Midnight Movie Madness

Daughters of Darkness – Fateful encounters (100 minutes Belgium/West Germany/France 1971)

“I was wrong, after all… What you did wasn’t foolish, Stefan, it was merely… Unrealistic.”

Almost 40 years on, “Daughters of Darkness” shows even better than when it was first released. This is not a gore-fest, and while I wouldn’t call it a character study, it certainly has more layers than the Horror genre typically leads you to expect. It means neither to blow the viewer away, nor to titillate.  It is absorbing, somewhat like “let the right one in”. But more on this later…

When this movie came out, the vampire sub-genre was waning: “Daughters of Darkness was book-ended between Roman Polanski’s “the fearless vampire hunters” (1967) and “Dracula and son” (1976), a French spoof starring Christopher Lee.

I remember the early ‘70s as a sort of “either or” proposition, in terms of cinema: serious films (at times overly so, veering into pretentiousness) or exploitation flicks, with little in between. On the face of it, and given when “Daughters of Darkness” came out, I suspect it was wrongly perceived as exploitation, with elements of horror and soft-porn. Many reviews tend to label it as “lesbian vampire horror” or “erotic vampire” story, and while this is not entirely inaccurate, it tends to lessen the scope of the film.

Yes, there are several shots of full frontal nudity, and female characters kissing, but… Vampires by nature are sexual beings seducing their prey before feeding on them. The need defines the skill.

There are really two main story arcs in “Daughters of Darkness”, as well as two predators. We begin with the young newlyweds, Valerie (Danielle Ouimet) and Stefan (John Karlen), and soon realize Stefan is essentially a sadistic child in a man’s body. He remains emotionally detached from Valerie, only reaching out to her after she is hurt by his behavior: he appears to feed on her vulnerability and attraction to him, and keeps testing her. Much of this is like watching a kid pulling the wings and legs off a fly.

Such behaviors are more widely understood nowadays than in 1971, thanks in part to self-help literature and talk shows, but in retrospect John Karlen’s role and his performance were highly unusual for the day and accurately portrayed a fractured individual swaying between fear and rage, projecting his need for control upon his bride.

A revealing influence on Stefan’s character is the personage referred to as “Mother” and “Lady Chilton”, who turns out to be an older man growing orchids in surroundings of green and purple (director Kumel also relies on color to define characters and events): more sugar daddy than mother as it appears, and something Stefan is desperately trying to conceal from Valerie. Appropriately enough we are introduced to them as they travel to Ostende on a train, appropriate because Stefan is compelled to compartmentalize his relationships.

They arrive at the Palais des Thermes during the off season, the sole guests in this oppressive looking structure. Shortly after sunset, another couple arrives: the countess Elizabeth Bathory (Delphine Seyrig) and her companion Ilona (Andrea Rau). Dressed in 1930s fashions, the countess appears to the stunned concierge in exactly the same way as she did 40 years prior, to which she replies he probably remembers her mother. That is until she calls him by his first name, “Pierre”, toying with his apprehension with a jab at his fear. You see, Pierre remembers a series of unsolved murders which took place in the region 40 years ago. This is unspoken and slowly revealed as the story unfolds.

In real life, countess Elizabeth Bathory was in fact a historical figure from, of all places, Transylvania. Born in August 1560, she died sometime in August 1614 at the Cachtice castle where she was walled in.  During the Long War against the Ottomans, while her husband was away, she provided for and defended the peasantry of their lands.

Sometime after her husband, Ferenc Nádasdy, died in 1604, four of her servants were tried and executed for participating in crimes which she was rumored to have ordered, the torture and murder of hundreds of young girls. The crimes were said to involve mutilations, sexual abuse, and baths taken by the countess in her victims’ blood for the purpose of maintaining her youth. Later on, allegations of vampirism took place. For political reasons, she was not tried, but imprisoned at Cachtice until her death.

Now, in the neighboring town of Bruges, the bodies of young women drained of their blood raise old fears.

Stefan and Valerie witness the body of such a victim being taken away by ambulance and a retired policeman takes note of these foreigners.

He follows them to the hotel where the familiar figure of the countess is waiting for them. What unfolds is a sinister game of musical chairs between the protagonists. Ilona wants to leave the countess, eventually getting her wish. Stefan, who bound Valerie to himself, already yearns to be free from those ties and also gets his wish. Perhaps more than companionship, the countess herself was looking for a “vessel”.

They all may get theirs, but only the countess through power and dark skills, found satisfaction.

Is there any form of retribution at last?

To quote Francis Urqhart, F.U. to his friends, “you might very well think so, but I couldn’t possibly comment.”

Listen closely to Valerie’s last words…

“Daughters of Darkness” gets 5 jellybeans.

5 beans


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Latest Pet Food recall

Sponsored by Jellybeansofdoom staff, Tito & Kitsune

Here’s a shout out to anyone in the Loveland, CO area.  There is a small recall that may have an effect on you.  Please take care.

P&G Recalls Small Number of Bags of Cat Food From Stores in Loveland, Colorado

August 29, 2010 – CINCINNATI  — Procter & Gamble (P&G) is voluntarily recalling a small number of bags of its Iams Proactive Health Indoor Weight & Hairball Care dry cat food which may have been sold recently in one or two stores in Loveland, Colorado.These bags have the potential to contain salmonella, although no illnesses have been reported.  No other Iams pet food products are affected.

The Iams Proactive Health Indoor Weight & Hairball Care cat food in question is sold in blue 6.8-pound bags.  These bags feature a code date of 02304173 (B1-B6) and the UPC number 1901403921.

The rest is available at the link above.

We will try to keep all our pet people notified of any recalls.  My apologies for the delay on this one.  We had a major computer problem that took us a couple of days to fix.  Since our pets (and probably yours) are more than animals, but full-fledged members of the family, it’s a subject that is important to us.

We had friends who lost cats and dogs during the Melamine Pet Food Recall of 2007.  That was a truly horrifying event and we hope to never see it’s like again.  However, given that we can’t even keep human food production clean (Eggs anyone?), we won’t hold our breath.  At best, we can remain vigilant and do our best to protect our pets.


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Adventures Through Time and Space

“The Mighty Boosh” – Surreal adventures through time and space (UK 2004)

“Don’t be cynical

It’s a follicle miracle!”

Sometime in 2007, a co-worker e-mailed me a link to a Youtube video taken from a show I’d never heard of. The clip was maybe 9 minutes long, from a British comedy series called “the Mighty Boosh”. This was from an episode from season 2 entitled “the legend of Old Gregg”.

I waited another two years for the series DVDs to be released here. I was hooked.

The Mighty Boosh’s first season (8 episodes) introduces Vince Noir (Noel Fielding) and Howard Moon (Julian Barratt), two zookeepers working at the run-down Zooniverse managed by Bob Fossil (Rich Fulcher). Vince Noir is obsessed with hair products, electro music and is the apparent air-head of the two. Howard Moon is a Jazz fanatic and prone to embellishments.

Season two (6 episodes) finds Vince and Howard sharing an apartment with fortune teller Naboo (Michael Fielding, real-life brother of Noel) who really is a shaman, and Bollo the gorilla (Dave Brown in a gorilla suit). As to Season 3 (6 episodes), Vince and Howard now work for Naboo at his shop (the Nabootique).

No explanations are given for the changes in settings between seasons, much like in a dream, you find yourself in different places without transition. What matters are the adventures and characters, from the North Pole to planet Xooberon, even the afterlife, where the Ape of Death suffers from bad hair as well as a short temper and Death (actually Deaths, plural) ferry the departed in taxi cabs through space and speak with a Cockney accent.

Each episode has a different story arc, giving this series a leisurely pace, as opposed to say, “Big Train” which is composed of short sketches. Flashbacks are often done using colorful animations and there are several musical numbers per episode. Most of the songs are pretty catchy and contribute greatly to the feeling of whimsy. The look of the series is very colorful and never dull, as the entire series was shot in studio, with special effects described as cheap by some viewers, but in actuality charmingly quaint. For instance, a scene in which protagonists are being chased by the Yeti was shot with the actors running in place in front of a backlit screen rolling in a loop. It’s a pretty common technique used in older films and series, which helps give the Mighty Boosh some sort of “grounding” visually.
Each DVD set includes two discs and plenty extras, such as interviews, making of, Boosh music, bloopers, etc. for many hours of enjoyment. Rich Fulcher is the sole American of the cast and deserves a special nod. He is extremely funny in his various roles, the deviant Bob Fossil, the Ape of Death and kinky Eleanor among others. The bloke is mental.
The series followed a common development pattern in Great Britain, from stage to radio and finally television, with plenty of time to refine and hone a wonderful and unique program. The Boosh really has to be experienced.
A word of caution, however, due to the common usage of profanity (four letter words), I would not recommend it for family viewing if you have young children.

“The Mighty Boosh” gets 5 jellybeans

5 beans


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And now for something completely different…

This wonderful, melancholy clip accompanying “valse triste” by Jean Sibelius is an excerpt from the animated film “Allegro non troppo” by Italian animator Bruno Bozzetto. Bozzetto’s 1976 homage to Disney’s “Fantasia” is one of our all time favorites here at JBoD.

This “valse triste” segment has my preference, although the one highlighting Ravel’s “Bolero” has some personal significance in that “Bolero” was the first program I took my wife to at the San Francisco Symphony, an unforgettable evening. Even the kittehs approved and gave us space afterwards… ‘Nuff said.  Note:  due YouTube limitations the first 3+ minutes are missing from this recording.  The rest is great.


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Midnight Movie Madness

Dead Alive – Everything you always wanted to know about zombies but were afraid to ask (97 minutes New Zealand 1992)

They’re not dead exactly, they’re just… sort of rotting.”

In the pantheon of horror-comedies, “Dead Alive” easily ranks up there with “Evil Dead: army of Darkness” and “Shaun of the dead”. I’ll say right now that you probably shouldn’t eat custard or strawberry ice cream when watching this early effort from Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings”, “King Kong”, “the frighteners”), in the days when special effects included stop motion and gallons of movie blood. Lots of movie blood. So much blood, that “Dead Alive” is reputed to be the bloodiest movie of all time.
1957: the latest acquisition of the Wellington zoo is a rare and dangerous Sumatran rat-monkey, whose bite causes humans to turn into ravenous zombies. The creature looks suspiciously like Kitsune, by the way. Unfortunately for Lionel (Timothy Balme), his domineering mother Vera (Elizabeth Moody) is intent on sabotage as he tries to enjoy his first date there with Paquita (Diana Penalver). Standing too close to the cage, Vera gets bit and stomps the rat-monkey to squishy bits in her rage. Lionel takes her home and tries to hide her horrific condition from everyone, leading to problems growing as fast as the body count.
Virtually everything in this gem is outrageous and the carnage is way past the top, into the stratosphere. It also provides answers to vital questions about zombies:

–         What happens when two zombies fall in love

–         Why you shouldn’t take the resulting offspring to the park

–         How to feed a captive zombie when its head is halfway off

–         How to immobilize a zombie with a garden rake and a vise

–         Why animal stimulant shouldn’t be used to poison zombies

And much, much more… Jackson and writers Stephen Sinclair and Frances Walsh (Jackson’s spouse) packed a lot of chuckles and groans in what may be the definitive splatter-fest.

Jackson’s camera work and skillful direction  keep things lively and all the efforts spent recreating the look of the fifties, with cars, clothes and even hair styles of the era greatly enhance the movie’s charm. Performances are above the average for the genre, especially from the leads, but Father McGruder (Stuart Devenie) fighting off zombies in his graveyard is a classic (“I kick *** for the Lord!”), well worthy of Bruce Campbell’s best, as is Uncle Les (Ian Watkin) showing a lot of spine as the zombies overrun Lionel’s house. Also keep an eye out for Peter Jackson’s cameo as the undertaker’s assistant pumping Vera with embalming fluid…

The JBoD rating for this movie is 4 jellybeans (out of 5)

4 beans


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Beyond the Golden Gate: a short hike through Pinnacles National Monument, California

Most of our hikes have been within about a 70 miles radius from the San Francisco peninsula, so this day trip to Pinnacles Monument, 145 miles to the South of San Francisco and just East of the Salinas Valley, promised to offer something different. Well accustomed as we are to the greenery of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (G.G.N.R.A.), I was particularly keen on visiting what I expected to be a blend between the Bay’s woods and forests and the California desert.

Much of the landscape on the way there bears the marks of seismic activity spread over many centuries and Pinnacles itself is so named because of the spectacular jutting remnants of the long extinct Neenach volcano.

We arrived at the park after an early lunch in Hollister and promptly bought more bottled water at the visitors’ store as the sun was almost directly overhead by then. Even in March, and although it had rained in the previous couple of days, you can never have too much water outdoors.

In addition to some unique geological features, the park is also one of very few places where one can observe California Condors in the wild, thanks to outstanding efforts to re-establish the species. They remain one of the main attractions of the park and we spent a good while learning about them and conservancy efforts from the volunteers at the visitor center.

From the Bear Gulch visitor center, we set out onto the Moses Spring trail:

This took us to the Bear Gulch talus caves, which are the result of huge rocks tumbling down narrow gorges during massive earth tremors. Thankfully, it is possible to exit the caves in several places, since in some spots, water was ankle deep and the low ceiling would force us to our knees. Navigating, or rather, contorting through the narrow, claustrophobic passages, I kept thinking we might enact a 30 seconds or less version of “a bug’s life” with a tragic ending should the earth decide to move again, but at least it wouldn’t be thirst we’d die of:
And from there, we climbed up stairs to the Bear Gulch reservoir, a nice place to catch your breath and stretch, where the views are both serene and spectacular:

Hiking the Rim trail was an easy walk away from the reservoir, with plenty of interesting rock formations along the way back to the High Peaks trail, not to mention views very much reminiscent of old Disney nature documentaries. Although we took the High Peaks trail a couple hundred yards towards Hawkins’ peak, we managed to catch sight of only one Condor gliding high above, but were too unsteady to get a clear picture (sorry!).  For more information on this national treasure, check this National Park Service link:http://www.nps.gov/pinn/


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Welcome to JBoD

Who are we?
Let’s begin with Tito, a smoky-gray domestic short hair without a mean bone in his body. Both he and his brother from another mother, Kitsune, are about a year and a half old as of this writing.
Kitsune, or Kitsy for short, introduced Tito to Parkour, a series of gravity defying leaps and bounds over and against walls, furniture or the unfortunate biped. I should add “naked streaker food thief” to Kitsy’s bio (he’s a Sphynx, so hairless and somewhat lewd). Runs around a lot…
Rudha-an, the other human in the realm, worked as a bookseller for 20 years, has a green thumb, two left feet and a handy love of tools and home repairs (which is cool, because I don’t). She hasn’t met a dust bunny she didn’t like and her favorite writers include Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Richard Morris, Dan Simmons, Richard Feynman and Stephen Baxter.

As for me, I am a Jack-of-some-trades (guess we call ourselves ronin nowadays) lured westward from Europe over 20 years ago, who worked his way to a corner office, eventually getting laid off) with a marked preference for four-legged creatures, whiskey and wide open spaces, who hasn’t met a dust bunny he couldn’t live with. My list of favorite writers include Gore Vidal, Jean-Pierre Andrevon, William Styron and H.P. Lovecraft.

Now, why jellybeansofdoom?
Those cutesy, not particularly sanitary pads cats walk on?

beans left

beans right

Why, Wolverine’s got nothing on them. As a wee lad, I once witnessed a red tabby put a neighbor in the hospital as the neighbor tried to strangle said kitteh with a snare. Bad move. The cat appeared to have a keen understanding of the human circulatory system and the tools to, shall I say “excavate” his would be assassin’s forearms.
The man bled profusely and “Red” lived to mark his territory for, well who knows how long…
Because cats tend to live and die like outlaws. One day, Fluffy jumps the fence never to be seen again and his or her humans never know what happened. A car? A dog? Some nasty neighbor..?
Unless they dwell in cities and remain indoors for the rest of their life and seem to evolve in front of us. Like the Sphynx breed: no hair nor whiskers, all ears and eyes gauging you. But this is for another post. Jellybeansofdoom, [JBoD], aims to welcome all of us who bear witness to the lives of all these animals whom we share our life with, not solely of the feline persuasion.
These times we live in are rife with challenges and hardships, leading many to find out who and what their true friends are, and as it happens, truest friends wear fur because it actually grows on them. They are kin.

So. To you and them: welcome.


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