Peter O'Toole had been the last man standing among the renowned hard-drinking hellraising actors of his generation such as Oliver Reed and Richard Harris. But now he's also gone off to that big bar in the sky. O'Toole was memorable in all his performances and his witty and charismatic persona was one of a kind. His striking blue eyes, singular good looks, debonair upper class Brit attitude, and mesmerizing acting talent gave him his ticket to stardom and also made you forget that he was a bad drunk in real life. But, hey, that's what made him the one and only Peter O'Toole! He'll be missed and I raise my glass to him.
Saturday, 19 October 2013
If you’re asking yourself what could you possibly offer as a gift to a friend or relative who has everything, then have I got the solution for you! How about a full-color caricature? I’d be pleased to draw one for a flat fee of fifty dollars plus postage. Group rates are also available. The price would entail the original black and white drawing, mailed to you, as well as the colorized (by Photoshop) version which you would receive via email. Also makes a great present for yourself! For more details, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message on Facebook to Sophie Sinemania.
Monday, 14 October 2013
Could you imagine living out your golden years without your favorite stuffed animal? Well, the most eccentric filmmaker of the 20th century, Fritz Lang, certainly couldn’t! He had Peter the monkey with him everywhere, night and day. If you don’t believe me, just ask Peter Bogdanovich: the damn monkey was present during his famous interview with that legendary enigmatic cinematic ‘Master of Darkness’. But while Lang’s curious fetish for Peter the monkey was blatant and his affection for him was bizarrely and tenderly cute, his other fetishes were more secretively creepy and downright perverse!
Yes, this is a sweet picture, indeed! Peter was able to tame the beast because if you read ‘Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast’ by Patrick McGilligan, you’ll learn about all the dark sides of Lang the Fang. Fritz preferred the company of ‘ladies of the night’, had a foot fetish and a reputation for organizing Hollywood orgies, and collected macabre objects like tribal shrunken heads and weird masks from around the world. Lang wore a monocle like fellow director Erich von Stroheim, a fashion that could be perceived at the time as aristocratic Nazi, and his Germanic accent didn't help matters. He was sadistic to some of his actors, in particular the 18-year-old Brigitte Helm who played the hot robot in his 1927 masterpiece, ‘Metropolis’. By the way, that movie cost 7 million German marks (which would be $200 million today) and kick-started the science fiction genre. Even by today’s standards of super- duper special effects, ‘Metropolis’ remains a mind-blowing cinematic experience.
But getting back to poor Brigitte, during the making of ‘Metropolis’, the ordeal she experienced and the physical pain she felt (her robot armor left her with bruises and scars, and the heat of the fire scene was real) for her first role reminds me of what Tippi Hedren went through on the set of Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’. Did the Masters of Suspense or Darkness want to destroy what they couldn’t have? Well, let just say that reading ‘Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast’ gave me an eerie idea for a sordid story for my book Sinemania!
Lang wasn’t really understood in the Hollywood community and the Austrian expatriate was far from a saint. To illustrate what I mean, in my story, Fritz orders the company of a prostitute to show her his movie scrapbook and describes its pictures in his own peculiar way. I had read that towards the end of his life he paid prostitutes, not for sex, but simply for some female company to avoid loneliness.
I’ll let you discover the twist of that creepy tale on your own, but I’m gonna use this post to open the curtain on the real scandals and murders that plagued Fritz Lang’s life. Yes, dear reader, life can copy art and Fritz and his monkey could be to blame! Move over, Polanski!
Lang was born in Vienna in 1890 from a Jewish mother who converted to Catholicism when Fritz was ten. He was raised in that faith and cherished it until his death in 1976. The first scandal and enigmatic mystery to involve the ‘Master of Darkness’ was the death of his first wife, Lisa Rosenthal. She is now known as ‘Lang’s suicidal first wife’ who found the idea of being replaced by a hot new mistress too hard to take. The facts are that in 1921, Lisa died from a gunshot to her chest while she was in her bathtub. Lang’s mistress, Thea von Harbou, moved in with him not long after. Was it suicide or murder? Only Fritz, Thea, or Peter the monkey knew for certain.
Lang made several excellent film noirs in the US. My favorite is ‘Scarlet Street’ from 1945. Joan Bennett played a manipulative femme fatale who took the character portrayed by Edward G. Robinson for a sucker. Dan Duryea played her loser con artist lover and it’s a pleasure watching the evil couple up to no good and sucking their victim dry! This movie is a must and the experience of seeing it is even more powerful knowing that Bennett was Fritz Lang’s American muse (they made a few films together). On top of that, Joan Bennett was a femme fatale in real life!
On the fatal day of December 13, 1951, Bennett, Lang’s film noir bitch, made a rendezvous with her Hollywood agent of twelve years, Jennings Lang (no relation to Fritz, just a bloody coincidence) in a parking lot at the MCA offices. Little did Bennett know that her jealous husband, Walter Wanger, was following her with a gun. He shot what he assumed was her secret lover twice. Her words after realizing that her hubby was a murderer were: “Get away and leave us alone!” Wanger tossed his pistol into his wife’s car. Lang survived, Wanger pled insanity and served only four months in prison. Was the ‘Master of Darkness’ doomed with a plague of crimes of passion? Well, I’m definitely starting to see a pattern here.
In Lang’s 1931 classic, ‘M’, Peter Lorre played a child killer or, between the lines, an active sexual predator/pedophile. That was a very taboo subject for the time. But three years earlier, Germany was really shaken by the gruesome murders of child serial killer, Peter Kürten, who became known as the Monster of Düsseldorf. Lang’s depiction of this unthinkable true story and Lorre’s quirky childlike performance made that film mandatory for the curriculum of any Film 101 university course. Peter Lorre became Peter Kürten and I believe Peter the monkey was around at that time, too. Or his murderous spirit was… Peter Kürten was executed in 1931 after nine murders and seven attempted murders, 1931 also being the year ‘M’ hit the theatres. Mmm… Could Peter the monkey have previously belonged to one of Kürten’s child victims and taken as a trophy? And did Lang adopt him as a good luck charm after the mega-success of ‘M’?
Peter Lorre delivered a magnificent tormented portrait of Kürten’s evil and, fortunately for him, that wasn’t a curse. Hollywood warmly opened its doors to his vivid and undeniable acting talent. In 1935, his movie ‘Mad Love’ (fuck, not another M!) catapulted him to the top and he became a household name as a scene-stealing creepy character actor. If you watch a flick with Peter Lorre in it, his presence is what you’ll remember most about the film ten years later. Besides being known for his huge bulging sad eyes and distinctive slimy voice, he was a complex individual in real life, addicted to morphine to deal with gallbladder problems. During his ‘Mr. Moto’ years (enough with the goddamn M’s already!!) he managed to kick his ‘M’orphine habit, but put on a hundred pounds in return. In 1964, Peter Lorre died of a stroke at the age of 60.
The serial killer Peter Kürten inspired the beginning of Lorre’s fantastic career. Weirdly enough, his role in ‘M’ saved the life of his daughter when she almost became the victim of two other serial killers, ‘The Hillside Stranglers’! In 1977, the diabolical duo, Buono and Bianchi, confessed that they spared the life of Lorre’s daughter, Catharine. After giving her a ride in Los Angeles (while dressed up as cops), they intended for her to become their next victim until she happened to mention the name of her famous father to them. ‘M’ could in this case also mean ‘Miracle’. After seeing the faces of Buono and Bianchi on the TV news, Catharine realized that her dad saved her life and she was also grateful that those two lowlifes had some knowledge of the history of sinema and admired ‘M’!
Was Peter the monkey really buried with Fritz Lang in 1976 like he had requested? I doubt it. I suspect that in 1988, the king of zombie films, George A. Romero, hired that ‘M’other fucker’ without even auditioning him for the main role in his film, ‘Monkey Shines’!
Where is Peter the monkey now? Who knows, but if I were you I would lock my door, day and night! I certainly do.
Is he real or not? Is he guilty or not? All I know is that he gives the letter ‘M’ new meaning!
That’s my conspiracy theory, but I know that other movie and art lovers have their own perspective. In May last year, I had the pleasure of seeing an exhibit by two fabulous artists, Kevin Broughton and Fiona Birnie, at the Crypt Gallery in London. They had a totally different and valid version of the meaning of ‘M’.
‘M’ for McDonalds! The ‘meat is murder’ sin can also fit the bill, but then Hitler was a vegetarian, so who knows? Anyway, I’m up for a debate! But McDonald’s sure is a monkey business, they got that right!
In their exhibit, ‘Berlin: The Forgers Tale’, Broughton and Birnie’s art is a pure delight for any lover of German culture of the 1920s and ‘30s. Their spoofing of Fritz Lang’s movies of that era is simply magical and the mix of contemporary icons and vintage visual aesthetics is brilliant. See for yourself here:
If I was rich, now you know what I’d do with my monkey… I mean my money! I’d buy their art and follow their exhibits from town to town! With a triple shot of pure absinthe! I can’t wait to see what that wonderful duo comes up with next!
Alright, I should stop monkeying around and conclude this silly post about the ‘M’aster of Darkness’. Fritz Lang’s life and personality are as interesting as his cinematographic art, his vision, and noir tales. Discovering the fact that his real life was surrounded by actual ‘M’urder, ‘M’ayhem, ‘M’ystery, M’orphine, and ‘M’onkey was ‘M’agic for ‘M’e and I thought that sharing that with you could be ‘M’arvelously entertaining! Mmm… 'M’azeltov!
(Lang made a cameo in Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Le Mépris’ with Brigitte Bardot. Godard was a huge fan of the director and this is a sweet and tongue-in-cheek scene from that movie, followed by a great Lang tribute in French with English subtitles. Enjoy!)
Thursday, 19 September 2013
Federico Fellini and Russ Meyer might have been obsessed with big bosoms, but that was nothing compared to British director Ken Russell with his thing for throbbing erect mega-dicks about to burst! Russell wasn’t gay, however, just extremely eccentric. Controversy was his middle name and there was nothing he loved better than playing with the repressed subconscious minds of censors and pressing their ultra-sensitive buttons at the same time. You better believe that Russell’s wild erotic imagination was also delighting his audiences, and his films remain super edgy even by today’s standards.
For my story on him in my book Sinemania!, I’ve told funny anecdotes from behind the scenes, highlighting his mind-blowing creativity, bizarre fetishes, fashion faux-pas, and weird on-set behavior, including notorious temper tantrums. Ken Russell was one mad genius. His technique and his distinctively gonzo approach to storytelling resulted in unique movies: ‘The Devils’ and its cathartic religious delirium, ‘Tommy’ and ‘Lisztomania’ where rock opera and classical music melt in a fusion of video clip mania, and ‘Whore’ and ‘Crimes of Passion’ with their sexually deviant silliness. Russell was a pioneer at showing male nudity (‘Women in Love’), mocking Hollywood legends (‘Valentino’), and putting the unthinkable on screen just for the sheer fun of it. Either you love or hate his irreverent work, it’s that simple. There’s no middle ground with Ken Russell.
Russell might have been quite a handful for the actors he directed, but he could be particularly faithful to some of them, employing them in his films again and again. One name that will forever be linked with his is ‘Mr. England’ himself, Oliver Reed!
That very charismatic and macho actor was one of the most famous British stars of his time. Ollie Reed even looked like Russell and could have passed for his brother, each having a passion for the bottle and binge boozing. The drinking buddies made several movies together in the ‘70s and shared tons of crazy unbelievable moments, the weirdest being a sword duel. They even had their own private code for acting, Reed asking Russell before each scene: “Do you want take one, take two or take three?”, referring to his own personal method of acting that involved the level of intensity required for that particular scene.
For more juicy details of the highs and lows of Ollie’s pub fights, Guinness World Record consumption of pints, sexual prowess, and irrational behavior, let me recommend a fantastic book: ‘Hellraisers’ by Robert Sellers. The graphic novel version is also a wonderful read, especially with the very talented illustrator, Jake, accurately caricaturing the above four British thespian musketeers who lived and drank to excess. See for yourself, you won’t be disappointed! Sellers’ biographies are some of the most enjoyable to be found these days and his stories are right up my dirty alley! For maximum effect, read them in a quiet pub.
Here’s Oliver in action after a bit too much to drink. He is indeed the wild one!
I’d just like to point out here that in the Oliver Reed bio, ‘Evil Spirit’, the author writes that Reed was not as drunk in front of camera as he appeared to be; it was all an act to keep the legend of his persona alive.
Barf-fly king Ollie’s most notorious drinking companion was the drummer of The Who, Keith Moon. This photo of a poster in a London pub window was taken just last year and shows that the two iconic boozers have obviously not been forgotten.
In England back in the day, Ollie and Moon the Loon were out of control. If you were the unfortunate proprietor of a pub or a hotel manager, the sight of this devilish duo entering your establishment was enough to make you tremble, knowing the kind of havoc these two buffoons could wreak. In 1975, they both appeared together in a Ken Russell movie. Keith played the hilarious pedophiliac Uncle Ernie in ‘Tommy’, the grandioso rock opera composed by The Who’s Pete Townshend.
The wacko Moon was perfectly cast to portray the toothless perverted sex maniac who torments a deaf, dumb and blind Roger Daltrey in a very entertaining and effective scene. But it’s disturbing to know that Moonie died three years later of a drug overdose at the young age of 32 and I’m sure Ollie had to drown his sorrows even deeper after the loss of his pal. His behavior became even more outrageous without his sidekick.
Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon’s band-mate in The Who, was very convincing as the quiet, wide-eyed, and blind Tommy, the main character of that dark and extravagant musical fairy tale. Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed played his parents. Ollie was great in the role of the shady step-father whose look and attitude was reminiscent of singer Ian Dury of ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’ fame, most noticeably in the Acid Queen scene with the frantic Tina Turner. Tina stole the show singing in a Soho bordello-type room, and its music video quality makes it one of the greatest rock music scenes in a motion picture.
Ken Russell enlisted Roger Daltrey again the very same year when he had him star as the womanizing classical pianist Franz Liszt in ‘Lisztomania’. The crowd hysteria and mega phallus are basically the best parts of that movie. Sorry, it’s a bit too chaotic for my taste and only deserves a ‘D’ for effort.
Okay, maybe a ‘C’ for the fantastic movie poster and Daltrey’s poodle hair-do!
But it wasn’t the first time that Russell used the same actor twice in the same year. In 1971, he had cast Twiggy for a cameo in the Christ rape scene in ‘The Devils’ and gave her the main role in ‘The Boy Friend’.
That’s what I call a gorgeous movie poster! Twiggy, the most famous British model of the ‘60s, ended up having a durable acting career.
For me, the most enjoyable and magical Ken Russell movie has to be ‘The Devils’. The first time I saw it as a teenager, I was mesmerized by it, developed a huge crush on Michael Gothard who played Father Barre, and discovered Oliver Reed, about whom I’ve since read anything I can get my hands on. So when I came across Toronto writer Richard Crouse’s book from ECW Press about the making of ‘The Devils’, I was in heaven!
Here I could indulge in my guilty pleasure of reading about Ollie‘s bad-boy behavior and find out what went on behind the scenes of my favorite movie of all time. And on top of that, illustrator Ghoulish Gary came up with that extraordinary cover! It can’t get any better, can it? Yes, actually. Crouse’s writing is vividly descriptive, providing the inside scoop on the making of that cursed film. It’s a goddamn great read and if you love ‘The Devils’, get the book now! It beats knitting with nuns any day (unless it’s the nuns from ‘The Devils’ – they’re a fun bunch!) One of the many things I learned from Crouse’s book was that Ken Russell was the first to think of making Anthony Burgess’ 1962 novel on youth ultra-violence, ‘A Clockwork Orange’, into a movie before Stanley Kubrick took on the project. Can you imagine what that film would have looked like had it been made by Russell?!
I can totally picture Ken as Alex, and Ollie and Keith as his fellow trouble maker gang members! Yes, that’s what’s missing in Ken Russell’s work: ‘A Clockwork Orange’ shot with hidden cameras filming Oliver Reed and Keith Moon going at it in a pub with Ken Russell egging them on! Shame they’re all dead now so that movie’s an impossibility. But ironically enough, one of them did die in a pub actually called The Pub. Can you guess who? The answer’s easy: it was Oliver Reed. Not even in his wildest dreams could he have imagined a better and more appropriate way to go!
That fateful day was May 2, 1999. Reed was taking a break during the filming of Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ in which he played Proximus, an ex-gladiator who becomes a gladiator trainer. Ollie was ordering his last rounds of beer in The Pub in Malta and engaging in some arm wrestling when he keeled over dead of a heart attack. (Also in the film was Richard Harris in the role of Marcus Aurelius. They had no scenes together but I’m sure they shared some pints!)
Ollie’s last performance was one of his finest, but for me his best has to be the one in this clip.
The man who loved to exhibit his cock’s ‘bird-claw’ tattoo in public had one thing to say about Shelley Winters after that incident: “My row with Shelley Winters was caused by her abominable lack of manners. She is getting old now and I think she is quite crazy.” That’s a funny quote from the man who proclaimed in his autobiography that before he died he wanted to drink in every pub around the world and make love to every woman on the planet. Not sure if Shelley quite fit the bill, but the ‘bird-claw cock’ could go back to his delusional ‘cuckoo’s nest’ by saying, “I like the effect drink has on me. What’s the point of staying sober?” Well, that’s the only sane thing he ever said! I’ll drink to that!
Wednesday, 11 September 2013
I discovered the wonderful world of Ernesto Cabral through ‘Comic Art Magazine’ back in 2003. That Mexican artist’s style is a pure pleasure for the eyes and, for me, opened the door to the madness of ultra-colorful Mexican movie posters, now sadly a lost art. If you’d like to give yourself a visual multiple orgasm, you could do worse than clicking on to this fantastic website:
If God doesn’t exist, at least Al and his awe-inspiring talent did. He’d draw just a few lines and he’d nail a celebrity on the spot with a virtuosity that nobody could top. This site will expose you to most of his amazing art.
The 1996 documentary, ‘The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story’, is a very effective portrait of that eccentric genius. I also recommend you watch this YouTube clip of Al discussing his work with Art Spiegelman. Two cartoonist legends for the price of one!
Forget the mayonnaise! The only Hellman that matters is this one. Danny is one of my favorite cartoonists and all it takes is one glance at one of his caricatures to know exactly who his famous subject is. His great artwork alone should have kept smut king Al Goldstein’s infamous Noo Yawk City sex paper, ‘Screw’, from folding. For a taste of some of the ‘Screw’ covers Hellman illustrated back in the day, go here:
His illustration blog is on my blog list as well, so don’t delay, take a look at Danny’s drawings today!
Searle’s style was unique. There was nobody else like him. Nobody! His naughty sense of tumor, sorry, pardon the pun, humor made him possibly the most famous British cartoonist of all time. His devilish drawings are highly recognizable and you can’t help being mesmerized by his minute sense of detail and mind blowing imagination. But, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words so here you go:
And while we’re on the subject of the mighty pen of Ronald Searle, these two YouTube clips are definitely worth your while!
Another fantastic illustrator! Jack Davis’ work for EC Comics and ‘Mad’ magazine’ made him a star in the ‘50s and ‘60s. One could spot his unique cartooning style a mile away and couldn’t help but beg for more. And getting to see much more of his work was no problem given how incredibly prolific Davis was. Hollywood should have commissioned him to come up with more movie posters, though.
For more of Jack Davis’ magic, check out this site:
Daniel Clowes of ‘Eightball’ comics fame should need no introduction. The Criterion Collection folks hit the jackpot when he agreed to do some illustrations for those fine purveyors of DVDs. In the ‘90s, this American cartoonist was a great inspiration to me, and the visual world that he creates on paper is very cinematic, with a surreal David Lynch-like atmosphere in places. But I guess I’m not the only who feels that way because director Terry Zwigoff did a masterful job of putting Clowes’ ‘Ghost World’ story to celluloid in 2001.
To put yourself in a delicious and delirious delicious trance, click here!
And if you happen to find yourself in Chicago this year, be sure to catch the Clowes exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Don’t even think of becoming Drew’s friend on facebook. The Prince of Pointillism already has 5000 friends and for good reason: the guy’s been one the best illustrators around for the last three decades. He revived the art of highly detailed well-executed caricature, capturing the occasionally forgotten figures of the underbelly of American showbiz. Friedman happens to come from an ultra-talented family, His father, Bruce Jay Friedman, is a writer who years ago edited racy men’s magazines and his brother, Josh Alan, is also an author, having written the essential book on the sleazy 42nd Street of yesteryear, “Tales of Time Square”. For more of Drew Friedman’s wild work, go to my blog list for the link to his blog.
I only recently found out about this talented Chicago-based cartoonist when I bought a copy of the above poster off him at this year’s Toronto Comics Arts Festival (or TCAF for short.) The twenty-five bucks I spent was a bargain because I love the humorous way Dove pays tribute to mid-20th century graphics. I highly recommend you explore the colorful visual world of Sean Dove at http://andthankyouforflying.com/
It’s quite possible that you’ve seen the work of Victor Juhasz before. He’s had a long career and his list of contributions to newspapers and magazines around the world is endless! The New York Times adores his distinctive illustrations and so do I. You might too once you’ve had a peak at his website.
You may have gathered that I have a thing for Tarantino’s films. So you can just imagine how delighted I was to recently discover this poster paying tribute to one of that motor-mouth’s movies. Stout has come up with other similarly gorgeous highly-detailed poster homages to everything from ‘Repo Man’ to ‘The Big Lebowski’. Go here for a look and if you like what you see, you can find his blog on my blog list.
Well, I hope your eyes have gotten a big thrill from this list of incredible illustrators. Hollywood execs should get these guys to make posters for them. Well, the ones who are still breathing, at least. And if they ever do a remake of ‘The French Connection’ with an all-French cast including Vincent Cassel and Gerard Depardieu, feel free to knock on my door. My poster illustration’s ready for the printers!
If you like my drawing style and happen to be in the market for some illustrations, please post a comment here and I’ll contact you back.