11.07.2010

American Horror Market, R.I.P. (for the most part), + random movie reviews

Man, I'm bummed. Dorchester Publishing, home of Leisure Books and Hard Case Crime, has succumbed to e-book idiocy and gone tits up with a lily. Yep, one of the die-hards in the horror novel market (1971-2010) has given in and become a "digital publisher" with some print-on-demand. I may buy some of the print-on-demand stuff, but FUCK YOU if you think I'm buyin' that digital download shit. I'll go to used book stores exclusively, or just re-read the hundreds of books I've already got stockpiled. I'm a collector, and the idea of paying for "access" to something I don't really have any control over isn't something that appeals to me at all.

This is tragic, because Leisure was one of the few companies still publishing horror on a consistent basis (two novels a month). They left a lot of the authors in their roster stranded, and a lot of things I'd had in my Amazon shopping cart to buy when they were released will now go unbought, unless they come out in reasonably-priced paper. I bought nearly every title they put out, and I did buy every single Hard Case Crime title. Too many horror books are coming out in $50 limited editions, and, sorry, no insult intended to anybody, but there's nobody out there writing horror right now who are anywhere close to worth $50 a book.

Leisure was one of the biggest-distributed paperback publishers, so seeing them go down is a very bad sign, especially for horror writers. But, people are stupid and short-sighted and quick to buy into foolish trends, like this e-book shit. It'll leave control of an entire library that they paid for in someone else's hopefully-merciful hands... and it's also going to soon make the entire publishing industry a mess, because there are NO standards for that shit: since nobody has to risk any dough to put them out, they don't even need editors anymore - they'll just "publish" anybody's gack. Print-on-demand is bad enough: ever try to read any of those? Typos out the ying-yang, and some of the worst-written garbage imaginable. 99% of everything is shit in general, so with the floodgates wide open, the fiction market will soon be a sewer that nobody will have the patience to sift to to find anything that's actually worthwhile. The Internet is effectively killing off America's entertainment industry - literature, music, and film - which has long been one of the stronger parts of our economy. A lot of writers, bands, and filmmakers honestly don't deserve an audience, and now that there soon won't be anyone minding the gate, they'll have no inclination to improve their stuff, either. I've got several novels I could already release that way, but I'd rather try to get them through a publisher; if they're not good enough to make the cut as judged by a professional who'd have to back it with money, better it go unpublished, or just tossed out here as a Halloween freebie.

Anyway, kudos to Hard Case for seeking another mass-market publishing house. When you do, I shall continue to buy everything you publish. Count on it.

But Kindle, Nook, and all those other e-reader things? Fuck ya. I'm rooting for your fucking destruction and financial ruin. I am as big a book fiend as you're likely to find, and, sorry, you aren't welcome in my library.

Yeah, maybe I sound like Steve Albini ranting against compact discs, and I'll probably lose as big as he did, but, eh... can't help it, I hate "downloads." I still buy CD's and DVDs, I still buy paper books, and I buy them in obsessive quantities... when they're not available anymore, I'm not likely to be spending much of my money on "access." I'm sure I'll sell out a little for a few things when I have no other alternative, but it for-sure won't be with anywhere near the avidity I pursue it now. There's just nothing fun about downloading. And when an EMP attack wipes out most of the the nation's media, I'll be laughin' my goddamn ass off.

O' course, I won't be able to rub it in, because this blog will go down with Lady Gaga's entire body of work (I think I just found the silver lining), but, oh well... :)

Here's your reward for putting up with (or wisely skipping over ;) ) my crazy ludite rant - a bunch of random movie reviews (for films you could probably find "streaming" somewhere - assholes!):

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The Challenge (C, 1970) Made-for-TV sci-fi film in which the United States and a small country decide to solve a conflict over ownership of something on the ocean war by having a proxy war on a small island, with each country sending only one soldier. Troublemaker Darren McGavin (who's trying some strange accent that sometimes sounds like he's trying to do Edward G. Robinson, while trying to look like Vic Morrow) is equipped with a double-barrel machine gun and let loose on the island, where he has to face Mako. This is better than you'd think from the director credit (which is the standard "Alan Smithee" pseudonym, which means the director wanted his name taken off, although it‘s reportedly actually George McCowan, who did a lot of TV work and other films such as Frogs). Also stars Brockerick Crawford and James Whitmore.



Horror at 37,000 Feet (C, 1973) Stones from an ancient English abbey (including a Druid sacrificial altar stone) are being shipped in the cargo hold of a passenger jetliner, which is piloted by Chuck Connors and is also carrying Buddy Ebsen, Roy Thinnes, and the always-bad-to-have-aboard-any-sort-of-flying-vehicle William... Shatner. To make things scarier, the navigator is Russell Johnson - the professor who couldn’t find his way off of Gilligan’s Island. Soon the plane is hanging motionless in the sky and some passengers are acting possessed (I don’t think Shatner’s one of them, but with him it’s always difficult to tell what he’s trying to convey). The cargo area starts icing over and people get flash-frozen. The desperate passengers try to appease the evil by sacrificing a plastic baby doll! At least it gets to puke mud and provide this made-for-TV horror flick with some Exorcist-rip-off credentials. Pretty silly, but all old made-for-TV horror is worth watching. Cruise Into Terror was another similar TV movie, but set on a cruise ship instead.

Whole movie online starting here:


Midnight (C, 1982) aka Backwoods Massacre. Even though John Russo wrote the classic Night of the Living Dead, he’s actually a pretty bad writer. And this film proves that he’s an even worse director, because it plays like a particularly cheesy Afterschool Special, but with gore. Nancy, a girl who looks kinda like a heftier Johnny Ramone, runs away after her drunken dad, Lawrence Tierney, tries to molest her. For some weird reason every guy she meets acts like she’s a hottie, so she soon gets a lift from a couple of guys who look a little too old for the Spring Break they’re heading to. Really terrible songs that comment on the action (“You’re on your own, you’re alone, you can’t go home anymore!”) fill the soundtrack, along with the horrible cheap electronic organ junk that makes any movie seem even lower-budgeted than it was. They end up in a town full of racists, who were probably told to ad-lib their dialogue and couldn’t come up with anything but “We don’t need your kind around here” (varied with “we don’t need their kind around here” after they run people off). You can find more redneck depth in “Tiny Town” by the Dead Milkmen than you can in this script. There are a few weak random killings (show a hand raising and lowering a knife a few times, stabbing something off screen) and a terrible car chase accompanied by happy pushing-a-shopping-cart muzak. Nancy ends up captured by some crazed backwoods devil-worshippers who keep people locked up in little pet cages. The family’s trying to get enough girls together for a sacrifice, so they snatch another who’s ineptly trying to play frisbee with her brother and then they start the sacrificing. You can tell this film desperately wants to be another Texas Chainsaw Massacre but thanks to a lack of talent from writer, director, and cast (except Lawrence Tierney, who’s really scary no matter how old he gets), it’s closer to Mystery Science Theater 3000 material. The gore effects are pretty blah, and Russo doesn’t know how to shoot them. But, if you’re in the mood for old-school slasher stuff, aren’t too picky, and like laughing at ineptitude, this isn’t likely to bore you.





Night Rider, The (B&W, 1932) There’s probably a plot to this B-Western, but its producers apparently decided it was none of our business, because it plays like it’s chapter 4 of some 12-chapter serial or something. A cloaked figure called the Night Rider (even though it’s always bright daylight when he rides) is terrorizing the countryside, stealing money and killing people before returning to his hidden cave. One guy he steals from is named George Burns. Harry Carey is a stranger in the area who picks up two sidekicks, Gabby Hayes and a Mexican. Most of the action is confined to the end, but Carey does provide what may be the first incidence of somebody holding their gun sideways in that “gangsta” style. At least Carey’s got a revolver so it won’t be kicking hot brass in his face when he does it, like it will to the rest of those stylin’ dumbasses. The “surprise” identity of the Night Rider won’t be much of a surprise to you if you have any storytelling skills at all. The incomprehensibility of the plot may be due to heavy cutting of the print I saw; I’ve seen this listed as running 75 minutes, but the copy in the Frontier Justice 50-movie DVD pack runs only 54. An extra 20 minutes might help, because Carey and his pals are likeable enough; there’s just not much coherency.




She Mob (B&W, 1968) A gang of female criminals break out of prison and lay low in an isolated farmhouse. They’re all horny so their leader Big Shim (an unbelievable gruesome, brutal, sweaty, slobbery bull dyke in a pointy bra and PVC accessories) calls in Tony, a gigilo she knows. Discovering that he’s now a rich woman’s (played by the same actress who portrays Big Shim) kept boy, she ties him to the bed and holds him for ransom, demanding $100,000 or she’ll castrate him. In the meantime, the girls in the gang (who range from trashy to possibly-retarded) engage his services. The rich woman hires a mod tramp girl detective named Sweetie East (a takeoff on Honey West) to help her. Big Shim gets pissed when Tony starts making out with Baby, who Shim considers her personal property, and puts a cigarette out in his navel. Baby wants to run away with Tony, so she cuts him loose, but that’s a bad idea (for them, that is - cinematically it’s a great idea since it leads to surreal scenes of gun-toting women in freakish lingerie running all over the countryside in the middle of the night), and Baby gets shot, Tony gets caught, and cars get burned up. Big Shim gets the ransom money but decides to make an Antonia out of Tony anyway, dressing him in lingerie and preparing to geld him... unless Sweetie East can save him first. Incredibly sleazy and weird, but also pretty stylish. Even though much of this consists of the usual boring drawn-out-too-long skinflick padding that most of these old sleazefests have, the filmmakers had a little pride in the rest of it. And the bizarre factor is high; it was never likely to turn anybody on, given the moley, Rubenesque women in unflattering costumes. Baby even has awful balloon breast implants with clearly visible scars. The sex ranges from typical softcore necking to whipping and pointy-bra-stabbing (“My tits are as hard as my heart!”) Unique.

The opening to every Something Weird DVD includes a couple seconds of this film:

Young, Violent, and Desperate (C, 1976) aka Young Violent Dangerous, Liberi Armati Pericolosi. Three young hoodlums get stupid while holding up a gas station and end up in a shoot-out with the cops. They decide to take things to the next level by holding up a bank. Police inspector Tomas Milian (looking so 70’s conventional that he’s almost hard to recognize) is after them, and they shouldn’t be too hard to track, because they’re not terribly bright. One is a complete idiot, making stupid jokes and throwing money out the car window. Instead of following these obvious leads, Milian lectures their parents about the proper way to raise kids. One of them picks up his girlfriend and takes her along on the crime spree, even though she’s really not into that kind of thing. (Even if she were, I don’t think anybody could stand being around that one obnoxious guy; what an insufferable giggling jackass this guy is, even by Italian crime drama standards). Their getaway becomes more inept and pathetic as they go along, yet the cops still have a hard time tracking them down. Luckily they start fighting amongst themselves and tangle with a stereotypical German camper, and that speeds things up a bit. Pretty average, despite its fast pace and enlivening downbeat finale. Milian is basically wasted.

6 comments:

  1. Have you read Quentin S. Crisp or Mark Samuels? Their books are worth at least $50 a piece easily. Luckily you don't have to pay that much, though, as Chomu press is releasing their work (or already has done) for far less than that. If you like horror that also sets your neurons afire, these authors are for you. I'd like to also put in a good word for Reggie Oliver, who has a book forthcoming from Chomu Press, as well.

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  2. BTW fuck e-books. I demarcate a line between myself and anyone reading these travesties of digital technology. I've heard all the "benefits" but fuck that, to me it's wic-wick WACK!

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  3. I heard it here first, Leisure/Hardcase Crime books = no more. Glad Richard Laymon isn't alive to see this crap. He'd kill the men and rape (and possibly also kill) the women at Dorcester's headquarters.

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  4. Hi! Haven't read Crisp or Samuels... I'll have to look into those. Thanks for the recommends! I looked up Chomu Press and bookmarked them.

    I'm kinda a cheapskate and hardly ever shell out more than $20 for a book, but occasionally I'll splurge. Last thing I spent close to $50 on was Nightmare USA (which is $38 now, yay!). Great movie guide.

    Yep, the e-book thing is depressing. The only good thing I see is that you can download some of the classics for free... and if I traveled a lot I might like that, but as far as being a home-use device, I don't see me ever buying one.

    Hopefully Hardcase will find a new home... they seem to be staying loyal to the concept.

    And man, I miss Richard Laymon...

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  5. Hahhahhaaa!!! Y'know, he IS (or, at least, WAS) Richard Laymon, so don't just assume that he won't rise from the grave for the killing + raping (+ possibly more killing) that you suggest... maybe the death of the book is the trigger for the coming zombie apocalypse!

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  6. Igor: Laughing my fucking ass off over here!

    Zwolf: Remember...Chomu can be bought on Amazon...sorry to be such a mouthpiece but their upcoming roster is extremely promising...

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