Kendra Steiner Editions

March 27, 2017

GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH (Italy-France, 1961), starring Don Megowan and Livio Lorenzon

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 6:33 pm

GUNS 1

GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH, aka IL TERRORE DEI MARI

Italy-France 1961, released in the USA by American International in Dec. 1961

starring Don Megowan, Emma Danieli, Silvana Pampanini, and Livio Lorenzon

Directed by Domenico Paolella

GUNS 2

This morning on the drive to work, I was listening to a Document Records CD of 78’s recorded by blues pianist/vocalist/songwriter Roosevelt Sykes, recorded in the late 1940’s. As I listened to the 26-track CD, it became very clear that these songs were recorded with the jukebox market in mind. Sykes was a popular recording artist at that time, so he may well have released 4 or 5 singles a year, and those singles went on to jukeboxes for a month or two at a time. Many songs were about drinking, or about the decisions one makes after drinking, or about reasons to drink. Others were based on a catchy novelty phrase, which would have gone over well with an audience who’d already had a few. The original audience would hear these records TWO SONGS AT A TIME at a bar, and those two songs would have been on the bar jukebox for a month or two. That’s how the original audience would have enjoyed them…not on a 26-track CD, one after the other, in a car during a morning commute. Of course, it’s great to have them in this format, and as the music is excellent, it is providing joy to listeners long after Mr. Sykes has passed away. However, it is of value to consider the ORIGINAL CONTEXT of the appreciation and enjoyment of an artistic/entertainment product.

The film GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH, made in Italy/France and featuring American film and television star DON MEGOWAN, did play the US widely when it was released by American International in late 1962 (and posters and lobby cards for that US release are not hard to find today), and was released in both color and widescreen. Surely, a copy of that color and scope print must exist somewhere, but no copy that I know of has begun circulation “in collectors circles,” as we say.

However, most Americans who eventually saw this film probably saw it on television, on a local station or a low-power UHF station, perhaps in the middle of the night….and if that showing was pre-1975, they probably saw it in BLACK AND WHITE. The circulating copy (at least in North America) of the film is a B&W TV pan-and-scan print, meaning the color widescreen image of the original film is in monochrome AND you are only seeing the middle 50% of the image. However, that’s how we saw many of these films back in the day, AND we saw them on relatively small TV screens. My parents may have had a 21″ screen when I was growing up, but when I finally had my own TV as a teenager, it was a 13″ portable, and I was lucky to have it.

We fans of European historical genre-films of the late 50’s and early 60’s have been spoiled in recent years by the beautiful color and widescreen versions that have dropped into grey-market circulation from European cable-TV broadcasts and European DVD releases….but the way I originally saw films such as this was in small screen pan-and-scan black and white. Thus, the copy of GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH which I own–a DVD-R burn of the same B&W, P&S print I had a VHS dupe of 20 years ago–can be of value in reminding me of how I, and many other people, developed a taste for dubbed European historical films through TV viewings back in the 60’s and 70’s. Younger readers need to be reminded that in the pre-Cable TV world (even before the pre-Internet world), most people had the choice of 5 or 6 TV stations at most: 3 network stations, perhaps a PBS station, and then maybe a few independent and/or UHF stations. The latter were usually low-power and sometimes came in a bit “snowy.” Indie and UHF stations programmed a LOT of both older American B-moves and dubbed European films, and a lot of people watched them. I would guess that a higher percentage of Americans would have watched a European film (I’m not counting films from the UK) back then, when European genre films regularly played American theaters and especially American TV, in any 3-month period, compared with now, when there are 1000 cable channels to choose from. And it would NOT be the kind of people who would go to art-film theaters–it would be genre film fans, who’d be watching a crime film or a pirate film or a western.

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

(the UK double-bill where GUNS was paired with THE PHANTOM PLANET!)

 I reviewed this film originally in 2003 (14 years ago), and here is that review:

good 60’s Italian pirate swashbuckler

10 August 2003 

The beginning sequences, about how the abuse of the Spanish led the buccaneers to organize to defend themselves, give this early 60s Italian swashbuckler an interesting spin and help to get things moving and create motivation and sympathy for buccaneer leader Don Megowan (first seen played by a child, depicting the childhood incidents that led him to become what he did). Director Domenico Paolella helmed fine peplum, spy, western, and giallo films and this little-known film is another feather in his cap. Star Don Megowan, an American best known for roles in Westerns and science fiction films in the late 50s and early 60s (he seems to have made only two films in Europe–this one and another called valley of the doomed, with Hildegard Knef, which is quite distinctive and highly recommended), cuts a strong, tough figure and was an excellent choice for the role (it’s a shame he made no Italian westerns). Other faces such as Phillipe Hersent and Livio Lorenzon will be familiar to any fan of Italian early-60s genre films. This actually received an American theatrical release, and according to the AFI it was released in color and in widescreen. Unfortunately, the copy circulating among collectors is a panned and scanned b&w print no doubt made for TV. Also, the European release is listed as 13 minutes longer than the American release. I would imagine the film would be much better in color and in widescreen and I only hope that with the growing market for 1960s European genre films on DVD in their original format will cause someone to restore and release GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH in its full glory. Until then, and I don’t expect that time will be soon, the film is worth watching for fans of the genre. The director’s next film was WOMEN OF DEVIL’S ISLAND, starring Guy Madison (and prior to GUNS, Paolella worked with Lex Barker–after Devil’s Island, he worked with Richard Harrison on Avenger of the Seven Seas). Color, scope 35mm prints of this must be out there somewhere from the film’s US release. Let’s hope someone finds one and transfers it.

GUNS 4

Watching the film again now in 2017, I’m just as impressed as I was in 2003 (and as I undoubtedly was when I saw it on TV on a low-power UHF station in the late 60’s or early 70’s)….and as I’m watching it in B&W in a butchered version, I can see how despite its alteration for American TV, it still manages to impress. Remember, many of the classics of 50s and 60’s rock and roll were first heard on tiny, tinny transistor radios by most people–yet their power came through IN SPITE of that. Leading man Don Megowan, who reminds me of Rod Cameron with a twist of Rock Hudson, makes a strong impression here as does villain Livio Lorenzon—-with or without color or widescreen. Much of the film takes place on ships or on the coast right near the ocean, something many low-budget pirate films cheat on (but not this one), and the castles and historical buildings look quite different from anything Americans are used to seeing here. The costumes look quite different from those seen in American swashbuckling films, and the balls at the Spanish Governor’s Palace also look quite different from what they’d look like had the film been American-made. Thus, it had quite an exotic appeal to that person watching it at 2 a.m. on TV in Kansas or Alabama or Idaho after eight hours of security-guarding or factory work, and it went perfectly with a tallboy of Miller or Pabst. The film also delivers the goods in terms of fights, sea battles, swordplay, and action of all kinds. There is that archetypal plot device of one brother selling out and betraying the other, And lest I forget, this is a film where the pirates (oh, they call themselves Buccaneers, you should know) are the heroes, and the Spaniards are the heavies (no wonder this was an Italian-French co-production, with no Spanish involvement)—-the background for this is spelled out in the film’s first ten minutes, where Spanish aggression and tyranny basically FORCE the locals in the Caribbean to take up arms against the Spaniards to make any kind of living. That is certainly an untypical approach.

GUNS 5

As someone who has seen MANY European swashbuckling adventures of the late 1950s and early 1960s, I would have to rate GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH rather highly among them. Maybe someday in this lifetime I will have the opportunity to see the film in color and widescreen, but even without that, it satisfies, and seeing it in B&W and pan-and-scan reminds me of what about this genre appealed to me originally, when this mediocre format was how I saw ALL the films of this type…..as did millions of other genre-film loving Americans. most of whom may not even remember their enjoyment of such films as they now watch NETFLIX or the offerings on Amazon Prime. Me, I’m standing by Captain Jean, as played by DON MEGOWAN, and the crew of the Black Witch, rooting for him as he takes on Spanish villain Livio Lorenzon in the film’s climactic sword-fight…..and feeling vindicated as he triumphs and the credits roll. I wonder what’s up tomorrow night on Channel 27 at 2 a.m.? Could it possibly be as satisfying as GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH? We’ll have to see….

GUNS 6


OTHER RECOMMENDED FILMS STARRING DON MEGOWAN:

DON 1

DON M 2

March 16, 2017

now available: FOSSILS and BILL SHUTE re-team for “FLORIDA NOCTURNE REVISITED” (KSE #362)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 10:23 am

new interpretations of Bill Shute’s 2012 “Florida Nocturne Poems” with Canada’s free-improv/noise masters FOSSILS

BILL FOSSILS FLORIDA 2

FOSSILS & BILL SHUTE

FLORIDA NOCTURNE REVISITED (KSE #362, CDR album)

contains the pieces

SHADES OF NIGHT DESCENDING

MONDO DAYTONA

 PEACH COBBLER IN THE POKER ROOM

JUPITER IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR

—————————

FOSSILS ARE

Daniel Farr and David Payne

Texts and vocal, Bill Shute

Music recorded in Hamilton, ON

Poetry tracks recorded in Austin, TX by Marcus M. Rubio

issued March 2017

—————

Longtime readers will remember the four poetry chapbooks in the FLORIDA NOCTURNE POEMS sequence, composed during my Summer 2012 “writing vacation” in Central Florida. For a number of reasons, I will never forget that sojourn. First, it was very satisfying and covered a lot of territory–and much of my writing happened at dog-tracks. Second, I passed through Sanford, Florida, and it was soon after the tragic Trayvon Martin shooting there. Third, on the last day of that trip, in a Jacksonville (a city with more police presence than I’ve ever seen) motel across the street from a Bob Evans restaurant, I received a call telling me that my mother had passed away.

In 2014, FOSSILS and I created an album mixing their sound sculpture with my 2012 Florida poems, alternating music and poetry. That album was well-received and we were very happy with it. Now, we present a NEW interpretation of the Florida Nocturne Poems with FOSSILS sound sculpture woven into the poems themselves (or is it that the poem texts are woven into the FOSSILS sound fabric–probably both), not presented separately.

As I listen to these tracks, I feel that these poems perfectly capture what I was trying to do….and what I am still doing in my present works. The collage of image and incident is peppered with just the right amount of each element, and the shards are placed into suspension to create the perfect assemblage. If you are not familiar with my work, this would be a good place to start. The themes I dealt with in 2012, alas, are even more relevant today. And when you weave these readings into the rich and deeply-textured FOSSILS sound sculptures—-which are heavily percussive and also include found sounds and conversation—-you have a sensory experience rooted in the heat and humidity of Central Florida in the summer.

Whatever people may think of this product, I can assure you no one else is doing anything remotely like it. Fossils and I have tossed this message in a bottle on to the polluted ocean of 2016 society. Let it wash up on your shore, open the bottle, and give it a try….

CDR albums $8 postpaid in the USA

CDR albums $18 outside the USA (note: any 2 albums for $20 outside USA–after the first two, extra KSE albums are only $8 each postpaid overseas)

send payment via paypal to django5722 (at) yahoo (dot) com

(and leave a note with paypal telling us which albums you are ordering and also your mailing address….thanks!)

other CDR albums available (same price as above):

KSE 11th ANNIVERSARY ALBUM (KSE #370), CDR album featuring new and exclusive material recorded especially for this project from JEN HILL     –     MATTHEW REVERT & VANESSA ROSSETTO     –     BRIAN RURYK    –    JOHN BELL     –     MASSIMO MAGEE     –     MORE EAZE     –     FOSSILS     –  LISA CAMERON & ERNESTO DIAZ-INFANTE     –     STEVE FLATO

KSE #363 (CDR) ALFRED 23 HARTH’s BERLIN ENSEMBLES

KSE #355 (CDR), MORE EAZE, “wOrk”

KSE #357 (CDR), SMOKEY EMERY / VENISON WHIRLED, “turning into”

KSE #359 (CDR), TOM CREAN & MATT ROBIDOUX, “blank space”

KSE #353 (CDR), FOSSILS, “Camelot Towers”

KSE #336 (CDR), ALFRED 23 HARTH, “Kepler 452b Edition”

KSE #351 (CDR), MASSIMO MAGEE, “Music In 3 Spaces”

KSE #350 (CDR) ANTHONY GUERRA / BILL SHUTE, “Subtraction” KSE reissue of album originally released in 2011 on Black Petal Records, Australia 

KSE #335 (CDR album), REVEREND RAYMOND BRANCH, “Rainbow Gospel Hour…On The Air!”—a wonderful hour-long AM-radio broadcast, mastered from cassette, capturing the warmth and joy of Rev. Branch in both music (lots of it) and spoken message

KSE #334 (CDR album), BRIAN RURYK, “Actual Size…degress again” (sic)

KSE #333 (CDR album), ERNESTO DIAZ-INFANTE, “Tunnels” solo 12-string acoustic mantra guitar

KSE #331, “KSE 10th ANNIVERSARY ALBUM” featuring newly recorded, exclusive tracks from members of the KSE family: ALFRED 23 HARTH,  SARAH HENNIES, RAMBUTAN, VANESSA ROSSETTO, ERNESTO DIAZ-INFANTE, DEREK ROGERS, BRENT FARISS, MATT KREFTING, GRAHAM LAMBKIN, and MASSIMO MAGEE

KSE #328, LISA CAMERON & NATHAN BOWLES, “Liquid Sunshine” percussion duo

KSE #326, MORE EAZE (aka Marcus M. Rubio), “Abandoning Finitude”….cover art by Bob Bruno

KSE #318, ALFRED 23 HARTH & JOHN BELL, “Camellia”

KSE #310,  MORE EAZE (Marcus M. Rubio), “Accidental Prizes”

KSE #293, MORE EAZE (Marcus M. Rubio), “Stylistic Deautomatization” (reissued)

——————————————————————–

POETRY CHAPBOOKS AVAILABLE PRESENTLY FROM KSE, all in hand-made editions under 50 copies:

KSE #368 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Find A Place To Die”

KSE #367 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Left-Handed Cherubs”

KSE #354 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Revelation In Slow Motion”

KSE #364 (poetry chapbook), LUIS CUAUHTEMOC BERRIOZABAL, “Make The Light Mine”

KSE #352 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Bridge on the Bayou”

chapbooks are $6 postpaid in the US, $7 postpaid elsewhere

As always, thank you for support of independent, non-aligned artists and arts organizations such as Kendra Steiner Editions….now in our 12th year of operation, from here in San Antonio, Texas

In a few weeks we’ll be starting up the new music releases for 2017, and there are A LOT of surprises coming and a strong release schedule of about a dozen albums for the year….the first being a stunning new creation from San Diego-based composer A.F. JONES….stay tuned for that….

March 15, 2017

La Gerusalemme liberata (a.k.a. The Mighty Crusaders), directed by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia (Italy 1958)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 8:45 am

La Gerusalemme liberata (a.k.a. The Mighty Crusaders)

directed by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia

released in Italy/France/Germany in 1958, in the USA in 1961

starring Francisco Rabal, Sylva Koscina, Gianna Maria Canale, Rik Battaglia, and Philippe Hersent

inspired by Torquato Tasso’s epic poem La Gerusalemme Liberata/Jerusalem Delivered (1581)

mighty 5

The print reviewed is a letterboxed English-dubbed version of the French release LA MURAILLE DE FEU (The Wall Of Fire–a title that makes sense when you see the entire film)

MIGHTY 1

Here’s a film I recently acquired  that I’ve never before seen offered in grey-market/collectors circles. With a superb cast and based on an Italian epic poem from the 1500’s (which I read a Canto or two of decades ago when studying Edmund Spenser), it’s set in the year 1099 as Christian forces attempt to take Jerusalem from Islamic forces. It’s very much in the old-school style of the Italian historical epic films of the late 1940’s and the 1950’s, prior to the release of the Steve Reeves “Hercules” film which changed the genre significantly. This was released as THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS (that title was revived in the 1960’s by Archie Comics during its short-lived venture into super-heroes, and the title was picked up by DC Comics briefly in the early 1990’s) in the US by a small company, Falcon, in 1961, and from the poster above, you can see that it was sold as a spectacle, riding on the coat-tails of the various 50’s Biblical epics and of the two Reeves Hercules films. Anyone who came to see the film based on that poster would probably be satisfied, as the hyperbole in the poster’s claims is based on a kernel of fact in each example.

When the film opens, the Christian forces (under leader Godfrey, played by Philippe Hersent) are working on a series of gigantic movable towers, which will be rolled on logs to the Moslem fortresses where they are to be used in battle, and then we are introduced to the usual court/military intrigue on both sides. While the back-and-forth machinations of the military strategy provide a good amount of drama, much of the film’s (and the poem’s) plot is given over to affairs of the heart–not one relationship, but two (or even three, depending on how one counts). Tancred (Francisco “Paco” Rabal) from the Christian side has fallen in love with  Clorinda (Sylva Koscina, this film was made earlier in the same year she co-starred with Steve Reeves in HERCULES, incidentally) from the Moslem side, who is being held as a prisoner to be used in a prisoner swap. At the same time, we have another romance crossing sides with Rinaldo (Rik Battaglia) being enticed by and falling for Armida, a higher-up in the Moslem leadership (note: both of these women are fighters and strategists of a sort, actually engaging in physical battles–not the usual “damsels in distress” one sees too often in this kind of product), who wants to defeat Rinaldo and the Christians but who also fights against her falling for him. We are never really sure how that will wind up. Add to that another young woman prisoner who is smitten with Tancred and is willing, at times, to sabotage her own side for it, and you’ve got enough romance and intrigue to keep this film interesting for its relatively short 90 minute running time (my print is 86, it’s listed on the IMDB as 91, and there are a few too-quick transitions here and there which suggest minor cuts to trim the running time).

I’ve never cared for American-made epics from the 1950’s and 1960’s (I’m leaving out the superb KING OF KINGS, which was essentially made in Spain and seems like a European film), which always seem phony and hokey to me. I’ll take the worst European historical epic of the period over most anything American. Yes, these European films are cliche-ridden, but the stilted and stylized proceedings usually include (as you get here) interesting production design and evocative real locations and surviving historical buildings (or if not, the clever fakes are closer to the real thing)….and the actors/actresses have roots in stylized European classical theatre in the way that Brits have a background in Shakespeare, so they seem to know how to play this material in a way that’s serious (and yes, a bit stilted) but not laughable. Also, this film is dubbed in English, and in that 1950’s style of dubbing with its rigid delivery which seems suited to a radio drama—-the disconnect between the formal and somewhat disembodied voices and the elegant classical acting style shown in the faces and bodies of the players seems to elevate the whole thing to the level of some kind of archetypal stage, which is beyond and above present-day film-making and sensibilities (it almost reminds me of the curiously old-fashioned feel of the 1920’s films of D.W. Griffith, which had an “elevated” and self-consciously literary feel, in the then-obsolescent Victorian meaning of “literary”). Anyone who grew up watching these dubbed European films in the 1950s-1970’s, when they were a part of American popular culture, understands the curious and unique feel of the hybrid form which is created by the marriage of dubbed-sound and stylized historical image. I’m probably not expressing this idea as clearly as I need to for readers who are unfamiliar with this category of film, but it’s an interesting phenomenon which was culturally significant for many years and has never really been adequately discussed by people who lived through it, and with this subject NOT being something considered even worthy of discussion nowadays (and PLEASE don’t bring a condescending, ironic, campy eye and ear to this), I’m not expecting much else to be written about it, which is why I’m taking a stab here.

MIGHTY 2

LA MURAILLE DE FEU/THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS/La Gerusalemme liberata is an interesting and entertaining cultural artifact, a product of a strand of late 50’s/early 60’s culture which is largely forgotten. It plays out on an exciting level and ends in a genuinely surprising (well, to those unfamiliar with the epic poem, it’s surprising) and tragic manner….but, of course, victoriously and reverently (hey, it’s got the word CRUSADE in the English language title, so how could you expect otherwise), with a vision of the Cross radiating in the background of the final scene. Of course, judge this film with 2017 blinders on, and it raises all kinds of questions (the one which came up in my mind was how audiences would have viewed an Islamic man falling for a Christian woman and wanting to bring her over to HIS side—-would THAT be allowed in the name of romance?), but that kind of analysis is like shooting fish in a barrel. By the standards of the day (the day being the early 50’s atmosphere this 1958 film is rooted in, AND the fact that even then it was looking back at a middle-ages epic poem and going for an elevated ‘classical’ feel), this was a solid piece of work. Had I been old enough to go to movies in 1962 and had I seen this at the Golden Theater in Golden, Colorado, on some weeknight (they’d probably have had a more commercial film playing on the weekends!–this would have been Tuesday night fodder) after a long workday at the Coors bottling plant or wherever, I would have been transported to some Classics Illustrated (European division)-style world of capital-R Romance and old-school defenders of the faith with massive and colorful sets and costumes and location shooting at places I’d never visit.

As I would walk out onto the main street of Golden at 10:45 pm at the show’s end, the same people as usual would be next door at the bar, drinking themselves into a stupor, the same teenagers would be making out in parked cars in poorly lit areas, trying to find a thrill and step outside and beyond the monotony…and temporarily succeeding, and the same unpaid bills and the same work schedule and the same broken-down car and the same grody apartment would be waiting for me….but for an hour and a half, I’d been living on a higher plane, taken out of my element, and touching the garments and smelling the battle-sweat of stylized antiquity….if only for a moment. That’s why these films existed, and that’s why they should be remembered.

MIGHTY 4

…..You can listen to or download a reading of the entire epic poem by Tasso (an influence on both Spenser and Milton), translated into English, here:                 https://librivox.org/jerusalem-delivered-by-torquato-tasso/

MIGHTY 3

Here’s a link to a review that is a bit sarcastic but actually is fairly accurate about the film– in the way that a detailed negative review of Bob Dylan is often more “accurate” than a fawning but vague positive one–it’s just that the negative one sees the glass as half empty instead of half full….although it’s quite accurate about how much liquid is in the glass!    https://gonzohistory.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/movie-monday-the-mighty-crusaders-1958/

March 13, 2017

KSE 11th Anniversary Album–available now!

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 4:38 pm

kse-11-new

KSE 11th ANNIVERSARY ALBUM (KSE #370), CDR album

featuring new and exclusive material recorded especially for this project from

JEN HILL     –     MATTHEW REVERT & VANESSA ROSSETTO     –     BRIAN RURYK

JOHN BELL     –     MASSIMO MAGEE     –     MORE EAZE     –     FOSSILS

LISA CAMERON & ERNESTO DIAZ-INFANTE     –     STEVE FLATO

$8 postpaid in the USA

$18 outside the USA (note: any 2 albums for $20 outside USA–after the first two, extra KSE albums are only $8 each postpaid overseas)

send payment via paypal to django5722 (at) yahoo (dot) com

(and leave a note with paypal telling us which albums you are ordering and also your mailing address….thanks!)

On 1 March 2017 Kendra Steiner Editions finished its 11th year in operation, having released 370 (!!!!) contemporary poetry chapbooks and experimental music CDR albums in that time, and we’ve got an exciting release schedule planned for 2017 as we enter our 12th year, including albums by a number of artists NEW to the KSE family as well as new creations by members of our ongoing crew.

In celebration of the 11th Anniversary, we sounded the call last year for new material from a number of like-minded friends from four continents (!!!!) in the international experimental music community (with four of them being present or former Texans). They delivered a stunning and diverse collection of tracks, and we put a lot of thought into programming the album for maximum effect—-nearly an hour of top-shelf material available nowhere else. Each of the artists has (or will have soon) a stack of copies to sell locally and at shows, and if one of the artists is local in your area, please buy the album from him/her at a show and put some cash in their pockets. If not, then please order direct from KSE here in South Texas…. Here’s the line-up of artists and tracks:

 Jen Hill – Piece for Cello

Matthew Revert and Vanessa Rossetto –Emergency Contact

 Brian Ruryk – Stolen Bike

John Bell – Orange Agency

Massimo Magee – Wrangle (Solo Tenor Saxophone)

Lisa Cameron & Ernesto Diaz-Infante – Signs and Signals

More Eaze – Harmony: pitch study no. 4

Fossils – Barbarous Librarians

Steve Flato – Resembling Density

We also still have some copies of some of our 2016 releases available–feel free to add some on to your order for the compilation (foreign pricing is discussed at the top of this post–in the USA, each is $8 postpaid):

KSE #362 (CDR), FOSSILS & BILL SHUTE, “Florida Nocturne Revisited”

KSE #363 (CDR) ALFRED 23 HARTH’s BERLIN ENSEMBLES

KSE #355 (CDR), MORE EAZE, “wOrk”

KSE #357 (CDR), SMOKEY EMERY / VENISON WHIRLED, “turning into”

KSE #359 (CDR), TOM CREAN & MATT ROBIDOUX, “blank space”

KSE #353 (CDR), FOSSILS, “Camelot Towers”

KSE #336 (CDR), ALFRED 23 HARTH, “Kepler 452b Edition”

KSE #351 (CDR), MASSIMO MAGEE, “Music In 3 Spaces”

KSE #350 (CDR) ANTHONY GUERRA / BILL SHUTE, “Subtraction” KSE reissue of album originally released in 2011 on Black Petal Records, Australia 

KSE #335 (CDR album), REVEREND RAYMOND BRANCH, “Rainbow Gospel Hour…On The Air!”—a wonderful hour-long AM-radio broadcast, mastered from cassette, capturing the warmth and joy of Rev. Branch in both music (lots of it) and spoken message

KSE #334 (CDR album), BRIAN RURYK, “Actual Size…degress again” (sic)

KSE #333 (CDR album), ERNESTO DIAZ-INFANTE, “Tunnels” solo 12-string acoustic mantra guitar

KSE #331, “KSE 10th ANNIVERSARY ALBUM” featuring newly recorded, exclusive tracks from members of the KSE family: ALFRED 23 HARTH,  SARAH HENNIES, RAMBUTAN, VANESSA ROSSETTO, ERNESTO DIAZ-INFANTE, DEREK ROGERS, BRENT FARISS, MATT KREFTING, GRAHAM LAMBKIN, and MASSIMO MAGEE

KSE #328, LISA CAMERON & NATHAN BOWLES, “Liquid Sunshine” percussion duo

KSE #326, MORE EAZE (aka Marcus M. Rubio), “Abandoning Finitude”….cover art by Bob Bruno

 

KSE #318, ALFRED 23 HARTH & JOHN BELL, “Camellia”

KSE #310,  MORE EAZE (Marcus M. Rubio), “Accidental Prizes”

KSE #293, MORE EAZE (Marcus M. Rubio), “Stylistic Deautomatization” (reissued)

Thank you all for your support of our music and poetry releases over the last 11 years. We’ll be starting the new solo releases for 2017 in April, kicking off things with a stunning work from San Diego’s A.F. JONES….stay tuned!

kse-11-new

 

March 12, 2017

Art Acord in “Fighters Of The Saddle” (1929)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 9:46 pm

FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE (1929–silent), starring Art Acord

scenario by Horace B. Carpenter (who starred in Dwain Esper’s 1934 MANIAC )

directed by Robert J. Horner (infamous for his z-grade sound films, but not bad here)

art

Art Acord (though not from the film under review)

Art Acord is someone who was a well-known star in his heyday (in the world of westerns), but few of his films survive, and those that do are not really typical of what made him famous. Hailing from my former hometown of Stillwater, Oklahoma, Acord died at the age of 40 in Mexico in 1931—-however, his name still surfaces here and there as a man of historical significance, and I just saw it today in an article about Oklahoma history, so I thought I’d re-post my review of his final surviving film, FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE, which I originally published online in 2003.

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One of the few available Art Acord films, a late-silent that’s probably not typical of Acord’s work

Imagine if the only available film by Boris Karloff was THE TERROR? Or if the only available Bob Steele western was AMBUSH TRAIL? We probably wouldn’t consider these men to be the greats in their respective genres that they are. While it’s rumored that more than a dozen Art Acord films are owned by collectors, the same three from his waning days on the screen are the only ones in active circulation today, easily available to someone who would want to buy them. FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE, from 1929, is one of those. Directed by Robert J. Horner (never a good sign, but this is actually a competently made cheap-jack silent western, so perhaps the photographer made the important decisions or maybe Horner, like Oscar Micheaux, is not as bad a silent director as he is a sound director?) as silent films were on their deathbed, FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE stars Art Acord as the son of a ruthless land developer who is running small tenants off their land so he can sell the land to corporations building roads. Art is sent by his dad to force the Wayne family off their land, and when he sees how unjust this is, he sides with the family and takes a stand against his dad. The 1929 Art Acord actually reminded me of Lon Chaney Jr. somewhat (in the late 30s, for example), and he looked a bit puffy. He plays the “sensitive but tough” part well, but if his name was John Doe and this was the only film I ever saw with him, I don’t know if I’d actively seek out others. Yet when I asked my father, a boy who loved westerns in the 1920’s and saw them every weekend, about his favorite western stars from the 20’s, he went into long descriptions of Ken Maynard, Tom Mix, and Art Acord. I assume he was talking about the Acord films made at Universal in the early 20’s. Let’s hope some of those have survived and find their way into circulation. As for the rest of this film, Tom Bay is quite impressive as the evil cousin of Art, who is trying to drive a wedge between Art and his dad so Tom can fill the position that Art does in the family. John Lowell is appropriately sleazy as “Bulldog” Weatherby, Art’s dad, but the Bulldog’s behavior in the film’s finale is completely unrealistic (that kind of thing never happens in real life!), and what’s going on when this old man tries to kiss the Wayne lady on the lips before Art embraces her in the final scene? Is that supposed to be funny? I found it sickening!! And the attempt at “cuteness” with the young Wayne children singing songs that are transcribed for us in title cards proves that silent films should not attempt to convey music elements. Overall, this is an interesting curio–OK as a z-grade late-silent western, and a rare view of Art Acord, but probably not typical of what made Art Acord a star. I have a few questions about elements in the film that seem elliptically presented, making me wonder if this is due to sloppy writing, budgetary unwillingness to film scenes that are more easily talked about, or poor continuity, but I don’t think this film necessarily lends itself to such scrutiny. By the way, the FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE that the title refers to are actually the hired thugs of Bulldog, not some heroic group led by Art Acord!

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FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE is easy to find on budget DVD for those so inclined. Let’s hope more of Acord’s features are found, so I can see for myself what my father enjoyed so much about the man’s 1920’s Universal films, the films that truly capture what made him famous.

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March 11, 2017

When Gangland Strikes (Republic Pictures, 1956)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 10:03 pm

WHEN GANGLAND STRIKES

released by Republic Pictures in March 1956

directed by R.G. Springsteen (usually fine, but even he can’t turn a bad script into gold)

released on VHS by Republic Pictures Home Video in the 1990’s

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In one of my recent comic book reviews over at BTC, I compared the waning days of Republic Pictures with the waning days of Charlton Comics, so perhaps I should discuss a film from those waning days. I’ve seen some excellent crime dramas released by Republic in the 1955-56 period, and the studio made many fine crime dramas from the 30’s through the 50’s, but very few have ever been legitimately issued….usually only the serials and the westerns and the films starring John Wayne get put out on any video format….so it’s baffling why one of the few that DID get a VHS release from Republic is this disappointing film, and what’s maddening about its release is that the box suggests it’s some kind of late film noir. The video box and the movie posters (seen here) look exciting, but don’t believe it. Here is an online review of the film which I published originally in 2004. The film has not improved any with age:

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poorly-written, unsatisfying late-Republic programmer

Republic Pictures was in its waning days in 1956 when this strange, unsatisfying crime drama was made by a crew who had made many excellent later serials for Republic. A poor script with clashing moods, unrealistic dialogue, lines written solely to match later plot points that sound odd when spoken in dramatic situations, a “hero” who is not very sympathetic for most of the movie, continuity errors that are surprising for the slick professionals at Republic pictures (characters called by different names, rough edits that don’t match what just happened, etc.), characters whose reactions to important events are not like anything you’ve ever seen in real life–there are many, many flaws in this film. It could almost be used in a screenwriting class for a “how NOT to write a screenplay” unit. The class could stop the tape every minute or two and point out the flaws. The film LOOKS good as Republic product usually does. The acting is convincing, although even the best actors can’t do much with a poor script. On a positive note,the first five and last five minutes of the film are genuinely exciting. The film starts off like a hard-boiled crime film and ends like an over-the-top courtroom drama, but the middle 75% is a slow-moving, “Andy Hardy”-style smalltown drama. Except for Slim Pickens’ comic relief and Anthony Caruso as the gangster referred to in the title, the pace is slow.Raymond Greenleaf as a smalltown prosecutor begins as an affable, gentle character out of a Capra film, but his chronic inactivity will make him an unsympathetic character to most viewers. He throws an important case with seemingly no remorse, blackmailed about something that for many viewers would not be a major issue. I felt that the character was too lazy to do anything to resolve the situation about which he was blackmailed. I could go on and on about the flaws and inconsistencies in this film. My wife and I spent about an hour discussing a laundry list of problems after the film–more time than we spent discussing  David Mamet’s OLEANNA, which we’d seen the week before. Finally, the copy on the back cover of this video is completely deceptive. I can’t believe the person who wrote the notes even watched the enclosed film. It is NOT a noir film in any way. It is NOT an exciting film, except for brief scenes at the beginning and end. As a devoted fan of Republic Pictures product, I found the film an interesting failure, but I can’t recommend it to anyone who is not a serious Republic Pictures collector. There are some fine products from the 1955 and 1956 years at Republic, but this is not one of them, and I wonder why Republic chose to issue this on VHS when 9/10 of their crime dramas from the 50s would be far more worthy of release. Watch a favorite film a second time rather than spend any time watching WHEN GANGLAND STRIKES, a title more interesting than the film.

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After forgetting this film for 10+ years, I recently saw the old VHS of this for a dollar at Half-Price Books–spend that dollar on a pack of gum instead. As I stated above, Republic made a lot of excellent crime programmers over a long period. Let’s hope that Olive Films, in their exciting reissue program of Republic’s deep catalog items, will start releasing some of the lesser-known ones and give the films a second life. Republic Pictures was an important studio that provided solid low-budget genre films for 20+ years–they did not just make serials and westerns and John Wayne films, as wonderful as all those are. Let’s forget that they made this.

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February 21, 2017

new poetry chapbook from Bill Shute, APPROACHING THE APPARENT: MEDITATIONS ON THE KENA UPANISHAD (KSE #366)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 5:13 pm

KSE #366, APPROACHING THE APPARENT: MEDITATIONS ON THE KENA UPANISHAD 

poetry chapbook by BILL SHUTE

composed June-July 2016

edition of 41 hand-cut, hand-assembled copies

$6 US postpaid / $7 elsewhere postpaid

payment via paypal  to     django5722(at)yahoo(dot)com

please leave note with your order letting me know which items you are ordering and your mailing address…..thanks!

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“He who can describe how

his heart is ablaze

is burning on a small pyre”

–PETRARCH, from Sonnet 137

approaching-new

APPROACHING THE APPARENT was composed here in San Antonio in June-July 2016, after returning from my “writing vacation” in central Louisiana, and in it I transpose some of the ideas found in the KENA UPANISHAD into contemporary Texas-based imagery and particulars.

Those of you who have been readers going back to TWELVE GATES TO THE CITY: THE LABOURS OF HERCULES IN THE LONE STAR STATE, published by Word Mechanics in 2005-2006, know that many of my earlier poems grew out of spiritual themes, but for me issues of that nature must be grounded in the particulars of the real world to have any real use or significance. As the old saying goes, anyone can be a monk in a monastery—however, can you find the transcendent in that abandoned strip mall or that dollar store (see Wyatt Doyle’s  book of photographs DOLLAR HALLOWEEN for a fine example of an artist who CAN) or that job bagging groceries or that noisy crime-ridden apartment complex you live in? When I have dealt with spiritual themes, I’ve tried to do that. You might also want to check out one of the pieces written during my Louisiana sojourn of May 2016, REVELATION IN SLOW MOTION (see bottom of page for that one), for another piece rooted in a spiritual text. Here’s part of APPROACHING THE APPARENT:

 

                          in the company of

                                     the older ladies

                                              poaching the eggs

 

                                         slipping me ice water

          while the boss checks her smart phone

 

                      their cavernous and smiling eyes

                                   have seen

                                            the void

 

                                      but refuse to  allow

                                                 the spark

                                                        to be extinguished

 

 

                              approaching

                                       the apparent

 

                                       heatwaves

                                             on the pavement

 

                               on the western horizon

                                    heading out of El Paso

 

                         as  I

                                  evaporate

 

                                  they reside

                         in  my     space

 


OTHER RECENT KSE POETRY CHAPBOOKS AVAILABLE FOR THE SAME PRICE:

KSE #368 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Find A Place To Die”

KSE #367 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Left-Handed Cherubs”

KSE #354 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Revelation In Slow Motion”

KSE #364 (poetry chapbook), LUIS CUAUHTEMOC BERRIOZABAL, “Make The Light Mine”

KSE #352 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Bridge on the Bayou”

As always, thank you for your support of KSE, as we now enter our 12th year, with over 365 releases of contemporary poetry and experimental music in that time, with a lot more planned for the coming months and years….

February 16, 2017

WHO KILLED JOHNNY R.? (Spain-Germany 1966), starring Lex Barker and Joachim Fuchsberger

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 8:20 pm

WHO KILLED JOHNNY R.? 

aka Wer kennt Johnny R.? ,  aka Una Bara (Coffin) per Ringo, aka 5000 $ für den Kopf von Johnny R.

Spain-Germany, released May 1966

starring LEX BARKER and JOACHIM FUCHSBERGER

with Marianne Koch, Sieghardt Rupp, Ralf Wolter

directed by  JOSE LUIS MADRID

review is of a widescreen Spanish-language print
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WHO KILLED JOHNNY R.? is a Spanish-German co-production, made in the second half of 1965 and released in early 1966. Shot on location in Spain and with a largely Spanish crew, the German element (besides the financing from CCC) is most evident in the casting of the lead roles. What makes the film unique is that it pairs two actors who were major stars in popular film series in Germany, very different kinds of film series. Lex Barker was a huge box office draw in Germany  because of the many “Winnetou” films he made, based on the novels of legendary German adventure author Karl May, starring Barker as “Old Shatterhand.” Joachim Fuchsberger, on the other hand, had starred in many German “krimi” films based on the writings of the famous British mystery-crime author Edgar Wallace. He was often a detective or if not an actual detective or police inspector then someone who wound up tracking the criminals and solving the crimes in these eccentric and stylized crime films–he was the hero and the audience viewpoint character. Pairing Barker and Fuchsberger was a nice touch–the biggest star in German westerns with the biggest star in German crime films–and it made a kind of sense that the vehicle for the two would be a western, but a western with a crime/whodunit angle.

The film opens with a gunfight in a town square—-outlaw  Johnny Ringo and some of his men are holed up in a hotel, shooting it out with the local law. Ringo’s girlfriend Bea holds a white flag out the window and she is allowed to leave, at which point the gunfight resumes. Bea takes off to a local ranch where Ringo’s men have taken the family–mother and children–hostage while they hide out. We see some of Ringo’s men attempt to escape and then get shot. We never see Ringo, and the battle continues. Finally, it seems as though Ringo escapes and gets away on a horse. However, all of this is presented in a somewhat confusing way–the way a murder is depicted in a whodunit where we are supposed to see the crime but not who did it. At the ranch, some of the sheriff’s men approach, while simultaneously a lantern is knocked over and sets the house aflame. Some people escape, but the family who live at the ranch and were tied up and kept hostage DO NOT escape–they burn to death. Johnny Ringo is presumed dead, as a burned body is found wearing the ring his girlfriend gave him.

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Some time later, Captain Conroy, the husband  (Sieghardt Rupp) of the wife who was killed in the fire–a military man who was away in service at the time–finds a kind of detective, Sam Dobie, who is played by Lex Barker, and tries to hire him to find Johnny Ringo. Barker explains that while the well-paying offer is tempting, most everyone believes Ringo is dead, so he can’t find someone who is dead. However, the Captain convinces him to simply find out what happened–if he’s dead and Barker can prove it, then that’s fine. He’ll still get paid. Barker then poses as a somewhat dude-like, somewhat milquetoast (!!!!) gun salesman, selling a new repeater pistol, travelling from town to town.

In one of those towns, he meets Clyde Smith (Joachim Fuchsberger), an unassuming fellow who has most recently worked as a miner, but who is an amazing shot. Because of that and some other circumstantial evidence, some people start believing that HE is Johnny Ringo. Barker hires him to do fast-shooting demonstrations from town to town to help sell the guns, and the pair then work as a team. However, people still pick fights with Smith, thinking he is Johnny Ringo, and Smith is clearly enjoying this situation and to some extent milking it along as he’s getting attention and respect that he’s never gotten before.

Clyde Smith is by far the most interesting and entertaining character in the film. Fuchsberger clearly is having a ball with the role, and he’s also got a real gift for comedy. His backstory is never explained, and he gives intentionally ambiguous answers to pretty much anything he’s asked.

During the period of their travelling, Barker is ostensibly still looking for Johnny Ringo, though he is very private about it and mentions it to no one (only he and the Captain know). Then Ringo’s old girlfriend Bea (Marianne Koch, like Rupp also someone who’d appeared in A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS) shows up in the town where the gun company Dobie and Smith are working for is located. At this point, the action heats up, the Captain re-connects with Sam Dobie, the suspense multiplies, and the film heads toward a climax (which I will not give away).

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Director Jose Luis Madrid helmed 21 films in Spain between 1960-1984, but none of them ring a bell with me (and I’ve seen many Spanish productions of the period)–I would guess that few if any of those other films were available in English dubs or made available to US television. He’s certainly good with actors, and he uses the widescreen composition well. Except for some of the sets, the film does not really look like an Italian western….and it’s in a totally different universe from the Winnetou westerns which were shot on location in the former Yugoslavia and featured panoramic landscapes and sweeping western-themed symphonic musical scores. There’s no shortage of extras in crowd or bar scenes, and the dancehall and theater scenes are well-staged, so no doubt because of the stars involved with this, it had a somewhat higher budget than the usual Spanish western that would star someone like, say, James Philbrook or Robert Woods.

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As a Lex Barker fan since childhood, I’d wanted to see this for decades. Barker’s German “Winnetou” westerns were shown often on TV in Denver, as were his Dr. Mabuse films and his non-Winnetou western with Pierre Brice, A PLACE CALLED GLORY, a favorite from my childhood. In the last few years, I’ve tried to track down Barker’s lesser-known European films in English-subtitled versions, and finally found a great-looking Spanish-language letterboxed print from ETC. You can also watch this same subtitled version (semi-full-screen, not fully letterboxed) on Amazon Prime…and if you are willing to watch it with ads, you can watch it FREE without even being an Amazon Prime member (I did to see what it looked like)! This was Barker’s final NON-WINNETOU western. He looks great in it, and for most of the film he’s pretending to be something of a greenhorn, so there are a few comedic sequences related to that…but there are other levels of artifice going on here too, and Barker manages to capture that complexity well. Although the film is not presently (to my knowledge) available in English, I can’t imagine any of Barker’s fans NOT enjoying seeing him in it…unless they can’t watch a film with subtitles.

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The real treat here is Joachim Fuchsberger (right in the picture below, looking vaguely like Harry Morgan in that pose). He’s by far the most interesting and complex character in the film, and when the film is over, he’s still the one we know the least about. His comic timing is perfect, he can pose as bumbling when he needs to, but he can also make the people in the towns they visit believe that he is outlaw Johnny Ringo, even when on the surface his character is telling everyone who’ll listen that he IS NOT. Fuchsberger had a sixty-year (!) career in German cinema, playing a wide variety of roles. Many years ago I reviewed a 1972 children’s action-comedy film he starred in (SUPERBUG, SECRET AGENT/Ein Käfer gibt Vollgas–see poster at bottom) on the IMDB (mine is the review credited to DJANGO-1). He somewhat reminds me of the pre-Naked Gun Leslie Nielsen, when LN was working in dramas and crime films and TV guest shots, before he re-invented himself as a comic actor. Fuchsberger always has a certain charm and dynamic presence, so it’s not hard to see why he was so well-accepted as a leading man who could hold his own in the German crime films which had such an odd and off-putting post-Expressionist visual style and over-the-top musical scores by the likes of Peter Thomas. It takes an actor with gravitas to underplay his role in such a way that he is not overshadowed by the visuals and the music and the outlandish plot developments….and yet still commands attention and sympathy as the audience viewpoint character, the prism through which we view the proceedings.

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While the film was released in Germany in 1966, it seems as though it took a while to get released in other countries, appearing 2-3 years later in most of them. That’s a shame because it’s enormously entertaining, and it’s not at all a typical Eurowestern. I’m not sure whether you will find the ending acceptable–the first time I saw it, I was quite dissatisfied, but the second and third time, it was clear that the seeds had been planted to justify the ending. However, some will find it a cheat.

Why is the film titled WHO KILLED JOHNNY R.? when the character is Johnny Ringo, and that is the kind of marketable character name you often see on Eurowesterns? A little IMDB research showed that at the same time this was released, there was another western titled KILL JOHNNY RINGO (see poster below), starring Brett Halsey, coming out, so presumably the change from RINGO to R was a last-minute change to avoid confusion.

If you are a fan of Eurowesterns and you’re looking for something different….if you are a Lex Barker fan and want to see him in a role that highlights him well in a film you probably have not seen….if you are a fan of the various German Edgar Wallace crime films and you want to see star Joachim Fuchsberger in a VERY different setting and see him in a complex role with a good amount of humor in it….you should check out WHO KILLER JOHNNY R.? In the US, you can watch it free on Amazon Prime. It’s not the widescreen version I am reviewing, but it’s a good print….and it’s free (at least now, when I write this, it is).

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poster for the film KILL JOHNNY RINGO, starring Brett Halsey, also released in May 1966

……

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poster for the 1972 film SUPERBUG, SECRET AGENT, starring Joachim Fuchsberger, which I reviewed in 2008 at the IMDB (it’s still there–read it if you’ve got insomnia some night)

February 5, 2017

‘L’invincibile cavaliere mascherato’ (Italy-France 1963), starring Pierre Brice, directed by Umberto Lenzi

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:36 pm

‘L’invincibile cavaliere mascherato’

aka Robin Hood in der Stadt des Todes, aka Invincible Masked Rider,

aka Terror of the Black Mask

(Italy-France 1963) directed by Umberto Lenzi, starring Pierre Brice

pierre-5

French actor PIERRE BRICE will always be best known for his portrayal in many German films as WINNETOU, the heroic Apache chief taken from the pages of the novels of Karl May, usually paired with Lex Barker as Old Shatterhand (though in a handful of films, with either Stewart Granger or Rod Cameron). These films made Brice a superstar, particularly in Germany–until his death in 2015, he was being invited to Winnetou fan festivals, and his 2004 photograph on his Wikipedia page shows him signing autographs at such an event. While the films may have typecast Brice to some extent, he was fortunate that with the make-up and long black wig he wore as Winnetou, when he was NOT in the role, he looked a bit different, and one’s first impression was not to shout out, “hey, that’s Winnetou.” He was featured quite well in the 1965 western (not a Winnetou film) A PLACE CALLED GLORY with his friend and co-star Lex Barker, a film that played widely in the US, distributed by Embassy Pictures–you can also hear him speaking his charming French-accented English in the American release of that film.

Brice also was quite the heartthrob in a number of non-Winnetou roles. Many years ago on VHS I saw him opposite Elke Sommer in the early Max Pecas erotic drama SWEET ECSTASY. This was distributed in the US by Audubon Films, which specialized in imported sex-oriented product in the early-to-mid 60’s, and Audubon issued a VHS tape of the film in the 90’s, which I highly recommend. One review of SWEET ECSTASY on a cult film website mentions Brice as resembling to some extent Alain Delon in Purple Noon, and that resemblance certainly did not hurt his getting those kind of roles. Below is a poster for the film under one of its alternate titles.

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Another film that features him well (at least in its second half) is the one under review, ‘L’invincibile cavaliere mascherato,’  an Italian-French swashbuckler trading on the Zorro legend, with elements of Robin Hood thrown in,   which was made in 1963, after the success of the first Winnetou film, TREASURE OF SILVER LAKE.

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This review is of the German release version of the film, titled ‘Robin Hood in der Stadt des Todes,’ which is literally translated as ROBIN HOOD IN THE CITY OF DEATH. As these 60’s European co-productions were shot MOS (without sound) and then dubbed into multiple languages, one could argue that any version is as good as another (although if Brice dubbed his own voice in the French version, that could well be the preferable one). Seeing a film starring a Frenchman, which is set in historical 17th Century Spain, and then has German coming out of the mouths of the cast is certainly a unique experience, though one gets used to it quickly and it gives the proceedings an interesting spin. Also, the German voice actors are well-suited to the characters they are voicing and do their best to “act” them–it’s not like some  English language voice tracks which sound like radio announcers cold-reading a script.

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Brice is actually not featured much in the first half of the film, as the situation is being set up, the villains get to practice their villainy and build up audience hate, and Brice’s character, who is “called for” from a distant area, must travel to where the action is, creating a great deal of audience expectation.

Put simply, a number of regional power-brokers who are some kind of second-tier royalty jockey for power and influence in Spain. Don Gomez seems to be the most powerful, but he is old and somewhat feeble…and he also seems like a decent man, which does not get him  very far as he negotiates with the evil Don Luis. When he is killed, his daughter Carmencita will inherit his estate, and Don Luis can’t allow that to happen, so he re-instates an old informal promise between Don Luis and Don Gomez that she should marry Don Luis’s stepson Don Diego, whom he has not seen since childhood. He then basically takes Carmencita as a prisoner in his estate. He sends for Don Diego to come from a distant province, to fulfill that arranged-marriage promise.

However, at the same time, while they are waiting for Don Diego to arrive, a mysterious black-clad swashbuckling figure starts avenging the wrongs done by Don Luis, messing with his power structure, killing some of his enforcers, etc. Who might the mysterious figure be? Oh, and from the first frame of the film there is a subplot of a plague which is sweeping across Portugal and Spain, killing many and killing them quickly, so add that into the mix.

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When Don Diego does arrive, he affects a kind of spoiled, wimpy pose–I’m somewhat reminded of Robert Lowery’s performance as Bruce Wayne in the 1949 serial BATMAN AND ROBIN (still my favorite Batman adaptation)–so no one will suspect that he’s the masked freedom-fighter and also so that he can work behind the scenes IN the palace….he even provides advice to his stepfather that plays upon Don Luis’s vanity  (so he’ll accept it) and is meant to weaken things even further. Then you have Carmencita falling in love with the masked avenger, who ironically is the man she is betrothed to marry and whom she considers to be a foppish coward she is not in love with, although she does think he’s a decent fellow.

Brice’s performance as the vain and cowardly Don Diego is quite funny and he affects many little “bits of business” (as Laurel and Hardy called them) to both convince the other characters that he is harmless and, as an actor, to call attention to himself when he is not the focus of the action in a particular scene. It’s always interesting to watch an actor play a character who is posing as someone else….and when the film is over and we realize that Brice’s character was not actually Don Diego (!!!), it adds a third level to this masquerade. Throughout the film Brice winds up playing a few different characters, though all in the same body (you’ll see what I mean when you watch it–I don’t want to give too many spoilers), and he handles all convincingly. He can make you laugh as the foppish Don Diego, he can thrill you as the masked cavalier, and he can inspire you in his final and real persona. I also noticed that in the climactic fight sequence Brice is doing some of his own stunt work, including jumping onto tables while fighting without missing a beat. Bravo!

And speaking of masquerades, the climactic scene of the film takes place at a Masquerade Ball, which is the perfect setting for a film whose protagonist is a masked avenger. As everyone who was abused by the evil Don Luis joins with Brice to give the Don his fitting  comeuppance, the audience feels a great sense of satisfaction….also, the climactic swordfight at the ball is very well choreographed, very well shot, and shows the attention to detail in action scenes which director Umberto Lenzi always tried to bring to this crime and action films (when he could–in some of his later films for Italian TV he was hampered by quick shoots and low budgets).

Where do you begin with director Umberto Lenzi? Double-checking his IMDB credits to remind myself of films I’ve forgotten, I see that I’ve already written about one of his films on this blog: CATHERINE THE GREAT, starring Hildegarde Knef (just use the search box here to find that review). I’ve seen probably 25 of his films, ranging from the early 60’s historical ones (Queen of the Seas) to peplum (Messalina vs the Son of Hercules, with Richard Harrison) to Eurospy (008:Operation Exterminate) to Spaghetti Westerns (Pistol for a Hundred Coffins, with Peter Lee Lawrence and John Ireland), to the exciting series of erotic thrillers made with star Carroll Baker, to war films (Desert Commandos, with Ken Clark, where the Germans are the heroes!), to Giallos (Seven Blood Stained Orchids) to some of the greatest 70s Eurocrime films (Gang War In Milan, Syndicate Sadists, Almost Human, Violent Naples, and the amazing The Cynic, The Rat, and The Fist), and finally the Italian Cannibal genre. He drifted into Italian TV movies in the 80’s and early 90’s, and many of those wound up on video overseas, very much welcomed by his many fans. He always had excellent taste in actors and was probably a good actor’s director, considering the performances he got out of people. Look up my IMDB review of MEAN TRICKS (1992), his last film—-a low-budget crime film shot in the Caribbean and starring CHARLES NAPIER (!!!) who is given free rein to create a character who should be in the “renegade badass cop” hall of fame (it’s almost on the same level as Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans)—-and you’ll see that the master, Umberto Lenzi, did not lose his panache and his ability to create a fast-moving, entertaining product even when working in the reduced circumstances of Italian TV movies. ‘L’invincibile cavaliere mascherato’ is a solid accomplishment, a film that still entertains and excites 50+ years after its creation, and a proud entry in the Lenzi filmography.

Interestingly, while this is clearly a Zorro knock-off, the German dialogue (and the German release title) mentions Robin Hood, and in the final scene after the swordfight, he’s dressed somewhat like Robin Hood and mentions going back to his “homeland.”

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Is this a classic? Does it need to be? What it is…is a solid, colorful, fast-moving, competently made European co-production genre-film with many nice touches and with a charismatic lead actor in a role that will be new to many who are mostly familiar with his performances as Winnetou. The locations are atmospheric, the sets capture the period well enough for the non-specialist, the supporting cast is impressive. This German-dubbed version is a beautiful letterboxed copy, so I could take in all the detail and the scope of the compositions.

The film is not hard to find in pan and scan English-language versions, and various versions surface from time to time on You Tube. With both Pierre Brice and Umberto Lenzi having many fans around the world, it’s a lesser-known gem perfect for that rainy night or leisurely Sunday afternoon….also, perfect 3 a.m. viewing for any night shift security guards out there (as I once was). I can easily imagine watching this again in a few months (I’m fairly sure I saw the pan-and-scan American TV version of Terror of the Black Mask back in the 1980’s).

February 4, 2017

ANDY WARHOL: THE LIFE YEARS, 1949-1959 (Hirmer Verlag)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 4:05 pm

ANDY WARHOL: THE LIFE YEARS, 1949-1959

published by Hirmer Verlag (Germany)

with essays by Alexandra Barcal, Olaf Kunde, Paul Tanner

bi-lingual, with text in both English and German

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One exciting by-product of the posthumous popularity of Andy Warhol in the last few decades has been the publishing boom related to All Things Warhol….and also the many international exhibitions taken from Warhol’s massive body of work.

As with the subjects of religion and sex, both of which were of great interest to the artist, in life and in the work, Warhol and his art have inspired both awful writing and analysis and transcendent writing and analysis. Similarly, there have been unimaginative exhibitions, well-done exhibitions aimed at a general audience, thematic exhibitions which choose work from a wide variety of styles and periods (the recent Andy Warhol: My Perfect Body show at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh being a good example of that), and what for me is the most exciting kind of exhibition (or exhibition catalog, since I cannot travel to Europe or Japan very easily), the deep study of a limited aspect of Warhol’s work, where a lot of little-known works are presented, and we are encouraged to “get inside” the creative process.

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Examples of that would include the Warhol Liz book, the Ladies and Gentlemen collection (Skarstedt Gallery), and the amazing auction catalogs such as Christie’s Andy Warhol Coca-Cola 1962, where an entire book is devoted to numerous facets and perspectives and the backstory on ONE painting. For me, these are the most illuminating of the entryways into Warhol’s work.

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While Warhol is universally known, I would claim that his WORK is not adequately known. As someone who has been following Warhol’s work for 40+ years now, I am discovering not just new individual works each year, but new bodies of work, or groups of related works. It’s exciting and exhilarating, to say the least, for this to happen with an artist who has been dead for 30 years, but it’s Warhol’s compulsive workaholic nature that is responsible for him investigating a certain motif and then producing dozens and dozens of variations on it. I would make the analogy of a variorum edition of an author’s work or the large edition of Eliot’s The Waste Land which shows each step in the editing process, but these Warhol artworks, often large artworks, have such a commanding presence and dominate whatever room they are in so much that they are truly on a more powerful physical level than any author’s editing notes.

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I’m old enough to remember when Warhol could not get arrested in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The art world and the hipsters had turned against him. I loved his appearance on The Love Boat and his TV ad for Braniff Airlines, but that totally alienated many, as did his aggressive marketing of the celebrity portraits, including to the families of overseas dictators. Warhol did not have to worry about the art world breathing down his neck in the late 70’s and early 80’s–they didn’t care much anymore. He created large and diverse bodies of related works, and many of these did not even get an exhibition showing during his lifetime, and those that did get exposure largely got it overseas. With income flowing in, Warhol had the freedom to paint what he wanted in the style he wanted, to experiment with a technique or a motif that interested him and to try many different permutations of that technique or motif until he felt he had finished his investigation of that area and could move on to something else. Late-period Warhol is still severely underrated, and there are dozens and dozens of oversized art books devoted to it…some of which can still be found cheap at used bookstores in major cities (or college towns) with a good selection of art books. Rather than listen to me talking about it, why not go buy one yourself–it speaks far more eloquently than I can, and it will keep your interest over the years a lot longer!

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Another period of Warhol’s work which is lesser-known and much underrated is his pre-1960 work, the commercial art and the private drawings. Again, a good number of books have presented many many unknown-to-the-public works, the majority of them never exhibited. For the commercial art, the ultimate collection–one you’ll treasure and find new delights in for a lifetime–is ANDY WARHOL: THE COMPLETE COMMISSIONED MAGAZINE WORK, assembled and contextualized by Paul Marechal (thank you, Mr. Marechal for taking on such a massive task–the results are incredibly rewarding to those who love Warhol’s WORK).

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A related work, also assembled and curated by Marechal, is ANDY WARHOL: THE COMPLETE COMMISSIONED POSTERS, many of which come from his late period. I remember seeing some of these when they initially appeared (and neatly removing the pages of magazines that contained these ads), and they still can stop the viewers in their tracks today. These two collections are highly recommended (the poster book is the cheaper of the two, but the commissioned magazine work one is exhaustive and massive and a great buy even at its expensive price) and will provide years of pleasure.

warhol-posters

Getting back to Warhol’s 1950’s pre-Pop drawings and to the book under review today, we have pioneering Warhol authority Daniel Blau to thank for the concept of ANDY WARHOL: THE LIFE YEARS and for the exhaustive research within Warhol’s archive AND within hundreds of copies of LIFE magazine from the 1950’s.

When I first saw this book announced, I thought to myself, “hmmm, I did not know that Warhol worked for LIFE extensively in the 1950’s,” and of course, he did not. What he did do was to use photographs from LIFE, during its classic 1950’s heyday, as a starting point for practice drawings as he was developing his signature drawing and then blotted-line style. A number of those drawings survive…and are reproduced in this book in a size large enough to study his lines close-up. That in itself would be enough, but evidently, Mr. Blau took the time to go through every LIFE magazine of the era and find the exact photographs and the exact advertisements that Warhol used to inspire these informal (who’s to say what’s “formal” and “informal”?) drawings….and the drawings and the LIFE pieces are often presented SIDE BY SIDE. Of course, if you care about such things, this book is a revelation.

In addition to the artworks, there are a number of essays which provide historical context, nuts-and-bolts explanations of Warhol’s technique (the essay  breaking down the essential differences between monotype, Warhol’s blotted line style, and klecksography is quite eye-opening—-especially because many of us are familiar with the monotypes of Matisse and Castiglione, and I’ve had the privilege of seeing examples of both up-close and in-person), a brilliant deconstruction of the audience and culture reflected in 1950’s LIFE, and a very important essay by Alexandra Barcal entitled “The Art of Reduction, or What’s In A Picture: On the Use of Photographic Imagery in the Early Drawings of Andy Warhol.” With photography providing a catalyst for much of Warhol’s work in ANY era, this essay provides an insightful explanation of a process that many students of Warhol have intuited but not had spelled out for us. Works from many Warhol periods–including the Campbell’s soup cans and the Brillo boxes, to cite two of his best-known motifs–rarely if ever attempt to replicate the photograph. There is a selective and reductive process going on–just look at a real Brillo box and then one of the Brillo sculptures, or a real Campbell’s soup can and then one of the paintings. It’s quite different, and there’s a consistency and a method to that difference. The roots of that selection and reduction, and then the alchemical transmutation of those elements into art through the medium of Mr. Andy Warhol—-the beginnings of that fascinating process can be found in these drawings inspired by images in LIFE Magazine. For that reason alone, this is an essential book in the Warhol canon. In addition, though, it’s a pleasurable journey alongside the development of Warhol the artist during a fascinating and still under-appreciated period. The drawings are striking as are the LIFE images.

Books like this tend to become available, stay in print for a while, and then fall off the map and go up in price. When I googled the title to get a cover image for this piece, I saw that the book is presently available widely in the US and at reasonable prices–you could even buy it at Wal-Mart’s online shop if you were so inclined (actually, Target is offering it at a price ten dollars less than Wal-Mart, and there’s not the guilt associated with a Wal-Mart puchase!). I’d suggest grabbing one now instead of procrastinating and then debating whether or not you should pay $120 for it in five years.

In Barcal’s “Art of Reduction…” essay, she introduces concepts/phrases such as OF BROWSING AND MARVELLING, REMARKABLY UNREMARKABLE THINGS, and THE HIGH ART OF ‘SERIOUS PLAY,’ which demonstrate to even the casual student of Warhol’s aesthetic the importance of this period and of LIFE’s influence on the artist. The roots of everything that came later are there….and there for YOU to explore and examine in this important and enjoyable and large volume.

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