barry N. Malzberg, and I almost always hate sci-fi writers. Your mileage may vary, of course, and I do know that despite their bloody-afro covers (this is the only one I've seen that looks like it's a race-war book, promise) these books are marked by self-impressed poetical digressions on things (read one at this review) and are kinda weird because this Wulff guy isn't a hero so much as an obsessed lunatic. It's also one of the few action series (and I'd say only, but I think it also happened in the last Penetrator book) where the hero actually gets killed eventually.

3. Stryker - William Crawford

I'm currently reading this book, and all I can say is, wheeeeeee! You could never publish this thing now because it's so politically-incorrect and offensive, which is Crawford's idea of talking tough, I guess. "Spics," "spades," and "queers" all get dumped on; the two hit-men after lead cop Stryker and his partner (who's Latino just so the author won't be called racist for all the slurs flying around) are gay and are reacted to by everyone with revulsion, especially the stereotyped "guinea" (which Crawford doesn't even spell correctly) Mafia goons who hired them. If you can get around the closed-mindedness-as-a-literary-device (and if you read this kind of book, you probably can, because the 70's books were full of such stuff), as well as a big preoccupation with graphic scenes of people defecating (seriously, it's like scat-porn! Unless you're the hero you're going to shit your pants at some point if you're in this book), it's pretty well-written and the writing's not quite as trashy as most series paperbacks; it's kinda like if Joseph Wambaugh decided to do some slumming. I scanned the back of the book, too, because that prose cracked me up. The coffee stain (at least, jeez, I hope it's coffee) that was on the book when I bought it kind of adds to the gutter-level reading experience. And what exciting cover art, eh? "I'm going to put this gun away now because it's too heavy for the deformed dwarf-arm I have, and anyway, I'm sleepy now."

4. The Ashes series - William R. Johnstone

Here's a bizarre one from the guy who I've always considered the absolute worst writer of all time. Advice to any aspiring writers out there: go get some William W. Johnstone books and read them if you ever feel discouraged; trust me, whatever you're writing is waaaaaaaaaay-ass better than this guy's crapspasm prose, and he's one of the most widely-published people in the business! There is hope! Your napkin-scribbles may be publishable! Anyway, if you're an ultra-right-wing conservative, this is a wank-book for you. In the "future" year 1999, America has been destroyed by nuclear and bio-warfare between the U.S., Russia, and China. A Vietnam vet named Ben Raines sets up a free zone called the Tri-States, where only conservatives are allowed because everybody else is stupid and bad and criminal and stinky anyway, nyaaaaah. Oddly, these staunch right-wingers live by pretty much of a Communist system, because Johnstone was a complete idiot who didn't understand his own politics -- he just knew he hated "liberals" (who are hilariously stereotyped in his books; even Michael Moore would want to smack these guys). Anyway, Johnstone's only method of moving a story is to get someone shot on almost every page, so there are reams of characters who haven't been developed at all being gunned down like cardboard standups, and you couldn't possibly care. Offensive racial and gay caricatures abound and are mocked with a dullard's aplomb. Also, he talks a lot about having great morality and values, but his books are extremely preoccupied with sadistic rapes, sodomy, and every kind of depraved graphic gruesomeness. If you combined a John Birch Society speech with a 12 year old boy's armymen fantasies and then had a pervert recount it to you, you'd get something like this book. And I've read better prose in the captions of coloring books. It's just dumb, dumb, dumb stuff, but it could be funny if the prose weren't so painfully awful.

This is one of the few pulp action-adventure series that have been widely made into audio books, for the simple reason that a lot of Johnstone's core audience can't read! If you doubt that, here's a really fun thing you can do: go to Amazon and look up Johnstone's books and look at the grammar and spelling in the positive reviews. If you can find one that doesn't read like the work of a second grader, you may have a cookie. They all read like the product of great labor with a dull crayon. Durrrg!

5. The Lady From Lust - Rod Gray

Action of a different kind... the bomp-chika-bow-wow kind. Like the action pulps of the 30's spawned "spicy" versions, so did the action series of the 70's. These are the adventures of Eve Drum, Agent Oh Oh Sex, who goes on seduce-and-destroy missions to save the U.S. of A. Haven't read any of the porn parodies yet because it's kind of a big time investment for satire, but I guess they could be funny. "L.U.S.T.," by the way, stands for "League of Undercover Spies and Terrorists." I know the curiosity was just killin' ya.

6. Cherry Delight: The Sexecutioner - Glen Chase

Another porn-action parody, this stars "Sexecutioner" Cherry Delight, Agent for N.Y.M.P.H.O. (New York Mafia Prosecution and Harassment Organization), who, I guess, uses her vagina to fight crime as often as she uses her gun. Or, probably, even more often. The suggestive titles of the books in this series are pretty funny, stuff like Treasure Chest, Over The Hump, Fire In The Hole, Chuck You Farley!, Crack Shot, Up Your Ante, Tong in Cheek, etc. might give you a hint of the snickering juvenalia to be found within. Weird thing about these and the "Lady from L.U.S.T." books - they're written in first person from a female point of view, by supposedly male authors. That had to be strange, writing those...

These books are so sleazy the model in the cover photo has a big herpes on her chin. Nice.

7. The Man From O.R.G.Y. - Ted Mark

Also written first person, by "Ted Mark," these are comedic sexual takes on Man From U.N.C.L.E. type adventures. O.R.G.Y ("Organization for the Rational Guidance of You") battles rival organizations such as S.M.U.T. ("Society for Moral Uplift Today") who try to censor porn. Again, I can't really picture devoting hours to reading this, but I suppose I could be missing something hilarious.

8. Dennison's War - Adam Lassiter

This was a short-lived but higher-class series about a team of trained experts fighting crime and terrorism outside of the confines of the law. I didn't read many of these, but I really loved the one I've got pictured here. How could you not: a badass chick declares one-woman war on outlaw motorcycle gangs, infiltrating them and then gunning 'em down with mighty mighty firepower. This series was such a step up from average that it gave you extra cover art on the next page, just to fit in more paintings of Special-Agent Scooterfox smokin' badguy hog-jockeys with her .12 gauge. Check it out:

Sha-weeeeeet! Might be time to re-read this 'un.

9. The Black Samurai - Marc Olden

One of the best-written action series (along with The Narc, which Olden wrote under the pseudonym Robert Hawke), these books were done by a black author and were one of the few series to get a movie adaptation, Black Samurai starring Jim Kelly (although since it was directed by Al Adamson, it didn't do the books justice). They're well-paced, intelligent, and effectively written martial arts books.

10. The Last Ranger - Craig Sargent

These are good friendly violent fun, even if they do get a bit ridiculous. In a post-nuclear world, a highly-trained warrior named Martin Stone emerges to battle mutants and warlords with is pitbull Excaliber, while trying to retrieve his sister from gangs of depraved bastards. It's been a while since I read any of these, but I remember liking them a lot even though they were a bit lunk-headed. Whoever painted the covers thought that having goggles on your forehead was a pretty good tough-guy look (he was wrong), and it's interesting that Martin Stone is depicted with crooked teeth. He looks vaguely like cornball wrestler The Ultimate Warrior. He and the pit bull are making the same face, which I find gigglesome. Anyway, as the post-nuke adventure books went, this was my favorite, and one of the few (along with The Doomsday Warrior series) to actually completely destroy the world eventually.

11. Mutants Amok - Mark Grant

I really need to make time to try reading one of these, because they look crazy. Apparently mankind engineers some mutant warriors by creating Dr. Moreau-style hybrids of humans and other creatures... but this brilliant idea backfires on them, and after a holocaust of some sort, the mutants hunt down humans, who must band together and become guerrilla fighters to save themselves from annihilation! I wanted to scan in the covers of all four that I have, because they're some crazy shit. Check out the one I did scan... the one guy has a bunch of little faces growing on the back of his head, like warts! And they're screaming! And then you have this Lovecraftian horror (in blue jeans and a vest he stole from the bassist for Foghat) about to get his piranha-face smashed in by Mark Trail himself! Hoohah! How could this not be a work of genius? Answer: it couldn't! It simply must be brilliant! One day I'll read 'em and find out instead of just gushing away in gleeful ignorance.

12. Omega Sub - J. D. Cameron

Still haven't read any of these yet, either, although I love the premise: the world is annihilated in a nuclear exchange, but an American nuclear submarine is spared, and it sails the oceans trying to find any pockets of survival... and, apparently, getting in fights with any survivors they do find. Sounds good. The cover paintings aren't so hot, though, because they feature this gooby-lookin' dude who always has his mouth open, yelling while he fires some weapon. He looks scared out of his mind, or possibly like a baby bird straining for a dangling worm, but definitely not badass. Mack Bolan always looks grim. Learn from that, you action-book-cover-painting fellas.

13. Crockett - Brad Lang

Definitely a product of its time, I had to scan the front and back of this one just because it's so 1975. "He's young, hip, long haired - a private detective." Yeah, baby, yeah! And look at the cover - is that really long hair? He looks like he was maybe patterned on Peter Fonda. Haven't read any of these yet (I think there are only 3, and I've got 2) but they look kind of interesting. This particular book is so cheap that it was cut all wonky -- all trapezoidal and off-center. That just makes it more funkyfied!

14. Mafia - Don Romano

With all these war-against-the-mafia heroes running around, it was inevitable that somebody decide to grant the bad guys equal time, so these books are (I think) the stories of Mafia torpedoes and such. Each title was "Operation something-or-other." Operation Porno sounds promising. And was that the author's name... or his rank? Hmmmm.

15. Israeli Commandos - Andrew Sugar

The author of the body-hopping-clone series, The Enforcer, turns his attention to butt-kickin' Jews for this series about a team of highly-trained commandos protecting Israel from Arab terrorists. Decently-written and unusual. Note that the guy on the cover has his goggles around his neck. He needs to confer with Martin Stone, The Last Ranger, to learn the cool way to wear 'em. On second thought, this guy's got a beautiful woman on the cover with him, while all The Last Ranger's got is a pit bull... so maybe around-your-neck is the way to go for goggles-wear.

16. Death Squad - Frank Colter

Why have one fed-up-with-rules vigilante cop when you can have three of 'em? And make it a rainbow coalition of a white guy, a Latino guy, and a black guy. Criminals are in trouble now, you betcha! The series was short-lived, though.

17. Kiai! - Piers Anthony and Roberto Fuentes

Okay, back there we had Barry N. Malzberg writing Lone Wolf books, and here's another sci-fi writer, Piers Anthony, turning out adventures of "Jason Striker, Master of Martial Arts." And I'll be damned if he doesn't look exactly like the guy on the Lone Wolf covers, too! Add some "wolf ear" grey streaks in his hair and it's the same dude. I never realized that you could name a whole series after a sound a guy makes when he yells. This makes me want to go out and write a series called "Yeeeaarrgggh!" Or the guy who wrote the Stryker series could up his descriptions of bowel activity and put out the "Frrrraccck, Plunk!" action series. A lot of these books probably got read in the bathroom, anyway, so why not? Anyway, this Jason Striker guy has apparently mastered all the martial arts, and is a peaceful guy... when he's not stomping ninja's faces into hamburger. Which is good, because action series about peaceful guys wouldn't be very interesting. And that's why there's nothing like Ghandi: Bombay Barbecue out there.

18. Overload - Bob Ham

Yeee-haw, somebody finally done done it: married vigilante vengeance to the world of big-rig trucking! A couple of Special Forces buddies (one black, one white, both badass) fight back against the mob to save one of 'em's family trucking business... and decide, why stop there? Why not fight crime using eighteen wheelers and submachine guns and ATV's and such? Makes sense to me! This series ran for a pretty good while. I read one and it was pretty average, but not bad.

That's enough for now, but I do have more series in my hoarded piles o' trash-lit (and I'm always looking for more, although they're getting harder to find in used bookstores these days) so one day I'll probably delve back into 'em.


nothin' but the good stuff, books-wise

I went back through my book review notebooks and pulled a few reviews for books I gave 4 stars, at random. By no means a complete list, and I think I already put reviews for some of these up already a while back, but I already typed them up again before I remembered that, so, what the hell, maybe somebody missed them the first time. I don't know if history really repeats itself, but sometimes it sho' do rhyme.
Anyway, if you run across these in a used bookstore somewhere, they're well worth yer bucks.

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned
- Walter Mosley (WSP, 1998)
Absolutely excellent short story collection that adds up to what is basically a loosely-jointed episodic novel about dirt-poor black ex-con Socrates Fortlow, who's strong enough to break rocks with his bare hands and still sees himself as an evil man, although he has more heart than just about any character you're likely to find in crime lit. While fighting his tendency toward violence, Socrates makes the most of a heartbreakingly hopeless existence and manages to help out a street kid, a dog, a dying friend, and sometimes even himself. This book may just tear you up at certain points, and will definitely make you less quick to dismiss any homeless bum you see standing on the corner. Powerful and thought-provoking, strips truth town to its core. Very highly recommended.

And The Ass Saw The Angel
- Nick Cave (Harper 1992)
This is what might happen if Flannery O'Connor had tried to write Wise Blood during a bad acid trip. Weird pseudo-punk musician Nick Cave (of The Birthday Party and Bad Seeds fame) mixed some ink with pure rotgut moonshine to write this baby, I think, but whatever he did, this is some potent 100-proof allegorical stuff and some great, original writing. Starting with his birth (where he lay in a box screaming "tit!" while listening to the flies eat his stillborn brother) through his Christ-like coming of age, this is the narrative of Euchrid Eucrow, the shunned mute son of a drunken hog of a mother and a crazed father who traps and maims animals so he can watch them fight in an arena he made out of a water tank. Euchrid grows up confused and scornful of the primitive backwoods cretins around him, all Ukulites (a bizarre Christian sect) who find the mute Euchrid almost demonic. In his alienation, Euchrid becomes a demented messiah who may destroy them all if he doesn't pay for their sins instead. Very weird but also very brilliant -- one of those books that you know you're gonna want to read again and that will become a classic some day if it gets the attention it deserves.

The Blonde on the Street Corner
- David Goodis (1954)
One heckuva downer, just like you'd expect from Goodis. A bunch of unemployed thirty-something losers with big dreams hang out on street corners, buying cigarettes and vending-machine nuts with the spare change their parents give them, call wrong numbers in hopes of putting together a party, and try to pass the time while they watch their hopes go down the drain. Depressing, but true and full of godly-great writing.

Choice of Evil - Andrew Vachss (Knopf, 1999)
The thickest Burke novel at the time also proves to be one of the best. After being rousted from his old dwelling, Burke has to get his life back together while hunting down a master-killer (reminiscent of notorious death-machine Wesley, but Wesley's dead... right?) who targets people who harm homosexuals. Burke has no problem with gay-bashers being wasted, but some members of the homosexual community want to make sure their avenger gets away safely. Burke learns that the guy may have a different agenda entirely, however. Yet another welcome addition to the Burke canon, and, like all of them, very much recommended. In a weird way, reading Burke novels are like hanging out with some very cool (yet shady) friends... which is always a good thing, even if you have to follow 'em into some pretty dark places.

Geek Love
- Katherine Dunn (Knopf, 1989)
Weirdly excellent novel about a carnival family who, through drugs, insecticides, and other things given to the pregnant wife of the family, creates their own freakshow attractions. Narrated by bald albino dwarf Olympia, this follows the bizarre rise and fall of her brother Arturo, the Aqua Boy, and her Siamese-twin sisters and telekinetic brother. Arturo, who is limbless, starts a religion that inspires followers to have their arms and legs amputated to achieve earthly bliss. Meanwhile, the twins are becoming prostitutes, and Olympia is planning an immaculate incestuous birth. Some chapters are set in the past and others in the present, where Olympia tries to protect her daughter from a woman who wants to nullify her freakishness... when Olympia knows that freakishness is true salvation. A Flannery O'Connor-esque vision from way left of normal, and definitely a masterpiece of strangeness.

Harvest Home - Thomas Tryon (Knopf, 1973)
Very well-written gothic horror in which a painter and his family move to a small New England town where people take their corn-planting seriously and have a lot of rituals connected with it... rituals better left unexplored by outsiders. This appears to have been an inspiration for Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn,” which spawned way too many movies, but this was turned into a two-night miniseries in 1978 starring Bette Davis, and that ought to be on DVD. The movie’s good but the book’s even better, since Tyron is a master of technique; this should be carefully read by anyone who wants to write horror. Top notch.

The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson (1959)
A mousey, self-absorbed dishrag of a woman, Eleanor, is invited by a professor to join a group of people who are studying the infamous Hill House, a house so haunted, evil, and "not sane" that nobody'll live within a mile of it, and few are willing to spend more than a few daylight hours there, much less a night. The geometry of the floorplan is all wrong, there are cold spots, and something unseen knocks and writes on the walls, mumbles insanely and ceaselessly in empty rooms, and holds hands with Eleanor in the dark... and worst of all it seems to want her. And Eleanor's not too damn stable in the first place -- she's hanging on to sanity by her fingernails and the spirit of Hill House is tugging on her ankles. This is a total classic that deserves its reputation (hell, the opening paragraphs alone cemented it as one of the all-time best horror novels on the strength of their prose alone). The writing is genius (although a bit odd -- Eleanor is such a freak) and this is essential reading for any serious student of supernatural (or psychological) fiction.

A Hell of a Woman - Jim Thompson (1954)
One of the more hard-boiled Thompson crime novels, this is the story of a ten-time loser door-to-door salesman who almost murders his way to a hundred grand when he hooks up with a poor, frightened girl who was being pimped out for chump change by the old lady she was living with. But the best laid plans of mice and men always go straight to Hell in a Thompson novel, and that's exactly what happens to the ruthlessly psychopathic tough guy who narrates this novel. Too damn cool and brutal, picture it in black and white.

Katie - Michael McDowell (Avon, 1982)
Riveting suspense that was apparently McDowell's take on "What if Charles Dickens had written something really vicious?" In the years following the Civil War, a poverty-stricken girl named Philomela Drax has amazing runs of both good and bad fortune as she comes into money (always the result of a tragedy) and then has it stolen from her, repeatedly. All the while, she and the Slapes -- a family of extremely violent degenerates who kill all Philo's friends and rob her -- track each other through New York and Philadelphia. A lot of the coincidences and twists of fate are pretty far-fetched -- just like in a Dickens-type novel -- but that’s part of the fun. And the violence is intense and nasty, a McDowell trademark. Very good.

The Mailman - Bentley Little (Signet, 1991)
Another excellent and unique novel from the best days of one of the most original horror writers going. After the suicide of a beloved local postman, a new, sinister mailman comes to town. At first it's nice, because nobody gets bills or junk mail anymore, just letters from old friends. But pretty soon nasty mail starts coming -- hate mail that pits everyone in town against each other, pornographic and/or snuff photos, even body parts. Everyone knows the evil mailman is behind it all, but no one is able to prove it, even when people start dying. Very strange horror that's actually scary (the mailman is incredibly malevolent and apparently unstoppable) and has some nightmarish scenes that will unsettle you for days afterward. Strong stuff, highly recommended if you want the crap scared out of you.

The Maltese Falcon
- Dashiell Hammett
Classic hardboiled detective fiction by the guy who originated it. While no one will ever do it better than Mickey Spillane in my book, it's pretty safe to say that Sam Spade is probably the father of Mike Hammer. He proves to be quite a nasty and disagreeable badass as he deals (harshly) with some sinister bad guys trying to recover a bird statue. As great as the movie is, you really need to read the book to see what all the fuss is about.

Mucho Mojo - Joe R. Lansdale (Mysterious Press, 1994)
Compulsively readable mystery-type thang about two best friends - Hap, a straight white guy, and Leonard, a gay black guy -- who move into the black side of town and discover there's the remains of a child buried under Leo's uncle's house, wrapped in kiddie porn. They do a little investigating on their own to discover what really happened. Cool characterizations and incredible writing -- the kind of can't-put-down book that makes you want to write stuff yourself. Very much recommended.

Pig - Kenneth Cook (Penguin, 1980)
Very cool, grittily-realistic novel about a conservationist hunting a giant, malevolent boar... who may also be hunting him. Kinda like Jaws set in the Australian outback. Like everything else I've ever read by Kenneth Cook, this is seriously great stuff and an excellent piece of work. Grab this if you can manage to find it anywhere; after I read a few of Cook's novels I had to go on a big search to find used copies from Australia, and they're getting pricey nowdays.

Safe House - Andrew Vachss (Knopf, 1998) Yet another excellent Burke novel, with Burke this time getting in hot water while coming down on some scumbags who stalk women. Fans won't be disappointed, and first-timers will become fans. Snag everything the man writes.

Savage - Richard Laymon (St. Martin's, 1994)
Anything this guy writes gets big thumbs-up from me. Blend some Huck Finn-style narrative with sicko psycho horror and you might get this. Young Trevor Bentley, a British lad living in 1888, just so happens to be hiding under the bed when Jack the Ripper butchers Mary Kelly on it, and in stopping Jack from snuffing another one, he slices Jack's nose off. In the chase that ensues they both end up on a boat to America. Then Trevor becomes a gunslinger and chases Jack through the wild west. Trust me, it's not as goofy as it sounds. Highly entertaining and well-written horror/adventure/Western crossover.

Song of Kali - Dan Simmons (Tor, 1985)
A guy who works for a literary magazine is sent to Calcutta, India, with his wife and infant daughter in order to pick up the manuscript of an epic poem by famed Bengal poet, M. Das, who was supposed to have died years before. In trying to meet the enigmatic poet, he runs afoul of a ruthless cult which worships Kali, goddess of death and destruction, and he lives to regret it... and that's putting it mildly. The atmosphere in this book is like no other: it breathes down your neck and has some serious halitosis. I know he's describing Calcutta, but it may as well be the Luciferian kingdom of Dis -- it's truly a hellish travelogue, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Indian Board of Tourism tried to ban this sucker. You get a strong urge to take a long hot shower after reading this book, because the detail is so rich and Simmons is dragging you kicking and screaming through one of the nastiest places on Earth. I mean, you could probably get germs just from reading this -- do recommendations come any higher? So get a tetanus shot and seek this out, because it's a must if you dig quality horror.

Son of the Endless Night - John Farris (Tor, 1984)
Veteran horror writer Farris turns out some truly unnerving stuff in this Exorcist-like tale of a man who kills his girlfriend because he's possessed by Zarach', the brother of Lucifer. He's brought to trial pleading Not Guilty By Reason of Demonic Possession. O' course, this is almost laughed out of court... until he proves it. Well-written, hardcore, no-fucking-around horror, a must for anybody into demonic possession stories.

The Store - Bentley Little (Signet , 1998)
Oh, I betcha Wal-Mart doesn't have the balls to stock this book. A small town is invaded by The Store, an all-powerful discount chain store that people are all excited about at first, since it'll bring in new jobs and stock new items, cheap. But soon The Store is bankrupting all the locally-owned businesses because they can't compete, and if the small businessmen take too long to knuckle under, they may get a visit from The Night Managers -- pale zombie-like clones dressed in black and carrying knives. And The Store undermines the moral fiber of the town with the sleazy things it sells -- there are M-80 firecrackers in the toy department, racist video games in electronics, and kiddie-porn snuff films in the videos. And the employees are forced to join The Store's strange cult, worshipping the founder and taking part in demented, sadistic rituals. One man who doesn't like The Store, a stand-up guy named Bill Davis, sees his town going to Hell as The Store gradually takes over control of the local government, the police department, and everything else. To make matters worse, his two daughters both work for The Store and The Store doesn't allow employees to quit. Then they offer bill a Store of his own... Absolutely brilliant, and the more you know about Wal-Mart the more satire you'll find (although it works just fine as a plain ol' horror novel, too).

Sympathy For The Devil - Kent Anderson (1987)
The descriptive level of the writing in this Vietnam novel beats just about anything I've ever read. The vividness is truly incredible and I am in awe at the skill displayed. You can see, smell, and hear everything exactly, like virtual reality; it's quite an achievement. The plot itself is pretty loose, just following a guy named Hanson through Vietnam as he becomes fit for nothing but war, learning to survive and damning himself because of it. The novel is episodic and sometimes hard to keep track of (it's semi-hallucinogenic), but that's okay; the strength is in capturing the moment and the experience, and I've never seen a novel do it better.

Tietam Brown - Mick Foley (Knopf, 2003)
Sometimes-crude but always-powerful coming-of-age story is professional wrestler Mick Foley’s first novel, after proving he could write (and damn well, too) with his first two autobiographies. Turns out his skills work even better in fiction, because this is a can’t-put-it-down book that manages to be sweetly-sentimental and mean-spirited, moral and obscene, and romantic and hateful all at the same time. Teenager Anteitam “Andy” Brown is a smart but not terribly popular high school kid who’s tortured by mean coaches and steroid-jock classmates, but much-beloved by the Christian-but-horny head cheerleader. Andy’s dad, Tietam, is an apparently-insane maniac who’s been away most of Andy’s life and seems to be much more complex than his womanizing/exercising-while-naked redneck surface persona would lead one to believe. Turns out he used to be a very dangerous wrestler (a “shooter”) and is a secret scholar... and his emotional life is maybe even more secretive and complex, able to love every strongly, but with a love that can snap and turn into mind-boggling hate. Andy has to try to grow up in this completely-insane, contradictory world where he can never rely on anything, and try not to turn into his father while he does it. Often funny, often extremely nasty, and very surprising, both in what happens in the storyline (like wrestling, it’s not always the most probable stuff, but it works in the context of the novel) and in the skill Foley shows in a first novel. Here’s hoping he turns out many more.

War of the Rats - David L. Robbins (Bantam, 1999)
Excellent war novel about two top snipers - the best the Russian and German armies have -- stalking each other through the rubble during the hellish battle of Stalingrad. The Russian sniper (known as "the Hare") teaches Russian soldiers (including a girl from New York) to be snipers, while the German grooms a young German soldier as his assistant. As the two snipers hunt each other, they become symbolic of the struggle for Stalingrad and war in general. Countries may clash, but in the end it's individual against individual; in the end, it's personal. Very well-written and based on historic fact, and you'll get a strong portrait of the hell (for both sides) that was Stalingrad. You'll have a battle of your own if you try to put it down.

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Dark classic Gothic romance that defies categorization. It's a ghost story where there may not be ghosts, a vampire story with no blood-drinking, and a love story where everyone hates each other. Essentially, it's a sadomasochistic love story that's more true to the form than a DeSade novel, even though there's no sex of any kind. It's the tale of the classic dysfunctional duo, misanthropic bastard Heathcliff and manipulative vindictive witch Catherine, and their love so intense that it's the worst kind of hate. One of those classics that I put off reading for years, only to kick myself when I finally did read it, because I could have been re-reading it instead. Very, very good.