Thursday, 19 September 2013

Afternoon pee with the Mad Hatter of British Sinema!

Ken Russell by Sophie Cossette

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.

Ken Russell comix

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.

Ken Russell comix panel

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!

Oliver Reed books

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.

Hellraisers by Robert Sellers

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. 

Keith Moon and Oliver reed

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.

Keith Moon in 'Tommy'

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 by Sophie Cossette

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.

Acid Queen by Sophie Cossette

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.

Roger Daltrey big dick

Okay, maybe a ‘C’ for the fantastic movie poster and Daltrey’s poodle hair-do!

Lisztomania movie poster

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’.

Twiggy cameo in 'The Devils'

The Boy Friend movie poster

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!

Raising Hell by Richard Crouse

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?!

Ken Russell's Gang by Sophie Cossette

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!) 

Oliver Reed and Richard Harris by Sophie Cossette

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

Ten essential movie poster and DVD cover artists

Ernesto Cabral


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:

Al Hirschfeld


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!

Danny Hellman


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!  

Ronald Searle


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


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.

Daniel Clowes

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.

Drew Friedman


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.

Sean Dove


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

Victor Juhasz


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.

Tyler Stout


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! 

Sophie Cossette

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.


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Fellini’s fixation for funbags

Frederico Fellini by Sophie Cossette

What’s fun about Federico Fellini? Where do I begin?! He wasn’t just a demented wacky genius of a director who was born on a train, he also enjoyed drawing erotic art in his spare time. He could have been a successful cartoonist, but come to think of it, he was! Fellini basically used film as his medium rather than pen and paper, and many of the characters in his movies look like zany grotesque caricatures. By and large, watching his films makes me feel I’m having a silly dream in which everyone speaks agitatedly in an indecipherable foreign language (alas, I don’t speak Italian!) with a lot of visual sexual nonsense going on. His 1969 film, ‘Satyricon,’ is a good example of this.

Here are some of Fellini’s naughty drawings.

Fellini's drawings

Are those big boobs, or what?! Looks like Russ Meyer wasn’t the only filmmaker with a taste for breast milk. Fellini also gave lots of busty babes the chance to shine on screen. The most notorious one of these was Anita Ekberg, a pneumatic Swedish model, actress and sex symbol who caused many wet dreams in the ‘50s and ‘60s. They did four films together, the most famous one of which is his 1960 masterpiece, ‘La Dolce Vita’.

Fellini and Ekberg

Fellini first met Anita in a London night club. When he saw her dancing in her bare feet, he found her enigmatic beauty to be phosphorescent. The director who was known to treat his actors like puppets had discovered the perfect Sylvia for his ‘La Dolce Vita’. Here’s a funny anecdote about the first encounter of Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni, her leading man in that film. After being introduced to him at a party, she ignored him the whole evening. The hurt Marcello remarked that she was not such a great thing and that she reminded him of a German soldier who forced him onto a truck during World War Two. I’m sure they managed to patch things up before their famous scene at the Trevi Fountain in ‘La Dolce Vita'. It was shot on a chilly March night and Mastroianni and Ekberg had to pretend they weren’t freezing their butts off.

La Dolce Vita by Sophie Cossette

Another famous sequence in ‘La Dolce Vita’ is the ‘orgy’ party scene in which Marcello is riding piggyback on a starlet to humiliate her in public. Fellini asked his good old pal, director Pier Paolo Pasolini, if he had any suggestions to make the scene more realistic. Pasolini replied that he didn’t like middle-class orgies and knew nothing about them. Hmm, considering Pasolini’s scabrous 1975 film, ‘Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom’, he obviously did know a thing or two about debauchery. In any case, Fellini was left using his gut instincts and he shot a powerful controversial scene that would later inspire another Italian filmmaker. Check out this clip from Pasquale Festa Campanile’s 1968 flick, ‘La Matriarca’, to see what I’m getting at.

Let’s move on to a Fellini film that had a particularly strong impact on my childhood psyche. Back in the ‘70s, I’d naughtily stay up past my bedtime to catch some late night TV. Switching channels, I happened to come upon a scene of crazed decadence and sat there mesmerized by what I was watching. Sure enough, it was footage from ‘Fellini’s Casanova’, released in 1976. No wonder I developed such a bad taste for sinema! I blame Federico Fellini!  

Casanova by Sophie Cossette

‘Fellini’s Casanova’ starred the iconic Canadian actor, Donald Sutherland, playing the legendary lover. He actually despised the experience of appearing in this delirious sleaze-fest. In one very hilarious scene, he is chased cat-and-mouse style around a table by a very lusty, very big breasted (bra size: 73 inches!) Chesty Morgan. The scene was originally cut from the final print,   but you can find it online or in a documentary about Fellini’s work.

Donald Sutherland and Chesty Morgan

Chesty Morgan had been an exotic dancer and was discovered by the very peculiar queen of low-budget sexploitation pictures, Doris Wishman, who cast her in the movies ‘Deadly Weapons’ and ‘Double Agent 73’. Those flicks were tailor-made for the cum-stained patrons of the sleazy theatres lining Manhattan’s 42nd Street. Chesty, a pneumatic caricature come to life, was a wet dream come true for Fellini. It’s not clear why her scene was deleted, but when you consider that ‘Casanova’ is nearly three hours long, maybe it didn’t need the extra padding Chesty provided. Here’s my take on what possibly happened between Fellini and Chesty…

Fellini and Chesty by Sophie Cossette

Well, he obviously survived her attempt to smother him in her ample charms and moved on to find another ‘bella’ to satisfy his appetite for big bosoms. Donatella Damiani was next in line, appearing in his self-indulgent ‘lesbos island’ pastiche, ‘City of Women’, from 1980.

Donatella Damiani

Donatella plays the roller skating girl who gives Marcello Mastroianni some assistance when he finds himself in a crazy hotel full of women. She became a sex symbol in Italy and posed for magazines like ‘Playboy’ and ‘Playmen’. Judging by her looks and her tiara, Donatella must have inspired the drop dead gorgeous Cicciolina (real name: Ilona Staller), not only an Italian porn star, but also a member of that country’s parliament, representing the Party of Love. She was known to deliver her speeches with one breast uncovered.

Cicciolina by Sophie Cossette

Cicciolina never appeared in Fellini’s movies, but her sexy cartoonish infantile persona, bizarre makeup and the way she lived like a twisted horny Eurotrash Barbie doll on steroids are, for me, very surrealistically Fellini-ish.


Although he did autograph a photo for her, it’s a shame they never worked together. Their similar irreverent comical attitudes could have burned the screen and made a tremendous impact on Italian film.

Milo Manara

Here is a drawing representing ‘City of Women’ by an Italian master of erotic art, Milo Manara. He came up with illustrations paying tribute to most of Fellini’s films and this is just one of them. To see more of Manara’s wonderful renderings, go to this website.

It wasn’t only the beautiful Donatella who had the privilege of being immortalized by Manara, but also Fellini’s wife:  the lovely childlike flat-chested mini actress (in size, that is), Giulietta Masina. You’d think that like Russ Meyer, Fellini would pick a voluptuous bombshell for his life partner, but, no, love is blind, and her talent and kind nature stole his heart. You see, Federico was afflicted by the Madonna-whore complex. He was a notorious womanizer and shagged his bimbos behind her back all the time. Giulietta knew about Fellini’s infidelity but decided to ignore it and be the good wife. It was the price she paid to be the muse of a famous eccentric genius and share her life with him.

Giulietta Masina

Masina gave Fellini the best and most memorable roles of her career. From her small part in ‘The White Sheik’ to her starring roles in ‘Nights of Cabiria’ and ‘La Strada’  (the best Italian neorealist film, in my opinion), she positively shined on screen and became one of the most celebrated Italian actresses ever.

Although I didn’t do a story on Fellini in my book, I paid tribute to the man by filling up two pages with illustrations of two of my favorite films of his. Can you guess which ones? Pick up a copy of Sinemania! pronto and find out!

I’ll soon dish out more dirt on another director, but I’ll leave you with this very funny spoof of Fellini’s movies by the comedic British duo French and Saunders. Ciao for now!