Saturday, December 2, 2023

freakboy on film: PARANOIAC (The 4th Hammer-Amicus Blogathon Edition)

This post is part of the 4th Hammer-Amicus Blogathon, hosted by Barry of Cinematic Catharsis & Gill of Realweegiemidget Reviews
A poster for the 4th Hammer-Amicus blogathon shows a mustached devil wearing a hat and a woman who appears to be planning on trimming his facial hair.
In Hammer-Amicus Blogathons past, I’ve sunk my teeth into supernatural horror, geeked out over sci-fi zaniness and danced to the beat of teen jazz obsession This time around finds me lurking in the shadows of a 1963 psychological thriller that I had never seen before!  Honestly, I didn’t know much about PARANOIAC other than the soap opera twist its plot is centered around. 
Blu-ray Cover of paranoiac has swirling green chaotic lines  surrounding the tormented face of Oliver reed and a freaky grinning masked figure brandishing a hook.
Poor Eleanor and Simon Ashby.  First they lost their parents in a terrible accident.  Then their brother Tony killed himself.  These tragedies continue to hang heavy over the Ashby family mansion.  Maybe this is why Eleanor believes she has seen Tony alive!  Simon and Aunt Harriet believe Eleanor has taken leave of her senses…or has she? 
Janette Scott as Eleanor Ashby looks distraught by a window
Pushed to the emotional brink, Eleanor has decided to emulate her brother’s suicide by jumping off a cliff into the ocean.  A man saves her and takes her home, shocking everyone in the household.  Apparently, this man is Tony!  No body was ever found, so could it actually be the presumed dead Ashby sibling?  
Alexander Davion as Tony Ashby peers through a opening with cobwebs obscuring part of his face
Tensions mount as the family tries to figure out if this man is really Tony.  Aunt Harriet becomes even more intense.  Simon drinks and explodes in fury even more often than before.  Eleanor believes the man is her brother, but is disturbed by her growing attraction to him. 

Is Tony really Tony?  How will Eleanor handle her incestuous feelings?  Will Simon finally snap?  Can Aunt Harriet keep things under control?  Also, what is up with the creepy singing and organ music coming from the dilapidated chapel?  Who is lurking down there in the nightmare fuel of a mask and what does it mean?  Secrets are revealed, sometimes sooner than expected, but my lips are sealed!  You’ll have to watch PARANOIAC to find the answers! 
Sheila Burrell as Aunt Harriet  looking suspicious
After spending a day fighting Triffids, Janette Scott as Eleanor Ashby gives a good performance as a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  Sheila Burrell as Aunt Harriet gives a strong performance as the ersatz matriarch trying to keep family secrets a secret.  Alexander Davion as Tony Ashby gives an intriguing performance as the man who may or may not be who he seems.  (SIDE NOTE: Davion went on to play Ted Casablanca in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1967).  Then there is the always memorable Oliver Reed as Simon Ashby.  Reed comes on like gangbusters as the drunkenly violent member of the Ashby clan.  According to the audio commentary, this may have been art imitating life.  
Oliver Reed as Simon Ashby looking smug
Screenwriter Jimmy Sangster weaves an emotionally disturbing story with echoes of gothic horror reverberating through the corridors.  The viewer may see some of the twists and turns coming, but maybe not when they will occur, which keeps the plot on edge.  After one early revelation, I told my sister I thought it would be the big finale reveal, not something given away halfway through the film.

Director Freddie Francis draws out a solid Hammer film from the script and actors.  He keeps the camera moving, the pace brisk and the atmosphere tense.  A scene involving a car dangling precariously off a cliff is particularly effective! 
Close up of the freaky grinning mask with someone’s eyes peering from behind it
If I have one complaint, it is my disappointment in how little the super freaky-creepy mask is utilized in the plot.  When the blu-ray arrived, I was startled by this grotesque face staring back from the cover.  (No, not Oliver Reed)  I let my imagination run rampant with visions of a masked killer bumping off members of a wealthy family.  Maybe the resurrected Hammer studio will give this psychological thriller a contemporary slasher twist! 
The freaky grinning masked individual threateningly brandishes a hook.
In conclusion… 
Somehow PARANOIAC is not quite what you think of with Hammer films, but also totally a Hammer production.  The cinematography is lush black & white.  The performances are spot on for the story.  If you enjoy turbulent twists and turns within a mansion of deep, dark secrets, then you will be captivated by PARANOIAC!  I know I was! 

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

Freak Out, 

P.S. click the pic ⤵️ for a different review involving a super freaky-creepy mask…
Something strange is happening in the town of STURGEONS… 
                      (available from an Amazon near you)

Saturday, November 25, 2023

booking freakboy: SENATOR SWISH by Aaron Thomas

said it was going to happen.  I found a (sort of) reasonably priced copy of SENATOR SWISH and used my tablet to read each tawdry, trashy page!
The cover of the book Senator Swish by Aaron Thomas shows a handsome dark haired man in a yellow evening suit mixing a drink.  An attractive blond woman is next to him wearing a light blue dress with an opened diamond shaped area in front, revealing an area of her bosom.  Several men mingle behind them, with a tagline that reads, He won the gay vote by a sin-slide.
You know what I’m like in bed, for God’s sake.  How can I be queer?” - Van Clayton 
Van Clayton is an attorney who is throwing his hat in a race to be Senator and hoping to marry Jennifer Parker, the love of his life.  However, Jennifer isn’t ready to give up her career as a fashion editor at a top magazine.  It’s 1968, so perhaps Jennifer has yet to hear how women can marry AND have a career.  Anyhoo, Jennifer’s jet-setting career in the fashion world is taking her away for an extended period, leaving Van alone.  Not for long though! 

During Jennifer’s absence, her brother Jeff arrives in town.  He has secretly quit college and taken a job as an instructor at a tennis school.  Jeff resembles Jennifer quite a bit, which intrigues Van.  Soon enough the tennis instructor is instructing the potential Senator in the art of man-on-man action!  Is Van simply transferring his passion for Jennifer to her brother or does he swish both ways?

Oh, but wait…there’s more! 

Things are going well between the two men until Van takes a trip to Washington D.C. to secure his bid to run for Senator.  There he meets Alex Marshall, “a professional party-crasher and a good-for-nothing polo player.”  Well, Alex wants to play more than polo with Van.  Even though a certain part of Van wants to play, he refuses Alex’s advances.  Then the refusal turns violent when Alex reveals he knows of Van’s tryst with Jeff.  Van punches Alex, who hits his head on the way down.  

Did Van kill Alex and what does Jeff know about this other man?  What will happen when Jennifer returns and why does Jeff have a tie clip with the initials “W.R.” on it?  I suppose since this book is out-of-print, I should just tell you the convoluted ending…


Jeff is really a man named Wayne Richards, who is Alex Marshall’s “roommate”.  Together, Alex and Wayne devised this elaborate set-up to blackmail Van and because they both desired his manly physique or whatever.  Jennifer ultimately saves Van’s “manhood” by returning and convincing Van to call their bluff.  The blackmailers (Alex is alive) have trapped themselves because they could get arrested for engaging in homosexual activity, so they give up.

In the very end, Van meets the real Jeff and has to passionately kiss Jennifer in front of her brother.  Is he trying to prove something to himself or is the author simply making it very clear that Van is a “real man” again?  I suspect the latter, but I imagine Van will eventually have the real Jeff on the side because the possible future Senator  straight-up enjoyed gay sex! 
The back cover of Senator Swish by Aaron Thomas is a yellowish-green with text that reads.  Senator Swish.  This is an original companion book.  Van was almost a senator when Jeff seduced him. The memory of lust was a shameful nightmare--and then blackmail threatened his career. and his man- hood.
“Everyone has a little bit of that sort of thing in them.  Some never let it come out.  Some do.  When it happens, it happens.  That doesn’t mean it turns you into some kind of freak.” - Jennifer Parker 
In conclusion…
Unlike DESIRE IN THE SHADOWS, I didn’t feel a connection to SENATOR SWISH.  Oh, I enjoyed the convoluted plot.  I even laughably rolled my eyes at the old “effeminate homosexual villain” trope.  However, my disconnect may stem from broadly drawn characters and an extremely hetero-centric slant to the story.  On more than one occasion, instead of calling the character “Jeff” or “the young man”, the author simply referred to him as “the f—“.  I know it was 1968, but it was a bit jarring and makes me wonder where the author fell on the sexuality spectrum.  Anyhoo, despite its problematic overtones, SENATOR SWISH was an oversexed (straight & gay), trashy page-turner that I’m glad I experienced, though the alliterative title and the amusing tagline are probably the best parts of the book.  

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

Freak Out, 

P.S.  Click the pic ⤵️ to learn about the book which started me down this rabbit hole of Vintage Gay Pulp Fiction
The cover of Death of a transvestite by Edward D. Wood, Jr. shows a man in drag sitting in the electric chair.
My books on Amazon… 
3 books by john L. Harmon.   Vision bent half blind poems.  Sturgeons the complete serials.  Dark excursions the complete set.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Blackening vs. Asteroid City

As you know, thanks to my Jesus Revolution vs, Cocaine Bear post, I enjoy experiencing a cinematic whiplash double feature.  One weekend, back in the days of VHS and rental stores, I even rented Psycho IV: The Beginning and The Rescuers Down Under, which left the video store owner very confused. 

I was recently browsing through the increasingly shrinking movie area of Wal-Mart when I spotted two films.  With my Mad Scientist Glasses on, I could decipher the titles, but I double-checked with my sister for confirmation. 

I had heard of The Blackening and knew I wanted to see it.  I knew nothing of Asteroid City, but even without being able to decipher the smaller text on the blu-ray cover, I was certain it was a Wes Anderson film.  Going against my usual “wait for streaming or the $5 bin” attitude about new films I didn’t see in the theater, I purchased both titles.
Blu-ray of the blackening shows 7 black people peering over a game board.  A cabin is at the center of the board with an arrow sticking out if it.  The tag line reads, We can’t all die first.   Further text reads, "THE FIRST GREAT HORROR COMEDY OF THE POST GET OUT ERA" - Indie wire.
screenplay by Tracy Oliver & Dewayne Perkins / directed by Tim Story
THE BLACKENING is a clever piece of social commentary wrapped up in a suspenseful and hilarious horror film filled with characters you actually hope live to the end!  I did figure out the twist, but this did not diminish my enjoyment in the slightest!  Oh, and I hope Antoinette Robertson becomes a major household name!  Seriously, see her in The Blackening and in her brilliant role in the Netflix series of Dear White People!  
Photo of actress Antoinette Robertson

Blu-ray of asteroid city shows three white people standing in front of a desert town with a kid flying with a jet pack in the light blue sky
story by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola / directed by Wes Anderson
ASTEROID CITY wants so hard to be a clever, quirky, sci-fi nostalgia trip , populated by a buttload of familiar actors, but writer/director Wes Anderson has drank his own Kool-Aid, resulting in a big bland piece of meh.  Seriously, the only time I reacted to Asteroid City was when a character flicked on a lighter after pumping gas.  The low-key ridiculous scene felt like an amusingly authentic 1950’s American moment.  Oh, and I did ask my sister during a different scene if Tom Hanks is in this film.  SPOILER ALERT: He is. 

In conclusion…
I think you can guess which film I’m keeping and which one I’m donating to the library.  

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

Freak Out, 

My books on Amazon… 
Three books by john L. Harmon includes Vision bent (half-blind poems).  Sturgeons (the complete serials).  Dark excursions (the complete set)

Monday, November 6, 2023

Foreshadowing Winter (a poem, of sorts)

Attempting to embrace 
The autumn landscape 
Stretching before me 
Days growing shorter  
Clocks winding down 
Leaves quickly falling 
Once vivid memories 
Now slowly fading 
Decaying on the ground 

An abundance of autumn  leaves scattered on the ground
2023, John L. Harmon 

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

Freak Out, 

P.S. an appropriate classic from The FreakOptic Files for this day… 🎈

My books on Amazon…

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

freakboy on film: GLEN OR GLENDA (1953)

Poster for Glen or glenda shows photos from the film and a drawing of a person who is half man and half woman, with text that reads… I changed my sex.  What am I, male or female?  The strange case of a man who changed his sex.  Glen or Glenda.  Strange loves of those who live and love but can never marry.  Adults only
written & directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Glen and Barbara hold hands in a tender moment
Hetero-centric love, of sort
Glen is engaged to Barbara, but Glen has a secret.
  He enjoys wearing women’s clothing, even an uncomfortable brassiere*.  Will Glen confess his desire to wear her angora sweater?  Will Barbara accept his cross-dressing ways?  Will marriage kill Glen’s feminine alter ego Glenda?  My painted lips are sealed.

Glenda looks longing into a shop window.
I wish I looked this good in drag 
*(I wore a bra for the abandoned video version of my soap opera parody PRIVATE IDAHO and it felt like a torture device designed by a sadistic man, in my opinion)  

As I’ve said before, GLEN OR GLENDA is shockingly progressive, but weirdly backwards.  The story is told by a psychiatrist and has an open mind, to a degree, about gender reassignment surgery and men dressing as women.  Well, hetero-centric men.   It is made abundantly clear that Glen is not a homosexual, accompanied by scenes of “predatory” queer men approaching so called “normal” men.  It would be easy to be offended by this, but I believe these moments were born out of ignorance, unlike the mean and nasty homophobic crap found in more than a few 1980’s films.  

Another element that could be offensive to modern audiences is how Glen’s transvestitism seems almost like dissociative identity disorder (split personality) than simply a man who feels more comfortable in women’s clothes.  Maybe this was out of ignorance or maybe Ed Wood saw his feminine side that way.  Then again, maybe as a filmmaker, he may have simply been adding a heightened sense of drama in the story.  

Glenda looking confused and dramatic.
Save your drama for your mama
To muddle the issue and  the audience even further, the psychiatrist tells of two other transvestite cases.  The first one tragically ends in suicide, but the other story ends happily with a man successfully transitioning to a woman.  Yes, the message, whatever exactly it is, is all over the place.  However, there’s a lot of openness for a 1950’s film. 

Glen lounges comfortably as Glenda.
Is anyone really this comfortable wearing a bra?
Then there is Bela Lugosi, who receives top billing!  The man who became famous playing Dracula ended his career in the Woodverse In GLEN OR GLENDA, he is a god-like scientist watching over humanity from an armchair.  His favorite pastime is to “pull the string,” which I assume makes us mere mortal puppets dance to his omnipotent whims.  All I really know is Bela Lugosi is far more entertaining here than in the snooze-fest that is 1931’s DRACULA.  

Bela Lugosi as the scientist watches over a bustling city
So many strings, so little time
Nobody won any acting awards for this delirious film, obviously.  Though perhaps Dolores Fuller as Barbara could’ve won a Razzie if they had been a thing in 1953.  Timothy Farrell as the psychiatrist gives a matter-of-fact performance and has an excellent droll voice for the role.  Ed Wood himself plays the title role of Glen/Glenda and he’s not half bad.  He has a somewhat natural ease with his dialogue and even more ease dressing as Glenda.  Though nothing will beat his performance as “that drag queen Alecia” in TAKE IT OUT IN TRADE

I must also mention the dream sequence, or whatever you might call it.  This WTF? montage includes Satan attending Glen and Barbara’s wedding, extreme femininity and some light bondage.  It also shows a group of men and women pointing accusing fingers at Glen, but then back away in awe, or at least silent respect, as Glen becomes Glenda.  Is it Glen’s way of accepting the Glenda inside?  I think so, maybe.  It’s all very confusing in the best way possible. 

Barbara and Glen  get married as Saran looks on in approval.
Me at your wedding
In conclusion…
This was going to be a 4-in-1 post where I briefly blog about my Halloween tradition of watching three films of Edward D. Wood, Jr. and then Tim Burton’s cinematic love letter to Wood, but I found I had a lot to say about GLEN OR GLENDA.  I think this is because GLEN OR GLENDA is my favorite of his creations.  The story is trying to be sincere and sort of open-minded, while also being bizarre and almost hallucinogenic at times.  GLEN OR GLENDA may or may not do much in favor of the LGBTQ+ community, but it clicked with a young, queer freakboy who has always flashed a sardonic smirk at traditional gender roles.  So, slip into something comfortable (yes, even a bra, if that’s your bag) and open your mind to the shocking, surreal and sublime nature of Ed Wood’s GLEN OR GLENDA!    

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

Freak Out, 

P.S. Happy Halloween! 🎃 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Let the Nerding begin… (a KILLER NERD double feature)

 “I’m not a nerd!  I’m a geek!” - me (on multiple occasions) 

Even though my iPad’s definitions of “geek” and “nerd” are interchangeable, (a person who is extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable about a particular subject), I’ve always believed there was a difference.  Maybe I feel “geeks” are somehow less uncool or maybe I just like the sound of the word.  “Nerd” drops like an uninspired bomb, while “Geek” floats with lyrical prose.  Plus, I like to say I “geek out” over my fave TV series and films.  I mean, nobody “nerds out” about anything other than maybe the tartly sweet 1980’s candy.  However, after all of my anti-nerd rhetoric, I experienced a massive shock to my personal identity when I sat down to watch a nerd-ish double feature. 

DVD of the Troma team release of Killer nerd and bride of killer nerd double feature.
It’s Troma, so you know it’s classy

written & directed by Mark Steven Bosko & Wayne Alan Harold 

Harold Kunkle is a nerd.  He’s mistreated at home, at work and on the streets.  What’s a nerd to do?  He orders audio cassettes from Slick Dick’s SCHOOL OF COOL, gets a makeover and paints the town red…with BLOOD!  You see, after his cool lessons fail to extinguish his nerdiness and he suffers more humiliation, Harold Kunkle snaps and goes on a killing spree.  

Harold Kunkle straightens his bow tie in a mirror.  He has bits of bloodied toilet paper on his face where he cut himself shaving.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the nerdiest of them all?

Toby Radloff (American Splendor) is full on nerd as Harold Kunkle.  He manages to make the nerd simultaneously pathetic and sympathetic and is THE reason to watch KILLER NERD.  This film is so beyond a DIY, low budget affair, it makes Jon Moritsugu’s films look like million dollar marvels.  Despite, or maybe because of the slow pacing and questionable acting, I enjoyed KILLER NERD way more than I feel I should have, especially when Harold is learning to be cool.

Harold Kunkle wears a new suit and shows off his new cool hairdo, which includes several strands of hair sticking up in front.
A killer do

written & directed by Mark Steven Bosko & Wayne Alan Harold 

Harold Kunkle is being tormented by children.
Children are evil 

Harold Kunkle is trying to put his killing spree past behind him, but the ghosts of a few of his victims keep haunting him and neighborhood kids torment him with nerd taunts.  Just when you think Harold is going to commit suicide, he meets Thelma Crump, a lonely, bookish young woman who is a tormented senior in high school.  What are two nerds to do?  Fall in love, attend a senior house party, get humiliated and go on a killing spree together, of course.

Thelma Crump looking sweet and nerdy.
Sweet and nerdy

Toby Radloff returns as Harold Kunkle and he is still full on nerd, and it’s interesting to watch him struggling with Harold’s past crimes.  Heidi Lohr as Thelma Crump is very memorable.  She gives Thelma a bit of sweet sympathy and an edge of cuckoo crazy.  Together, they are THE reason to watch BRIDE OF KILLER NERD.  This sequel is also low-budget, but the pace is quicker since the film is 15 minutes shorter.  The script is funnier and it technically might be a better film.  As with the first one, I enjoyed BRIDE OF KILLER NERD more than I should have, especially the scenes of nerds in love.

Thelma Crump looks surprised as Harold Kunkle gives her flowers.
Flowers are a nerd’s best friend

In conclusion…
This Troma Team nerd-filled double feature DVD made me uncomfortable because it felt like I was seen.  Watching Harold Kunkle was a reminder of my long buried shame.  I was a nerd as a kid.  No, I didn’t have tape on my glasses or own a pocket protector, but I saw who I used to be in Harold.  Socially awkward.  Low self-esteem.  A less than snappy dresser.  Ok, fine, I’m still these things, but I will no longer be ashamed!  

I am a nerd! 🤓 

Now is the time for nerds and geeks to put down our Star Trek nitpicking, push up our four eyes (or six in my case) and unite against the so-called “cool” or “hip” people of the world!  We can be “with it” together and never be social outcasts again! 

Just don’t make me play Dungeons & Dragons.  I mean, I’m not that big of nerd! 

Oops 🫢

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

Freak Out, 

P.S.  A special thanks to Barry of Cinematic Catharsis for putting KILLER NERD on my radar with his review of AMERICAN SPLENDOR! 

Screen shot of American splendor review on the blog cinematic catharsis

P.P.S.  Click the pic ⤵️ for a different post about a very different Troma double feature…

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Caught Waiting (a poem of sorts)

Words caught 
Like fragments 
Of glass 
Coating my throat 
Blood flowing 
Away from 
What I could write 
All I could say 
Until my mouth 
Closes up 
Until my thoughts 
Run dry 
And I wait 
For the day 
When my eyes 
Completely fail 
To see the world 
And all it meant 
And what 
It never seemed 
To me 
Shadowy selfie with a ghostly light illuminating my mad scientist glasses eyes, my nose, and my mouth.
I should use this as my obit pic
2023, John L. Harmon 
Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

Freak Out, 

P.S. Are you aware October is Blindness Awareness Month?  (Click the pic ⤵️ for my post from 2022
Photo of the book, vision bent, half-blind poems by john L Harmon with mad scientist glasses in front of it