Monday, January 23, 2023

freakboy on film: BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS (1970)

 

Bloodthirsty Butchers, 1970.  Directed by Andy Milligan.  Written by John Borske & Andy Milligan.  Starring John Miranda, Annabella Wood, Berwick Kaler.  The movie poster shows people screaming and a man wielding a cleaver.   Text reads, Their prime cuts were curiously erotic…and thoroughly brutal.   Sadism was just an appetizer for the Bloodthirsty Butchers!

I guess you could call me a Sweeney Todd fan.  I have experienced the stage musical twice and I enjoy the Tim Burton film, even though it doesn’t compare to the energy and thrill of a live performance.  So, I was intrigued and excited when I discovered Andy Milligan wrote and directed a non-musical version of the gruesomely amusing Todd tale.  Though, I would love to see Milligan on Broadway!  Can you imagine the corrosively crazy vibe his material would bring to The Great White Way?   


Anyhoo, my initial viewing of BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS was on a cheap DVD and it left me more than a little baffled.  I found the story to be more disjointed and confusing than usual for a Milligan film and I kept wondering if there was going to actually be blood in BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS.  I didn’t hate it, but I was disappointed. 


Then I experienced the posthumous “director’s cut” on The Dungeon of Andy Milligan box set and a scarlet veil was gradually lifted from my half-blind eyes!  There was more gore and I came to understand and even revel in the character-driven plot.  Milligan chose to focus less on the people being baked into pies and more on the relationships and romantic entanglements.  Seriously, it is best to have a working knowledge of the story before watching or you might get confused very quickly. 

 

Sweeney Todd is preparing a barbershop customer for murder.
Sweeney preparing dinner


In BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS, nearly everyone is unhappy in their relationship.  Sweeney Todd, besides giving customers a severely close shave to steal their expensive trinkets, has to deal with an alcoholic wife and a difficult showgirl mistress.  Never mind his relationship to Mrs. Lovett.  Maggie Lovett, besides baking Sweeney’s customers into scrumptious pies, has to deal with her invalid husband and a couple of debatably good employees.  Tobias Ragg, besides butchering Sweeney’s customers for Mrs. Lovett’s pies, has to deal with his demanding girlfriend and then make time to harass his coworker Johanna.  Johanna Jeffrey, besides being a shopgirl for Mrs. Lovett, has to help with taking care of Mr. Lovett while pining for her love Jarvis to return. 


Jarvis and Johanna bask in sunny afterglow
Jarvis & Johanna crave an after-sex pie


Jarvis eventually returns and life seems happy for Johanna.  Well, until he flashes a piece of jewelry for his beloved in front of Sweeney.  Now Jarvis is missing and the community is becoming increasingly suspicious of two local business owners.  Seems like a lot of missing folk were last seen getting a trim from Mr. Todd.  It doesn’t matter that it has mainly been beggars, thieves and prostitutes disappearing.  They are still people.  Then there is talk about the declining quality of Mrs. Lovett’s pies.  Apparently most people are disgusted to find a chunk of human hair in their pie or even a woman’s breast popping out from under the crust.  Tobias has grown careless in his work, which leads to a power struggle between the three bloodthirsty butchers!  Who will live?  Who will die?  Who will be baked into a pie?  My hungry lips are sealed! 


Tobias peers around a corner.
There is nothing at all creepy about Tobias


BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS is one of Andy Milligan’s British films and, despite my initial reaction, he is in top form.  Unconventional pacing and editing, including the “swirl camera” to represent out of control violence.   Personal rants disguised as overly theatrical dialogue.   Corrosively cynical characters who are generally horrible to everyone.   Occasional doses of acidic humor, especially when Mrs. Lovett helps a customer who wants a specific “part” in his pie.   All of this adds up to a delirious, delectable low-budget grindhouse feast that only Andy Milligan could serve us. 


Mrs. Lovett slyly assists an excited customer
Only Mrs. Lovett knows what “part” he wants in his pie


He also served up some fascinating performances.  Jane Hilary gives the strongest performance in the film as the sly Mrs. Lovett.  Berwick Kaler sheds the sympathetically pathetic persona of his NIGHTBIRDS character to become believably creepy and repulsive as Tobias.  John Miranda is effectively domineering as Sweeney Todd.  Annabella Wood and Michael Cox as young lovers Johanna and Jarvis give the weakest performances, which makes sense in a Milligan film since love is often shown as frivolous, if not pointless.  Though I must give a special shout-out to George Barry as a drag performer who works with Sweeney’s showgirl mistress.  Corky will never win RuPaul’s Drag Race, but the character lights up the room and may be the kindest soul to ever grace a Milligan film. 


Corky talks with His coworker and Sweeney Todd.
Corky gives sage advice and make-up tips


In conclusion…

Despite my less than thrilling first experience, BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS has steadily grown on me with repeat viewings.  That is one thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years.  The more times you watch a Milligan film, the more you come to appreciate and embrace his uniquely off-kilter vision.  Well, except for maybe SURGIKILL, but that’s another post for another time.  Anyhoo, if you are in the mood for some bloody British horror through the lens of a 42nd Street American grindhouse director, then pop in a beef pot pie and savor the flagrant flavor of Andy Milligan’s BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS! 


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


Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S. Click the pic ⤵️ for more Milligan! 


Frankie bleeds on Jamie

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

My books & blogs… 

http://thejlhcollective.blogspot.com/2018/03/the-collective.html

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Reconstruction (a poem, of sorts)

Rip out my 

semi-good eye 

Dare to go 

deep inside 

Behind the damage 

from another time 

Pull out my 

corroded brain 

Hack it into 

jigsaw bits  

Piece it together 

as you see fit 

Creating a 

variation of me 

You can 

deal with 


A visually impaired queer indie author

____________

2023, John L. Harmon


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


Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S. Click the pic for a video poem from a different time… ⤵️

An eye filled up with blood


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

My books & blogs… 

http://thejlhcollective.blogspot.com/2018/03/the-collective.html 


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

freakboy on film: CHRISTINE (2016)

No, this isn’t the Stephen King story about a killer car, but I was almost expecting it to be when my sister and I sat down to watch.  Our onscreen cable guide is notoriously awful at confusing movies with similar, or even not-so-similar titles.  I mean, several years ago we had to tune in to see if the Hallmark Movie Channel was really showing CANNIBALS IN THE STREETS, but that’s another post for another day. 

Movie poster for Christine (2016) shows actress Rebecca hall as the title character sitting at a desk surrounded by TV sets.
written by Craig Shilowich/ directed by Antonio Campos

As for CHRISTINE, my sister had been checking channels and asked if I had heard of this film from 2016.  I answered no and I asked what the synopsis said.  She told me it was about a TV reporter who commits suicide on air during a live news broadcast.  This was startling enough, but then my sister explained it was based on real events that happened in 1974.  I admit morbid curiosity is why I decided to watch, but I wasn’t prepared for what I experienced.

Rebecca hall as Christine, smiling with long dark hair.

The plot follows Christine Chubbuck as she goes about her days and nights, no one fully aware of what is going on in her mind.  Besides professional frustrations and medical issues, she is obviously struggling with undiagnosed depression.  Her mother keeps referring to the “moods” Christine gets in, but doesn’t know how to help.  When coworkers try to reach out, she shuts them down.  It’s really difficult to watch this intelligent woman imploding and eventually succumbing to her internal suffering.  Even knowing how it ends does not diminish the emotional impact of her story.  

Rebecca hall as Christine, sitting at a desk in front of a TV camera, which shows a blurry black and white image on its screen.

Rebecca Hall portrays Christine as a fully realized, complicated person.  Sometimes she is sweet and funny, but other times defensive and angry.  Then there are times she is so full of sadness that it hurts.  Especially when Christine is putting on puppet shows as a volunteer at a children’s hospital.  What starts out as uplifting turns into an unheard cry for help. 


I know this isn’t the typical type of film I typically review, but I felt Christine’s story might help someone suffering from depression.  Maybe someone will recognize themselves or someone else and begin to pull back from that edge.  Honestly, I saw some of myself in Christine with her “moods” and her tendency to shut people out.  I know these are things I need to work on.


In conclusion…

CHRISTINE doesn’t glamorize depression or suicide and doesn’t give easy answers.  It just shows you one person’s struggle and it’s tough to watch, but worth your time. 


CHRISTINE is currently streaming on NETFLIX


NOTE to U.S. Readers….

If you are contemplating suicide, or know someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call or text 988 to connect with a trained counselor

 

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


Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S.  I have a couple of blogging challenges on the horizon, so my typical film reviews will return soon.


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

My books & blogs… 

http://thejlhcollective.blogspot.com/2018/03/the-collective.html 

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

To Dream of Laurie Partridge…


Susan Dey as Laurie partridge, dressed in purple with long brown hair.

I sporadically caught reruns of The Partridge Family as a kid, but have never considered myself a fan of this pop music family sitcom.  I was more of a Brady Buncher, so it’s odd I would have a dream about Laurie Partridge, as portrayed by Susan Dey.   I mean, you’d think I’d dream of Keith or his Hardy brother from another show, but neither  Cassidy ever interested me.  


As for the dream I experienced in the early morning hours of January 2nd, I was in my late teens or early 20’s, sitting in what appeared to be a bedroom with Laurie Partridge.  She was dressed in the early 1970’s style and was eagerly trying to convince me to get high with her using a new weird drug.  I finally agreed because you can’t say no to Laurie Partridge.  


She passed me a hard cocoon-ish shell I could hold with one hand and told me to suck the creature out and spit it onto a paper plate.  Then she planned to mash the creature up and mix the remains with some substance.  We would then eat the result for our high, which, for some reason, made perfect sense to me.


So, I glanced inside and saw something dark and leathery.  Then I held the cocoon-ish shell between my lips and sucked it out.  The creature was alive and it felt like multiple little suction cups were clinging to the inside of my mouth.  Whatever it was couldn’t or wouldn’t simply be spit out, so I had to reach in and yank it free.  I plopped the dark leathery round creature, with its thick little tendrils, on the paper plate.  Just as Laurie Partridge was about to mash it up, someone knocked on the door.  She quickly covered the plate and hid it under a writing desk.  


That’s when I woke up, feeling rather unsettled.  My first thought was how horrifying it was to feel the creature clinging to the inside of my mouth.  I was relieved it’s the dead of winter, so hopefully this dream wasn’t brought on by a bug or a spider crawling into my gaping snore-hole.  Then I questioned the appearance of Laurie Partridge and who knocked on the door.  Was it Mrs. Partridge or the entire family?  Would I have gone tripping with the Partridges?  Lastly, I shook my head at the absurdity of the dream.  I would never allow a creature, even a gross one, to be killed just for a high.  No, not even for Laurie Partridge.


Susan Dey as Laurie partridge, resting her face in her hands, looking bemused


Anyhoo, I don’t know what this freaky dream means, but it’s one way to start the new year.   It’s definitely more interesting than the post I had originally been working on.  It was to be a list of things I hope to accomplish in 2023, so at least now I won’t be publicly embarrassed when I fail to achieve anything I have planned.  I’ll just be embarrassed to know everyone knows how deranged my dreams can get. 🤪


Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words and Happy New Year! 


Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S.  You probably already filled your 2023 reading list, but maybe you can squeeze in a few more titles…

📚 

Books by john L. Harmon


Saturday, December 31, 2022

Flushing away 2022…

2022 hasn’t been complete crap, but there’s been plenty of it, both personally and worldwide.  So here is a New Year’s card I made for my sister (and others) at the end of 2003.   

A folded piece of paper with handwritten text that reads, A forget me.  Not!  Card. The initials JLH are in the bottom left corner.

Handwritten text reads, Margaret, Have an un-crappy new year!  John.  P.S. We can only hope.  Below the text is a cartoon of two women standing by a public restroom.  “What a stench,” remarks the curly blond haired woman.  “I can’t even open my eyes!” exclaims the smooth red haired woman.  A flushing sound emerges from the restroom and an underground pipe, connected to a water fountain, begins gurgling.   “I am so thirsty,” thinks a brown haired man as he approaches the fountain with water flowing out.  Meanwhile, am eavesdropping underground troll questions what is happening on the surface.

My sister and I unearthed this 19-year old relic during the process of moving this year and it seemed appropriate.  So, have an un-crappy New Year and thanks for visiting.  I think my blog has finally earned its name this year and hopefully I’ll continue to open up a bag of freak on all of you in 2023! 🤪


Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S.  Click the pic ⤵️ for my most viewed tale of 2022…

A scene of two nice boys staring at the camera in Ed wood’s take it out in trade


Thursday, December 29, 2022

booking freakboy: DESIRE IN THE SHADOWS by Joe Leon Houston

I had never heard of the sub-genre “Vintage Gay Pulp Fiction” until looking for books by Ed Wood, Jr.  A quick eBay search revealed amusing and potentially offensive titles such as Senator Swish and Villa of Queens.  Then I noticed DESIRE IN THE SHADOWS and was immediately intrigued by the lurid soap opera title and how the cover showed two men standing together, yet apart.  However, the three-digit price had an opposite effect.  I mean, I wanted to read it, but not that much!  Thankfully, I found a copy on Amazon for around $8. 


Two men stand together, yet apart on the book cover, with text that reads, First time in paperback.  Desire in the shadows (original title: the gay flesh), an adult novel by Joe Leon Houston.  Carl satisfied almost every passion there was until he fell in love with a woman!
I’ve found out you can’t tell a queer by his looks.

DESIRE IN THE SHADOWS is about Carl, a young man living in a small Texas town in the 1960’s.  Carl didn’t realize he was gay until, while hitchhiking, he was raped by a truck driver and, um, enjoyed it.  Yeah, nothing problematic there.  Anyhoo, after this life-altering experience, Carl had one foot out of the closet, at least on weekends when he ventured to a nearby big city.  


One Sunday at Mabel’s, a woman who flaunted the laws prohibiting Holy Day alcohol and homosexuality by holding tea dances in her home, Carl met Charles, aka Chuck.  It was lust at first sight, which is interesting since the two men resembled each other.  Is Carl his own type?  Anyhoo, lust turned to love and things were going well until Chuck visited Carl’s small hometown.  The family priest saw the two men making out in a car and told not only Carl’s parents, but the town gossip, as well.  This vicious old busybody, who would give Ms. Floridia Minch of Sturgeons a run for her money, spread the scandalous news around town and even tried to get Carl fired from his supermarket job. 


Chuck decided to leave Carl and go away, even though he claimed it wasn’t because of all the drama.  Carl doesn’t handle this split very well at all, heading to Mabel’s for a blackout bender.  The next morning becomes as life-altering as hitchhiking when Carl wakes up in a strange bed and soon meets its female owner.  Janis had found Carl drunk out of his mind at Mabel’s and brought him home.  This awkward introduction turns to friendship and eventually marriage.  Yes, marriage and things seem to be going well.  Carl is sexually satisfying Janis, while eventually satisfying himself with a door-to-door insurance salesman, but then Carl learns Chuck has returned.  


What’s a hetero-married homosexual to do?  Carl could stay with Janis, run off with Chuck or start his life anew alone.  Well…(SPOILER ALERT)…Carl has the decision made for him when he walks in on Chuck and Janis chatting while doing the mattress mambo.  It seems Janis had been looking for Chuck at Mabel’s when she found Carl and initially thought he was Chuck in the dim light.  Meanwhile, Chuck had took off after the small town drama to decide if he should go all the way gay to be with Carl or straighten himself out to be with Janis.  Apparently being bisexual wasn’t an option in 1960’s Texas. 


I experienced three things when I closed DESIRE IN THE SHADOWS.  First, my heart broke for Carl.  He deserved better.  Second, I realized this must be one of the most entertaining books I’ve ever read.  It was dramatic, funny and absolutely crazy.  Third, I felt high, like I was walking in a dream.  Even with the folds of time between us, I stumbled across this book published in 1966 and pulled it into 2022.  DESIRE IN THE SHADOWS seemed so perfectly suited for my taste that I once again imagined a freak like me stumbling across a copy of DARK EXCURSIONS in the distant future, falling in love with my emotionally damaged characters and feeling as though they discovered a secret treasure they want to share with anyone who will listen.  Hey, it could happen, obviously!  


Despite its sometimes trashy pulp fiction vibe, DESIRE IN THE SHADOWS (originally published in 1965 as “The Gay Flesh”) is a piece of literary queer history.  Author Joe Leon Houston swings open the closet door to reveal what life might have been like for some in the LGBTQ+ community before Stonewall.  The “shadows” in the title seems to be an accurate description of that time and a reminder of how we can’t allow others to force us back into the silent darkness. 


The back cover shows the same two men standing in different positions, with text that reads, DESIRE IN THE SHADOWS IS AN ADULT NOVEL THAT UNMASKS THE STARK REALITY OF THE TWILIGHT WORLD.   Virile, handsome Carl Wolfe could have any woman he wanted--but he wanted only Chuck, a blond Adonis who left Carl after a brief inter- lude of friendship and desire. To escape the grief and emptiness of his abnormal way of life, Carl married a fiercely passionate woman. Would this strange marriage work? Could Carl find ecstasy with her as he had with Chuck? Carl thought he had the answers until a shocking twist of fate put him once more at the crossroads of his life!
The time flew and we drank in the lust of our sex.

In conclusion, 

Maybe it’s the subject matter or the soap opera twists.  Perhaps it’s the characters or how I share the same initials with the author.  Whatever the reason, I feel a strong connection with this book.  In other words, DESIRE IN THE SHADOWS isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for me.  I’m just sad it appears this is Joe Leon Houston’s only book, but at least there’s more Vintage Gay Pulp Fiction to discover.  Oh please, you know if I ever find a reasonably priced copy, I’m so gonna read SENATOR SWISH! 😉 


The book, Senator Swish, by Arron Thomas, shows a suave man squeezing a lime into a drink and a woman wearing a very revealing top beside him, with several men standing in the background.  Text reads, He won the gay vote by a sinslide!

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words…and have a Happy New Year! 


Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S.  Click the pic ⤵️ in case you don’t know how this half-blind freakboy can read a physical book…


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

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

A massive thanks to those of you in the world who took a chance on this indie author, blogger or something in 2022…or any year, for that matter.


Extra thanks to those who dared to go haunting in Sturgeons with me.  It really is my best piece of fiction, so far, but 2023 is right around the corner. 🤓


The cover of haunting Sturgeons, by john L. Harmon


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

freakboy on film: AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR (2013)

 To quirk, or not to quirk?  That is the question…

And now a word from our sponsor dvd cover, showing two faces in profile.  The color grey is prominent.


Even now, looking at a photo while wearing my Mad Scientist Glasses, I can see why I was drawn to the DVD while flipping through a rack at a local gas station.  The cover, with its simple artwork that looks like something from the 1950’s, was unlike all the mainstream movies before me.  So I picked it up, not knowing a thing about it.  Seriously, I couldn’t decipher either the long title or the cast.  I just felt a strong desire because whatever it was seemed different. 


When I joined my sister in line at the gas station, I showed her the DVD and explained how I didn’t know what it was, but I was going to buy it.  She figured I was buying it because Parker Posey was in it.  I was amazed!  I couldn’t read her name, so it felt like fate that I was subconsciously drawn to a film with one of my favorite acting talents!  This made me even more eager to pop in the disc! 


Well…


I didn’t make it through the first time I tried watching AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR  SPONSOR.  Neither the story nor the actors held my attention.  Though maybe it didn’t help that my phone was in easy reach.  So I vowed I would give it another watch, for Parker Posey and for myself. 


Parker Posey
Parker Posey waves for help to get out of this movie!


One Month Later…


I still hadn’t tried watching it again and now a Vinegar Syndrome double feature so-called-Christmas gift to myself was on its way.  I needed to watch this DVD so I could freely enjoy the upcoming movies.  My sister recommended watching it in parts over a couple of days, like we did with the criminally boring SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY.  Much like Yoda, my sister’s advice was spot on.  


Three Days Later…


Bruce Greenwood
Bruce Greenwood as me after watching this movie!


Even in 25-30 minute increments, AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR  SPONSOR was tough to sit through.  The quirky plot about a CEO of an advertisement agency having a nervous breakdown and talking in commercial slogans was presented in the most unquirky way possible.  Such a potentially fun idea deserves a little spring in its step, but it all felt as monochrome as its cover art.  


Even the usually reliable Parker Posey, Bruce Greenwood and Callum Blue couldn’t seem to elevate this film to the quirkiest height of quirkiness it should’ve reached.  However, I wonder If maybe director Zack Bernbaum directed the cast to play their characters with overwhelmingly sedate personalities.  Though maybe the screenplay by Michael Hamilton-Wright was going for the tediousness of day-to-day reality instead of the quick pop and sizzle hyper-reality of a well-crafted commercial.  Whatever the reason, it will be approximately 90 minutes of your life you will never get back, unless you’re into films where a character suddenly pulls out a guitar and everyone is so emotionally moved that you want to hurl.  


Callum blue
Callum Blue just threw-up a little in his mouth!


In conclusion…

My subconscious must have been out to lunch when I felt drawn to AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR  SPONSOR.  However, I suppose it was different, but in a safe, boring way.  So, if  you crave a fun, quirky satire of advertising, with Parker Posey, skip this yawn fest and watch JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS (2001) instead! 


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


Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S.  My Vinegar Syndrome double feature so-called-Christmas gift arrived! 🤓


Sometimes aunt Martha does dreadful things and buddies

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

Something for you to read while my part of the world plunges into a deep freeze… 

🥶

Desire for connection, danger of revenge, damage from the past.  Haunting sturgeons, by john L. Harmon