Kool Kat of the Week: Author and Filmmaker Frank Perry’s Official Biographer Justin Bozung Dishes on Atlanta’s Frank Perry Retrospective Presented by Videodrome

Posted on: Mar 28th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Justin Bozung, Atlanta author and transplant from the far reaches of the north is working closely with Videodrome staff as they present their Frank Perry Retrospective via their JavaDrome film portal, which kicked off in January 2017. The most recent in the series, THE SWIMMER (1968) screens Friday, March 31, at 8:30pm, and will include an introduction and Q&A with Bozung, as Frank Perry’s official biographer. Prior films in the series included MOMMIE DEAREST (1981); PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (1972) [never released on home video]. The series’ finale will be Perry’s LAST SUMMER (1969) screening in late April 2017 [yet to be released beyond its ‘80s VHS release].

Bozung has an expansive resume delving deep into the retro fantastic! He’s assisted in book projects documenting and analyzing Stanley Kubrick, has conducted over 400 interviews for several book projects, documentaries and magazines including Fangoria, Paracinema, Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope and more. ATLRetro caught up with Justin Bozung for a quick interview about his work as the official biographer for Frank Perry, his extensive knowledge of Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING and Norman Mailer, and the importance of preserving film history.

ATLRetro: While we are a bit biased here at ATLRetro about this wacky little city of ours, what is it about Atlanta that drew you to our neck of the woods?

Justin Bozung: My wife! She received a job opportunity that was too good to pass up.   So we sold our house and packed up in Ann Arbor, Michigan in late 2014 and drove toward Atlanta. As a freelancer, I’m pretty open-ended and am able to work from anywhere so it made sense for us to leave the cold and snow behind. And I’ve always been fond of Georgia; having spent some time here over the years during various travels and vacations in the south. I’m a big soul, funk, and jazz music fan. So being able to come and live where Curtis Mayfield had his own record label, but also, be within driving proximity of where James Brown was born and lived many years of his professional life and owned his own radio station is great. Central Georgia also owns The Allman Brothers and Otis Redding—so living in the South is really a soul music lover’s dream come true! Memphis, the home of the great Stax Records, isn’t too far away either. And I’m completely fine–I’m not ashamed–in saying that as a Michigan-born guy, I’ll take Memphis and Stax Records any day of the week over anything produced at Detroit’s Motown. There’s something about the water down here that gives the music a special quality, something that Motown doesn’t have that Stax does... And let’s not even get started on the subject of Athens, Georgia and R.E.M.–

As Frank Perry’s official biographer, can you tell our readers a little about why you think he is one of the many undervalued and underappreciated filmmakers and why you wanted to spread the Frank Perry love via Videodrome’s JavaDrome film events?

Well, there’s a pretty easy answer to that. The internet is interested in Frank Perry.   Fortunately, today, with the rise of social media and bloggers pulling active duty–interest in Perry and his films has really grown in recent years. He made some really wonderful films, and it’s important to note that Perry was the first independent filmmaker to be nominated for an Academy Award. He was nominated in 1963 for his independently-financed and produced DAVID AND LISA (1962), which shot for approximately $200,000 in Pennsylvania. Perry was nominated for Best Director but he lost out to David Lean, who won for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)! Perry’s little film went up against LAWRENCE! Jean Renoir, said “I feel that this film represents a turning point in the history of film.”

Prior to Perry, where there had certainly been others producing independent films on the East Coast– John Cassavetes‘s SHADOWS (1959) being the touchstone–others like Russ Meyer and his THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS (1959), and H.G. Lewis in Chicago with his “nudie cuties” were also bringing independent film to attention. Perry was the first to make a “respectable” independent film and to be noticed by the mainstream. In his way, he changed things. Even with someone like Cassavetes, who by 1959 was a well-known and very established Hollywood film actor–his film SHADOWS still didn’t afford the average guy the idea that maybe he himself could just go out and raise the money and make his own film as a profiteer. Perry had no experience as a filmmaker, really. On the first day of shooting DAVID & LISA, he couldn’t figure out how to turn the camera on. And in pre-production he read several books about film directing. His film school was the library.  It really makes one remember what was going on in independent film in the late 80s or early 1990s with directors starting out like Robert Rodriguez. While Perry had come from the Actors Studio and done some Second Unit work for hire prior, he had not really directed anything on that scale before. His gift was in working with actors. I consider him a conscious, classical director. He worked very much like George Cukor who loved working with actresses and literary adaptations. Frank set the wheels on fire and got indie film some important notice in Hollywood. DAVID & LISA made the studio system, although on the verge of completely crumbling, sit up and take notice that things were shifting culturally.

On March 31, JavaDrome will screen Perry’s The Swimmer (1968). Were there any particular reasons you chose the films that are slated for screening?

Well, the guys at Videodrome split the selections down the middle for this retrospective on Perry’s films. I hand-picked two and Matt Owensby picked the others. THE SWIMMER was a film that Matt really wanted to show as part of this retrospective. It should be stated that this retrospective on Perry’s films here in Atlanta marks the first multi-film retrospective of his work in the USA since the mid 1980s. In fact, I can’t help but suggest that the recent Los Angeles retrospective of his work last month, put on by Quentin Tarantino at his New Beverly, was directly inspired by our own little retrospective here in Atlanta–knowing how Tarantino seemingly likes to monitor video stores all around the United States and see what they’re up to.

Videodrome is our little purveyor of the forbidden fruits of the video and film world and are avid supporters of film preservation, which of course is why they hold a sweet spot in our hearts. As a historian, can you tell our readers a little bit about why you think film preservation is important and how important businesses like Videodrome are to the preservation of film?

I’m just starting to get acquainted with a few of the guys that work at Videodrome. The fun part about going into the store is that they really have a massive selection of titles, but more importantly, Matt and John and the rest of the crew really embrace you. And they’re not elitist or snobs either. They care about and endorse the films of Truffaut just as much as they love and admire the films of Greydon Clark. The latter–preservation, is important as well, certainly. I’ve been struggling with that myself working with Frank Perry’s Estate. Frank made two films that are impossible to see.  The first, I recently discovered the master materials for in an archive in California. We’re talking with some film preservation folks now about financing the restoration of one of these, his JFK: ONE MAN SHOW (1984)–which was made and shown on PBS twice before vanishing off the face of the earth, it seemed until I located it. And then there’s his 1968 documentary that Perry fans aren’t even aware of that he made about political unrest in the Middle East, because it’s mysteriously not listed on his IMDb page. The Estate has access to the last print that is known to exist. Just to use these two instances as an example, if there weren’t people “out there” tracking down films or storing prints or whatever–archiving cinema–we may all lose out in the future.  So it’s the key to film studies, really.

You also collaborated with Colorado’s Centipede Press in putting together a large volume entitled Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film. Can you tell our readers what role you played in the process? Did you learn anything enticing with this publication that isn’t common knowledge about Kubrick or The Shining?

The book came out in the early spring of 2015 and sadly, it’s already out of print, I believe. It was a massive 750-page book on the making of the film. I was involved with the book, as a project, very early on, researching and getting clearances for many of the previously-published essays and interviews that are included. I also dug up some visual ephemera, and conducted about 45 hours of interviews with most of the cast and the crew from the film itself—which are all included in the book. I interviewed or was in touch with the entire crew and most of the living actors that starred in the film. The book was edited by Danel Olson, but, 350-400 or so of those 750 pages are my contributions to the volume. The book is filled to the brim with new information about Kubrick–things that people didn’t know about him and the film itself including line items about his attention to detail, his admiration for baseball, his love of driving cars fast and more.  There’s information in the book about what went on behind-the-scenes of the film that has never come to light prior and addresses his notorious reputation, but also looks at his craftsmanship. It’s page-after-page with new information on Kubrick.   I tried to debunk many rumors that have been swirling around in the zeitgeist for many years about Kubrick and I used the interviews in an attempt to give readers a doorway onto the set in England for 13-months back in 1978/79. When it came out, ROOM 237 was really on everyone’s lips–so there’s a lot of talk in the book about that documentary as well. It’s a great book, though.  I’d suggest that it’s an essential addition to any film lover’s library. Michael Dirda of The Washington Post called the book “a major advancement in film studies,” or something like that.

We see that you’re also involved with author Norman Mailer’s estate and that you work on several projects dedicated to him. What can you tell us about those projects?

I become involved with Norman Mailer in early 2014 and made a 12-hour audio documentary about his much-maligned 1987 film, TOUGH GUYS DON’T DANCE, my favorite film. I interviewed most of the crew members and some of the actors and visited some of the shooting locations in Provincetown, MA. My interest in the film came out of my friendship with TOUGH GUYS actor, Wings Hauser. He first introduced me to the film in 2011, when I was about to interview him for a magazine.   The documentary was released online, and the Norman Mailer Society invited me to talk about the film in the fall of 2014 at Wilkes University. Shortly after that, they asked me to become involved in several projects that they were working on. One was Project Mailer, and another was archival search-related. I created a Mailer podcast for them, which runs bi-monthly on ProjectMailer.net. Basically, I just present audio from the Mailer Archives ala podcast format ala the old Grateful Dead Hour with David Gans.    In early 2015, I started putting together a dense, academic study on Mailer’s films.

He made 6 films from 1947-1987.  I love his films, even though, most of the Criterion Collection audience doesn’t. Criterion released Mailer’s 1960s films through their Eclipse series in 2013. They scratch their heads as to why CC would put out such “awful” films. They’re very important works of art that not only comment and inform on Mailer’s influential texts of the 1960s, but also, in their way, influenced his writing in the process of crafting them. They also have historical context in relationship to the direct cinema movement of the mid 60s with films by D.A. Pennebaker and the Maysles Brothers. There, likely, may never have been an ARMIES OF THE NIGHT without WILD 90 (1968), for example. Mailer wrote himself into that book as a character–in the third person–directly out of the influence that the editing of his first film, WILD 90, had upon him while he was writing that Pulitzer Prize-winning “novel as history, history as novel”–to use Mailer’s description. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I was looking at myself as a character,” during the editing of his own movie.

His film MAIDSTONE (1971) is a obvious pre-cursor to reality television. I certainly do not lay the blame on reality television on Mailer, but he was creating that type of aesthetic tension and propaganda–and recording it–on film, some thirty years before reality television came along. Cinema was in Norman Mailer’s blood. He had a keen interest in cinema, and a fine grasp of cinema aesthetics very early on in his life–before he became the writer enfant terrible of the 1960s that many remember him as today.   He was a frequent guest at Amos Vogel‘s legendary Cinema 16 in New York City. He saw the films of Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, Warhol, Mekas there. He helped to fund the films of Robert Downey Sr. and Ron Rice. Mailer’s writing is profoundly cinematic, and the cinema is one of his strongest and most-used metaphors in his writing and it’s throughout his texts. His ideas on film are really in sync with filmmakers that would be his peers of the era. My book, The Cinema of Norman Mailer: Film is Like Death comes out this September via Bloomsbury.  It’s available for pre-order on Amazon now. And this September I’m starting work and collaborating with the Mailer Estate on another book on Mailer, but this time around, it’s about the writer, not Mailer: The filmmaker.

As a film buff and historian, what was your gateway drug into the land of cult film, or film in general?

I’ve always been interested in film, for as long as I can remember. I grew up as a classic, indoor-type of kid. I grew up in the VHS and pay cable era of the 1980s.  My parents gifted me with HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime. I recorded everything off and watched it over-and-over. Film has always been very important to me as an art form. I love all film. I don’t pay attention to genres or labels. Film is film. There aren’t any “good” or “bad” films, just films. I love Larry Buchanan, Michael Bay just as much as I do Delbert Mann, King Vidor and Jerry Lewis.

You’ve also published several articles and interviews in magazines such as “Fangoria,” “Paracinema,” “Shock Cinema” and “Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope.” If you had to choose a favorite interview and/or article that you contributed, which would it be and why?

I’ve done a lot of interviews over the years. I think around 400 or so. I may be the only person you’ll meet who has done over 75 interviews with various crew and cast members from several Stanley Kubrick movies, hundreds of hours logged, and all on tape. I imagine myself as being in the Guinness Book of Work Records under “Most Interviews Done Associated with Stanley Kubrick.” My favorite though….I have two.   The first was with actor Wings Hauser, because we became great friends out of the experience. The other is with comedy legend and screenwriter Bill Richmond. Richmond wrote almost all of the Jerry Lewis solo movies like THE PATSY (1964) and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963). He wrote for TV shows like The Carol Burnett Show, Bewitched, All in the Family, Welcome Back, Kotter, Blossom etc… He was a mad genius of comedy. It was just one of those great one-in-a-lifetime experiences, where, consequently, we stayed friendly with each other after it was over.  Bill sent me the best birthday present the year after even…and when he passed away last year—that was really sad for me.

Can you tell our readers a little about your Frank Perry biography and any other current projects your working on, and where our readers get their hands on your published works?

The biography on Frank will be published mid-2018 and is a full-scale biography blended with some analysis. I’m finishing it up now. I’ve been working on it since early 2015, but there was a full year where I didn’t work on it at all, due to some legal tangle with his Estate and an outside party. It is the first book, first study on Perry. I’ve been working closely with Perry’s family and estate on the project and I worked closely with his wife, Barbara, before her recent passing. But also, Tom Folino, Perry’s long-time friend, assistant-turned producer. I’m in touch with his surviving family members and as with all of my projects, I’ve got about 200-hours of interviews in the can with various crew members and actors, family friends in support of the work itself. The book looks at Perry’s life and his films, but also looks closely at the projects that slipped through the cracks–like his near adaptation of Terry Southern‘s naughty-satire novel Candy which looked like it was going to be made as early as 1964 into a film.  This, of course, lead to Perry making of THE SWIMMER, but I’ll talk about how that all happened this Friday at the screening with Videodrome. Your readers can find all of my work on Amazon here. This year I also expect to finish up an academic volume on Michael Bay, called Michael Bay: High Art / Low Culture.

Do you have any advice for those writers just starting out?

Quit wasting time on Facebook. Write every day. Research and research. When you think you’ve found everything. Stop. Then wait 2 weeks and research some more. You’ll always find something extra. If you say you’re going to write tomorrow, then you better do that. Don’t put it off, because it damages your unconscious, and that’s where all the words come from–from inside of you. Don’t piss off your unconscious. Don’t write anything for free. Your time is valuable. Writers should say something new; they need to formulate new and profound ideas. So do that. And last but not least, opinions are so very rarely ideas.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be reading, watching or listening to right now—past or present, well-known or obscure?

Well, I’m more of a reader than I am anything else these days. I read one magazine currently–Philosophy Now. It’s my favorite. Some things I’ve enjoyed tremendously this year so far would be Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story by Carlos Baker. It was published in 1968 and it’s probably the greatest biography ever written; Free Fall by William Golding –a classic, but undervalued work of existential literature; Jurgen by James Branch Cabell — one of Margaret Mitchell‘s favorite novels published in 1919; Margaret Mitchell: Reporter reprints Mitchell’s pre-Gone with The Wind Atlanta journalism; Claire Vaye Watkins‘s Battleborn–a fresh, newer voice in short fiction with family ties to The Manson Family; Altamont, Joel Selvin‘s incredible recounting of the dark, metaphysical Rolling Stones 1969 Atlamont music festival; and Manly Health and Training by Walt Whitman.  As far as music goes I’m really a jazz and soul guy, so anything by John Coltrane. My favorite Coltrane record is GIANT STEPS although I’m very attracted to his metaphysical explorations like ASCENSION. Anything Sun Ra. Sonny’s album NUCLEAR WAR is relevant with today’s political climate. His writings are wonderful as well.  James Brown‘s REVOLUTIONS OF THE MIND, the new Otis Redding: The Complete Whiskey A Go Go Shows Box Set is always on my stereo or phone!  Films I’m currently into are Michael Bay’s Director’s Cut of PEARL HARBOR (1999) shows Bay in his Abel Gance-meets-John Ford glory. Vincente Minnelli’s TEA AND SYMPATHY (1955), Paul Morrissey‘s 1980s trifecta: FORTY DEUCE (1982), MADAME WANG’S (1981), and MIXED BLOOD (1984) are important works. Morrissey is the last great absurdist of the 20th century. Paul and I have talked some over the last couple years about doing a book together, and I would love to do a book on Morrissey, but he’s too cantankerous. Melvin Van PeeblesTHE STORY OF A THREE-DAY PASS (1968), James BridgesMIKE’S MURDER (1984) are masterpieces, and PICASSO: MAGIC, SEX & DEATH, a 4-hour 2001 documentary is a must-see!

And last, but not least, care to share anything that our little world of Atlantans don’t know about you already?

I don’t want to share anything else about myself, but I would like to suggest this little hiding spot out in Smyrna, Georgia that I visited recently. A restaurant called Vittles.  It’s a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that still allows patrons to smoke inside while you sit there eating. Not that I’m standing up for smoker’s rights here, but it’s cancerously-nostalgic. It’s like stepping into a small-town diner in the early 1980s. You can get 4 massive buttermilk pancakes covered in butter, two huge deep-fried pork chops in corn flake crust, and two eggs scrambled all for $6.99. Their claim to fame is their gift shop, which is basically a garage sale that is going on every day concurrently while food is being served. You can buy cement statues of dogs and “Man with No Name” poncho sweaters.  It’s a pretty awesome place that I highly suggest visiting for the delicious food and the bargains. You can fill up and then spend a few hours huffing it over on the Silver Comet Trail which runs from Smyrna to well into Alabama. Forget about Krog Market or Ponce, Vittles is where you need to go!

Photos courtesy of Justin Bozung and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Cult-Film Fanatic and Queen of the TCM Underground Millie De Chirico Bloodies it Up with the Buried Alive Film Festival Family at 7 Stages

Posted on: Nov 14th, 2016 By:

by Melanie Crewuse
Managing Editor

Millie De Chirico, co-creator and exclusive Programmer for Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM) weekly late-night cult movie showcase, “TCM Underground,” returns to Buried Alive Film Festival’s (BAFF) bloody ranks as a hand-picked and well-sought after  juror for BAFF’s Sinema Challenge, a horrorific and spooktacular extra added to this year’s festival! Competitors’ films for the 13-day filmmaking competition will screen Nov. 16 at 7 Stages (7 p.m./ 9 p.m.), kicking off the 11th Annual Buried Alive Film Festival (Thursday, November 17, 7:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Friday, November 18, 6:00 p.m. – 2:05 a.m.; Saturday, November 19, 12:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.; Sunday, November 20, 12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.;  7 Stages; Tickets $12 per screening block / $120 all access pass [includes film blocks and special events]; Schedule for each screening block here; Tickets here)!

De Chirico, a Georgia State University (GSU) film major and cult-classic connoisseur has been a member of TCM’s Programming Department for over a decade. While TCM Underground is her cult-film love-child, she’s also spearheaded several successful TCM initiatives, including TCM’s Summer of Darkness featuring films of the noir persuasion; Condemned, “A festival of films Condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency”; and the TCM Imports Showcase. De Chirico is no fledgling when it comes to independent film, as she’s sat on juries for Austin’s Fantastic Fest and Buried Alive. Recently, she held a week-long programming residency at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. And in 2016, De Chirico was given an enviable opportunity to be involved with programming content for TCM/Criterion Collection’s new streaming service, FilmStruck!

ATLRetro caught up with Millie De Chirico for a quick interview about her cult cinema obsession, especially obscure films showcasing girl gangs and basically ladies who kick ass; being a part of the Buried Alive Film BAFF Film Challenge LogoFestival family; and exposing rare and bizarre films to the masses via “TCM Underground”!

ATLRetro: “Queen of the TCM Underground”! What a killer title! Can you tell our readers how you earned such a moniker and how you helped create TCM’s late-night cult movie franchise, “TCM Underground” in 2006, originally hosted by Rob Zombie?

Millie De Chirico: Well, becoming the “Queen” was incredibly easy because I’m the only person who works on it! There was another person involved in the very first year, a guy named Eric Weber who no longer works at TCM. We worked on it together at first. After he moved to another department at Turner, I was the only one left to do it, and that’s how it’s been for the past 10 years.

Stanley Kubrick was sort of your gateway drug into the land of cult film at the tender age of nine, with his 1971 classic, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Besides Kubrick, who influenced you the most in your love of cult cinema? And why?

Russ Meyer‘s FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!  was probably the biggest influence on me. It totally blew my mind when I first saw it. I can’t tell you how amazed I was to see Tura Satana, a half-Asian woman just like me, being such a dynamic badass. I’d never seen anything like that before. After that I really fell into the rabbit hole. John Waters and Herschell Gordon Lewis movies were also my early cult cinema education. They are canon at this point, but will always be influential to me.FasterPussycatKillKillFeb2014LCS

Your job is a dream come true for cinephiles the world over. As a kid, did you ever imagine you’d get the opportunity to educate the masses on the wonders of the most obscure films? What’s a day in the life of Millie De Chirico like?

As a kid I had no idea you could even have a job doing something like this. When I was a kid, jobs were like firefighters and whatever you learned in elementary school, and women were always secretaries. Every day I go into work and get to talk about and think about movies, so I’m very fortunate. I see what I do less about educating and more just about sharing movies with people. Anyone that gets paid to share what they love with others is a very lucky person.

Do viewers get to request films to be screened for “TCM Underground”? If so, what is the most bizarre request for programming you’ve received?

I love to hear ideas from viewers. I think everyone in the Programming Department at TCM does. I don’t know if I’ve gotten a single bizarre film request; it’s more that the people making the requests are the interesting thing. For example, I learned recently that TCM Underground has a pretty big following among prisoners. They’ve sent a lot of letters and I have to say, the requests are really interesting and a lot of times actually underground, like DEEP stuff. Also, I sat down with John Carpenter once a few years ago and he mentioned he’d seen Underground, and image1then rattled off a bunch of movies he wanted to see. My brain pretty much exploded after that.

How exciting to be a part of TCM/Criterion Collection’s new streaming service, FILMSTRUCK. Can you tell us a little about the service what it means to you to have opportunity to help with the programming and content?

I think I’m most glad I get the opportunity to flex a different programming muscle with FilmStruck. A lot of people assume I just like cult movies and that’s it. I’m actually a fan of lots of different types of films. I still program for the network and love classic Hollywood movies. With FilmStruck I get to program foreign, art house, and indie, which are all genres I greatly enjoy. Plus I get to work really closely with the folks at Criterion Collection, a company that I’ve had a crush on since I was in college when they were only making laserdiscs — it’s basically a dream come true.

You’ve been a juror for several film festivals across the country, including Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX and Atlanta’s own home-grown horror film festival, Buried Alive Film Fest (BAFF). I’m going to assume it’s nerve-wracking, but what’s it like getting to judge the creative harvest of filmmakers across the world?

It’s pretty thrilling to get to see really new movies, by people who’ve never made one before a lot of the time. You’re kind of there at the creative gun blast, which is very cool! The year I did Fantastic Fest I was on a jury that got to watch IT FOLLOWS and SPRING and a bunch of other movies that were unknown, but ended up being big hits.

What is your favorite American cult film? Foreign cult film? Favorite cult film genre?

You should know better than to ask film people about a single favorite movie! Admittedly I have about fifty and they change daily. But if I must choose, my favorite American cult film would be the aforementioned FASTER Switchblade SistersPUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (NIGHT OF THE HUNTER is a very close second); foreign cult film would be THE ROAD WARRIOR. Favorite cult genre would be anything involving girl gangs, like SWITCHBLADE SISTERS or DARKTOWN STRUTTERS. What can I say; I love ladies who kick ass.

Can you tell us how you got involved with Buried Alive Film Festival and the killer Kool Kats running the show?

I went to film school at GSU with Blake, one of the founders, and I’m friends with most of the people who run it. Atlanta’s film community is fairly tight knit and I’m always happy when we get to work together in any way.

As one of the judges for BAFF’s Sinema Challenge, how does the competition look? Anything horrific and exciting you can tell us at this time without giving anything important away before the BAFF opening screenings on Nov. 16?

I actually haven’t seen them yet. I have no idea what to expect but I know I’m super excited!

What are you looking forward to most at BAFF 2016? Anything fangtastic we should know about?

I think everyone should see the shorts. They are always a blast and the BAFF folks always put together really great shorts programming. I’m also really looking forward to seeing SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, the documentary about the Process Church of the Final Judgment (I will basically watch any documentary about cults or religion). And they’re doing a screening of CARRIE, an all-time favorite of mine, which I’m sure will be super fun.

image4What exciting and cinematically cultish things do you have planned in the near future?

I’d really love to do screenings in Atlanta. I’m always jealous when I go to cities like L.A. or Austin that have really cool, interesting cult or repertory film scenes, partially due to the fact that they have so many theaters that will do them. I’ve been talking to folks in town about this for a long time, so maybe something will finally happen…

What obscure piece of cult cinematic history can our readers look forward to in upcoming “TCM Underground” programming?

I’m really excited to be playing TERMINAL ISLAND by the great Stephanie Rothman, one of the only women who directed cult films and worked for Roger Corman for many years. I got the chance to meet and hang out with her last year and she is unbelievably nice with amazing stories to tell.

And last but not least, what question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

Question: Who my favorite cult actor or actress? My very quick answer is: Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960s and 1970s. She made some really bizarre movies during this period and I’m kind of on a quest to get everyone I know to watch them.

Photos courtesy of Millie De Chirico and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Speaking Easy About Volstead Nights With Ruby Le Chatte; There’s No Prohibiting The Fat Cat Cabaret’s Meow

Posted on: Jun 25th, 2013 By:

Ruby Le Chatte. Photo credit: Mike Curtis, Treehouse Studio.

Ever since Gatsby’s, Atlanta’s Roaring ’20s themed night club opened this spring in Midtown, it seems like there’s a cool Retro event happening there almost every week. This Saturday June 29, it’s Volstead Nights – A Speakeasy Review presented by Fat Cat Cabaret. The ’20s themed night will feature lots of our favorite things – burlesque, cabaret, comedy, aerial silks, magic, hooping and more performed byFat Cat Cabaret troupe members and special guest artists from Atlanta and Nashville, followed by a dance. These include Nashville-based magician John Pyka “Big Daddy Cool,” Atlanta aerial silks performer extraordinaire Persephone Phoenix,  and Rebecca “HoopEssence” DeShon, hula hoop mistress who also has been an ATLRetro Kool Kat of the Week. Tickets are $15, and the show starts at 8.

ATLRetro managed to tease out a scandalous sneak preview from Ruby Le Chatte, Fat Cat Cabaret’s troupe manager and co-founder with Jacqueline Trade. While relatively new the burlesque scene, Ruby has been practicing Egyptian Cabaret style belly dance for over 10 years in both Texas and Georgia. Ruby’s name is derived from her favorite things, her shining red birthstone and her favorite color, as well as “le Chatte” the female feline.. As she says: “Don’t mistake her for a common house cat, the only thing domestic about her is that she lives indoors.”

ATLRetro: As Ruby le Chatte, you take inspiration from your birthstone and the female feline. Did you have a special cat or is it more the long tradition of sexy, mysterious feline-inspired characters/performers from Catwoman to the lethal beauties in Russ Meyer’s FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!?

Ruby Le Chatte: Yes, it’s more the history of the feline. Even in Egyptian times the feline was a symbol of grace and poise.

Julie Newmar as Catwoman in the 1960s BATMAN TV series.

Do you have a favorite feline-inspired character/performer? If yes, why?

As a child I loved watching reruns of the BATMAN TV show with Julie Newmar as Catwoman. She was always sexy and mysterious.

You came to burlesque via Egyptian Cabaret style belly dance. For those less familiar with bellydancing, how does this differ from more traditional belly dance and what drew you to this performance art form?

Egyptian Cabaret is the style of bellydancing that most Americans are used to seeing in Mediterranean restaurants. The performances can be quite sensual, and the costumes are often covered in rhinestones. Around Atlanta, at faires and festivals, it is more likely that you will see a style of belly dance called American Tribal Style dance. The costumes consist of more earthy colors, cowrie shells and large hair flower headdresses. ATS is an amazing style of dance, usually done in group numbers where one dancer takes the lead and her movement dictates the next series of moves that she and the other performers will do. Egyptian Cabaret is more commonly a solo performance, and many props – veils, swords, candles, fans – can be used. I admit, I was first drawn to the style of dance because I am a terrible flirt. *wink*

Ruby Le Chatte. Photo credit: NewUncleMe@yahoo.com

Is there a vibrant Egyptian Cabaret style belly dance scene in Atlanta? In the Southeast?

There is a vibrant belly dance scene in Atlanta and the Southeast, though there are more ATS performers than Egyptian Cabaret  it seems. There’s also a large burlesque community, and the two different groups often work together in Atlanta to put on fabulous shows throughout the year.

Is there a story behind your passage from belly dance to burlesque? And how does your belly dance experience inform/influence your burlesque acts?

I admit, when I moved to Texas from Georgia in 2007 and tried to find Egyptian Cabaret classes to attend – it’s always important to continue your education – I was unable to find classes in that style near my home. I did take a few ATS classes, and while beautiful and challenging, I was not drawn to that style of dance as I was to Egyptian Cabaret. In December 2010, I attended my first burlesque show with a friend and a light bulb went off in my head. Burlesque can include humor, sensuality, drama, tease. It can tell a story; it can make your heart skip a beat. I enrolled in classes with Syrens of the South shortly thereafter and have not had a second thought since.

How did Fat Cat Cabaret get started?

My good friend Jacqueline Trade and I had performed together on a couple of occasions, during which we’d spoken about the things we love about burlesque.  She and I sat down over diner and drinks and hashed out what we’d like to see, who we wanted to include and our roles. She is our Creative Director, ensuring that our shows go off without a hitch, and I am our Manger, here to make sure that all the ducks are in a row.

Can you talk a little bit about what a Fat Cat Cabaret show is like and how it fits in and/or differs from the Atlanta burlesque revival scene?

Jackie and I felt there was a place in Atlanta for a vaudeville style troop of performers and crew who wanted to create classy shows with a nod to history. Fat Cat Cabaret shows include 1920-1950s style performances, and while not everything we do is historically accurate, we create our numbers with those shows in mind. The burlesque performers of that time are praised even today for their style, creativity, femininity and flair. Our shows have a storyteller who acts as our MC; the audience is fully immersed in the show with us. It’s similar to attending the Renaissance Festival. Sure you can go as a patron and enjoy the food and watching the performers, but isn’t it a little more fun when you let your hair down and interact with them a little? Don’t be surprised if you get a wink from Sally Strumpet or if Dante Roberto takes you out on the dance floor for a spin.

The Cast of Fat Cat Cabaret, ready to speak easy at Volstead Nights! Photo credit: Mike Curtis, Treehouse Studio.

Why the name “Volstead Nights”? Without giving away all the surprises, what can you tease us about Saturday’s performance?

Ah, well, The Volstead Act was enacted to carry out the 18th amendment to the U.S. constitution on January 17, 1920. The 18th amendment is better known as Prohibition. Under the laws of the time, the sale of alcohol was forbidden, and anyone who wanted a taste of “giggle water” had to find a way to get it in secret, like in a speakeasy. In our show, Benjamin Gravitt – our MC for the night – is the owner of one of those speakeasys, and he named it the Volstead as a humorous jab at the law.

Do you have anything special personally planned for your own act Saturday?

I do! You will be the first audience to see me perform with a beautiful pair of “Isis Wings.” They are like a veil or a fan, however they’re made from pleated fabric and look like the wings on images of the goddess Isis. Who knows what may, or may not, be visible when I twirl them around my body as I dance.

At ATLRetro, we’re really excited about Gatsby’s. For folks who haven’t been there, what makes it so special?

I’m so glad to hear that you’re excited. We are too! Gatsby’s is a lovely venue for many reasons. It has a beautiful art deco style, huge dance floor, expertly crafted and reasonably priced drinks (they even have specialty coffees before 10 p.m.), desserts, tons of free parking. They allow 18 and up and are a nonsmoking venue. What more does one need?

What’s next for Ruby le Chatte and Fat Cat Cabaret?

We always have something in the works. The nature of our shows involve a lot of planning and many long nights rehearsing. I believe I speak for everyone involved in Fat Cat Cabaret when I say that we are very passionate about our art. We’ve discussed our next show being 1950s in theme and maybe doing some video performances that are campy versions of the “educational/informational” old films on how to be a responsible housewife or how young ladies should dress to be respected. Whatever we do next, I can assure you that you will be teased, tempted, amused and entertained!

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Grindhouse Meets Art House in FLESH GORDON, or When Is the Last Time You Talked to Your Mother About Porn?

Posted on: Apr 24th, 2013 By:

FLESH GORDON (1974); Dirs: Michael Benveniste, Howard Ziehm; Starring Jason Williams, Suzanne Fields; Cineprov Presents on Sunday April 284, 7:30 p.m.; The Plaza Theatre, Trailer here.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

When is the last time you talked to your mother about porn?

Yeah, OK. That’s a weird question. Let’s back up for a little context.

This Friday, the Plaza begins a run of one of the weirdest relics of the 1970s, softcore porn spoof FLESH GORDON. If you’ve ever doubted the commitment and film credentials of the new Plaza ownership, it may be time to suspend your disbelief, because I honestly don’t know another theatre in the city brave enough to put a softcore title on the screen just because they can. And GORDON is more than just a silly porno. It’s a genuine oddity, a movie with a unique role in film history and a gateway into that bizarro time in the 20th century when it was cool to watch porn.

When film projectors were invented over 100 years ago, the first bulb wasn’t cool before people found a way to use it for porn. Many of the earliest films we know about were skin flicks and erotica, because, then-as-now, that’s where the money was. But porn was always an outsider in the entertainment business, buried and segregated by strict, sometimes-draconian interpretations of obscenity laws. Porn was the film industry’s dirty secret, the seedy cousin nobody wants to talk about.

An unusual and powerful combination of events radically reshaped the porn industry in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Sexual Revolution of the 60s became a point of cultural pride for the many young people living through civil unrest, a way to fully distinguish themselves from the conservative generation of their parents. For some, freer sex equated to progress, and that notion led to some strange experiments in the name of moving forward. This shift in the culture caused a general relaxing of local and federal obscenity laws, which in turn opened the door for wider distribution of porno publications and, eventually, the opening of theaters exclusively and proudly devoted to pornographic films. All of those screens needed content, and a batch of eager filmmakers rushed into the new market, filmmakers with big ideas inspired by a larger trend of European art films which happened to be arriving on American shores at about the same time, sexy films like BLOW-UP (1966), PERSONA (1966) and the arthouse thrillers of Roman Polanski. Those films had blurred the line between smut and art in a way that seemed to point to a number of possibilities: if films with sex could be art, well, then sex films could be art, too!

This resulted in an extremely brief, but intensely weird trend dubbed by some as “porno-chic.” The trend began in 1970 with Michael Benveniste’s MONA THE VIRGIN NYMPH, the first major narrative hardcore porno film, and the first porn movie to receive widespread release in America. The success of MONA brought more attention to porn, and within two years, the genre had its first real “masterpieces” and mainstream box office smashes with BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR (1972) and the phenomenon DEEP THROAT (1972). As if the world hadn’t gone topsy turvy enough, porn films became the talk of mainstream film critics and big-city intellectuals, and many felt as if they couldn’t keep up with the water cooler conversation unless they were up to date on the latest stag flicks. Some porn stars—most famously Marilyn Chambers—threatened to break out of porn and into Hollywood.

It was into this environment that FLESH GORDON arrived. FLESH was an attempt at a big, mainstream porn comedy, co-directed by the father of porno-chic himself, MONA director Benveniste, but by the time FLESH was released, the trend was already slinking back into the shadows. FLESH takes as its target the original FLASH GORDON serials of the 1930s (not the more-famous FLASH GORDON film, which came six years after its porno progenitor) and places its hero on the planet Porno Mongo, ruled by the evil Wang the Perverted. Flesh’s mission: to stop a sex ray that could turn all of Earth into sex fiends. (A similar story, it turns out, to 1968’s BARBARELLA.) To give you a window into the film’s sense of humor, when Flesh and his crew arrive on Porno Mongo, they are attacked by a large, throbbing monster. It’s called, of course, a Penisaurus.

So it’s not high art, but FLESH GORDON is more of a pleasure for film fans than a pain. While we may look at porn parodies today as hopelessly cheap and shlocky, nobody told the FLESH GORDON crew that they weren’t making a real film. The movie has a goofy sense of humor that gets it through the creaky plot, and it features incredibly-cool and inventive special effects, including a series of stop-motion critters designed and executed by future industry legends like Mike Minor (STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE [1979]) and one of the all-time great movie monster makers, Rick Baker. FLESH GORDON exists at that one narrow crossroads in film history where porno ambitions met mainstream talent, and it provides a glimpse into a different direction that American movies might have gone. Despite the tendency of porn to exploit its stars, there’s nothing mean-spirited in FLESH GORDON’s softcore spirit. The film is packed with nudity from end to end, but often feels more like admiration than exploitation, more Russ Meyer than Chuck Traynor.

There’s some confusion as to the different versions of FLESH GORDON available to the public. For many years, the only version of the film available was a heavily-edited 72 minutes long, and rumors persisted of a longer hardcore cut. But when the restored, uncut version appeared years later, it remained softcore. (This uncut version is the one playing at the Plaza) Co-director Howard Ziehm has stated that there were hardcore scenes filmed, but that they were nabbed by police in an obscenity-law sting and have been permanently lost. This is probably for the best. Part of the fun of FLESH GORDON is the way that, despite its rampant nudity and bawdy sexuality, the film somehow retains its gee-whiz innocence. Penetration tends to ruin that illusion.

The moment of the mainstream porn film was basically gone by the time FLESH GORDON arrived, but the film’s legacy is still felt today. GORDON was the first porn spoof, and its success in, frankly, getting away with it blazed a trail for decades of porno spoofs that have become the most famous version of the form. If you’ve ever sat around wondering what the “porn name” of your favorite mainstream film would be, you owe a debt, however small, to FLESH GORDON. Sadly, today’s pornos have give up on the clever titles and funny rebranding in favor of just putting “parody” right in the name. I know it’s porn we’re talking about here, but come on. “Batman: The Porn Parody?” Where’s the fun in that?

So how did I wind up talking with my mother about porn? Well, I realized that Mom would have been in her 20s at the peak of porno-chic. Surely she knew about it. Was she aware it was going on? Did she *gasp* see DEEP THROAT? I approached the subject with some caution and, after some explaining, she agreed to answer my question. She looked me right in the eye and said, “Son, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Thank you, Mom. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game writer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He writes at www.thehollywoodprojects.com and hosts a bimonthly screening series of classic films at theaters around Atlanta.

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30 Days of The Plaza, Day 24: It’s No Holds Barred at the Plaza When Blast-Off Burlesque Goes to Prison with a Taboo-La-La Screening of Wendy O. Williams Cult Classic REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS

Posted on: Jul 26th, 2012 By:

By Melanie Magnifique
Contributing Writer

REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS (1986); Dir: Tom DeSimone; Starring Wendy O Williams, Sybil Danning, Linda Carol, Pat Ast; Taboo-La-La Series hosted by Blast-Off  Burlesque at Plaza Theatre, Sat. July 28; 10 PM; arrive early for a sexy live stage show courtesy of Blast-Off Burlesque, and special guests Vanity’s UnCanney and Poly Sorbate; Also riots, chainsaws, and pillow fights , a Wendy O. Williams and Reform School Girls Costume Contest and prizes from  Libertine; age 18 & over only; trailer here.

Blast-Off Burlesque will host REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS at the Plaza Theatre this Saturday July 28, as part of its “Taboo-La-La” film series. The film, which stars Wendy O. Williams of punk band The Plasmatics fame, is a satire of the women in prison film genre and intentionally features many of its more provocative elements, such as shower scenes, fight scenes and implied sexual relationships between inmates and authority figures in exchange for favoritism. Austrian-born Hollywood actress Sybil Danning plays the warden, and Pat Ast rounds out the cast as sadistic prison guard Edna.

As the story plays out, Reform School becomes a microcosmic version of society in which women are stripped of their dignity, terrorized, punished for and enslaved over their sexuality, and forced to lie to protect their captors. The only compassionate ally that the inmates have is the institution’s therapist, played by Charlotte McGinnis. Despite her best efforts, however, the crimes of mistreatment against the inmates finally spark an uprising which ends with a real bang.

Wendy O. Williams plays inmate Charlie Chambliss in REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS. New World Pictures, 1986

Blast Off’s own Dickie Van Dyke says this weekend’s salute to Wendy O is timely. “Wendy is the patron saint of women who whoop ass,” (s)he pointed out the other night at rehearsal. Indeed, it seems that women everywhere could use some inspiration in the whoop-ass department. The global climate towards us these days has many of us shaking our heads in disbelief, and, as Dickie says, “Decades after women’s lib, we still do not have total control over our bodies, we still battle to overcome the glass ceiling, lack of respect… and PMS! Apparently we have to kick everybody’s ass while wearing a bra and thong before our voices are heard. If that is the way the game is played, so be it. Wendy O will be our MVP!”

Other members of Blast-Off agree that the timing is just right for this show. Barbalicious says, “It’s time for us to rock out, and after spending some quality time in the ’60’s and ’70s with Russ Meyer, John Waters and Pam Grier, the ’80s seemed like a great place to continue our big-haired hijinks, but with much less clothes, because you know in reform school, you only need to wear your underwear. It’s also summer, and we’re hot.” She adds that the movie itself will be a blast, saying, “REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS is a ridiculously fun camp classic. All the classic women in prison elements are in place: shower scenes, food fights, forbidden romance, branding and other tortures, but then you add in the Wendy-O-Williams factor and it becomes just that much more surreal. Wendy-O is one of the hardest working women in rock and roll history. She is as hardcore as it gets; no female performer has or will ever come close her badassness. She beats the hell out of everyone in this movie. Those who are not familiar with her, need to be. Those who remember what the power of real rock and roll was about need to pay tribute.”

Taboo-La-La has been a wildly popular film series for Blast-Off at the Plaza Theatre. Previous films have included SHOWGIRLS, FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! , FEMALE TROUBLE and BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. Barbalicious says that its main purpose is to examine cultural taboos in film, but adds with a wink, “It’s really just an excuse for us to throw an amazing party.”

Festivities will begin at 9 p.m. DJ Westwood-A-GoGo will be spinning tunes in the lobby, where patrons can enjoy complimentary cocktails and mingle before the show begins. Once seated, the audience will be treated to a riotous performance by Blast-Off Burlesque, with guest performers Poly Sorbate and Vanity’s Uncanney. Audience members are encouraged to enter a costume contest to win prizes provided by Libertine. Tickets are $10, and are available through Plaza Theatre’s box office and at www.plazaatlanta.com.

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30 Days of The Plaza, Day 12: Oh, Taboo La La! BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS Is Not A Sequel, There’s Never Been Anything Like It

Posted on: Jun 1st, 2012 By:

By Jeremy “Puck” Turman
Contributing Writer

BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1970); Dir: Russ Meyer; Writer: Roger Ebert; Starring Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marsha McBroom, Phyllis Davis, Charles Napier; Taboo-La-La Series hosted by Blast-Off  Burlesque at Plaza Theatre, Sat. June 2; 10 PM; arrive early for a sexy live stage show courtesy of Blast-Off Burlesque, all-girl band action from Catfight (featuring Kool Kat Katy Graves) and special guests Baby Doll, Patricia Lopez, Poly Sorbate and Turnin’ TriXXX! And enjoy Psychedelic Trip Punch while DJ Westwood-A-Go-Go spins in the lobby, compete in a Dance FREAK OUT Contest and win prizes from Libertine; $10; age 18 & over only; trailer here.

The first thing that came to mind when I was younger, and BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS was brought up, would have been a porno. I mean it is an X-rated title (or was until 1990 when it was re-classified as NC-17 ) It is in fact a Russ Meyer production—the [man with the] same creative energy that unleashed such classic american sleaze as THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS , FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! and VIXEN! upon the masses. It also boasts a healthy dose of nudity-laced scenes littered with culturally taboo topics of the time, which has led to this film being widely considered the zeitgeist of exploitation cinema.

Now that I’m an adult, I have a much broader opinion of the film than just a porno. The story falls into place as three devilishly good-looking young girls in a band looking to make it big head to Hollywood to fulfill the most youthful of dreams, to be rock stars. Hollywood embraces the girls as quickly as a candy bar at fat camp and thus our adventure begins. Along the way they come across everything AND the kitchen sink . Here’s a quick rundown:

This girl Kelly (Dolly Read), band[Casey (Cynthia Myers) and Pet (Marcia McBroom), along with Kelly, form The Kelly Affair) and with boyfriend/band manager Harris (David Gurian) high-tail it to Los Angeles to make it big and find Kelly’s aunt Susan (Phyllis Davis), who has something to do with some money that could somehow be rightfully Kelly’s as well. Susan has an accountant that’s real sleazy and thinks the band are nothing but a bunch of hippies looking for a free ride. The band meets this totally awesome rock producer at a party, and, of course, he demands they sing/play and, of course, they do and, of course, they rock! So now this guy takes over as their manager and has them change their name to The Carrie Nations. This pisses Harris off and he goes on a bender. At this point a lot of nakedness and sex begin happening. Seeing as I haven’t seen this film in over 10 years and knowing the age I was at that time, being a younger man focusing in on the eye candy, the plot begins to fade. Although I can truly say the one thing that sticks out in my mind the most are the colors. Vivid rainbows of tacky print burned into my memory. What were they thinking?

The three gorgeous stars of Russ Meyers' BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (20th Century Fox, 1970).

BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS has stood the test of time as an example of an era when moral fiber was more prominent in the culture of America and to release a film with such a lack there of was a slap in the face to the establishment from which it bears roots. It screams where’s the line and how far can I get past it before you stop me? How about a film filled with love, rape, murder, sex, dope, abortion and suicide? Sounds deep, doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s really a film about nothing. Call it Cult Classic. Call it Sexploitation. Hell, call it Rabid West Coast Surrealism, but keep in mind what the narrator clearly states to close out the film’s trailer: “This is not a sequel, there has never been anything like it.”

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Kool Kat of the Week: Talking Taboo-La-La, Tura Satana, Travel, Truckin’ and The Rapture with the Beautiful “Barbilicious” Hays of Blast-Off Burlesque

Posted on: May 18th, 2011 By:

ATLRetro wishes Blast-Off Burlesque would put on a few more full shows— these seven delectable dolls and one groovy guy are way too much clever and creative to be on stage just twice a year now and we miss them at the Silver Scream Spookshow. But this talented ensemble is thankfully tiding Atlanta over with Taboo-La-La, a sexy vintage movie series with extras, at the Plaza Theatre. They kicked off with SHOWGIRLS in March, but this month’s show on Saturday May 21 is even more of a special treat as they present a rare chance to see exploitation classic FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! on the big screen (read ATLRetro’s exclusive review by Mark Arson here). Of course, it’s a Blast-Off production, so that’s just the tip of the fun from Tura Satana lookalike, beefcake boy and all-girls arm-wrestling contests to a shrine to recently deceased B-movie siren Satana and a silent art auction fundraiser for a documentary celebrating her life.

Dickie Van Dyke and Barbilicious. Photo credit: Derek Jackson.

To find out more, ATLRetro asked Barb Hays, aka Barbilicious, for a sneak peek behind the naughty plans and got her to spill a few sexy secrets. If you’ve been to a Blast-Off Burlesque performance—and shame on you, if you haven’t—you know each has a unique personality. For Barbilicious, it’s her big smile and a certain mischievious glint in her eyes that’s likely to grab your attention first. She’s the wacky comedienne who adds that extra “oh, my,” whether in an ensemble dance sketch where everyone is dressed in banana suits or steering a giant plastic bubble around stage in homage to Jane Fonda as Barbarella in the company’s Sci-Fi-A-Go-Go show last year.

 

Barb also drops a few tantalizing hints about future happenings involving an all-Blast-Off photo shoot next week, Blast-Off’s September show, her punk band LUST and the debut of Burt and the Bandits, her newest collaboration with the multitalented Jon Waterhouse (read ATLRetro’s profile of Jon here), at the East Atlanta Beer Festival also this Saturday.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Retro Review: FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!: Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to Violence!

Posted on: May 18th, 2011 By:

By Mark Arson, Contributing Blogger

FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (1965); Dir: Russ Meyer; Writer: Jack Moran; Starring Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams; Taboo-La-La Series hosted by Blast-Off  Burlesque at Plaza Theatre, Sat. May 22; 9:30 PM; pre-show antics include a Tura Satana costume contest, beefcake contest for guys, all-girl arm wrestling, live music by Grinder Nova, a chance to leave an offering at the Tura Satana shrine, a silent auction of Tura art and memorabilia to raise money for Varla Films to help complete a documentary on the recently deceased actress, and super special prizes & surprises; age 18 & over only.

When describing FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!, I’m tempted to describe it as an orgy of fast cars and violence. I can’t really say that though, and those of you familiar with director Russ Meyer‘s other work will know why. Most of his films resembled incredibly well-made porn, but I believe the correct term is “Sexploitation.” This film, however, doesn’t have any nudity or actual sex, though the actual sexuality in the film is plenty ratcheted-up. The focus here is on action, treachery, and, of course, cars. For my money, this is one of the best exploitation films ever made, it’s never boring, and its (mostly) sleazy characters revel in their spider-web of bad intentions and revenge.

Varla (Tura Satana) leads a threesome of go-go dancers who are out in the desert to blow off some steam when one thing leads to another and they end up having to run from the scene of a murder. The first 20 minutes of the film are pretty much nonstop, and it only becomes more deliberately paced when the ladies find their way onto a farm with a creepy old man in a wheelchair (Stuart Lancaster) whose fortune they intend to acquire one way or another. This part of the story bears an interesting resemblance to TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, except there are bad intentions on both sides. To complicate things, the three have abducted a girl (Susan Bernard) whose boyfriend met an unfortunate end at the hands of Varla, and the old man might want her more than they do.

The entire cast does a great job (except for maybe the gas station attendant, but hey, he’s not supposed to be smart, right?), but make no mistake, this is Tura Satana’s film. As Varla, she not only is responsible for most of the (bad) things that unfold, but she has the screen presence to back it up. Gender equality is something that we’re more or less used to these days, even if it does have a ways to go, but in 1965, this film must have been pretty shocking. Varla does what it takes to get what she wants and won’t hesitate to kill a man with her bare hands in a fair fight, an unfair fight, or with her car. Her friction with the old man, himself a literal representation of male oppressiveness and lechery, is plenty poetic as well. Satana is both alluring and terrifying here, to the characters in the film as well as the viewer. When Billie (Lori Williams) gives her trouble, you can’t help but wonder when Varla is just gonna go ahead and kill her.

Russ Meyer was a master director and editor, and FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! stands with his finest work. This was also one of the few times that he didn’t feel the need to include excessive sex in a film, and you will hardly miss it…..maybe. But there’s plenty of action, fast cars, and off-the-wall slang to satisfy your urges, and you probably will still want more. FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! is both a relic of a bygone era and a timeless work of art. Movies that take place in the middle of nowhere are good like that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go watch it again.

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