2019 OCTOBER HORROR-A-THON: THE SECOND ELEVEN

Horrors of the Black Museum (A. Crabtree… 1959)
Circus of Horrors (S. Hayers… 1960)

Anglo-Amalgamated Productions, the great rival to Hammer in late 50’s/early 60’s British genre cinema, has largely been absent from discussion when great works of the period are debated. Hammer had the heavies in front of the camera (Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley and Oliver Reed) as well as behind it (Freddie Francis, Terence Fisher, Jimmy Sangster) and, in the subsequent years, lucrative home video distribution deals, always insuring that their films were easily available in VHS or DVD packages across region. I wondered if that was why Hammer has so lapped AAP in genre fans opinions, as outside the two Corman UK Poe films made with AAP (Masque of the Red Death and Tomb of Ligeia) you don’t often hear the films uttered positively with the greats. Perhaps when you look through their catalogue you begin to see why: nearly half are Carry On films, the British version of National Lampoon; cheeky humor, often made solely to cash in on poking fun at prevailing popular movements and genres elsewhere (akin to ‘spoof’ movies). Then there are all the dramas: kitchen sink/angry young man films that they made about about a dozen of, many of which are masterpieces of their type, but decidedly not Horror. Criterion’s release of Peeping Tom (1960) more than a decade ago helped expose it to many American fans, myself included, but it was often stated on the back of Michael Powell’s shoulders, and not anything to do with AAP’s assistance. Taken all together, it’s not hard to see why they’ve lagged against Hammer then, Hammer was committed to one type of film and they poured out variations, some having more gore than others, all having a baseline in quality insuring they were the high-water mark (still) for British Horror. But AAP, at the dawn of the 60’s, managed three films in stark relief to Hammer’s supernatural hysterics and spooky period films. There’s the earlier mentioned Peeping Tom, one of Horror’s darkly subversive and perverse masterworks, and then there’s the two being considered today. Taken as a trio, remarkably, they’re nearly able to challenge the first wave of Hammer films that grossly outnumbered them. Continue reading

My Top 113 Television Productions

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When I was asked years ago to rank television, I attempted my best to contain all the TV works I’d seen, finally putting it here for records sake. While 113 is a strange number to land on, it was just what I considered the ones I’ve seen that I’d say approach masterful, or at least highly entertaining status. So grab your TV dinners, turn off the hot plate, and enjoy!

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2018 in music, my favorite 90 records

I tweak how I present my top 50 every year, sometimes picking a top disc and then offering the next dozen or so unranked. Other years I merely put the 50 selections in three tiers, and then separate out a definitive, standout top 5. Sometimes, I’m straightforward, and do a full 50-1 ranking in the best order I can manage. In attempt to always mirror what I feel is most appropriate given the years output, this year, I’ve found a clear top favorite, but also a number of terrific EPs. Thus I’ve included many EPs this year in an otherwise strictly albums list. The additional twist this year is I’ve gone all the way to 90, since I listened to so much new stuff this year, and attempted to include most of what I thought was truly exemplary. Then, I tried to thanklessly rank it all, knowing full well that after about 10 or 20 it’s all pretty arbitrary, and I hope that the small right ups will provide enough information for listeners to potentially hone into stuff they might find particularly agreeable.   

Happy listening. Protect your ear drums boys and girls, you only get one set.

My Favorite Album of the Year, 2018:

1. IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance
Merely attacking toxic masculinity is low-hanging fruit, but discussing its systemic roots in song is altogether more illuminating. But why IDLES second is so tremendous is that they also offer ways out, or refuge for the victims of such an environment. That it is often heartbreakingly touching and always at the cusp of noisy, brilliantly performed rock n’ roll music, it was places it at the top of my list. The best songs—the pro-immigration ‘Danny Nedelko’, the depression lifeline ‘Samaritans’, the tense ‘Colossus’, and the body image drenched ‘Television’—are some of the best of the year, and after their triumphant display on their Jools Holland introduction, you’re in for the next of the great English rock bands. They’re here.  Continue reading