He’s Where He’s At

04-197208XX 10Fritz and Cat (X) — based on characters created by Robert Crumb
Directed by Ralph Balshi 78 mins, cut.

If you don’t like the underground, after this film you will hate it. If you do, then you’ll find you and your friends sent up rather cruelly. The Daily Express will have it’s worst suspicions confirmed. Mary Whitehouse won’t see it for fear of having an orgasm. Whatever else this film is it’s certainly real – a bit too real at times. It took me a whole evening afterwards to realise that the straight world caricatured the same way would be absolutely unbearable, unfilmable.

Police really are pigs here, and rather dumb ones too – everyone else is some sort of nasty animal. Fritz the Cat is a kind of naive college-kid revolutionary. There’s a sort of mix-up in the usual cartoon conventions – people really do fuck, they do die when they get shot, but Fritz escapes virtually unhurt from the centre of a massive explosion (though he is hospitalised first). It’s really a horror movie to out-horror anything Lee or Price could contrive.

It’s also truly funny – if you can remember it’s a cartoon. I forgot.

‘Someone So Beautiful’

04-197208XX 10“STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING” starring Rita Tushingham, Shane Briant, Tom Bell. Colour, directed by Peter Collinson. A Hammer Production from Anglo E.M.I. released by MGM-E.M.I.

“Straight on till Morning” is something of a departure for Hammer, not being a horror film in the usual sense of the word, but a kind of anti heterosexual, anti swinging London, anti plastic relationship film. Plain looking Brenda (Rita Tushingham) leaves Mum in an industrial Northern town to come to London, in search of a man who’s going to love her and give her a baby. She arrives and wanders through Earls Court bewildered by the frightening, rushing horror of London. She answers an ad., goes to work in a boutique run by a girl crazy, sterotype, boring het., and after a few non events goes to share a flat with the het’s girlfriend, who spends her time unemotionally screwing and throwing parties. Not Brenda’s scene she’s the awkward emotional type who’s awful at trendy parties, so she gets really cheesed off after one of them, and rushes through the streets crying. She finds a dog, an extremely scruffy one, takes it home and next morning goes round to the address on its collar. The door is answered by a very pretty blonde young man (Shane Briant), who much to Brenda’s surprise, asks her to come and live in his house and look after him. You see the poor boy is so tired of pretty women only wanting him for his body, that he’s murdered two such ladies, and he murders the dog too, because Brenda has washed it and made it look beautiful. He wants emotional love and he thinks an ugly girl can give it to him, and Peter Collinson the director really quite credibly shows the agony of someone who is so beautiful, they can never trust their love to anyone, because the other is always likely to only want their body. Unfortunately Brenda goes and gets a face lift and a fancy hair style, so our pretty little murderer, goes and does her in too.

The whole thing must sound quite wierd to the humble reader, but I must implore each and everyone of you to see the film. Peter Collinson manages to make it really eerie and thought provoking:- The sad futility of the straight Kings Road scene, and for the first time in any film I’ve seen, an attempt is made to be anti sexist. Sexism is the love and worship of physical beauty alone, without regard to the inner person.

Playing with “Straight on till Morning” in this double bill is a much more regulation Hammer horror, “Fear in the Night”, with Peter Cushing, and Judy Geeson. Strange, mysterious and entertaining goings on in a boy’s public school. Trouble is no boys, and that phrase is relevant to the film.

Hi Jacker Reveals Himself

04-197208XX 10“SKYJACKED” starring Charlton Heston, Yvette Mimieux, Walter Pidgeon, James Brolin. Screenplay by Stanley R. Greenberg, Directed by John Guillermin. Colour. Panavision, An M.G.M Presentation Distributed by M.G.M. — E.M.I.

“Skyjacked” is a wholly successful attempt to show the hijack of an intercontinental jet, factually, entertainingly and suspensefully. The film works magnificently on all these three levels, from the opening scenes at Los Angeles Airport, where the passengers embarkation is shown with good documentary accuracy, through the early stages of the film as the hijacker reveals himself and his plan, and how the passengers react to the situation; through to thrilling climax after thrilling climax, as the plane is forced to land in impossible weather conditions at an Alaskan airport, before being directed by the hijacker to Moscow, and en route being buzzed by Russian jets. Here as throughout the film John Guillermin’s direction creates genuine tension, and his realistic cross section of characters always behave in very much the way I suppose you or I would.

The aerial scenes are outstanding, and the film even contains several pieces of very subtle humour. I emerged from the cinema, totally satisfied, immersed in the film, excited and entertained.

The Wild Boys

03-197207XX-09THE WILD BOYS: A Book of the Dead. William S Burroughs (Calder & Boyars £2.50)

If you were in Marrakesh and heard about a gang of petrol-bomber boys, you too could start a fantasy of sexy teenage boys in the future. They wear only rainbow-coloured jockstraps and roam the bandit lands, a law unto themselves. You also want to be nostalgic about 1920 and a shy boy called Audrey who goes for a car ride with his mysterious schoolmate. You remember all those aloof youths in America and Mexico who seem to belong in another alien time-dimension and you transport them through the barriers. Then, if you are William Burroughs, you see it all like a movie, with all the rough-cuts and re-takes left in. and you get the marvellous kaleidoscope called The Wild Boys.

The plot only reveals itself two thirds through this short book, although all the ingredients are around from the beginning. In 1976 General Greenfield reads out a letter:

“Dear Mom and Dad:
I am going to join the wild boys. When you read this I will be far away.
Johnny.

Can we stand idly by while our youth, the very life-blood of our nation drains away into foreign sewers?” They couldn’t. Of the 20,000 soldiers who marched away, only 1,500 staggered back from the desert, the rest sent mad by a killer virus, and finished off by the boys with machine guns. That was the last Great American Crusade, a chapter which is a hilarious send-up of all the expeditionary forces that ever were.

Then in 1989, the story and civilisation is abandoned. Nobody is really alive. In Morocco the rich live in total luxury and cynically finance the saboteurs. The poor go to the wall and the CIA prowl knowledgeably but ineffectually around. But the wild boys are evolving by themselves. With the help of Mayan magic they have jerked through the barriers to gain the other time-dimension.

There are glider boys with laser guns, naked bow gun boys, shaman boys who ride the wind, and many more, including those who have control of beasts and bugs: “Five naked boys release cobras above a police post. As the snakes glide down, the boys move their heads from side to side. Phalluses sway and stiffen. The boys snap their heads forward mouth open and ejaculate. Strangled cries from the police box. Faces impassive the boys wait until their erections subside”. They can create offspring by pulling down mist to make flesh, forming from the anus outward on the prick of the entranced boy in the middle of the orgy ring. A great fantasy of penis power, but no practical ideas for GLF.

Many of the early scenes in the book are about innocent sex between ordinary boys, like the time when Johnny has crabs and Mark makes him undress. The same encounters take place again and again in successive paragraphs. like re-writes or an attempt to remember a long time ago. The action is always fast and ultra-graphic, but not really pornographic which would be the attempt to supply the reader with all the details for a substitute sex life. But for any male gay. this book is very very erotic.

Straight reviewers have carefully said that the sex nearly overwhelms the rest of the book; that it is of only academic interest to the heterosexual reader, and so forth. Let others write in praise of older women or nymphets (and without getting such censure). We can only rejoice at this celebration of one form of good sex. Read it once to enjoy the brilliant pictures passing by. Read it twice to judge for yourself if there is any significant theme other than Burroughs himself (probably not), and a third time for the writing of all the other sideshows. Read it once anyway.

Gone with Wind

03-197207XX-10‘Gone with the Wind’
Drury Lane Theatre, Tel: 01-836 8108

About a year ago there was a real collector’s item on record issued of the Japanese cast album of SCARLETT. Now the show has come to London under its better known title of GONE WITH THE WIND and confirms what one first suspected on hearing the Japanese album that this is the first big musical comedy without a score. Sure the list has 37 items on the programme but you try and recall any of them after you leave the theatre.

For those avid collectors of shows on records the wait for the ‘original cast album’ looks like being a long one as there are no signs of a record being released after 2 months of the shows arrival in town.

Somehow they have managed to condense the entire long film plot into the show’s just under 3 hours running time. All the well remembered moments are there, even including the burning of Atlanta which is handled quite well. There’s even a horse standing patiently on stage throughout the burning scene who somehow manages to ignore the gunfire, smoke and general mayhem that takes place around him. One presumes the animal must be both blind and deaf for he hardly moves a muscle.

Most of the scenes are played out of doors, probably to save money on interior scenes. For all that it is still a costly production with all the trimmings. The dancing is pleasant to watch, and so are the costumes, and if you really want to enjoy a proper singing voice the is Isabelle Lucas as Mammy.

I’ve saved the best till last, and June Ritchie is quite something in the role of Scarlett. Whether it was intentional or not she resembles the late Vivien Leigh so much facially that at times even her voice seems to take on the same low sing-song range that endeared her performance to millions. Miss Ritchie looks lovely, has a fair singing voice and she acts up a storm. At the finish one tends to forget the lack of tunes and remember only her dazzling performance as Scarlett.

Janis Joplin The Judy Garland of Rock ’n’ Roll?

03-197207XX-10Janis Joplin: The Judy Garland of Rock ’N’ Roll?
In Concert: Janis Joplin. CBS 67241

‘Janis is gone and nothing can change that’; Janis the amazing, singing/screaming lady who took the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 by storm; Janis Joplin, one of the greatest white blues singers, died in October, 1970 aged 27.

During her short hectic career she managed to record five albums, number five being the second postumous release, and is a double album of live recordings. On record one, Janis sings with Big Brother and The Holding Company, the band she originally made it big with after moving to San Francisco from Texas. The second record is with the Full Tilt Boogie Band in accompaniment. On the latter, Janis’s voice is noticably better, being able to use her powerful voice in a far more effect and immediate way. But with Big Brother, her voice has the untrained, vital magnatism that made her the superstar she was later to become, and the superstar life she led contributed to her sad, untimely death.

On the second record, she desperately tries, between numbers, to be ‘one of the boys’, to be accepted, to be at one with the wild, restless people who were always part of her devoted audience. In her public life, she lived to the limit; singing, laughing, stomping the stage with a relentless frenzy, a bottle of Southern Comfort never far away. In reality, Janis was a lonely, depressive loner, all the screaming passion with which she sang out about love never helped her find the love and peace of mind she searched for and never found. A casulty of a world where the image of what you are, is more important than what you really are.

Many of the songs on this double set have appeared on record before, but only in a studio recorded form. ‘Try’ and ‘Get it while you can’ on side four take on wider dimensions through the freedom of a live performance, whilst ‘Ball and Chain’, which appeared previously on the ‘Cheap Thrills’ album, is one of the most moving songs I’ve ever heard.

It is good that Janis’s death has not been exploited. CBS have waited nearly two years before releasing this memorial album, which presumably will be the last previously unissued recordings to be released (although a ‘Greatest Hits’ package will, in time, no doubt appear). As a recording it is a fine reminder of what Janis was all about, unfortunately as a memorial it is also a reminder of what can happen to isolated lonely individuals in an anonymous uncaring world. Sad also is the evidence on these recordings that Janis had so much more to offer. In ‘Ball and Chain’, recorded at Calgary in July 1970, Janis breaks off the song to deliver this message ‘…. that one day better be your life …. If you get it today you don’t want it tomorrow ….. ’cause you don’t need it….tomorrow never happens. It’s all the same fucking day’. An overdose of an opiate took a great singer and a lonely individual who never came to terms with her world.