Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year

“Look” Grandma said, “It was the Great Depression. Private nursing jobs were hard to come by, and if your plutocratic employer wanted you to help him snipe debutantes from his oxygen tent, well then you steadied his palsied hand and didn’t ask any impertinent questions.”

Hey guys. I hope everyone has a good New Years, and a better new year. 

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Jon Swift Roundup 2019

Batocchio has done it again, organizing another tribute to the art of small batch blogging with the Jon Swift Roundup 2019. This year's compendium features so many taste-teasing posts that it's like the smorgasbord of sweets and sin on that island where Pinocchio gorged on ice cream and cigars before transforming into a hideous humanoid-animal hybrid, which seems like an apt metaphor for a year that's ending with the release of Cats.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

That's Entertainment? Babes in Toyland (1934)

By Hank Parmer

Since this is the time of year when Christmas movie reviews litter the intertubes, and since the retro stuff seems to be more my bailiwick, I thought a look back at the 1934 Laurel and Hardy vehicle Babes in Toyland (original title: March of the Wooden Soldiers) might be worthwhile. Even though the holiday connection is rather tenuous, with Santa only appearing for a short cameo, and in fact, according to the movie's outrageously overacting villain the action is taking place in the middle of July.

But from the time this loose adaptation of Victor Herbert's insanely popular 1903 operetta debuted in November of '34, it's been considered a Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday film. So much so that it became a staple on second-tier TV and UHF stations, before Rankin-Bass, etc. began to crank out fare oriented toward a more contemporary kiddie market. There was even an edited down to 45 minutes version, which was distributed free to public schools back in the 1950s.

The "bogeymen" certainly scared the willies out of me when I saw this movie as a preschooler. Viewing it as an adult, though, I can't help but feel there's way too much Victor Herbert -- okay, "The March of the Toys" is a catchy little tune -- and nowhere near enough Laurel and Hardy. Although it is slightly refreshing to see a kiddie flick that wasn't put together for the sole purpose of merchandising hunks of Chinese plastic.

We begin with an introductory solo from Mother Goose:

Sorry... Thought it was the porta-potty!

Of all the lands you youngsters will travel in your dreams, she promises in her tune, the best of them is Toyland.

And at first glance, it does seem an enchanting place. Characters from nursery rhymes and fairy tales throng its quaint, quasi-Medieval streets, everyone from the Three Little Pigs to the Cat with a Fiddle. Who's relentlessly stalked by a mischievous monkey in a Mickey Mouse costume.

That's the original Mickey Mouse, who if you ask me looks more like a rat. His presence here might seem odd to anyone familiar with the litigious ways of our modern entertainment juggernaut, but back then Walt was eager enough for the publicity to let Hal Roach borrow the character. Although that hairy, prehensile tail is disturbingly un-mouselike.

Nursery rhymes are literally interpreted here in Toyland, even to the extent of egregious child neglect, like the rock-a-bye baby whose cradle is precariously parked twenty feet up in the top of a slender pine.

The main plot revolves around the Old Lady Who Lives in a Shoe. You know, the one who had so many children she didn't know what to do. (Note that the question of how she came by all these children is deftly handled by identifying her as Widow Peep. You know, lady, contraception might have been something worth checking out.) Tragically, she's actually only in her mid-thirties.

The eldest of her extensive brood is Little Bo Peep. (Charlotte Henry -- who, at age 19, had played the title character in Paramount's 1933 film of Alice in Wonderland.)  Bo Peep's love interest is Tom-Tom, piper's son and lead tenor. (Felix Knight)

But there's a dark undercurrent to life in this magical realm and capitalist's paradise. For starters, creepy Silas Barnaby (Henry Brandon) is about to foreclose on the old lady's shoe. As is traditional in these affairs, he offers to forget about the mortgage, if he can have innocent Bo Peep's hand in marriage.

Brandon -- billed here in his first credited movie role as "Henry Kleinbach" -- was actually only twenty-two at the time he played the distinctly Fagin-esque miser, a part that launched him on a career as a character actor on the silver screen. Mostly portraying heavies, albeit thankfully without the age makeup. Occasionally in A-list features like John Ford's The Searchers, where he played "Chief Scar", but more often in far less prestigious fare. (MST3K fans may remember him as the space pirate "Rinkman" from the Rocky Jones epic Manhunt in Space.)

Surprisingly, Widow Peep also found space in her size 1000 Doc Marten for a couple of lodgers, Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee. As she's preparing their breakfast, Ollie notices she's holding back the tears. When he learns the cause of her distress, he gallantly offers to donate their savings to help pay the mortgage.

But oh dear, Stannie raided the piggy bank. He spent their entire accumulated capital -- a dollar and 48 cents -- on something he calls his "pee wee". Ollie promises he'll try hitting up their boss for a loan.

On their way to work, Ollie demands to see Stannie's pee wee.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Have a Very World O' Crap Christmas!

I hope everyone's having a lovely day. This is the first Christmas in 20 years or so that Mary and I have been apart, as we drew the Comfort the Afflicted and/or Quadrupedal straw -- she's out in the desert looking after her bedridden mother, while I'm dog-sitting for my sister up in Portland.

I grew up with dogs, but it's been decades since I've owned one, and I'd forgotten how labor-intensive they are -- both emotionally and, uh, alimentarily -- but the companionship they provide is top-notch. However, like the Ethiopians that various British rock stars sung about in "Do They Know It's Christmas?", the dogs apparently don't, and since the house isn't decorated (there was no point since the family would be out of town for the holiday), I've been doing my best to pretend it's not actually the Yuldetide in order to modulate my self-pity.

But then Facebook decided to bombard me with memories of Christmas Pasts, and while I still don't care about the holiday, I do miss Riley, because nobody could get into the spirit of the season like she could:

So Merry Christmas (or ELSE!, apparently....)

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Live Bloggin' Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

BILL S: I think I'll "Liveblog" tonight's airing of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"

SCOTT: I think that might be a good idea--


SCOTT: Um...

BILL S: In the 50's and '60's, Burl Ives was known as an Oscar-winning character actor and Grammy-winning country singer.Today he's known mainly as a talking snowman.

SAM THE SNOWMAN: Some people say I'm just a ripoff of Frosty the Snowman, but can Frosty play the banjo? No. And do I make sinister promises as I melt, like "I'll be back again someday!", which sounds like something a serial killer would whisper just as you pulled the lever on him in the death house?

Again, no.

Anyway...🎶 Have a holly, jolly Christmas... 🎶

BILL S: If I can't recall "the most famous reindeer of all", why would I remember the others?
BILL S: The lightbulb aspect of Rudolph's nose isn't nearly as off putting as that damn NOISE it makes--it's worse than the Emergency Broadcast test signal.

SCOTT: This has been a test of the Emergency Broadcast Network. Had this been an actual red-nosed reindeer, you would have been instructed where to tune in your area for news and official information.

BILL S: Why aren't Rudolph's parents more freaked out by the fact that he's only a few minutes old and can already speak, and identify Santa? That's some creepy demonic shit there.

SCOTT: To be fair, baby Rudolph is slightly less disturbing than the madly crackling zombie deer head in Evil Dead II.


BILL S: In the first of many times Santa will behave like a total dick in this cartoon, warning Donner that his kid's abnormality will disqualify him to pull the sleigh.
SANTA: Why you little freak! Your parents ought to pin your ankles together and leave you to die of exposure on a hillside, like Oedipus. But I suppose then you'd just come back and bang your mother!

BILL S: All these years I thought the elf aspiring to be a dentist was named "Herbie". It's HERMY--a name that probably dropped in popularity after this cartoon aired.

BILL S: Donner is so embarrassed by his kid's birth defect he forces Rudolph to wear a fake nose. Great parenting, dude.

BILL S: The elves put on a cheerful musical number about how great it is to work for Santa. His reaction: "It needs work". First off, it sounded fine, and second, even if it wasn't, they're toymakers, not professional singers. And they're doing it for him. Ungrateful bastard.

BILL S: The Reindeer Games: bringing back all of our most awkward memories from middle school gym class.

Oh great, now the President's weighing in...

DONNER J. TRUMP: So ridiculous. Rudolph must work on his Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Rudolph, Chill!

BILL S: How the heck does Clarice get that bow on her head? Even if she could somehow grip it with her front hooves, she'd fall flat on her face. And don't get me started on the fake eyelashes.

BILL S: "She thinks I'm cuuuuute!!!"
So we have confirmation Rudolph's straight. Still not so sure about Hermy.

BILL S: Santa, being a dick again, telling Donner he should be ashamed of Rudolph, who remember, is still a child, and being subjected to taunts, not just from other kids, but even the coach.

SANTA: You're son's a FREAK! You should have had him DESTROYED!

DONNER: I know, but there's so much paperwork--

SANTA: Nonsense! I RULE these frozen wastelands with an iron hand! Say the word and I'll make that grotesque insult to nature DISAPPEAR! We'll bury him in an unmarked grave, salt the ground, and declare his very NAME a CURSE!


SANTA: What! YOU have a BETTER idea??

DONNER: No! Of course not, sir. I mean...you know...maybe show him unconditional love? Build up his self-esteem a little...?

SANTA: None of that's covered in your dependent benefits. Check your employee handbook, under the "So You've Whelped an Abomination" section, then skip down to subsection IV: Bury, Salt, Curse.

BILL S: "There's Always Tomorrow". Nice tune. Clarice has a nice voice. Yes, I know what I just said.

BILL S: I could swear when this thing originally aired, Hermy and Rudolph had another duet, "Fame and Fortune"--was it cut to make room for more commercial time?

SCOTT: From Wikipedia:
1965–1997 telecastsThe 1965 broadcast also included a new duet between Rudolph and Hermey called "Fame and Fortune", which replaced a scene in which the same characters sang "We're a Couple of Misfits". Viewers of the 1964 special complained that Santa was not shown fulfilling his promise to the Misfit Toys (to include them in his annual toy delivery). In reaction, a new scene for subsequent rebroadcasts was produced with Santa making his first stop at the Island to pick up the toys. This is the ending that has been shown on all telecasts and video releases ever since. Until sometime in the 1970s the special aired without additional cuts, but eventually more commercial time was required by the network. In 1978, several sequences were deleted to make room for more advertising: the instrumental bridge from "We Are Santa's Elves" featuring the elf orchestra, additional dialogue by Burl Ives, and the "Peppermint Mine" scene resolving the fate of Yukon Cornelius.The special's 1993 restoration saw "Misfits" returned to its original film context, and the 2004 DVD release showcases "Fame and Fortune" as a separate musical number. 
1998–2004 CBS telecastsMost of the 1965 deletions were restored in 1998, and "Fame and Fortune" was replaced with the original "We're a Couple of Misfits" reprise...The "Peppermint Mine" scene was not restored; until 2019, it had not been shown on television since the initial broadcast in 1964.
 BILL S: Is anyone else completely grossed out by the Abominable Snow Monster, AKA The Bumble?

Yukon Cornelius: Beware, boys! His tangled, matted, hairy junk is right at eye level!

BILL S: Oh great, they escaped from the Bumble--by floating on a tiny ice raft to who knows where.

SCOTT: I always assumed they were floating down river, Huck 'n' Jim style, to the town of Hyperthermia, MO.

BILL S: The Misfit Toys are sentient, and can talk, sing and dance--that's way cooler than the crap the elves are making.

BILL S: "How would you like to be a bird that doesn't fly--I swim!"
So...a penguin?

BILL S: King Moonracer is a winged lion--which makes him the biggest freak on the island.

KING MOONRACER: Yeah, very funny, smart guy. Too bad for you my cloaca's opening...

BILL S: Rudolph returns home, and learns that his parents and Clarice have left to look for him. They could be dead or seriously injured, but all Santa cares about is how it affects HIM. Without Donner, what will he do? I dunno, use the other seven Reindeer? All this time, he never had a backup plan?

SCOTT: And he's agitated and skinny--everyone comments on it. I think while everyone else is busy making toys, Santa is off secretly cooking meth.

BILL S: Why don't the reindeer escape the Bumble by just FLYING AWAY?

SCOTT: People asked John McCain the same thing, and the answer is the same: the Bumbles, like the North Vietnamese, received sophisticated anti-aircraft batteries from the Soviet Union. The North Pole is where the Cold War got COLD, man.

BILL S: "Why doesn't he get it over with?" Gosh, you almost never hear someone in a holiday special aimed at children express a yearning for the sweet relief of death.

If I ever go missing, I hope nobody in my family is stupid enough to look for me in the den of a dangerous predator.

BILL S: Oh, great the Bumble wants a job. Just what we need, a ladder that eats and poops.

BILL S: "That silly elf song is driving me crazy"
It's a good thing he didn't hear the new verse:
"We are Santa's elves
No life for ourselves
We're enslaved by a cranky tyrant,
We are Santa's elves"

BILL S: The snowstorm is so terrible Santa will have to cancel Christmas. I'm sure Jesus will be very disappointed.

JESUS: Alexa, where's my stuff??

BILL S: So, earlier, Santa was worried about how he'd be able to fly without Donner, his lead reindeer, but now he's asking Rudolph, who's NEVER done it in his life, to lead them all?

Rudolph is was too forgiving. If it had been me, I'd be like, "Oh, NOW you want my help? Suck my pointy antlers, old man."

BILL S: I wonder if those living Misfit Toys are creeped out by the inanimate toys the elves made--imagine being on a plane where half the passengers are mannequins.

SCOTT: Well, I was on a plane once where about half the passengers were watching Mannequin.

It was chilling...

BILL S: Also, an umbrella isn't a parachute, so those Misfit Toys are crashing to the ground to their deaths.

LES NESSMAN: The toys are hitting the ground like bags of wet cement!

BILL S: In the X-rated version of "Rudolph", the line "he went down in history" had a different meaning entirely.

BILL S: Well, that's it. Hope you all enjoyed my live blogging of 'Rudolph". Good night all.

Friday, December 6, 2019


As some of you may remember, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA believes I'm his best friend, and constantly sends me letters fondly recalling all the times we stood together, shoulder-to-shoulder against the gun-grabbers. And I can't blame him for reminiscing, for to hear Wayne tell it each battle was a nail-biter, with the two of us only pulling off victory when I finally pulled out my wallet and made a generous donation. Now, this is basically the same pitch I get from Habitat for Humanity, but at least they don't tantalize me with the prospect that a gunfight is about to break out at any moment. Which is probably a good thing, because it's my personal belief that Jimmy Carter is immortal, and as with Mongo from Blazing Saddles, shooting the former President would just make him mad.

What perplexes me about this situation is that while I have given money to Habitat for Humanity, I've only ever given the NRA grief. So if Wayne and I do have a relationship, it's an abusive one, and if this were a Lifetime movie, I'd be the bad boyfriend. But despite his persistence over the years I think even Wayne has begun to doubt my feelings, because today he got his friend Jason Ouimet, the NRA Executive Director, to pass me a note that basically says, "If You Still Like Wayne, Check This Box [ ]".

Well...I won't send you money, because I don't have any and anyway you'd just use it to buy cheap booze or Congressmen, or cheap booze for Congressmen, but there are other things I can contribute. My time, for instance (these emails of yours don't mock themselves). Or there's that dead raccoon at the end of the block. True, it's getting rained on, but it's still reasonably fresh; yet I can't help feeling you'd regard that less as a contribution and more the sort of oblique warning Mark Singer received in Body Chemistry when his spurned lover mailed him a squashed lobster (For more on their fraught, unrequited love, which eerily parallels my relationship with Wayne, see page 92 of Better Living Through Bad Movies.)

In 2020, you and I are facing an ALL-OR-NOTHING BATTLE for the very survival of American gun rights.
From your lips to God's ears. But you may have to shout to be heard above all the mass shootings.
For the first time in our lives, leading candidates for the White House are openly pledging to registertaxban, and even confiscate our firearms. 
Well, that escalated quickly. From "register" firearms, which most everyone in the country supports, to "confiscate", which virtually nobody advocates--certainly not "leading candidates for the White House", more's the pity. I acknowledge, if not necessarily admire the rhetorical sleight of hand with which the most radical solution to gun violence is conflated with the most anodyne.

NRA: That drug store clerk is making CHANGE!

ME: Well, yes, these Dr. Scholl Corn Cushions are four bucks, and I gave her a five, so I'm owed a dollar in change.

NRA: But she's making RADICAL CHANGE! Instead of a filthy, crumpled dollar bill--the symbol of our proud nation--she's giving you a Sacajawea coin, beloved by Feminists and SJWs! It's like you don't even care about the historical reputation of Lewis and Clark!

ME: No, no, I mean I'd like to walk the walk, but I've got this Plantar's Wart...
And hundreds of U.S. House and Senate candidates have likewise made it clear that destroying your gun rights will be their #1 priority if they’re elected next year.
I've finally figured out why I read this nonsense, and the answer is not flattering: it's basically political porn. Not that I can fap to the Fata Morganas of right wing spleenmail, but just as porn fanciers like to believe in a world where hitchhikers are comely, well-endowed college girls and not hollow-eyed meth-heads with a facial tic and a butterfly knife, I enjoy fantasizing about election campaigns where the candidates actually share my policy priorities.
The bottom line for you and me:
If we lose in 2020, the consequences will be catastrophic.

If we lose in 2020, national gun registration will become the law of the land, and your name, personal information, and gun purchase records will be tracked forever in a centralized government database.
Well the joke's on them, since I've never bought a gun, so I say we call up Aston Kutcher and see how this prank plays out.
If we lose in 2020, huge new taxes on firearm and ammunition purchases – along with mandatory insurance requirements – will put self-defense and recreational shooting beyond the financial reach of millions of Americans.
Sure, but let's not focus solely on the negative here, Jason. Think how many patriots, as a direct result of these onerous new taxes, will not get the opportunity to shoot their own dick off while squabbling over a parking space outside the Wal-Mart, thus depriving liberal Twitter of much needed amusement and memes.
If we lose in 2020, we’ll be facing sweeping bans on semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and pistols that will outlaw more than half of all firearms sold in America today.
If I didn't know that you're basically the modern equivalent of those medicine show quacks who would roll into some frontier town and fob off a mixture of turpentine and gooseberry juice as a cure for whooping cough, I'd be jealous of your fierce and tender faith in the efficacy of the Democratic Party.
And if we lose in 2020, we could be just months or even weeks away from nationwide gun confiscations – with millions of legally-owned firearms being seized by the government and melted down for scrap.
Well I'm sure we could make something useful out of all that scrap. Like playground equipment for school kids! Although thanks to all the un-scrapped guns, there's not as much demand as there might otherwise be.
In short, the most precious freedom in our Constitution – a freedom you and I have known all our lives – is now on the brink of total destruction.
I dunno, Jason. I feel about the Bill of Rights the way a father feels when asked which of his children is his favorite: "I love 'em all equally!" Like Dad, however, I'm lying my ass off, because while I've used the First Amendment extensively (just check the World O' Crap archives for my previous correspondence with your boss), and I sleep better knowing the Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments exist (however imperfectly applied), your most precious freedom has been reaping a bitter harvest for literally as long as I can remember.
And the only group of people in this entire country who can stop the Second Amendment from being wiped off the face of the earth are you and me and our fellow NRA members.
Well, I'd love to help preserve our many millions of guns, but I don't have a lot of spare time what with my new job as a lobbyist for the National Scrap Industry Association.
Scott, that’s why I’m asking you to please make a generous end-of-year contribution[link removed] to NRA-ILA of $28 or more – so we can head into 2020 fully prepared for the biggest election battle of our lives.

Why $28? No clue. Maybe it's an amount small enough they can circumvent some limit or reporting regulation, or maybe it's a code, the way "88" means "Heil Hitler" to the alt right.
Let me be clear.
Not only have we never faced a threat this dangerous, but gun-banners have never been better funded or better organized than they are right now.
Or more pissed off. Fortunately, they've never come up against the awesome power of my Game of Thrones-themed pro-gun LARPing group, Brothers Without Gun-Banners!
And there’s simply no way NRA-ILA can win this make-or-break fight to save our guns without your help today.
You are So. Screwed.
To reach every freedom-loving gun owner in America and get them to the polls next November, we need your generous financial help right now.[link removed]
Have we tried reaching them through the power of prayer? I hear that's pretty effective.
To combat the vicious anti-gun lies being spread by the gun-hating media, we need your immediate help today.[link removed]
Why didn't I think of this in junior high--combating the lies and vicious gossip the popular kids spread about me by demanding everybody hand over their lunch money! That whole "queer bait" incident alone could have paid for an Intellivision!
And to build, organize, and mobilize the biggest grassroots army we’ve ever mustered in key battleground states, we need your leadership now more than ever before.[link removed]
All right, Jason, you've talked me into it! Once you've mobilized our army in the battlegrounds, I'll exercise my leadership by giving them the same orders Robert E. Lee gave his troops at Gettysburg. (I'm not exactly sure what those were, but I assume he won; there's statues of the guy all over the damn place.)

This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for NRA-ILA supporters like you and me.

Scott, you and I need to recognize right here and now that the Second Amendment is going to be the number one issue in this election. Not health care. Not immigration. Not the economy.
At least if the NRA Institute for Legislative Action has anything to say about. Too bad for the future of the Second Amendment that I blew my last 28 bucks on a pallet of Otter Pops at Costco.
If we win this election, we keep our guns. If we lose, we lose our freedoms – FOREVER. That’s why I need you fighting by my side right now.
Well I'm not gonna stay by your side FOREVER if you don't scootch over. My leg's going to sleep.

Whatever you can give before the end of the year[link removed] – $28, $37, $53, $100, or more – I’m asking you to please be as generous as you can.

I'm not saying I don't get a thrill out of watching a grown man grovel like this, but in keeping with the porn theme, I see no reason why I should give them my credit card number when I can probably find the same thing for free on some torrent site.
There’s simply never been a more important time for you to step up and help save the freedoms that generations of Americans have fought to defend.
That's what you say every election, every email, every time. Does the importance of the time just keep increasing exponentially? Or did we reach Peak Important Time somewhere back in the 90s, and now we're just struggling to maintain our relevance or even simply justify our existence like Yakov Smirnoff?

Thank you in advance for your strong NRA-ILA leadership. I’m grateful for your commitment. And I’m thankful beyond words to have you on our team.
Yours in Freedom,

Jason Ouimet
Executive Director

Okay, the closing of the email is admittedly dull, which is why people who dictate letters in movies always say, "Yours Sincerely, et cetera, et cetera" in a bored tone of voice, but I thought there has never been a more important time to include the whole stupid text, because this email contains 10 separate links to their fundraising page, a new record.

Maybe the NRA really is spooked by the withdrawal of certain big dollar donors, who figure all the heat from mass shootings is bad for business, and Jason is hoping the remaining membership is senile enough to click on all the links, forgetting they already gave two paragraphs ago.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Slumgullion Episode 70: The Mandalorian

Join Scott, Jeff, and Mary on The Slumgullion for a chat about the first two episodes of The Mandalorian. We're serving up geek crudité, Salacious B. Crumb kebobs, and Fur Eggs Benedict:

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Portrait of the Artist as a Nosferatu: The Vampire of Women (1959)

By Hank Parmer

I didn't plan things out this way.

It's mostly coincidental that my follow-up review to a film featuring bunny-hopping Chinese vampires is this head-scratching take on the Land of the Rising Sun's own bloodsuckers, the kyuketsuki. I say "mostly" because the YouTube gnomes must have taken my self-inflicted ordeal with Robo Vampire to mean I wanted to see more vampire-themed flicks from the Far East, which is no doubt how this one ended up on their Recommended list.

Thankfully, compared to Robo Vampire, this flick is Citizen Kane. Which is admittedly setting the bar so low it's about a thousand feet down in the primordial ooze at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, but those little frills -- like trained actors, competent black and white widescreen cinematography, and a plot that for all its wha-da-fuckery isn't a shameless rip off of a far better film -- sure can make a difference.

I'll even go so far as to say there's some genuinely creepy and even rather twisted stuff in Vampire of Women (Onna Kyuketsuki). Although not quite in the way one might expect -- you'll see what I mean.

The director, Nobuo Nakagawa, made quite a name for himself in the horror genre during the '50s and '60s. His very next picture, Jigoku (1960), with its unsparingly bleak plot and lurid depictions of the Buddhist hells, is probably his most famous work. Many of Nakagawa's films have supernatural themes; quite a few of them are period melodramas featuring vengeful spirits, such as a retelling of the popular ghost story, "The Peony Lantern".

In fairness to this director, I've seen six or seven of his other movies, and they seemed to make some kind of sense at the time. This one, though, is set in modern times, as we follow the misadventures of a crazy, mixed-up monster who can't decide whether he's Lon Chaney, Jr. or Bela Lugosi.

The Vampire of Women opens with a taxi speeding through the night. Journalist Tamio Oki urges the driver to step on the gas, explaining he's late for his fiance Itsuko Matsumura's birthday party.

A woman darts in front of the taxi; the driver swerves to avoid her and the cab screeches to a stop. Tamio and the driver pile out of the taxi, certain they must have hit this jaywalker, only to find she has vanished into thin air. They even check under the cab, but nope, no scofflaws hung up in the driveshaft.

At Itsuko's party, our slightly miffed birthday girl decides they shouldn't wait any longer for Tamio. After she blows out the candles, she cuts into her exquisitely spun-sugar-frosted cake with a razor-sharp knife.  She accidentally slices her thumb, and splatters the celebratory confection with her blood.

At least they still have the ice cream.

Outside, that mystery woman scoots across the driveway just ahead of Tamio's taxi as it pulls in to the Matsumura mansion. But when Tamio looks around for her, she's disappeared yet again.

Back at the party, Itsuko's father, Shigekatsu, and Wada the butler are worried. This aged retainer recalls her mother cut her finger in exactly the same way, just before she disappeared. "Yes... a question of blood, perhaps," Mr. Matsumura replies, enigmatically. Is he hinting klutziness runs in the family?

Tamio arrives, with profuse apologies for being late to the party. While he explains about that careless phantom pedestrian, the lights suddenly go out.

Cut to the mystery lady, or rather, her legs, as she stealthily crosses the patio, traverses a dark, deserted hallway and ascends a flight of stairs. In the kitchen, the cook and the maid grouse about the blackout making their jobs even harder, only to be astonished when someone rings from the second-floor bedroom, the one that's been closed up for years!

While the youngsters have a sing-along, Wada and Mr. Matsumura investigate this strange development. They're justifiably amazed when Dad recognizes the new occupant of the long-disused bedroom: It's his wife Miwako, Itsuko's mother, who disappeared twenty years ago.

Maybe they should have checked the closet again, or looked under the bed... Yet, amazingly, she doesn't appear to have aged a day!

Miwako is barely conscious, unable to answer when Shigekatsu implores her to tell him what happened, and where she's been all this time. He mutters something about a family curse.

The next day, his wife is still semi-comatose. The doctor assures Shigekatsu she seems perfectly healthy -- but confirms that physically she can't be a day over twenty. Itsuko, worried that her mother will be treated like a freak, makes her fiance promise not to publish the story.

Tamio suggests they forget their troubles by taking in an art exhibition. As it turns out, there's more exhibited here than they might have expected: Itsuko is certain that prize-winning piece (by which I mean, "portrait of a reclining nude") is her mother. After looking more closely, Tamio agrees it's definitely her -- face.

A whisper-thin guy wearing a black dinner jacket, black fedora and white scarf, and large and very dark sunglasses, stands close behind them. OMG: It's the "Chairman of the Board"!

Tamio wanders off to find out more from the gallery. That swankily attired stranger strikes up a conversation with Itsuko, querying her about her evident fascination with the painting. He seems intrigued when Itsuko answers it reminds her of her mother.

Rather than trying to ferret out more details about Itsuko's unconventional upbringing, the man in black abruptly exits the exhibition, his faithful dwarf close on his heels. Tamio returns from having been told at the information desk that the gallery hasn't the slightest idea who the artist and his model are. There's only the name signed on the portrait: "Shiro Sofue".

After Tamio drops Itsuko off back at the Matsumura mansion, the man in black and his pint-size posse show up outside the gate and take a quick gander at the residence. Next we see the dwarf sneaking through the darkened gallery after hours. He stops in front of that prize-winning nude and gazes up at it. It may be a good thing this scene doesn't go any further...

Cut to the mysterious man in black's hotel suite. A maid tops off his glass, with red wine, natch. Although it's nighttime, he still insists on wearing those shades. Once the maid exits, his diminutive assistant enters the scene through the dwarf entrance the management had installed.

Which was quite thoughtful of them, really. Except that due to a mix-up with the contractor it's six feet up on the wall. When the little guy jumps down and hits that bare floor, he takes the impact on his arms as well as his legs. It takes a moment for the actor to recover. (It's not like he needed those rotator cuffs for anything important.) Let's hope they got this scene in one take.

Pausing for a few seconds to swing his arms back and forth and take a few deep breaths, the henchman reports everything went as planned. The mystery man is pleased. He removes the cheaters, but for anyone who might have been anticipating some ocular weirdness a la The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, his are disappointingly normal.

The dwarf suddenly panics: "The windows are open!"

This is the cue for the boss to begin having some kind of fit, possibly inspired by the full moon that's shining through the window. His henchman frantically wrestles with the heavy drapes, while the man in black puts his hands over his face, hurls himself on the bed, thrashes around and moans.

The maid, who's just outside in the hallway, hears the commotion and rushes back into the room. The man in black is sitting up now, seemingly calmer, but his hands are still covering his face. She thinks it's a bit stuffy, so she helpfully pulls the curtains open again.

Extremely bad move: The boss puts a whole new spin on "fresh air fiend" as he transforms into a classic Euro-style vampire with pale, sunken features, Count Orlok eyebrows and a pearly pair of fangs.
"How do you like me now?" 

His convenience-size Renfield locks himself in the bathroom, while the bloodsucker chases down this hapless do-gooder and sinks his teeth in her neck. He dumps her corpse on the couch in the hallway.

Tamio is dispatched to report on the murder. After the investigating detective does the obligatory "baffled by the marks on her neck" routine, the journalist spies the man in black, sans shades, standing in the doorway to his digs -- which can't be much more than twenty feet from where the maid's lifeless body lies sprawled on that couch, blood dribbling from the holes in her neck. Tamio works his way through the crowd to interview him. The vampire slams the door in Tamio's face.

Returning to the newsroom, Tamio learns there's been an art heist: That prize-winning nude has been stolen!

And where should it turn up next morning, but inside the front gate of the Matsumura residence, wrapped in brown paper, with a slip signed simply "Shiro Sofue" attached. Itsuko claims she hasn't the slightest idea who that is.

Which seems strange, considering the employee at the gallery said it was a signed portrait, and she did spend a fair amount of time studying it. Maybe the artist's signature was really tiny, or perhaps her attention was focused elsewhere. Then again, it could be there's a good reason why Itsuko is rarely entrusted with sharp objects.

But you do have to hand it to the little guy: It appears he managed to horse that oversize portrait in its heavy frame -- which anyone who wasn't at least six-and-a-half feet tall and built like a tank would likely have found somewhat unwieldy -- out of the gallery, wrap it carefully, and deposit it on the Matsumura doorstep, all without being seen. This Renfield may come in a small package, but he's undeniably worth every last morsel of his spider goulash.

Tamio arrives in time for the unwrapping. He's amazed to see the stolen painting, and immediately clues the others in about its theft last night.
"It's an interesting approach..." 

Is it just me, or is there something slightly peculiar about Itsuko et al's nonchalant attitude toward this canvas? Shigekatsu in particular seems remarkably unaffected by this clue to what his missing wife was up to these past twenty years. As for Tamio, well, I'm fairly broadminded when it comes to nekkid pictures -- er, celebrations of the human form, but a large, realistic nude of my fiance's hot mom (or for that matter, my mother, or my wife) displayed in the front room?

Prize-winning composition or no, I believe that might fall just a bit outside my comfort zone. But who knows, maybe Tamio met Itsuko and her dad at a naturists' outing.

And that doesn't even begin to address the twist-of-the-knife implicit in having this... revealing portrait delivered, out of the blue, to the model's family in a manner which leaves no doubt it's a gift from the secretive artist. If you ask me, though, it seems he's gone about it in a needlessly complicated manner. Although I suppose sending it by parcel post probably wouldn't have had quite the same sinister cachet.

Nighttime: A full moon rides above ragged clouds. Medium close up of Miwako's portrait, where it remains propped up in the shadowed parlor. It seems like that nude gets almost as much screen time as some of the principal players.

Not that I'm complaining.

Miwako sits up in bed. As if in a trance, she tosses the covers back, rises and heads downstairs to the parlor.
"Sure, I've got a bod that won't stop... but am I art?" 

She stares at her portrait for a moment, suddenly cries out, "I'm scared!" then, after a few seconds, "Forgive me!" and collapses. Shigekatsu comes running, followed quickly by Itsuko, her fiance and the help. Miwako's only out for a few moments. Her husband is overjoyed when she opens her eyes and finally recognizes him.

While Shigekatsu re-introduces his wife to their daughter, Tamio continues to intently scrutinize that cryptic painting. Jeez, buddy, can't you afford a magazine or something?

Shigekatsu decides this is the perfect time for the youngsters to hear about some family history.

Itsuko's father begins by asking if they've ever heard of Shiro Amakusa. Tamio immediately recognizes the name: Back in the 17th Century, he was the leader of the Shimabara Uprising, when Iemitsu Tokugawa outlawed Christianity. Although Shiro and his followers were all killed, the Matsumura family are his descendants. His blood flows in Miwako's veins. (Shigekatsu took his wife's clan name when they married.)

In a flashback to twenty years previous, the young couple decide to visit her family shrine on a holiday. After paying their respects, Shigekatsu relaxes with a little angling in the nearby lake, while Miwako sets out their picnic beside a small campfire. But then, from one moment to the next, she simply disappears. Though he searched far and wide for her, that was the last her family saw of Miwako until she turned up a couple of days ago.

Now the flashback follows Miwako: Seized by some irresistible compulsion, she takes a stroll. On a promontory overlooking the water, she meets the man in black. He's busy painting a landscape, out in the broad daylight. As we saw earlier at the gallery, this is one weakness our kyuketsuki doesn't share with his Western counterpart. Quite the contrary, in fact.

He tells Miwako he's been waiting for her, and hands her a pale rose, claiming its scent drew her to him. (Romantic cuss, ain't he?) One close-up sniff of the flower's fragrance is enough to put Miwako down for the count. I'm beginning to wonder if the family curse is actually narcolepsy.

Now she's dressed in a filmy negligee, and lying on a divan, in some strange place surrounded by impenetrable darkness. The man in black wakes Miwako by vehemently prodding her in the solar plexus with a floor candelabra.

"Wakey wakey eggs and bakey!" 

They're not alone: There's also a withered crone in a plain grey kimono, plus our old friend Mini-Renfield (who's borrowed an extra-shaggy sherpa vest from Sonny Bono for the occasion) and, making a special guest appearance, Japanese Mr. Clean.

The man in black offers her eternal, unfailing youth, if she accepts his love. In a flashback-within-a-flashback, we see the vampire's origin story: He was a samurai named Takenaka, who loved Princess Katsu, the daughter of Shiro Amakusa -- remember him? -- even more than his Christian faith. When the Shogun's armies came for them he helped her commit seppuku while the full moon was rising. Then, because he was so smitten with the princess, he drank her blood.

Nothing so odd about that, right?

Be that as it may, this doomed him to live forever, seeking the blood of maidens, the blood of his Princess. (Well, sheesh, you make one mistake...) Unsurprisingly, Miwako is a dead ringer for Princess Katsu.

In the next scene, Miwako's posing for that prize-winning portrait.
"Now, hold that pose -- for the next twenty years." 

Vampire Takenaka flings his brush and pallet away. He complains he can't paint her, because of the hatred for him in her eyes. (What did you expect, gratitude? It's not like you gave her much say in the matter.) The nutty nosferatu shows Miwako his gallery of two-piece bathing suit-clad former lovers; he promises if she tries to betray him, she'll end up a statue like the rest of them, with a golden cross pendant hung round her neck.

Miwako resumes the narration: After years of waiting for her chance, she managed to escape and somehow found her way back home. It was the moonlight that woke her just now. Miwako confides she finds it comforting, because her captor hated the stuff.

Okay, that's all good and well, but I distinctly remember Mr. Matsumura saying something about a curse. Is it that the women in Miwako's family keep getting hit on by a screwball vampire with artistic pretensions? If anybody seems like they're genuinely under a curse here, it's Takenaka.

Shigekatsu reports the stolen painting to the police; Takenaka has also been summoned to the station. He's antsy and keeps checking his watch, clearly impatient to get the interrogation over with. The detective from Homicide leads off by observing the maid's corpse was found right outside his door. When he asks Takenaka the obvious question about his whereabouts at the time of the murder, the camera pans to the clock on the wall -- it's almost a quarter 'til six.

Whatever alibi he concocted must have satisfied the police, because it's night again and Takenaka is cruising the brightly-lit streets of Tokyo's famous Ginza district. The kyuketsuki notices the full moon trying to peep out from behind the thick overcast, and becomes increasingly nervous. He pulls over suddenly. Clutching his portfolio, he exits the car and hastily ducks into a nearby restaurant, the Angel Cafe.

Takenaka seats himself at a table, where luckily the pebble-glass windows hide the sight of the moon. Outside, in yet another remarkable coincidence, Tamio happens to be right on the spot when Mini-Renfield pops out of the car's trunk -- and just exactly where else would you expect the Master to keep his dwarf? -- and scuttles down the sidewalk. This naturally sets the journalist's investigative juices flowing. He follows Takenaka's henchman into the restaurant.

Takenaka sits hunched over his table, laboring to retain his cool. His diminutive assistant clambers up on the bar and begins kicking and hurling glassware and bottles of booze everywhere. The best I can figure is either the little guy thinks he's auditioning for Coyote Ugly, or he's trying to distract everyone from Takenaka's obvious distress. Whichever it is, he blows it big time when he gets a little too carried away and pitches an ashtray through one of those pebble-glass windows, giving the boss an unobstructed eyeful of the lunar orb.

Takenaka goes berserk. One thing you can say about this kooky kyuketsuki: Despite being well past his 300th birthday, he's totally plugged into that modern, on-the-go, supercharged and highly efficient Japanese lifestyle. During the ensuing rampage, he merely has to fasten his fangs onto each victim's neck for a couple of seconds to kill her.

This vampire must really suck.

Another puzzling aspect of this sequence is that in addition to journalist Tamio, there are at least five other men, who all appear fairly stout of arm and in good fettle, in the adjoining bar along with their dates. Yet Takenaka thoroughly intimidates these wimps simply by throwing a chair at them. Then he sinks his teeth into the hostess, and, shortly thereafter, a panicked woman who tries to bolt from the bar.

All through this, Tamio and the others merely stand there and gawp. It's not like Takenaka appears to have supernatural strength, though of course he could still give you a nasty bite, or some painful scratches with those pointy fingernails. Even so, no one makes the slightest move to stop him. Like, say, whacking him with another chair.

After dropping his second victim, Takenaka stumbles out of the cafe. Tamio retrieves the artist's portfolio and follows at a discreet distance. But at the entrance to the establishment Mini-Renfield body-checks the journalist, then takes off in the other direction. Tamio wisely decides to pursue the dwarf, instead.

In quick succession Takenaka attacks two more women, in plain view of a bunch of pedestrians, then totters back to his car and drives off.

The vampire's murderous romp in the Ginza district naturally makes the headlines. For some reason the newspapers inflate his kill total to six, not four. Could be he stopped off for a couple of quick ones after the first massacre.

At the Matsumura spread, Itsuko, Mom and Dad are back in the parlor with the painting. They do seem to spend a lot of time there. Miwako is terrified when she realizes someone has stuck a small gold crucifix to the forehead of her nude. She's convinced it's a sign from "the master of the cave" that he's coming for her.

Shigekatsu assures Miwako the police are supposed to come by soon to pick up the painting. While Mr. Matsumura helps his distraught wife return to her bedroom, Itsuko answers the doorbell -- but no one's there.

She then unwittingly (or half-wittingly) assists the vampire with this obvious diversion by asking her father if she can speak with him alone, even though Miwako begs him not to leave her side. Shigekatsu promises her he'll be right back.

While they're outside the bedroom, Takenaka emerges from the shadows and reproaches Miwako for running away. He pleads with her to come back to their cozy cave with him. She refuses.

Downstairs, Shigekatsu orders the servants to search the house, but first he wants the painting put somewhere out of sight. Awww... and it was such a great conversation piece.

Takenaka puts Miwako under a spell, or kills her, it's not very clear. When Shigekatsu returns to check on Miwako, he's confronted by the vampire, who chokes him and tosses him onto the landing, then slams the door to the bedroom shut. Gathering Miwako in his arms, Takenaka quite pointlessly kicks out the glass on the double doors leading out onto the balcony, and absconds with luckless Mr. Matsumura's wife.

Later, Shigekatsu lingers disconsolately in Miwako's now-vacant bedroom. You do have to feel sorry for the guy.

Just as the police are carting the painting out the front door, Tamio belatedly makes the connection between the artist's signature on the portrait and that signed charcoal sketch of a nude in the portfolio Takenaka conveniently left behind while running amok. Which Tamio has held on to, instead of turning over to the police, even though as a reporter he should know they'd consider it vital evidence.

I'm sure he just wanted to study the artist's work more closely.

Tamio and Itsuko decide to investigate the kyuketsuki's hotel suite. Which implies Tamio must have recognized him at the Angel Cafe as the guy he saw at the first murder scene. Yet again, he didn't bother to mention this to the authorities? And come to think of it, how did that dwarf manage to outrun him?

No one answers the door. The desk clerk informs the two they just missed him: Takenaka checked out earlier that morning. Tamio and Itsuko realize he must have gone to ground at his hideout in Shimabara. They resolve to hunt him there.

Meanwhile, Takenaka breezes right through a roadblock, in the same car in which multiple witnesses must have seen him fleeing his Ginza sucking spree. A bit of trick photography with a double exposure reveals that Mini-Renfield and unconscious-or-dead Miwako are in the trunk, which of course the police neglect to search.
"I'm the luckiest little guy in the world!"  

You know, given the level of police work we've seen so far, there may be some justification for Tamio's do-it-yourself attitude toward tracking this monster down. Anyway, Godzilla only knows what the little guy's going to be getting up to in there. For Miwako's sake, I hope it's a short trip.

Incidentally, this scene takes place at night. When a mere glimpse of the moon is supposed to turn Takenaka into a ferocious, out-of-control vampire. Yet here he is taking a road trip, appearing perfectly cool and collected. Sure, why not? Maybe there's a thick overcast.

A lucky tip from some fellow reporters in Shimabara puts our vampire hunters on the right trail: A thief who hid his loot up in the mountains was recently nabbed by the police. The guy claims that after he buried his haul, he was frightened away from a "castle" by a bald-headed giant and a tiny fellow. Changing his mind now about going it alone, Tamio somehow persuades the authorities there's something to the criminal's story.

A search party is organized, with the thief leading the way up into the snow-clad mountains. After a while, Tamio notices Itsuko is lagging behind. (This delicate flower of Japanese womanhood is of course unable to climb that slope as quickly as the menfolk.) He backtracks to give his fiance a hand; the rest of the party disappears over a rise.

It's obvious what's going to happen next, right? Well, yes and no. Sure, I expected an attack by Takenaka's henchmen, but I didn't think Mini-Renfield (who's grown quite attached to that sherpa vest) and Japanese Mr. Clean would employ 17th Century style matchlocks. Their boss couldn't have sprung for some slightly more up-to-date weaponry? I bet he ends up regretting this penny-pinching.

The giant and the little guy take their ineffective potshots at Tamio, then beat feet into a boulder field. Tamio predictably swallows the bait and pursues them, leaving Itsuko all by her lonesome. As soon as he's out of sight, the caped kyuketsuki suddenly appears behind her.

Tamio hears Itsuko's cries for help; when he returns to the spot where he'd abandoned her to go chasing after the vampire's henchmen, all he finds is a shoe. Tamio searches the mountainside for her. Eventually, with no apparent indication as to why he chose to check out this particular rocky knob, he finds the hidden entrance to Takenaka's "castle" -- which looks more like a cave to me, even down to the traditional rubber bats fluttering on strings.

As Tamio penetrates deeper into the mountain, the passage winds through bizarre, cubistic rock formations. This in turn leads to a stairway, then a massive, ancient double door. A skeleton held together by a few leathery scraps of flesh dangles beside it, chained to the wall. The vampire must have concluded a "No Soliciting" notice wasn't enough, after that time the Hare Krishnas found their way in.

Tamio opens the doors and enters a vast and misty chamber. So it looks like Takenaka really does have a castle, of the rare subterranean variety.

Meanwhile, in another well-lit and airy underground room, the vampire has Itsuko all to himself. Though frightened, she still summons up the gumption to demand Takenaka give her mother back.

He replies, "I'll give you what I gave her." (Naughty, naughty boy!)

Takenaka continues: "Wouldn't you like to live, eternally young, forever?" But you can see that, just like with her mom, he's not offering her a choice.

"Look at me," the vampire commands Itsuko. "I have lived for centuries, and now I will baptize you, so you may do the same."

"Baptize"? I believe that's the first time I've heard it called that. (I'll leave any Chuck Berry quips to the rest of you sickos.) Then again, he wouldn't be the first guy to try nailing both the MILF and her daughter.

But before the vampire can do whatever it is he's planning to do to innocent Itsuko, his elderly henchwoman provides a timely interruption. She warns Takenaka the mother and daughter will betray him in the end. Plus, the Christian God of the Amakusa clan will be mightily cheesed.

Presumably the murders of who knows how many women, over a period of hundreds of years, rises only to the level of a minor peccadillo.

"Enough! I want the blood of this girl," he declares. "She has Amakusa blood." (It's extra tasty and packed with goodness!)

Takenaka then rewards the poor lady's well-meant advice by smacking her in the chops with the butt of his whip. He turns back toward Itsuko, but his hellish plans are again thwarted when Mini-Renfield runs into the room. He tugs at the Master's cape and frantically points back at the door.

The crone tries once more to dissuade Takenaka, predicting that the castle will fall if he incurs the wrath of God. Rather than heeding her warning, or paying attention to the dwarf's attempts to communicate something important, he takes the whip to her again.

Giving Tamio his chance to burst into the chamber. While he roughhouses with the vampire, he yells for Itsuko to make a break for it. After indulging in a little dwarf-wrestling, she decides to follow his advice. But she doesn't get far before she runs into Mr. Clean, who's hanging out by what appears to be the castle's in-ground hot tub. Then Mini-Renfield blocks her way, as well.

Tamio shows up, and grapples with the bald "giant". Itsuko takes to her heels, with the dwarf in hot pursuit. In no time at all the pro wrestler who's been tapped for the role of Japanese Mr. Clean has the journalist hoisted up over his head, in a perfect setup for an atomic drop or a backbreaker. Then he puts him down, quite gently, in fact. And after that the big numbnut just stands there, wide open, seemingly waiting for Tamio's flying kick to propel him backwards into the hot spring.

And as any homemaker will tell you, Mr. Clean readily dissolves in warm water. The guy never had a chance.
"Ohhhh... what a world! What a world!" 

Note that while all this was going on, Takenaka simply watches from the sidelines. Yeah, but now he decides to go after Tamio with his whip.

The thief finally locates the entrance to Takenaka's hideout, while our unlucky-in-love bloodsucker and Tamio continue to tussle. The vampire swaps his whip for an epee and, cape billowing behind him, chases Tamio through the castle's corridors.

In another part of the castle, Itsuko flees from Mini-Renfield. Fer cryin' out loud... Look, lady, you've got at least a couple of feet in height and forty or fifty pounds on your opponent! I bet she's mugged by kindergartners on a near-daily basis.

While the fuzz and their guide continue to negotiate that passageway, after quite a bit of running and frantic dodging in which time after time Tamio narrowly avoids being skewered, he gets a lucky break and disarms the vampire. Tamio takes up the foil, Takenaka lays hold of that floor candelabra and the shoddily choreographed fight resumes.

The police arrive in the main hall of the castle just in time to see the two dueling along the upper gallery; they rush to help Tamio.

The thief takes advantage of this distraction to slip away from his captors. He makes it back outside, but then his greed gets the better of him. He turns around and heads back into the cave to retrieve his loot.

He locates the hiding place without a hitch. But, as he's digging his ill-gotten gains out from beneath a pile of rubble, the floor of the cave gives way, dropping criminal and cash into the main hall, where Takenaka has been giving the police a rough time.

This nasty little trick of fate not only kills the greedy thief, but also leaves a gaping hole in the ceiling, through which the full moon, high in a clear midnight sky, bathes the vampire in its brilliant light.

Now wait a second: It still broad daylight both when the cops entered that cave, as well as when the robber made his way out of there, before making his fatal decision and returning for his stash. They weren't even trying for a day-for-night effect.

But sure, why not? By this point, I should know better than to expect anything about this film to make any sense whatsoever.

The moonlight does its number on Takenaka, but this time the transformation goes much further: Takenaka's hitherto immaculate coif puffs out wildly and turns bleached white, while his nose has lengthened and sharpened, and his skin has acquired the texture of oatmeal that's been allowed to sit much too long. The reverb kicks in, as he cackles maniacally.
"You should see me before I've had a chance to do my face!"

Slipping past the cops, Takenaka makes for an alcove. Where it turns out the vampire has put his lover on a pedestal. Literally. Just as we knew she would, doomed Miwako has ended up just another specimen in his collection, with a golden crucifix hanging from her neck. He pauses for one last short soliloquy with his ghoulish trophy.

"It's time," he tells her, "for the cursed Amakusa blood to meet its end. Watch now, as immortality makes its last stand!"

Despite the build up, as Gotterdammerungs go this one's strictly a dud. While the cops hang back, clearly reluctant to tangle with Icky-Takenaka, he simply takes a dip in the hot spring and that's the end of him, too.

Itsuko, still pursued by Mini-Renfield, ends up in the castle's armory; the crone has laid a trail of gunpowder there and set it alight. The dwarf runs to his elderly co-worker for a hug. Itsuko manages to rejoin her lover and the police as the armory blows up, putting an end to the kyuketsuki's remaining henchpersons. Who, let's be honest, were a remarkably ineffective bunch.

Everyone scampers for the exit, keeping a few steps ahead of a series of explosions that collapse the underground castle behind them.

Tamio and Itsuko emerge into the welcoming daylight. Nights sure do pass quickly around here. Especially when you're having so much fun.

Itsuko reminds Tamio her mother's still inside. Tamio deftly avoids having to hire a bulldozer and an excavation crew to sift through thousands of tons of debris, when he insists she'll probably be happier there, in the ground of her ancestors.

Anyway, he believes that just like the movie, the curse -- whatever the heck that was -- is at an end.

So what lessons can we take from Takenaka's tragic story?

First, while vampirism is apparently no big deal with the Hairy Sky Thunderer, do not, under any circumstances, perv on a mom and her daughter, or you can expect swift and terrible retribution. Yep, that sounds about right.

Plus, you should take particular care when selecting your minions. Other than Mini-Renfield's handy compact form factor and undeniable skill at surreptitious package delivery, this bunch was seriously lacking in those qualities that make for effective evil.

And, cultural differences aside, I think we can all understand that drinking your inanimate inamorata's blood is probably not the best way to begin your grieving process.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Episode 69: Ed Wood Meets the Terminator

This is a historic episode: number 69. We don't like to brag, but rarely does a foul-mouthed little podcast get to 69 episodes without a filthy, elbow-nudging 'Sixty-Nine" joke, and yet...we did it! How, you ask? Well, we attribute it to clean living,  high morals, and the fact that Scott didn't tell Jeff it was Episode 69, and Jeff doesn't care and doesn't keep track of these things because he's not a weird little Gollum-esque obsessive like Scott.

So here you go. We talk about Edward D. Wood, Jr. and Terminator: Dark Fate. Do we draw a parallel between the two? An incredibly insulting parallel? Well, funny you should mention that, because we...Nah. We won't spoil it for you.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Rip Van Wrinkle in Time

Given that its agrarian utility is all but obsolete, why do we still have Daylight Savings Time? Who benefits from it getting dark an hour earlier? I'll tell you who: 


Which means the U.S. Department of Transportation is in the pocket of Big Undead.

There's only one solution to these crooked politicians, graft-seeking bureaucrats, and the deep-pocketed lobbyists who keep them in power:

Drain the Swamp.

Except then we'd have to deal with Swamp Thing.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Dr. Tongue's House of 3-D Apathy

ME: Look upon this fearsome black cat! Harbinger of evil! Mistress of the dead! She is known as Shadow and her name is spoken only in dread whispers! FEAR HER!

SHADOW: I refuse to participate in this bullshit.

ME: C'mon, it's Halloween--

SHADOW: Fuck off.

All right, fine. Mary's the one with the holiday mojo, but she's been out of town this week caring for her mother and my efforts to enlist the cats in some Halloween hijinks have clearly fallen flat. So I guess I'll just make a drink and go watch It or Them! or some other pronoun-themed horror flick. Hell, maybe I'll get drunk enough to go for a noun (albeit starting slow, with a vague one) and put on The Thing.

Happy Halloween guys.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The Tell-Tale Heart Edition

MOONDOGGIE: I can hear the ocean. 

ME: That’s my femoral artery. 

MOONDOGGIE: Whatever. They’re both clogged with fish oil and garbage.

Friday, October 25, 2019


Scott, Jeff, and two-thirds of the New Movie Crew discuss their relationship status with Joker.

It's Complicated.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Farewell Robert Forster

I've been an admirer of Robert Forster since I first saw him in Banyon, an early 70s TV series about a Depression Era private eye, a formula almost calculated to fail with the viewing public (it got clobbered in the ratings by Love America Style), but likewise guaranteed to tickle my peculiar, age-inappropriate interests. I remember being impressed by his intense, but low-key demeanor and his cool naturalism, and from then on Forster's presence in a film could make me sit through just about anything.

Even this thing.

The Black Hole (1979)
Directed by Gary Nelson
Written by Jeb Rosebrook and Gerry Day

Tagline: A journey that begins where everything else ends!

Starting with your patience.

The Black Hole gets a lot of crap for being just another Star Wars rip-off, which I consider unfair, since it’s actually a rip-off of Disney’s own 1954 picture, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but with two crucial differences: this version is set in space rather than at sea, and instead of Nemo being a tortured genius using ruthless means to achieve a noble end, he’s just an asshole.

Another criticism of the film is that nearly every performance is lifeless or just plain bad. No surprise with that talking wig-stand, Yvette Mimieux, but even normally fine actors like Anthony Perkins and Robert Forster sound like they’ve been roofied, possibly because they were forced to go back and re-record all their dialogue, something unusual for a studio film shot on a stage.  But in all fairness, if I’d been working on the that movie, I’d have been drinking too.

It’s the Year 2130. NASA has launched the spaceship Palomino (which, as my friend Jeff points out, looks like a butt-plug on a camcorder tripod) and sent it on a mission to boldly go and wander around for a while. It’s a harsh task, because the Palomino is no Enterprise; it’s cramped, filled with fey robots, and has a zero-gravity environment which is tough on the wardrobe. Fortunately, it’s the future, so everybody’s double-knit leisure suits have memory. Also helpful is the fact that the crew is aggressively middle-aged, and prone to simulate weightlessness by standing on an off-camera plank while sweaty Teamsters pump it up and down like a teeter-totter. The exception is Joseph Bottoms, who really throws himself into the zero-g effect, joyfully and repeatedly dangling from wires in his tight jumpsuit with his pert, shapely buttocks aloft, and which has inspired me to invent a drinking game. Every time he does it, yell “Bottom’s up!” and take a shot.

Anyway, we join the Palomino as it executes an unscheduled course correction, which makes the entire crew irritable, because now they’re going to be late for work. They demand an explanation from their GPS device, V.I.N.CENT, a highly sophisticated Coors Party Ball with the voice of Roddy McDowell and the eyes of that Kit-Cat Clock, but less expressive. He explains that the ship has encountered a black hole, “a rip in the very fabric of space and time,” so they’re going to have to take an alternate route.

Anthony Perkins, the ship’s astrophysicist, stares at the black hole (which is depicted as a constant swirl of fluid blue energy that kind of looks like a toilet in mid-flush) and pronounces it, with attempted awe, “the most destructive force in the universe,” although he sounds so bored he might as well be declaring it, “the most disappointing cheesesteak I ever ate in Philadelphia.”

Surprisingly, there’s a ship parked in the Black Hole’s driveway, a massive experimental craft called The Cygnus (the first time I saw this movie I thought they were calling it “the Sickness,” and an hour and 38 minutes later, I realized I should have taken the hint and snuck into an adjoining theater to see one of the many other, better films that came out that year, including H.O.T.S., C.H.O.M.P.S., Roller Boogie, or Caligula).

By an amazing coincidence, Yvette’s father was on The Sickness, which she tells us was sent out some years ago to find “habitable life.” Personally, I’d be satisfied with a habitable planet, but I guess the first step in space exploration is to find aliens big enough that we can live inside them like maggots, or immature marsupials. (Frankly, if this movie had been about the search for an intelligent race of giant space kangaroos, I probably wouldn’t have left in the middle to go buy Junior Mints.)

Newspaper reporter Ernest Borgnine, who’s embedded with the crew, tells them that The Sickness was commanded by mad scientist Maximillian Schell, who “talked the Space Appropriations Committee into the costliest fiasco of all time – and refused to admit failure,” a technique he learned from the cryogenically preserved head of Dick Cheney.

The Palomino trips and plunges headfirst into the Most Destructive Force in the Universe, which causes their muffler to fall off, so Captain Robert Forster orders Joseph Bottoms to land on the Sickness, which Joseph takes as a cue to stick his butt in the air.


The Sickness abruptly turns on the porch light, and we get the full sense of her size and majesty. A mile-long rectangle of glass and steel, it looks as if NASA just decided to launch the West Edmonton Mall into deep space. The crew takes the jetway and emerges into what looks like a Frontier airlines terminal – lots of uncomfortable plastic chairs, but no passengers -- and Robert tells Joseph to stay with the ship. Joseph responds by pouting, then pulling out his ray gun, sticking out his butt, and posing like the silhouette from the opening credits of Charlie’s Angels.


The Palomino crew arrives at CNN Center in Atlanta, where they discover the ship is being operated by “robots” dressed in Mylar hockey masks and roomy space muumuus. Suddenly, the mad-eyed Maximilian Schell, whose shaggy beard and unbelievable bouffant makes Lon Chaney’s Wolfman look like Pluto from The Hills Have Eyes, pops up to announce that Yvette’s dad is dead and to backfill the back-story. Like every spacecraft in virtually every space movie ever made, The Sickness had the crap kicked out of it by a meteor shower, so Max ordered the crew to abandon ship. Meanwhile, he stayed behind, and has spent the last twenty years alone, building robot companions and making fun of bad movies.

For some reason, the incredibly secretive and paranoid Max lets the Away Team wander freely around his ship, collecting spare parts to repair their butt-plug. They snoop in closets, admire the matte paintings, and desperately try to avoid stunts or action. At one point, Ernest Borgnine’s suspicions are aroused by a robot with a bad limp, and he gives chase, but he’s on a slightly raised platform that looks a little slippery, and he runs so gingerly, with his arms flailing to maintain his footing, that you can almost hear him chanting, “Don’t break a hip, don’t break a hip…!”

Mad Max and Anthony Perkins get flirty, and Max invites them to dinner in his wood paneled formal dining room, lavishly appointed with chandeliers and candelabras, making The Sickness the only faster-than-light, interstellar space craft to be decorated by Liberace.

Meanwhile, VINCENT makes friends with B.O.B., a levitating beer keg with the voice of Slim Pickens, and we get to watch the robots play a video arcade game. It’s a slow sequence, and sadly, putting your quarter on the machine doesn’t speed things up any.

Let’s cut back to the dinner party, because what action-packed space adventure is complete without a leisurely soup course? Max announces that he’ll be flying The Sickness straight into the Black Hole, confident he can open a portal to another universe, one which is sorely in need of a Camp Snoopy and a Wet Seal.

After dinner, the crew is served mints and exposition, when B.O.B. reveals that all the robots are really the former crew of The Sickness, whom Max lobotomized, using a special automated lobotomizing assembly line. It seems unlikely NASA included this feature as factory standard equipment, so Max would have had to get the crew to build and install it for him, and frankly I would’ve loved to have been at the staff meeting where he assigned Action Items to Team Automatic Lobotomizer.

Captain Robert snaps into action and decides to take over The Sickness! Or maybe just leave. It’s kind of unclear. Then he reads ahead in the script and sees that he’ll be spending the last twenty-two minutes of the film running from blue screens and matte paintings, so he decides he’d better conserve his energy and just do nothing. Maybe have a Gatorade and a Power Bar.  Anthony Perkins, however, announces that he has decided to stay aboard The Sickness with Max, because he finds that he really enjoys being only the second most creepy person in a movie.

Unfortunately, Max’s senior robot, Maximilian, a recycled Cylon that somebody painted the color of Gallo Hearty Burgundy, gets jealous or something and uses his juicing attachment on Anthony’s lower intestines. Then Mad Max decides to lobotomize Yvette, because it’s not like anyone would notice.

Meanwhile, Robert and the Party Balls sneak around the mall some more. Since the movie was released in December, I can only assume they’re looking for Santa. Instead, they find Yvette, who has been stuffed into a quilted, full-body oven mitt and had her head covered with aluminum foil. Seriously, her scalp is wrapped up like a rump roast; apparently, this is the exact point where the Special Effects department said, “Fuck it,” and cracked open the Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

Anyway, Max’s man-bots are using Lasik surgery to burn their initials into Yvette’s pre-frontal lobe, but Robert shoots the machine with his plastic laser horseshoe. Was he in time to save her from being lobotomized? There’s no way to tell from her performance, so we’re just going to have to wait and see if her insurance company sends her a bill.

You know what? We could really use a big action sequence right about now. What we get are repetitive shots of our heroes as they squat behind those big pastel colored pipes that kids crawl around in at Chuck E. Cheese, and take pot shots at a row of immobile robots who appear to have all malfunctioned in mid Conga Line.

Robert, Yvette, and the Party Balls are pinned down by hostile fire. Joseph, who’s been sitting in the butt-plug the whole movie, runs to save them. Ernest tags along, then decides, “aw, screw it,” and fakes a leg injury like an Italian soccer player. Then he steals the Palomino and blasts off, leaving the others behind. Immediately, however, he loses control of the ship when he starts sweating, grimacing, and needlessly crouching; in other words – and I’m just going by his performance here – he has a suddenly attack of diarrhea, and crashes into The Sickness, taking out the Fashion Bug and a Cinnabon.

Our heroes decide to escape in “the probe ship.” Yeah, whatever. Meanwhile, as promised, the next 22 minutes consist of B-list actors jogging in front of cheap sets and back projection, interspersed with SFX shots as The Sickness is slowly – let me rephrase that: SLOWLY! – pulled into the Black Hole. On the bright side, we learn that V.I.N.CENT ’s large, telescoping testicles can be used as offensive weapons (try that, Jackie Chan!), when the Party Ball deploys his party balls to coldcock Mad Max’s garage sale Cylon.

Now let’s rip off the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with five minutes of half-assed psychedelic effects as the probe ship penetrates the Black Hole, played at this performance by five gallons of strawberry Jell-O flushed down a john.

But what about Max? Well, he’s just floating in the vacuum of space without a pressure suit, apparently none the worse for wear, although his hair is extremely staticky and tangled from the event horizon, and in need of a good cream rinse. He bumps into his burgundy Cylon which – spoiler alert – is filled with the brain and guts of Yvette’s lobotomized Dad. They do a touching Bro Hug, then suddenly Max is inside the robot himself! Because, irony! He looks confused, a feeling we immediately share when the camera pulls out and we see that he’s standing atop the Matterhorn ride in Disneyland.

Wait. No. Pull out a little farther, and…Oh! Hey. We’re in Hell. Flames, demons, and dozens of skull-faced penitents in black hooded robes. Okay, thanks, Disney.

Cut back to our heroes as they pass through the Black Hole and emerge in another universe, ready to begin life anew and populate a virgin world, like the story of Genesis. Except it’s Robert Forster, Yvette Mimeaux, and the dewy, fresh-faced Joseph Bottoms, so it’s like Adam and Eve and the twink hustler they picked up for a threesome on Sunset Boulevard.

R.I.P., Robert.