Full disclosure: I asked for — and received — a review copy of this book. But you know me, I wouldn’t recommend something if I didn’t like it, which is hardly the case here. “Heavy Metal Movies” was my most anticipated book of the year, and I’m happy to say that it delivers.
When I first heard about Mike “McBeardo” McPadden’s “Heavy Metal Movies,” I thought, “oh cool” — quickly followed by, “wait, are there enough heavy metal movies to fill a book?” Let’s face it, most explicitly “heavy metal” movies are guilty pleasures at best, with one of the best being a straight-up comedy (that being, of course, “Spinal Tap”). Luckily, McPadden’s approach was the include movies that featured the iconography of metal: sword and sorcery action, post-apocalyptic futures, Gothic nightmares, midnight classics, and, yes, cheesy ’80’s horror flicks.
“Heavy Metal Movies” is organized in an encyclopedia format, so if you’re like me, you’re going to immediately flip around to see what McPadden has to say about your favorites. I was surprised that Dario Argento’s “Opera” was not included, but so many of his other films are present so I can’t complain. Lamberto Bava’s “Demons?” Well, yeah, that’s in there! What about Disney’s “Frozen?” OK, that’s too new but maybe that will be in a forthcoming edition, since McPadden shares my opinion that it meets the criteria for being “a heavy metal movie.” It’s also good to find someone else who thought that “Rock Star” was condescending to metal fans.
Like many of my favorite books of this type, “Heavy Metal Movies” feels like someone’s talking to you about these really cool flicks that you have to check out. It helps that McPadden has a genuine affection for this stuff. He’ll call it like he sees it, but thankfully his writing isn’t marred by an “I’m too cool to really like this stuff” attitude that runs rampant these days. Critical, but not nasty “to be cool”; I’m not sure if it’s part of Bazillion Points’ philosophy, but I found this refreshing attitude in another one of their books, Matt Wagner’s superlative “Mean Deviation.”
Heavy metal and high-thrill cinema have been joined together like mutant twins since before Black Sabbath took the name of a chilling Italian horror film in 1970. The unadulterated journey of Heavy Metal Movies spans concert movies and trippy midnight flicks, inspirational depictions of ancient times and future apocalypses, and raw hand-held digital video obsessions. As brash, irreverent, and visceral as both the music and the movies themselves, Heavy Metal Movies is the greatest guidebook to the complete molten musical cinema experience.
The new book “Heavy Metal Movies” is, as the subtitle proclaims, devoted to “Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos, & Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big-Scream Films Ever!” It was also my most anticipated book of the year — look for a review soon. In the meantime, though, author Mike “McBeardo” McPadden took time out to answer some questions.
I hesitate to describe Gary Gerani’s book “Top 100 Fantasy Movies” as “charming,” as that term can carry a hint of condescension. But it is a fun book. I’ve never met Gerani, but his writing style reminds me of someone who gets so excited about a topic that he starts talking fast. He may flub his lines here and there, but he clearly loves the material, so you just roll with it. The generous selection of photographs, stills, and movie posters certainly don’t hurt.
As with all “best of” books, you are almost certainly not going to agree with the author’s choices. If you get upset at seeing a film excluded, or one that you love is swimming around in the lower rungs, well then don’t read “best of” books. You have to look at these things as a resource for discovering films that you may not have heard of.
That said, there are some surprising omissions. Neither “Dragonslayer” nor the original “Conan the Barbarian” are present, nor are any of the Sinbad films outside “7th Voyage.” Gerani takes a broad view of the concept of “fantasy film,” which may not be to every reader’s liking. But that’s why I liked this book. For Gerani, “fantasy” is not synonymous with Tolkienesque heroic fantasy or sword and sorcery. So while you’re going to see “Jason and the Argonauts” and “The Fellowship of the Ring” here, you’ll also see “Groundhog Day,” “Edward Scissorhands,” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” too.
Gerani purposefully excludes comic book-derived films as well as wholly animated ones — he promises volumes on those two topics are in the works. I probably would have excluded many of the comedies, myself; while I enjoyed reading about those films, there’s a touch too many ghost/afterlife/supernatural comedies included for my tastes. Gerani even acknowledges that fantasy film is a far broader range than his earlier works on horror and science fiction movies. It’s a slippery slope to start defining what “is” and “isn’t” a “proper” fantasy film, so again, you have to take books like this as subjective.
My biggest complaint with this book had nothing to do with Gerani’s opinion, it’s that someone needed to proofread it at least one more time before going to press. “John Malkovich” is misspelled as “John Malkovitch” multiple times, despite being on the same page as a large image of the “Being John Malkovich” poster. At one point, he describes H.P. Lovecraft as “America’s Poe.” Isn’t Edgar Allan Poe already “America’s Poe?” But again, this is where that “charm” I mentioned at the beginning comes in.
I still would have included “Dragonslayer,” though.
Fanciful worlds of hobbits and pixies, magical glimpses into the future, doting guardian angels, and dangerous, seductive devils on our shoulder… this is the world of fantasy cinema, from the earliest silent days to the mega-budget extravaganzas of Peter Jackson, Tim Burton, and other world-class moviemakers who are obsessed with worlds beyond reality. Screenwriter/historian Gary Gerani follows up his exploration of the best horror and sci-fi offerings with Top 100 Fantasy Movies, a super-colorful trade paperback containing more than 600 rare visuals and an introduction by a famed Hollywood director associated with the genre.
The announcement that NBC wasn’t renewing “Dracula” for a second season wasn’t that big a surprise; if anything, I’m glad that all of the episodes made it to air. If you didn’t catch it, the set-up was that Vlad Tepes’ vampirism was the result of a curse laid on him by the secretive Order of the Dragon. Centuries later, the same organization kills Van Helsing’s family, so he unleashes Dracula as a weapon of mass destruction against them. Dracula assumes the persona of an American industrialist in order to cripple the Order financially… while engaging in traditional vampire action on the side. Of course, when Dracula meets Mina Murray, he is convinced that she is the reincarnation of his wife.
There were things that I liked about the show, but ultimately found it unsatisfying. I didn’t mind the changes to Stoker’s narrative — if I did, I shouldn’t be watching any “Dracula” adaptations. My problem is that the show kept falling back on modern “Dracula” cliches: Van Helsing is as sinister if not moreso than Dracula. Mina is the reincarnation of Dracula’s wife. Jonathan Harker is, at best, a pitiable dolt who is merely an obstacle between Mina and Dracula’s deathless love. And, of course, Dracula takes center stage rather than be a mysterious force in the shadows. These elements have been used successfully in the past, but frankly they are as commonplace as Grade Z Bela Lugosi knockoffs once were. For all the show’s risks in changing the story, seeing all the cliches in one place made it seem like “been there, done that.” In contrast, the first three episodes of “Penny Dreadful” have explored the “Dracula” mythology in an interesting, atmospheric way.
I was also not sold on Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Dracula. I have long wanted to see Rhys Meyers portray a vampire, but push comes to shove he just didn’t have the physical presence to play THE vampire. His take on the Vampire King reminded me more of Lord Ruthven (seductive predator moving in high society) than Dracula; too bad Lord Ruthven doesn’t carry the Big D brand name. Luckily, Rhys Meyers’ Dracula was ruthless, and really only a good guy by default since the Order was worse. For a romantic take on the material, there was still a lot of blood.
Another complaint is that the Order of the Dragon are among the stupidest bad guys I’ve ever seen. I get vampirism as a curse in general, but turning one’s enemy into a super-powered immortal is still turning one’s enemy into a super-powered immortal. With tactical decisions like that, it’s a wonder that the Order lasted more than a couple of weeks.
There were several things that I did enjoy about the show, though. I liked the show’s 19th century ambiance; it’s pretty much a given that I am going to be distracted by any fog-shrouded Victorian thriller. The cast was uniformly solid, but the standout was Nonso Anozie as Renfield. This was a very different take on the character, with no bug-eating to be had. Anozie played Renfield more as a level-headed confidante who had the strength to stand up to Dracula when necessary. His attitude reminded me of Roger from Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s “Saint-Germain” series.
It’s difficult to believe that I’ve never met author Matt R. Jones in person despite knowing him online for roughly 15 years. Being a fan of both vampires and ’80’s metal, it was inevitable that I would stumble across Matt’s universe of dark, urban, hard rockin’ fantasy.
A new edition of Matt’s novel “Unholy War” will be issued by Dark Continents Publishing in 2014. I’m baffled that it took so long for Matt to find a publisher after self releasing his own work for over a decade (by the way, I am not interested in covering unsolicited self-published fiction). As he mentions in the interview, he’s been at this since the days of Anne Rice knockoffs. When the urban fantasy genre exploded a couple of years ago — and with hard rock regaining traction in the mainstream — I was certain that Matt’s day had come. With the help of DCP, it has.
Many thanks to Matt for taking the time to write some in-depth, yet enthusiastic, answers!
I became friends with Braxton Ballew and Sarah Black of Valentine Wolfe just over a year ago, bonding quickly over a shared love of gothic horror and atmospheric music. The duo describe themselves as “Purveyors, Performers, and Composers of the finest Macabre Melodies for Voice, Double Bass, and Electronics. Proudly providing elegant decadence for Living, Dead, and Otherwise, since 2006.”
Their most recent album, released earlier in 2013, is the Edgar Allan Poe-inspired “Once Upon A Midnight.” Jacob Wenzka contributed illustrations for a graphic novel that accompanied the album. Full disclosure, the Wolfes (Wolves?) gave me a copy, but I encourage you to check it out and support their “Victorian Chamber Metal.” Braxton took some time out from his increasingly busy schedule to answer a few questions.
[Ed. note: Many thanks to my long-time friend John “Ichabod” Anderson for contributing this review for “Kiss of the Damned.” This blog can’t get away from guys named “Ichabod,” it seems — not that there’s anything wrong with that.]
I went into “Kiss of the Damned” with low expectations, assuming that any vampire film of the current era that had been billed as an homage to the artsy ’70s classics would almost certainly let me down. I was wrong. While not a perfect film, “Kiss of the Damned” actually accomplished what I believe its creators intended to do, which was to make a film in the modern era that could offer the atmospheric quality we haven’t really seen since some of the genre classics of the 1970s and early 1980s.
The film focuses mainly on the themes of isolation, temptation, conflict, and hunger that tend to become the price tag for immortality, as shown through the story of a vampire who cannot resist the company of a mortal screenwriter that she encounters in her daily routine. Some will make comparisons to “Twilight” for the way the relationship takes shape, but any similarities are superficial, and you can rest assured that this film never takes a turn for the glittery. On the other hand, it never drifts into pure exploitation, either, keeping the sexuality erotic but tasteful.
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I loved and miss Borders. A lot of bad things have been said about their business decisions; never having worked at one, I don’t know firsthand. But as a customer, Borders stores were always pleasant places to shop for books, movies, and music. Until they were on their last legs, they typically carried a solid mix of catalog titles and eclectic newer releases. I also liked that their DVD selection usually featured “cult” and “arthouse” releases that weren’t always carried by other “big box” retailers.
The Borders chain closed up shop in 2011. There were several locations scattered across the Southeast that I liked, but a particular favorite was the store on Barrett Parkway in Kennesaw, GA. It was a standard Borders store in size and selection, but it was a convenient stop en route to Atlanta. Before this location went down, I took some photos.
The store entrance, of course. I cannot count the number of times I stopped here when traveling to or leaving from Atlanta and further points. I have friends who live in the Auburn and Athens, GA areas, and this place always broke the trip up.
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Book Description: The Grand Guignol Theatre in Paris, founded by Oscar Metenier in 1897, soon became world-renowned for staging wild and bizarre spectacles of madness, mutilation, horror and death. The theatre’s dark prince was André de Lorde, whose gore-drenched psychodramas of medical and surgical horror included A Crime In The Madhouse, The Horrible Experiment, and The System Of Dr. Goudron and Pr. Plume (included here in a brand new translation). Chapel of Gore & Psychosis charts the entire history of the Grand Guignol, from its inception to its closure in 1962. It references and describes dozens of stage productions, and also contains a whole section on films which were either based on, or inspired by, the Grand Guignol and its works. The book is illustrated throughout with over 70 photographs and illustrations, and includes a stunning 16-page full colour section that features vintage poster art by the artist Adrien Barrère, amongst others. As well as a new translation of De Lorde, the book also features the first-ever English translation of a revelatory and scandalous memoir by Paula Maxa, first female superstar of the Grand Guignol. Chapel of Gore & Psychosis will soon become the essential English-language resource for all who wish to study the history, influence and cultural importance of the Grand Guignol Theatre.
Comments: Jack Hunter’s Chapel of Gore & Psychosis is a history of the Grand Guignol, the Parisian theater notorious for its gory, macabre plays. The theater, which was open from 1897 to 1962, was Saw and Hostel decades ahead of schedule. At the Grand Guignol, performances often (usually) combined explicit gore with perverse sexuality — who knew that “torture porn” has such an illustrious history? If anything, Grand Guignol proves once and for all that “old” horror doesn’t mean “quaint” horror.
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