Sunday, September 18, 2022

Got Wood?

For a long time I didn’t know much about him, other than he was a director who wore women’s clothing.  Then I saw Tim Burton’s loving bio-pic, but figured there was more to the story.  Over the years I heard of a darker, depressing side beyond his compulsively watchable low-budget films.  Finally, I read THE book and was faced with the startling truth from the eccentric folk who survived this exuberantly tragic ordeal. 

Can your heart stand the shocking facts about…NIGHTMARE OF ECSTASY (The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr.) by Rudolph Grey?!?! 


NIGHTMARE OF ECSTASY (The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr.) by Rudolph Grey

Reading this book in the same method as when Andy Milligan changed my life, I was initially confused by hearing a person’s name before each paragraph.  I quickly realized this wasn’t a typical biography written in the author’s words.  NIGHTMARE OF ECSTASY is the story of Ed Wood as told by the people who knew and loved him, despite his faults or maybe because of them.  Each chapter is chock full of breathtaking memories and highly amusing anecdotes from his widow Kathy, his mom Lillian, actress Maila Nurmi (Vampira), actor Paul Marco (Officer Kelton) and so many others from Ed’s quirky entourage.  Personally, I think stories from and about PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE actor John “Bunny” Breckinridge and alleged psychic Criswell stand out in a most horrifyingly hilarious way! 

That alliteration might be the best overall description of this book.  It has the joyous, can-do spirit found in Tim Burton’s ED WOOD (1994), but also digs beneath the surface.  In NIGHTMARE OF ECSTASY, you will learn aspects of Ed’s life that you might not want to know.  I’ll spare you specific spoilers, but be prepared for an emotional roller coaster ride.

While I was extremely entertained by the behind the scenes craziness during production of his celluloid wonders, I was seriously drawn to the intriguing fact that Edward D. Wood, Jr. was also a novelist!  Instead of sequels to his films, he wrote trashy pulp fiction meant to shock and titillate.  Tragically, most of his bibliography is out of print and expensive to purchase.  Thankfully, a few books have been reprinted and I ordered DEATH OF A TRANSVESTITE, originally published in 1967.  I am eager to read it, but worried I’ll be disappointed.  Out of all the jaw-dropping titles, I wasn’t able to locate either of the two I most want to read.  Hopefully some daring publishing house reissues 1967’s DRAG TRADE and 1971’s TO MAKE A HOMO.  Hey, a queer freakboy can dream! 

In conclusion, if you are interested in Ed Wood, obscure Hollywood or “the unknown, the mysterious, the unexplainable,” then Criswell predicts you will slip into your best angora sweater and cozy up with NIGHTMARE OF ECSTASY!  

Can you prove that it wouldn’t happen?!?! 


Ed Wood in angora outside his office, August, 1948. in a snapshot he sent home to his mother

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words!

Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S.  Click the pic ⤵️ for more WOOD… 


Ed Wood’s Take it out in trade



Sunday, September 11, 2022

Confessional Toilets


Come unto this john, ye’ heathens, and confess!


Dump your sins before me and beg for forgiveness!


Shake off the remaining transgressions from your wretched soul! 


Flush your trespasses and then kneel to wash your hands for absolution! 


Purified, until you once again come unto this john, bloated with the odorous stench of unholy wickedness! 


A hallway with two bathrooms side by side with a cross on the far wall


(rinse & repeat)


~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words! 


Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S. click the pic ⤵️ for more toilet humor… 


Two Tiny  bathrooms


…but DON’T click this other pic ⤵️ if Confessional Toilets offended you… 😉 


A close up of a bolt on wood


Thursday, August 11, 2022

freakboy on film: PINK FLAMINGOS (the Criterion edition)

 

Exclusive photos of Divine, the filthiest person alive


Everything you’ve read in the tabloids is true! 


Divine is the filthiest person alive, but she’s not out to prove anything.  Using the alias Babs Johnson, she just wants to enjoy life in her secluded trailer alongside her dysfunctionally functional family.  There’s her traveling companion Cotton, her chicken-lovin’ son Crackers and her egg-obsessed mother Edie. 


Meanwhile across town, Connie and Raymond Marble are seething with filth-envy.  The Marbles kidnap young women, chain them up in the cellar, have their butler Channing impregnate them and then sell the babies to nice lesbian couples.  Surely this means they are far filthier than Divine and they are going to prove it! ~ 

Let the competition of filth commence! 


That is the plot of writer/director John Waters’ 1972 masterpiece of mess.  His first color feature film is a juggernaut of bad taste that will shock you, challenge you and make you howl in hysterics.  Well, unless you’re Peggy Gravel from Waters’ DESPERATE LIVING and have never found the antics of deviants one bit amusing.  (More about that later) 


The cast of PINK FLAMINGOS
photo from the 25th anniversary soundtrack album 

The acting is full throttle, but never really camp.  The characters are vividly realized with Divine leading the way, coming at the camera like gangbusters as Babs commits gleeful cinematic terrorism.  Mink Stole as red-haired Connie and David Lochary as blue-haired Raymond are perfectly delusional as the wannabe upper crust society couple wallowing in their gutter trash dreams.  Mary Vivian Pearce as Cotton and Danny Mills as Crackers make for an unsettling believable duo of sex and violence, of sorts.  Edith Massey is beyond memorable as Divine’s mentally ill mother, who is almost always in a playpen. 


I first experienced PINK FLAMINGOS on VHS back in the late 1990’s and was entertained and shocked, despite knowing all the crazy revolting incidents in advance.  The years have mellowed the initial jolt, but the chicken scene still makes me grit my teeth.  I’m not a fan of “animal humor,” but I guess I accept what happens in PINK FLAMINGOS because it’s supposed to be shocking and it doesn’t feel like a cheap joke or lazy writing.  The very real chicken’s very real death seems strangely important to the overall plot.  Yes, I’m keenly aware this makes me a hypocrite when I complain about other films or TV shows where (hopefully not real) animals are killed for the purpose of a supposed joke.  Anyhoo, enough about me and my contradictory mental trigger issues.


The criterion blu-ray of john waters pink flamingos

The Criterion blu-ray edition is chock full of truly surprising surprises!  Viewers are treated to the feature length documentary DIVINE TRASH, which is an insightful and hilarious look at the making of PINK FLAMINGOS.  Then John Waters takes us on a journey to a couple of key filming locations as they are now, 50 years later.  Another fascinating extra is a slew of deleted scenes which reveal a magical subplot that was thankfully cut and one character’s fluid sexuality! 

 

On top of all that, there’s the brilliant slipcase designed to resemble the very un-divine birthday gift for Babs.  Open up the blu-ray case and you will find, not a turd, but rather entertainingly informative liner notes written up as a tabloid rag seen in the film.  Last, but certainly not least, you will also receive the perfect item for a PINK FLAMINGOS viewing…a barf bag!  Honestly, this reproduction of the barf bag passed out at the film’s premiere made purchasing the Criterion edition totally worth it!  I openly laughed in delight at this fun bonus! 


A pink flamingos barf bag

In conclusion… 

John Waters’ PINK FLAMINGOS is a film that needs to be seen to be believed and the best way to see it is Criterion’s blu-ray edition.  I mean, eating dog shit has never looked more beautiful! 


A portrait of divine with a literal shit eating grin

SIDE NOTE (in case anyone from Criterion is actually reading this…)

Please begin working on a DESPERATE LIVING blu-ray edition!  It’s my favorite pre-HAIRSPRAY John Waters film.  

 

Oh, and the one thing your blu-rays and DVDs lack is a descriptive audio track for the visually impaired.  

Thankfully, I watched PINK FLAMINGOS and other Waters films multiple times before losing a chunk of my vision, but you can do better by being more inclusive in the future. 

Thank you. 


And thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

 

Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S. my review of a different John Waters film…


Divine looking shocked in Mondo Trasho
click the pic 


Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Andy Milligan has changed my life!

I know this is a bold statement that few would dare utter, but it’s true.  After being introduced to the late filmmaker in 2020, my desire to find a DVD of FLESHPOT ON 42ND STREET inspired me to shop on eBay for the very first time.  Then my full-tilt frenzy to see NIGHTBIRDS introduced me to the wonders of region-free DVD players.  Not to be outdone, the drool-worthy DUNGEON OF ANDY MILLIGAN box set dragged me into the dying gasp of the Blu-ray revolution.  Little did I know that all of these obsessive-addictive changes would culminate into a new kind of reading experiment. 


A Twitter friend made me aware of an Andy Milligan biography that was out-of-print and insanely priced.  Seriously, most copies of either the 2001 or the 2020 editions range from $100 to WAY more!  One annoying thing is there is no ebook for my tablet to read to me.  Even more annoying is that a new paperback edition of THE GHASTLY ONE by Jimmy McDonough is scheduled for release this year, but still no ebook or audiobook.  What’s a visually impaired Milligan fanatic to do?  Well, have a mini-meltdown, send a couple of somewhat bitchy tweets to the author and then engage in the dangerous act of thinking, of course. 


In one recent iOS update, my tablet gained the ability to read text in photos.  This is a neat and helpful feature when checking prices at stores or reading greeting cards.  I even tested it on the liner notes of a Compact Disc with mixed results.  The voice was the same one who reads ebooks, tweets and posts to me, but the curve of the paper sometimes caused the automated voice to read parts of sentences out of order.  So, could I really take photos of the pages of a physical book and have my tablet read them to me?  Would I have the patience for such a seemingly tedious task?  Well, the notion of learning more about Andy Milligan proved to be the perfect incentive to give this potentially frustrating process a try. 


Sure, I could’ve just pre-ordered the new paperback edition for 30-odd dollars, but my hubris had other ideas.  After all, I have a knack at finding great deals online, including some of Milligan’s movies, so I decided to poke around for a cheap copy of an older edition.  After striking out with several sites, I looked outside the box and checked Amazon UK.  


WHAM-BAM-THANK YOU, ANDY!  


There it was!  There was a 2001 paperback of THE GHASTLY ONE by Jimmy McDonough, priced at £14.99, equaling to around $18!  As a resident of the US, I wasn’t sure I could order anything through Amazon UK, but I was sure going to try.  Well, after my initial order was painfully rejected, I made a call and learned I could shop on Amazon UK if my card had approval to make purchases outside of the US.  Thankfully, I was granted temporary approval and immediately ordered my inexpensive literary obsession, with free shipping!


The punchline is that my order arrived in a few days because it shipped from Toledo, Ohio in the US.  I don’t know why the Amazon seller was only offering the book through the UK site, but It didn’t matter.  THE GHASTLY ONE was in shockingly great condition, for being so cheap, and was finally in my eager hands!  I just needed to figure out how to proceed with “reading” this enticing biography.  


THE GHASTLY ONE (the sex-gore netherworld of filmmaker Andy Milligan)” by Jimmy McDonough…


My first idea was to take photos of each page in a chapter and then have my tablet read the entire section to me.  So, I sat on my bed, covered my lap with a cushion and placed THE GHASTLY ONE on the scenic green flatness.  I then gently opened the book and took photos of a bunch of pages and quickly learned two things.  First, this was a bad idea.  If one photo was blurry or didn’t contain all the text on a page, then I would have to figure out which page was messed up and retake photos so they would be in order.  Second, I can’t take photos of book pages while wearing my Mad Scientist Glasses.  The intense magnification makes it incredibly difficult to accurately aim my tablet to capture an entire page of text.  Even though my vision is poor without my MSG, I could perceive, in a blurry, hazy way, my tablet’s screen and the outline of a page enough to take a good photo.


Taking a photo of a page, with the poster for NIGHTBIRDS  on the opposite page

My second idea was a simple one.  I would go page by page, as one does when reading a book.  I took a photo of the first page, slid two fingers down from the top of the screen (which is also how I start an ebook) and listened.  As I continued, I learned a few more things.  First, after taking a photo, I had to slip on my Mad Scientist Glasses to figure out if the photo required editing.  I needed to crop any words from connecting pages because my tablet would try to read the intruding text, causing the automated voice to sound drunk or confused.  Second, if I couldn’t easily fit an entire page onto the screen, I would take a photo of the top half and then a photo of the bottom half.  Third, if I encountered a picture on a page, it was easier to take an individual photo of the picture instead of trying to capture it with the rest of the page’s text.  Fourth, for best  results, I laid the front cover of the book flat on the cushion when taking a photo of the pages on the left and then placed the back cover down for the right pages.  


Taking a photo of a page with the poster for FLESHPOT on 42nd street on the opposite page

Overall, this system of one page at a time (sweet, Andy) worked for me.  Typically, it took me 90 minutes to read 15 pages, but I was finding my flow and improving the process with each flip of a page.  There, right there, was the magic of this reading experiment.  The holding of a book on my lap.  The turning of each page.  The sliding in of a bookmark at the end of a chapter.  These are things I hadn’t done since November of 2016.  Even though I was technically listening to my tablet’s automated voice, the physical interaction with a real book made me feel like I was actually reading again, which was a profoundly remarkable sensation.


As for “THE GHASTLY ONE (the sex-gore netherworld of filmmaker Andy Milligan)” by Jimmy McDonough…


It was everything I wanted to know about Andy Milligan but was afraid to ask, and maybe some things I didn’t want to know.  This extensive and compelling biography covers the complicated man’s childhood in Minnesota to his theatrical beginning at the Caffe Cino in New York City to his 42nd Street grindhouse films to his painfully tragic death in sunny California in 1991.  It is a fascinating emotional roller coaster that I ravenously devoured.  My favorite parts of the book focused on his films.  I was especially intrigued and saddened at learning more about his lost celluloid creations.  They sound so crazy and crazy good that it’s a filmic tragedy they are gone.  Oh, I also enjoyed hearing about the anything goes wonderland that was the Caffe Cino and I was pleasantly surprised to learn Andy Milligan once performed in a puppeteer troupe.  This makes me want to dig out my unfinished puppet-themed story I started writing years before I heard of Milligan. 


In conclusion…


If you are an Andy Milligan fanatic or enjoy reading about obscure film history, then you must experience THE GHASTLY ONE by Jimmy McDonough! 


My mad scientist glasses rest between The Ghastly One and my tablet, which displays a photo of a page from the book, with my fingers in the corner.

As for my reading experiment, it was such a success that I’ve already started reading another paperback.  This time it’s a piece of fiction about going a little mad in Tinseltown.   Plus, I have a third paperback lined up that may be connected to my recent Twitter Film Review Poll.


Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 


Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S. In case you’re interested in hearing more about my vision, or lack thereof…. getbook.at/VisionBent 


Vision bent half blind poems, by john L. Harmon

Thursday, June 23, 2022

freakboy on film: SHE MOB (1968)

The blu-ray of she mob

Screenplay by Diana Paschal / Directed by Maurice Levy & Harry Wuest (according to IMDb) 


Brenda is having a good day.  She is a smart, successful businesswoman.  She has a luxurious home.  She has just been serviced in the bathtub by Tony, her live-in gigolo.  


Brenda and Tony in SHE MOB
Brenda pays Tony for the splish-splash

Big Shim is having a good day.  She is a smart, successful criminal.  She is proud to have recently busted a few cohorts out of the slammer.  She has just had a voyeuristic experience with Baby, her girlfriend. 


Big Shim in She Mob
Big Shim and her cone bra will not be ignored

Tony is having a good day.  He is a handsome, successful sex worker.  He is driving a new car that Brenda bought for him.  He has just been hired on the side to provide service for Big Shim’s three cohorts. 


Sweety East is having a good day.  She is a smart, successful detective.  She is happy with her wildcat roommate.  She has just been hired by Brenda to rescue Tony because the good day has turned bad. 


Sweety East in she mob.
Sweety East to the rescue

Big Shim has gotten wind of Tony’s lush lifestyle with the rich businesswoman, so she decides to hold him for ransom.  Brenda can’t afford a scandal, so she is willing to pay whatever it takes to get Tony back unharmed.  Sweety East agrees to disguise herself as Brenda for the ransom drop and will name her fee after the job is done.  


That’s the plot of SHE MOB in a nutshell.  I stumbled upon this obscure film while browsing through the Vinegar Syndrome website and I was drawn in for two reasons.  First, the crazy trailer seriously entertained me.  Second, the intriguing description (“Imagine an alt-Earth FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! as realized by a young JOHN WATERS”) may have peaked my interest, so I ordered a copy.  


Comparing SHE MOB to Russ Meyer’s classic and early John Waters isn’t completely inaccurate.  The plot contains similar elements to FASTER, PUSSYCAT KILL! KILL!  There’s a group of strong women out to score some loot.  There’s sexual tension between two of the women.  Plus, there’s plenty of violence, especially as Big Shim and her cohorts torture Tony.  Then there are a few characters that could’ve escaped from a John Waters film.  I can even imagine some Waters regulars stepping into the roles.  Mink Stole would’ve captured the electric energy of Twig, one of the cohorts, as she is constantly dancing in almost every scene.  Mary Vivian Pearce would’ve nailed the sultry boredom emanating from Sweety East as she investigates in her skin tight detective outfit.  Last, but certainly not least, Divine in the dual roles of Brenda and Big Shim would’ve been…well…divine!  Alas, that version only exists in the faraway alt-Earth.


Big shim licks her lips in she mob
BigShim loves my casting choices

All that being said, SHE MOB never fully captures neither the frantic pulse of Russ Meyer nor the offbeat drum of John Waters.  It is generally entertaining, but drags a bit.  I blame the off-kilter pacing on the director(s), and some of the actors, more than the screenwriter.  The highlight of the entire film is Marni Castle as Brenda and Big Shim.  Especially Big Shim!  This unapologetically tough as nails lesbian, with her equally tough cone bra, is the MAIN reason to see SHE MOB.  Though Monique Duval as Sweety East has her moments, but I might have gotten more out of this character if I had seen the TV series HONEY WEST (1965-1966).


In conclusion…

I have mixed feelings about SHE MOB.  I was initially disappointed to a certain degree but repeat viewings have made me appreciate it more.  So, while not great, SHE MOB is worth watching.  Plus, it is interesting to note that, according to the back of the blu-ray,  the film was shot in Texas and features “actresses culled from Jack Ruby's infamous Dallas nightclub.”  So, SHE MOB is, like, historically and culturally important or something. 


Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 


Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S.  SHE MOB was the fourth place winner in a Twitter poll I conducted to decide which film I should review now that my blog serial is over.  


So, click the pic ⤵️ to check out the first place winner…


Gender nonconformity in take it out in trade


~~~~~~~~~~~

Click the pic ⤵️ to read my blog serial…

Haunting sturgeons by john L. Harmon


Thursday, June 9, 2022

freakboy on film: YENTL (1983)

Yentl movie poster

screenplay by Jack Rosenthal & Barbra Streisand / directed byBarbra Streisand  


“What the hell is happening on this blog?  He goes from promoting puppet porn to blogging about…Barbra Streisand?!?  Surely this is a sign of the Apocalypse!” 


That’s probably what you’re saying and I can’t blame you for being confused.  I am so NOT a Streisand fan.  (Papa, can you hear the collective gasp of exaggerated horror from all the bitter old queens in the world?) The only other film I’ve seen her in is MEET THE FOCKERS (2004) and I still loathe myself for sitting through such dreck.  As for her singing career, well…I’d rather listen to my cat puking up a hairball. 


As for YENTL, the plot has been on my radar since I was a kid.  Anything that plays with gender expectations has always interested me.  So, last Sunday evening I plopped down in the recliner, switched on TCM, the same cable channel that introduced me to Andy Milligan, and mentally prepared myself for YENTL.  Though I almost switched it off because the TCM announcer announced it was a musical.  Believe it or not, I had no idea.  I thought it was strictly a period piece drama, which, according to the announcer, is what Streisand originally intended.  A couple of songwriters convinced her otherwise and I convinced myself to watch it anyway…or maybe I was just too lazy to get up from the recliner.  


Barbra Streisand as Yentl

                                Yentl, probably about to sing


The film revolves around Yentl (Barbra Streisand), a Jewish woman who wants to study her religion like the men folk do.  This is forbidden in 1904 Eastern Europe because God forbid women use their brains to do anything other than make babies and almond cookies.  Well, after her father jump-starts the plot by croaking, Yentl flees her oppressive village disguised as a man.  If the villagers would’ve seen her sneaking off, all the gossipy women would’ve fainted and the men would’ve called her a demon.  Personally, as someone whose mom mainly wore jeans or slacks, I was cheering Yentl on.


Barbra Streisand as Anshel

                     Yentl as Anshel, also probably about to sing


Anyhoo, Yentl, now going by “Anshel”, is admitted into a religious school and finds herself in a complicated love triangle.  Yentl has developed feelings for Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin), but he sees her as a man.  Besides, Avigdor is betrothed to Hadass (Amy Irving), so he is taken, but not for long.  


Amy Irving looks bored as Hadass

                      Hadass is longing for the singing to stop


A family secret is revealed about Avigdor, forcing Hadass’ parents to dissolve their engagement.  Now Avigdor is ready to split town on the next steam engine unless “Anshel” promises to woo and marry Hadass.  This way Avigdor will still be in Hadass’ life in some way.  Yentl agrees to this because she doesn’t want to lose Avigdor, even though he still believes she is a man.  Will this emotionally messy deception to become a throuple work or will lives be destroyed if Yentl decides to throw herself a gender reveal party?  You’ll have to watch to find out. 


Mandy Patinkin is nude as Avigdor

               Avigdor tries to stop the singing by getting naked


Mandy Patinkin is electric as Avigdor.  It’s impossible to tear your eyes away from him, especially in the skinny-dipping scene.  Amy Irving as Hadass is sweet and more complex than her initial subservient demeanor would suggest.  Then we have Barbra Streisand as the title character.  From when she is longing for more out of life to maneuvering through a man’s world as a man to the tough decisions she has to make in the name of love, Streisand is believable and sympathetic as Yentl.  Now only if she didn’t sing so bloody much! 


Barbra Streisand continues singing as Yentl

Please pass the earplugs.  There is no stopping the singing!!!! 


Sorry, but my filmic gods help me!  The songs multiply like bloated bunny rabbits that blur together.  I understand the lyrics are supposed to reflect Yentl’s internal thoughts, but this could have been done in speedy, non-musical prayers to God or her dead daddy.  Maybe if Streisand ever directs a reboot, she’ll go with her gut instinct and cut the endless songs.  


(SIDE NOTE: Mandy Patinkin, an established Broadway performer at this point, doesn’t sing a single note) 


I must add that Barbra Streisand does a good job directing the film.  She knows how to frame a scene to best capture the emotions emanating from the script.  It amazes and impresses me that a film dealing with the Jewish faith and gender nonconformity would get made by a major studio in the conservative, moral majority landscape of the 1980’s.  Especially since it was all directed by a woman.  Well done, Streisand & MGM. 


In conclusion… 

YENTL is a good film, but the songs keep it from being a great one.  On one hand, I enjoyed it for the plot and the characters, even though It is disappointing that the story mostly shied away from fully exploring the homosexual overtones.  On the other hand, I found the film excruciatingly painful when the singing would start.  My apologies to any bitter old queens out there, but I haven’t been converted to a rabid Streisand fan who openly weeps at the song The Way We Werewhile obsessively clutching the FUNNY GIRL soundtrack.  I’ll stick with Julie Brown as my diva obsession of choice, thank you very much. 


(SIDE NOTE:  I owe IMDb much gratitude for the spelling of character names) 


Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 


Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S.  Don’t have a conniption!  SHE MOB will be ganging up on you sooner or later!  


Until then, click the pic ⤵️ for more fun with shredding gender expectations…


A scene from Ed Wood’s Take It Out in Trade


~~~~~~~~~~~~

It’s Pride Month 🏳️‍🌈, so now is a great time to haunt the queer streets of Sturgeons…

 

Haunting Sturgeons by john L. Harmon