“Choke! Gasp!” Not A Podcast! Not Comics! No, Films! Hey, It's Free!

Hey, I remembered there's no podcast this week! Just so you don't miss out on your free content I banged some words down about three films. It has nothing to do with comics at all. Nor sense. But I did it for you because I care. Anyway, I hope Messrs Lester and McMillan are having a right old knees up or whatever they are doing. And I hope you all find some tiny distraction in the words which follow.

Bit of a rush job here again so, y'know, not even a picture before the "more". Slacking, innit. Sort it out!

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD (2007) Directed by Sidney Lumet Written by Kelly Masterson Original music by Carter Burwell Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman (Andy), Ethan Hawke (Hank), Albert Finney (Charles) and Marisa Tomei (Gina)


My hopes weren't too high for this one what with it being Sidney Lumet’s final film and also it being about a “botched heist”. Chances were high it was going to be some kind of geriatric attempt at a Tarantino-type pop culture and profanity doohickey. You know, a film about other films. Being old, there’s a limit to how many films I can watch about how many films the filmmaker has watched, and I reached that limit in about 1996. Charmingly Mr. Lumet seems to have made a film about people. How quaint! Oh, don’t worry they are odious and repellent people and their morally bankrupt antics send them into a downward spiral which is quite hard to watch at times. Lumet tests his audience’s resolve from the off by immediately attacking your eyes with the image of Philip Seymour Hoffman enthusiastically trying to shove himself inside Marisa Tomei, which is a bit like seeing an articulated lorry repeatedly rear ending a shopping trolley. After that you’ll be pleased to hear everything gets worse for everybody.  There's a nicely tricksy time structure to Masterson's (excellent) script that makes the inevitability of everything even more psychologically claustrophobic.  The whole ordeal left me feeling grubby, upset and a little bit less hopeful for the future of the human race. Which is VERY GOOD! because I am a chirpy rascal and no mistake.

44-INCH CHEST(2009) Directed by Malcolm Venville Written by Louis Mellis & David Scinto Original music by Angelo Badalamenti Starring Ray Winstone (Colin Diamond), Ian McShane (Meredith), John Hurt (Old Man Peanut), Tom Wilkinson (Archie), Stephen Dillane (Mal) and Joanne Whalley (Liz Diamond)


I only give him a tap and he’s sparked right out. You clear the upstairs but don’t mess on the bed like last time, it’s dirty and there’s no real need. Here, he was typing summat. It says here, right, it says here, “I like good dialogue and I’m pretty enamoured of wilfully baroque banter that draws attention to its artificiality while also inexplicably appearing to be naturalistic. While light on plot the film succeeds due to the excellence of the cast and the almost epicurean pleasure they take in the words which they roll around their reliable mouths… ”. What’s that about, eh, what’s he on about there, tell me that why don’t you. Sounds like one of them la-di-dah college types, don’t he now? Like a right royal wanker. Hang on, let me get this lit. Better. Bad for me, what are you, me nan. Sell ‘em in sweet shops don’t they, can’t be bad then. Kids and shit, see. Me uncle Ted smoked two packs a day all his life, where’s the harm, eh. Course he died at twelve. Just messing, little joke there. Lightening the mood and that. Hey, I seen this film on dodgy from Big Ted Nutkin down the car boot. Not really stealing is it. Guess what this film is full of. Words, pal. Chocka, in fact. Knoworrimean. Think Pinter, think Little Marty Amis. Nowhere near as good but that’s what they’re after. Think nasty men in a crappy room smacking a dishy waiter around ‘cos he went and diddled one of their missusses. The cheek, diddling a missus. Not so cheeky now, is he? Nor her neither. Can’t have that. Actions have consequences, girl, and no mistake. Could be a dream cunnit, or a whassit, a psychodrama thing. Bout misogyny, y’know, men and women, all that business. Feminist rubbish, innit, everyone loves their old Mum. Or maybe it’s a bunch of top actors effing and jeffing and smacking a bloke about for a bit. Think what you want, son. Free world and all that. Right, he’s coming around, get the silver and let’s f*** off out of it. What? VERY GOOD!, do I have to spell everything out, you total c***.

SPEEDWAY CHIMP (1964) Directed by Richard Thorpe Written by Alan Weiss Original music by Joseph J. Lilley Songs performed by Elvis Presley Starring Elvis Presley (Chet Flip), Sylvia Gams (Mahogony Weatherbee), Bill Bixby (Danny Bridle), Walter Matthau (Chet Flip Snr), Angel Lansbury (Talulah Flip) with Disraeli (Chitters The Chimp)


One for Elvis completists here as it's only available to subscribers of the Journal of Official King Ephemera. Speedway Chimp was abandoned during post production due to the death of Sylia Gams during filming, in circumstances described by Variety as "inexplicable" and "uncouth". The surviving footage has been newly restored and re-mastered by MGM and released on this once-in-a-lifetime collector's disc. Fans of Elvis' cinematic oeuvre will be cock-a-hoop to learn that this is another knockabout sing-a-long romp no-brainer from Elvis the Entertainer! The King plays a half-Cherokee, half-Hawaiian, half tree stump heir to a soda pop fortune, who escapes the responsibilities he is soon to inherit by joining a travelling speedway circus. Chet soon finds a pal in the person of jolly jackanape Danny Bridle but the pair's good natured japes attract only disdain from tomboy mechanic Mahogony Weatherbee. To win her reluctant heart Chet enters a Singing Speedway-Burn-Off . Complicating matters somewhat it turns out that Chitters The Chimp has witnessed a mafia killing and in order to keep him safe Chet must pretend he is his pillion pal! He's got a lot of wooin' to do! He's got a lot of animal witness protecting to do! And Elvis may just have the songs to do it all! An EXCELLENT! film  to lift the hearts of anyone who is very easily pleased indeed. Anthony Lane gushed, “This is awful. Please take it away.” Pauline Kael declared it “The death of Cinema. With songs.Featuring the songsGirl Surprise!”, “You Can’t Peel A Banana In A Sports Car”, “Flingin’ Shit”, "Dance You Little Bastard, Dance!" and “Speedway Chimp (Cha-Cha-Cha)".

Have a simply splendid week, my darlings! Cheers and all that stuff.

(I would like to make it clear that I did not get 44-INCH CHEST from the car boot. I watched it from the rental shop and paid sterling to do so.)

"Choke! Gasp!" Not A Podcast! Not Comics! Nothing To See Here. Move Along Now, Please.

If I recall correctly then this Tuesday the lovable light entertainers Mr. Jeff Lester and Mr. Graeme McMillan will not be with us this evening. Now I know you've all travelled a long way tonight and so, in an effort to avoid rioting, their part tonight will be played by me. Photobucket

Mr. Jeff Lester And Graeme McMillan In Happier Times.

Not available on iTunes! Uninteresting and self-indulgent free content available only at The Savage Critics!

THE COMPLETE POEMS OF PHILIP LARKIN By Philip Larkin Edited by Professor Archie Burnett 768 pages, Faber and Faber, £40.00 (2012)


As the delightfully demure Mr. Brian Hibbs has pointed out in his past comments comics and poetry share many qualities. He was speaking from a primarily retail perspective because, and I don’t know if he’s ever told anyone this but, that’s what he DOES! I’m no retailer, just a reader but from a reader’s perspective I can tell you that poetry and comics are also like comics. In fact I will tell you.

For starters this particular volume illustrates that poetry, like comics, is always being repackaged and resold. Only last year I bought a Larkin collection and here I am buying another. And the one I bought last time wasn't the first one I’d bought either. Hopefully this will be the last time as, unless the title is a big fat lie, this is a complete collection of verse from the most gifted librarian to be employed by The University of Hull. It should be the last time because the dour genius’ papers have been gone over by academics so thoroughly you’d think they were looking for clues to Lord Lucan’s whereabouts. It should definitely be the last time since Larkin died in 1985 and his output has slackened off somewhat since then.

A fair indication of the completeness of the contents is given by the contents page which lists: The (previously collected)Poems, Other Poems Published In The Poet’s Lifetime, Poem’s Not Published In The Poet’s Lifetime and Updated or Approximately Dated Poems. Unless we’re going to start employing mediums to bring back Poems The Poet Thought About Doing But Didn't then, yes, this should be as complete as it gets. It’s probably going to be as comprehensive as it gets as well since the poems end on p.329 and the rest of the book is composed of Commentary and Appendices where Professor Archie Burnett gets to strut his funky stuff.

Now to fit all that nutritious Knowledge in there and not have the book become even bigger and even pricier one interesting change has been made to the poems. Throughout the book the poems follow directly on from each other. Directly. Now, again like comics, it is quite important how the poem looks on the page. It’s not as important as the content of the poem of course but still the cluttered effect of these pages is a bit unfortunate if necessary. Yes, all across the globe poetry fans will be reading this book and then clustering together to politely but insistently engage in what is basically exactly the same process as comics fans getting aerated over the colouring changes in the new FLEX MENTALLO collection.

So, while the poems are as accessible in their wonderfully disheartening and exhilarating glory as ever the rest of the book is a bit elbow patches and chalk dust. This is just a pissy way of me intimating that I haven’t actually finished the book while at the same time needlessly denigrating the sterling work of Professor Archie Burnett for the sake of a cheap laugh. Sometimes my lack of class appals even me.

It’s The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin so how could it be less than EXCELLENT!

THE BALLAD OF BALLARD AND SANDRINE By Peter Straub 92 pages, Subterranean Press, £15.00 (2012)


From what I can gather for the last few years Straub has been troubled by ill-health and that certainly explains the variable quality in his recent novels and a seeming shift towards the shorter forms of fiction. Which is what this is an example of and that’s just fine because the short form seems to suit Straub best at this stage of the game. Throughout his long career Straub’s early poetic ambitions have informed his fiction via a truly remarkable talent for using the most seemingly innocuous of language to achieve the most devastating of effects. Reading this one was like chatting to a well-groomed scholarly looking type only for him to lean in at the last and whisper something you only barely comprehend but the foulness of which is so evident that it sticks to your brain like shit to a straw mat. Since I’m a bit of an odd bod that made this VERY GOOD!

TARZAN: THE LOST ADVENTURE By Edgar Rice Burroughs and Joe R. Lansdale Illustrations by Studley O. Burroughs, Gary Gianni, Michael Kaluta, Monty Sheldon, Charles Vess and Thomas Yeates Preface by George T. McWhorter 211 pages, Dark Horse Books, £14.99, (1995)


I don’t know about you (I really don’t, sometimes it’s like I don’t even know you) but if I picked up a book in which Joe R. Lansdale completed an unfinished Tarzan fragment left behind by Edgar Rice Burroughs when he died I’d expect one of those prefaces. You know the ones? The ones that are pretty much composed of oleaginous bullshit and make you angry at the waste of your time and the lack of respect shown for the reader’s intelligence. This preface isn't like that. Oh, it wants to be and it tries so hard to be but, seriously, George T. McWhorter is the curator of the Burroughs Memorial Collection and although he tries to hide it it’s clear he clearly don’t cotton none too much to this Joe R Lansdale fella. It’s pretty funny. I mean Mr. McWhorter is trying to be a real sport but, damn, he just can’t hide it. Look at this,

Mr. Lansdale…met the challenge head on and conquered…the prose reads fluently and the story now has a beginning, a middle, and an end that hold’s the readers attention.”

The switch from “conquered” to a list of quite mundane accomplishments is pretty revealing isn't it? Possibly more so than the bit where he chunters on about Lansdale’s incorrect usage of “pole vault”. Look, he might not have been entirely pleased by the enterprise but Mr. McWhorter’s honesty pleased me. Alas, Mr. McWhorter is clearly no comic fan as he describes luminaries such as Kaluta, Gianni and Yeates who provide illustrations as "competent artists".They are far more than that and the spot illos. and chapter headings they provide are, as ever with these men, things of joy.


As for the story, well, I’m not really up on my Burroughs but I am up on my Lansdale and I can safely say that any Lansdale fan will be pleased as punch with the results. It’s got all the deadpan humour, savage violence and bizarre creatures one could want from the master of modern pulp. I particularly enjoyed the part where Tarzan senses danger and spins round to snatch an arrow out of the air and, without halting his momentum a jot, spins to release it and sends it straight back. It’s a totally implausible moment lent total plausibility by Lansdale’s earthy approach. On the whole though I’d guess Burroughs’ Tarzan wasn't this sarcastic and less people in the original books commented on the fact that he walked about in just his ‘pants’. But it is Tarzan in the jungle doing his jungly thing so I guess, on balance, fans would be pleased, if not entirely satisfied, by the final outing for the vine swinging one. A bit like George T. McWhorter in fact. Me, I like The Lansdale, I like the artists and I like The Pulp so I thought it was GOOD!

Because this is a comics blog I thought what could be more natural than to talk about three Sean Connery films made before most of your parents were even born. This is what you want!

ZARDOZ (1974) Directed by John Boorman Written by John Boorman Starring Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestleman and John Alderton


"The Penis is evil!" (Zardoz speaks Truth in the motion picture presentation ZARDOZ.)

The best way to watch ZARDOZ is just to watch ZARDOZ. If at all possible you should have a friend or loved one purchase the film and load it into your player without you even seeing the box. Going in cold will really pay off for the first-time viewer. Messrs Lester and McMillan have already sung this film’s praises on podcasts past so you know it is worth a look. Well, they may not have sung its praises exactly but they pretty much described it as what would happen if Jack Kirby’s NEW GODS was produced by a traumatised adolescent. Actually the best way to watch ZARDOZ is when you are fourteen and your Mum and Dad are asleep and it’s just you, the TV, a box of tissues and a hunting knife. Some people think ZARDOZ is EXCELLENT! Some people think ZARDOZ is CRAP! In the end though it can only be that which it is and it is ZARDOZ!

THE OFFENCE (1972) Directed by Sidney Lumet Screenplay by John Hopkins based on his stage play This Story of Yours Starring Sean Connery, Trevor Howard, Vivien Merchant and Ian Bannen


In 1965 Lumet, Connery, Bannen and Howard delivered the powerfully unsettling film THE HILL. Set in a British army prison in WW2 it’s a B/W masterpiece that drags you in and on to an ending you’ll want, like the camera itself, to look away from. You might want to watch that before this one because as harsh as that one is this one bites. THE OFFENCE is set in the’7os of my frolicsome youth and Lumet’s quietly innovative film accurately depicts that land of vicious banality, sheepskin coats and hastily scoffed fish suppers troughed in newsprint wilting in perpetual drizzle. Connery plays a copper whose soul is so eroded and his self so stained that in his struggle to function he’s become something he can’t even acknowledge from the corners of his thuggish mind. When a child goes missing and a suspect is found an unbearable man will face truths he cannot bear. And outside the rain persists regardless. It’s probably the performance Connery should be remembered for but won’t be because remembering it is painful. If you ‘enjoyed’ David Peace’s knock-a-bout Red Riding Trilogy books then this film is right up your cobbled and un-lit alley. THE OFFENCE is the kind of film that rightly attracts words like blistering, powerful, unforgettable, upsetting and miserable and because I am a regular laughing boy that makes it EXCELLENT!

Hopefully next week Mr. Jeff Lester will have finished scourging his body with a diet consisting solely of bird seed and motor oil and Mr. Graeme McMillan will have stopped hiding from his Mother-in-Law. Or whatever it is they are doing.

Me, I’m done. Time to read some COMICS!!!