Episode 274: Litlando Memoir Panel with Lisa Roney & Kristen Arnett

Episode 274 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Kristen Arnett & Lisa Roney

Kristen Arnett & Lisa Roney at Litlando 2017, at The Gallery at Avalon Island.

NOTES

Consider donating to The Drunken Odyssey’s indiegogo fundraiser here.

Learn more about the nonprofit Page 15 here.

Follow Kristen Arnett on twitter here, or check out her website.

Check out The Florida Review here.

Go here for details on the 60th anniversary party for On the Road at the Kerouac House.

On the Road

Go here for details about Functionally Literate’s next event with SJ Sindu and Kristen Arnett on September 23rd at the Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts.


Episode 274 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #192: Crimes of the Black Cat

The Curator of Schlock #192 by Jeff Shuster

Crimes of the Black Cat

There should have been a clown in this one. 

Okay. I’ve got a beef with whoever is streaming these Italian movies on Amazon. Stop cropping the picture. I know some of these movies were shot in scope.  Knock it off! HBO does this too. Drives me crazy.

Crimes of the Black Cat

It’s a shame too because tonight’sfeature is 1972’s Crimes of the Black Cat from director Sergio Pastore, a pretty damn good Giallo. If this ever gets released on Blu-ray, the distributer can put “A pretty damn good Giallo”—Jeff Shuster, the Curator of Schlock right on the back of the box. Just send me a free copy of the Blu-ray. I like free stuff.

Crimes of the Black Cat is about a psycho serial killer who murders fashion models. How does the killer accomplish this? By dipping a feral cat’s claws in curare and setting them loose on his victims. In a way, this murderer isn’t really a murderer. It’s the black cat that’s committing these crimes, but the local police don’t see it that way.  I guess getting a cat to do your murdering for you won’t absolve you of the crime. 

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Our sleuth this time around is a blind pianist by the name of Peter Oliver (Anthony Steffen), a dapper English gentleman who gets involved when he overhears a conversation in a swinging nightclub. What’s the conversation about? Can you guess? It’s about MURDER! The killer is instructing his assistant on where to deliver the cat. Peter hears the assistant walk past him and presses one of the waiters for a description. The waiter saw a woman covered in a white hood and cloak leave the club, but he couldn’t see her face. 

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Another murder happens. While being chauffeured around by his butler Burton (Umberto Raho), Peter hears the footsteps of the exact same woman from the other night. He orders Burton to tail the woman, hoping he’ll get a photo of her. Burton loses track of her. She gets on a bus. Burton races across the street, but gets stopped by a traffic cop for jaywalking.

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Wouldn’t it be interesting if the mystery ended there? The murders stop and they never find the mysterious woman again. They never catch the murderer. Peter spends the rest of his life in self-doubt, his career as a pianist in ruins. Burton leaves his side, unable to deal with Peter’s addiction to cocaine. One day Peter befriends a neighbor kid, a gifted prodigy, another Mozart. He gives him piano lessons for free. Though his encouragement, the kid enters a piano playing tournament and wins! Cue the Rocky theme! It’s at this point Peter meets the kid’s mother, the same woman who committed those cat murders so many years ago! Duh duh duuuuuuuuuuuh!

Okay. That’s not how this movie ends. I think Peter uses his deduction skills a little too well, spooking the actual killer. At gunpoint, he’s driven to a bottle making plant. We watch as Peter maneuvers around trap after trap, his walking cane his only guide. The whole scene is quite chilling, a reminder why I take risks and watch obscure Italian Giallo movies on Amazon Prime. 


 

Jeffrey Shuster 3

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Episode 273: Jason Croft!

Episode 273 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

JavaBHOF2017

On this week’s show, I catch up with Jason Croft about the continuing evolution of pin up and burly-q culture, Bunny Yeager’s legacy, the awesomeness of Medusirena, writing for pulp magazines, the joys and struggles of editorship, and the 10th anniversary of Bachelor Pad Magazine, where some of my work has been published.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

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NOTES

If you can contribute to my indiegogo fundraiser, please go here.

On Sunday, August 13th at 3 PM, join me and the other authors of Other Orlandos to celebrate its book launch!

Other Orlandos


Episode 273 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

 

The Curator of Schlock #191: Black Belly of the Tarantula

The Curator of Schlock #191 by Jeff Shuster

Black Belly of the Tarantula

Another score by Morricone? He’s the James Patterson of film composers!

Did any of you ever watch The Wonder Years, that stupid Jean Shepherd wannabe reminiscence show about three kids growing up in the 1960s, a time of turbulent change. There was the everyboy, Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage), girl next store, Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar), and dorkus malorkus, Paul Pfeiffer (Marilyn Manson). There was one episode where Kevin Arnold befriended some weirdo named Margaret Farquhar only to throw her to the mercy of their cruel middle school classmates at his earliest convenience. Before that happens, Margaret told Kevin a story about how the tarantula species got its name, something to do with them being named after a dance. Fascinating. Rolling Stone ranks The Wonder Years as the 63rdgreatest TV show of all time so I guess that would make it the winning loser.

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Speaking of tarantulas, this week’s movie is called The Black Belly of the Tarantula, a 1971 giallo film from director Paolo Cavara. Get this: the killer in this movie sneaks up behind women, sticks them with a needle dabbed in wasp venom, temporarily paralyzing them. He then proceeds to carve them up with a knife while they’re conscious of what’s happening to them, but unable to move. That’s pretty sick! I mean, come one. We learn later that it’s a sexual thing for the killer, driven by the fact that his wife ridiculed him over his impotence.

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That is sufficiently disturbing. This time around, the police are actually trying to solve the case! I think the serial killer’s first victim was smuggling cocaine so that piqued their interest. Inspector Tellini (Giancarlo Giannini) is leading the investigation, a world-weary cop with a young wife named Laura (Claudine Auger) who wants to sell the old furniture in their apartment so they can buy new furniture. There’s a hilarious scene where the furniture movers show up right as she’s about to serve dinner. If the movers take the furniture away, she and her husband will have nothing to sleep on that night. Laura tells the movers her husband is a detective and they’d better come back the next day to pick up the furniture. The movers acquiesce to her demands. Mr. and Mrs. Tellini sit down to a tasty roast chicken dinner.

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But yeah, there’s a killer on loose. Again, we have a killer wearing a black trench coat, fedora, and latex gloves instead of black ones. You know, if a guy walks around in a black trench coat, fedora, latex gloves, and an optional tarp over his face, he still may not be a serial killer. Maybe it’s just a fashion statement. Maybe that sharp knife in my front pocket is for scraping the gum off of trees in the park. Uhhh…I’m getting off track again. What’s left?

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There’s an awesome 70s rooftop chase scene where the detectives are chasing after a suspect. Someone falls to his death. Detective Tellini lays a beat down on the killer at the end of the movie. I was jumping up and down in my seat as Tellini repeatedly bashed the killer’s head against a wall. You never saw anything that awesome on The Wonder Years. Sigh.


Jeffrey Shuster 1
Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

 

The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #60: King Lear (1983)

Rogues Guide to Shakes on Film

60. Michael Elliott’s King Lear (1983)

As I suggested when I reviewed Kurosawa’s Ran, King Lear is an epic fucking bummer. It begins with a heartbreak that destroys a family, and then the plot degenerates until the very notion of integrity and decency and nobility, along with a kingdom, is destroyed.

The essence of the horror of Lear is expressed by Edgar, the son of an earl who assumes many disguises when his half-brother frames him for treason: “And worse I may be yet. The worst is not / So long as we can say ‘This is the worst.’” (IV, 1).

The characters in Lear never stop talking about their worsening, dreadful fates.

Despite the presence of a clown, who will eventually be hung, offstage, this is not one of those tragedies leavened with comedy. At least it doesn’t feel that way. It’s like Game of Thrones without the wit of Tyrion Lannister or the dragons or the sex.

Hamlet is somewhat likeable, as is Othello, so we can root for them despite knowing how tragedies end. But the folly of King Lear, who decides to retire as king and divest his power between his daughters in a ceremony in which he invites them to out-boast one another in their love for him, feels like too big a burden to bear as viewers. Normally, at least.

Laurence Olivier, in his final performance of Shakespearean work, is another matter

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It took me about 15 years of being a Shakespeare junky to appreciate Olivier. At first, he seemed like the epitome of the unhip, pre-method actor who seemed little more than a vocal instrument. As a result, I don’t worship Olivier, nor do I worship the idea of Olivier (some purist notion of Shakespearean presentation). When I praise him, I do so without nostalgia or sentimentality or Anglo-philia. Generally speaking, he is a bold interpreter of Shakespeare.

Olivier successfully threads the needle of this difficult part: he persuades us that he has been a strong king, but one who is not Machiavellian enough to foresee how the Machiavels in his own family might undo him. He can remind us of a grandparent of advanced age who is emotionally unprepared to deal with the sturm und drang of the world he lives in. The dialectical emotions involved—pride, anger, shame, sorrow—can simultaneously appear in a single line of Lear’s, as delivered by Olivier. And in terms of his gestures, Olivier enacts Lear’s sense of melodrama when his self-image will be denied by his daughters. We see a strong man grow weaker and madder throughout the play.

In the opening scene, Olivier wears a crown so large that it seems commensurate with his grandiose ego. Tanya Moiseiwitsch seemed to have too much fun with that choice.

Michael Elliott’s film was made for television, but we shouldn’t hold that against him.

One of the oddities of this production is the sparse set, which is only one or two notches above minimalist. There is a Stonehenge for the more fateful scenes, and some castle exteriors and a few medieval interiors and one silk-flower forest that may have previously appeared on The Muppet Show. But the lighting is very dark, so that a black background gives the largest color impression on the viewer, and that certainly fits the mood of the story. Because the set is mostly not there, the cheapness of the set seems of little importance (unlike the elaborate, yet unpersuasive sets of [the BBC versions]). Sometimes Shakespeare’s language is quite well-served by placing the work in an abstract imaginary space, as indeed was the case on the Elizabethan stage.

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Dorothy Tutin as Goneril and Dianna Rigg as Regan.

The other actors of this production are also excellent, including the divine Dianna Rigg as Regan, and Leo McKern (Bugenhagen from The Omen!) as Gloucester.

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John Hurt plays the fool, but this is not a memorable performance, but that may be because the part is so disappointing. Feste, in Twelfth Night, now there’s a fool!

The yang to Lear’s ying is Cordelia, and Anna Calder-Marshall accomplishes with Cordelia what Olivier accomplishes with Lear.

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Her Cordelia can foresee the doom that will follow her inability to express her sublime love for her father, and especially to have it counted alongside the purely rhetorical expressions of her older sisters. There is a certain loopy innocence to her performance that makes the performance complexly layered and makes this difficult character rather likeable.

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Lear is not an easy play to watch because it is not an easy play to like, unless you are into S&M without the sex or cool clothes, but Michael Elliott’s version of the play makes such a dire spectacle about as enjoyable and entertaining as can be and offers some unforgettable performances.


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John King (Episode, well, all of them) holds a PhD in English from Purdue University, and an MFA from New York University. He has reviewed performances for Shakespeare Bulletin.

Episode 272: Henry Hughes!

Episode 272 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Henry Hughes

On this week’s show, I talk to the poet and memoirist Henry Hughes about how to get over rejection, poetry, the freedom of ekphrastic work, memoirs, and fishing,

Plus Todd Boss reads his poem, “One of the Joys of Dry Fly Fishing.”

Todd Boss

TEXTS DISCUSSED

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Hughes 2Tough Luck


Episode 272 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Shakespearing #47: The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Shakespearing #47 by David Foley

The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park Production of

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The cult of the Fairy Queen has fallen into disuse, reduced to a remnant of aging votaries who follow her through the woods dressed in white. They serve her gently and lovingly, and why wouldn’t they? She’s not like those other fairy queens, vain and foolish divas, throwing their fairy might around. She’s regal and wise, alive with the sensual poetry of nature. (She’s played by Phylicia Rashad, so that helps.) When she discovers she’s been “enamour’d” of a monster, she’s philosophical, as if acknowledging that love’s madness, even this late in life, can still bite you with an ass.

Midsummer Night's DreamShakespeare in the Park

Phylicia Rashad and Benjamin Ye (center). Credit: Joan Marcus.

Maybe because the fairies are the hardest thing to pull off in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, director Lear deBessonet has reimagined them like this for the current Shakespeare in the Park production. Their fey chirpiness is tamped down, and their joints are too stiff for going “swifter than arrow from the Tartar’s bow,” as Puck puts it. Even Puck, though still up for mischief, gets a little grumpy when asked to go zipping around the world at her age. (There are few more pleasurable sights in New York right now than Kristine Nielsen as Puck clumping around the Delacorte in white pajamas.)

Midsummer Night's DreamShakespeare in the Park

Kyle Beltran, Kristine Nielsen, and Shalita Grant. Credit: Joan Marcus.

When a production works it can be hard to say why. (Easier to say when it doesn’t.) It helps that Midsummer is a sturdy vehicle. Once that purple flower starts wreaking havoc, the thing practically plays itself. Maybe what this production reveals is that, despite the slapstick reversals, there’s something delicate in the play’s mood, and through her understated choices, deBessonet lets that mood sink slowly in. The trees of the forest at first appear Disney green and garish, but there’s a Swiss Family Robinson treehouse above them, from which a jazz singer streams knowing love songs into the night. It’s as if a child’s storyland has been invaded by adult rue and mystery.

Annaleigh Ashford and Alex Hernandez in The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Lear deBessonet, running at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park through August 13. Credit: Joan Marcus.

Midsummer Night's DreamShakespeare in the Park

Annaleigh Ashford and Alex Hernandez. Credit: Joan Marcus.

 

We’re not drenched in melancholy, though. The squabbling lovers are as much fun as ever: sexy and bewildered and ready for a brawl. Funniest is Annaleigh Ashford who plays Helena as, well, a spaz. (More thematic reinforcement: doesn’t unrequited love make spazzes of us all, clumsily dislodging us from the world?) Hermia is small and feisty, as we want her to be; Lysander sweetly romantic; and Demetrius kind of a dick, but a sexy one. None of this messes with the basic formula, and you don’t want it to. You want it served up as pleasurably and entertainingly as possible. The rude mechanicals do their usual shtick, winding up with what is essentially a parody of the ending of Shakespeare’s previous play. No one is going to take the pain of love seriously this time out.

Midsummer Night's DreamShakespeare in the Park

Patrena Murray, Robert Joy, Jeff Hiller, and Danny Burstein. Credit: Joan Marcus.

Instead, Titania and Oberon, trailed by those aging fairies, suggest not so much that it gets better as that it never ends. The pain and craziness and mistakes, the feeling that you’ve been pulled inside out, can happen at any time. So you’ll probably need some moonlight and poetry and jazz to get you through it.

NOTE: The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs through August 13th.


 

David Foley

David Foley is a playwright and fiction writer living in Brooklyn. His plays include Cressida Among the GreeksParadiseNance O’NeilThe Murders at ArgosA Hole in the Fence, and Sad Hotel, among others. His novel The Traveler’s Companion is available on Amazon. He teaches at New York University.

The Curator of Schlock #190: Blood and Black Lace

The Curator of Schlock #190 by Jeff Shuster

Blood & Black Lace

Bava! Bava! Bava!

 It’s August. It’s hot out. I have to do a theme for this month. I know. Let’s do another Giallo Month. I think I read on a “Best Horror Movies for Summer” list somewhere that giallo movies are good for summer because…I don’t remember. Maybe because Italy is hot? It seems like only yesterday when I venturing into the depths of Italian cinema. Actually, it was June. I covered poliziotteschi movies. I’ve tried to forget about that month, tried to forget about that poor little boy getting shot to death so that rich little boy’s daddy would pay the ransom! Gwaaaah! This world is a living hell!! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…

Uh. Where was I? Oh, yes. Tonight’s movie is the Mario Bava classic from 1964, Blood and Black Lace.

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I’ve got a bit of history with this movie. Years ago I bought a two disc special edition DVD of the film which was anything, but special. It had one of the worst transfers I’d ever seen for a movie on DVD. I’d seen VHS tapes than this faded, discolored print. I was so distracted by the shoddiness of this transfer, trying to envision what the Technicolor glory of the motion picture once was, that I couldn’t pay attention to the plot. 

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Turner Classic Movies aired Blood and Black Lace last October and I figured I’d record it to watch at a later date. I decide to watch it. Ron Perlman introduces the movie, calling it one of the earliest slasher movies. The movie starts and I am transfixed by the restored, beauty of the transfer, deep reds, purples, and greens painted with light that only a master like Bava could conceive. This Technicolor marvel proves so distracting that I start losing the plot right off the bat. 

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Blood and Black Lace is a whodunit at some kind of fashion school or company. The cast is well-dressed and well-coifed group, beautiful models and fashion designers. It stars Cameron Mitchell, a name I know I should be familiar with, but am not. There’s a guy wearing gray trench coat and gray fedora who’s murdering the women of this model agency. You can’t see his face because it’s wrapped up in some kind of tarp. There’s a particularly gruesome scene of him taking one of the model hands and pressing it against a hot cauldron.          

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It’s about this time that I get that itch, the itch to seek this movie out again to add it to my private library, do it right this time.

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Arrow Video has a restored Blu-ray of Blood & Black Lace. Ooh. They have a Steelbook. I always feel funny about buying Steelbooks. They’re so nice to look at, but I always worry about damaging them so I end up removing the Blu-rays and using a separate case for them with a fake cover I printed out from the Internet. I have a DVD obsession. I caught a video on YouTube last night. A camera crew enters the home middle-aged British guy, stuck living in a one-bedroom flat. Piles of books and VHS tapes are strewn around the apartment.  He can’t bear to part with any of them. He says the apartment is closing in one him. I imagine myself one day swimming in a sea shiny discs, a collection that will never be complete.

How wonderful.

_______

Jeffrey Shuster 4

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Episode 271: Mixtape #9 (Summer Overtime Blues)

Episode 271 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I curate more blues music that has sustained me in this summer of working too hard.
Mixtape 9


Episode 271 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #189: Rambo III

The Curator of Schlock #189 by Jeff Shuster

Rambo III

Rambo versus the USSR!

 No blog last week. My MacBook power cord went kaput right before I started the review. This means no Rambo IV review this month. It’s like the fates are trying to prevent me from reviewing Rambo IV, the best Rambo movie. That’s the one where he goes into Burma to rescue a bunch of namby-pamby do-gooders. I think one of them gets fed to a hog. Why would anyone want to eat a pig after it’s feasted on human flesh? I mean, there’s sick and there’s sick. I’ll touch on this more one day, but we’ll wrap up Patriots Month with Rambo III.

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Rambo III begins with John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) hanging out in Thailand. He keeps getting into stick fights with local street fighters, winning big money that he forks over to Buddhist monks. He’s also been helping them build a temple while enjoying the quiet life. Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) shows up, asking Rambo to help him smuggle weapons to freedom fighters in Afghanistan. Rambo says no! He’s done his time! Maybe he’s still bitter about being left to die by the United States government in the last movie. Colonel Trautman gives some speech about how Rambo was a born fighter and that he just chiseled him to perfection or something to that effect. Rambo says no again, and Trautman leaves Rambo to his life of peace and tranquility. 

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Colonel Traitman goes off to Afghanistan where his delivery of weapons to local Afghani freedom fighters goes awry. Trautman’s men are killed and he’s taken prisoner by…wait for it…THE SOVIETS! Yes, the evil empire has invaded Afghanistan, making life hell for the tribes living there.

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Their leader is the evil Colonel Alexie Zaysen (Marc de Jonge). His name reminds me of Count Zar Zon, the villain from Starcrash. Huh? According to Wikipedia, his name was Count Zarth Arn. That name is stupid.

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Also, in the trailer for Starcrash, Christopher Plummer clearly states his name as Zar Zon. He was played by Joe Spinell. 

Joe Spinell was also in Maniac. That was the movie where Joe Spinell plays a maniac living in New York City.

Rambo3-7Caroline Munro was in that movie. She was dating Joe Spinell’s character in that movie. Caroline Munro also played Stella Star in Starcrash. Kind of funny how she was the love interest for Joe Spinell in Maniac, but was his arch nemesis in Starcrash.

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Neither of these actors star in Rambo III. You might be wondering where I’m going with this and I don’t know. I’ve lost the plot.

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Okay. I have to wrap this up. Rambo saunters off to Afghanistan to rescue his former CO. He befriends a street urchin named Hamid, plays toss the sheep with the Mujahideen, kills some Soviets, rams a tank into a chopper, and guts the leader of the Burmese army like a fish. Yeah, you see his guts fall out and everything! Oh wait! That was the end of Rambo IV also known as John Rambo also known as Rambo. It’s late. I’m tired. Before I go, an obituary. 


 George Romero

February 4th, 1940 to July 16, 2017

George (1) 

For many people, and myself, George Romero was the gatekeeper to the modern horror movie. Frankly, one could argue he invented the genre. His Living Dead trilogy is my favorite trilogy of all time. I covered Dawn of the Dead. I will get to the other two someday. And I will watch Knightriders. Rest in peace, George. You will be missed.


 

Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.