Monday, 28 November 2016

'BLACKOUT’ BY TIM CURRAN


 
Often enough when a horror novel is described as a page-turner it usually ends up in my dud pile. Color me picky but as much a chance I give it (and believe me I do) it always seems to fail grabbing me. Give me a cool writer like Hunter Shea or Brian Keene, or heck even Bryan Smith whose latter work, last time I checked, is way stronger, and I’ll give you at least a dozen brand names who doesn’t necessarily fit my bill. This next spotlighted fellow, however, does. I’ve been meaning to discuss him (and the others mentioned above) on this popular blog which I’m so proud of, but it took one of his latest to finally make me take the plunge and do this. 
 
 
I admit, the name Tim Curran might still be unfamiliar to some, but to lovers of dark fiction he is one celebrated talent. He’s been at it since 2000 and already has a dozen novels to his name if not more. My first taste of his well-defined craft came with RESURRECTION, which was all about the zombie invasion. It was a lengthy read (600 + pages) but it was as involving as it can possibly be and moved like a speeding bullet. Plus it had many gruesome moments which are always a welcoming addition.
 
Like many of my fave authors, Curran is less known for his epic characterization and overstuffed narration. He’s what you call the perfect antidote to too much cerebral fiction (which he himself has been known to point out regarding other people’s work). Take BLACKOUT for example, one of his latest projects with DarkFuse. Again, readers of non-stop action will have a field day, especially if they are into alien invasions in small towns. What happens to these ordinary folks in the space of a mere six hours can only be described as cheesily fun. Plus, there are plenty a yucky images to spare, most having to do with what’s coming through the darkened sky. I won’t reveal too much but let’s just say that what the author does with this will probably leave no one unfazed. Moreover, the explanation he provides for the UFO attack winds up being rather interesting if not original. Well at least it is to me, since I’m no expert in the field of science.

What I’m good at, though, is talking about labels regarding minorities. I’m always touchy when it comes to derogatory comments made toward them, especially in novels. While I’m also well aware that some used in texts may not always reflect the authors’ beliefs but more the characters behaviors, I always wonder why these writers would not opt for safer words—like in one scene in this particular novel between two aggravated neighbours. To make a long story short it all comes down to this: hey Curran and his publishers, not all readers are straight; so if I were you, I would lose the bigotry vibe if you want to reach an even wider audience. That being said, BLACKOUT is still worth checking out, if you can overlook that type of unnecessary gibes.

  

Until next post—Martin 
 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

JACKIE COLLINS’ LUCKY/CHANCES (1990)


 
OK, folks, delicate subject here: Jackie Collins. I still have a hard time coping with her passing. In my eyes she was going to live forever.   But moving on: the moment I found out that a three-part TV adaptation of her grandest oeuvre CHANCES was happening I got goosebumps all over. Finally after all these years someone has had the good sense to greenlight this project. The HOLLYWOOD WIVES miniseries was long gone and its proposed sequel HOLLYWOOD HUSBANDS never got made. So it was only natural that the next step should be bringing CHANCES to the small screen. Of course I had already read the novel and its sequel LUCKY on which this proposed miniseries was to be based. In my mind both books should have had separate identities but I was willing to accept whatever Hollywood had to offer.   

When LUCKY/CHANCES finally aired on NBC in October of 1990 it came as no surprise that I was in heaven. Seeing it all materializing right before my eyes proved to me right then and there that indeed there was a God and her name was Jackie Collins. I finally could enjoy something that was right up my, and her, alley. I recently re-watched the miniseries and let me tell you that contrary to the reruns of TV’s SEX IN THE CITY it does age well despite a few noticeable flaws, starting with the overall look of the film. Oh don’t get me wrong, everything is glammed up to the hilt, whether the focus is on the swinging ‘20s, the flower-power era of the ‘60s or the glamourous days of the late ‘70s—early ‘80s. No, what I’m referring to is the prosthetic effects used on the actors to age them. I never realized how foamy and phony they all looked. They almost distracted me from all the drama: drug addictions, sexual situations, Machiavellian manipulations, you name it. And dead bodies, so many dead bodies: in the streets, in swimming pools, in exploding cars...  

Make no mistake, I am all well aware that LUCKY/CHANCES is a direct rip-off of Mario Puzo’s THE GODFATHER with its tale of rival Mafiosos in Vegas that traces 40-some years, but to soap fans everywhere it’s still must-see TV. Nicollette Sheridan, fresh from her KNOTS LANDING days, gives it all she’s got as Lucky Santangelo—the mobster’s daughter who wants to prove her worth as a business woman—and comes out relatively unscathed. She may not be the greatest actress alive but she does have her moments in the lead. So do most of the cast like Grant Show, Michael Nouri, Audrey Landers and Sandra Bullock in one of her first roles. Of course they all look sensational with their chiseled faces and saccharine smiles. You do not venture into a Jackie Collins novel or a TV adaptation expecting any less.

What made me cringe a little, though, is realizing how stale and clichés some of that dialogue appears despite Collins having written the teleplay. Actor Vincent Irizarry barely helps either as kingpin and ladies’ man Gino Santangelo. His performance is as amateurish and stiff as that fake moustache he sports during the mini’s second half. But most of all I blame this on my advanced years which have made me more cynical towards what is supposed to be good or not. As camp appeal goes however LUCKY/CHANCES (as the HOLLYWOOD WIVES mini which has been too harsh a review on this blog) is by far one of the best thing to watch on TV besides THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS or THE ROYALS on E! It may be far from being artsy fartsy but, boy, does it deliver. Now, the only thing left to say is this: when is JACKIE COLLINS’ LUCKY/CHANCES coming to DVD in North America, Mr. Distributors? When?!!!


 
Click here to read all about its adapted sequel, the LADY BOSS miniseries.
 

 

Until next post—Martin
 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

‘PEYTON PLACE’ BY GRACE METALIOUS


 

Like many of you I was introduced to PEYTON PLACE during the height of its popularity as a prime-time soap in the late '60s. I was very young then but I remember catching it quite a few times, having no idea that it was based on an international bestseller. Fast-forward to the mid-‘80s and wouldn’t you know, I ended up with a copy of the novel itself. It was right in the middle of my trashy phase and I couldn’t go on without tasting the merits of that infamous title. I made it in a jiffy, so much involved I was in it. The novel seemed barely my cup of tea in regards to the lack of glitz and glamour but it made up big time by delivering one heck of a compelling story. 

Indeed, those looking for a little change in their reading experience may have come to the right place when it comes to this 1956 soaper set in a small town during the 1940's. Protagonists Constance Mackenzie and teenaged daughter Allison lead off a colorful cast of characters whose secrets and sins end up having major consequences. Nearing the end of the novel the story verges to a legal drama, but the involvement factor still reigns as the reader gets caught up deeper into the whole scenario. Grace Metalious' narrative goes from the lyrical (any setting description) to the very real (a character's rape, among others). Some revelations seem rather tame nowadays (Constance's big adultery secret, for example), but, as a whole, PEYTON PLACE still stands the test of time thanks to a talented author and its universal appeal. 

Of course I had to catch the film adaptation after reading it. Took me a while (VHS commercial tapes weren’t as easy a grab in those days unless living near a big video rental store) but when I finally did, it was pure magic. But more on that in an upcoming blog entry, just like I plan to draw attention to PEYTON PLACE’s sequel RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE one of these days. In the meantime get yourself a copy of this timeless classic and move it up on top of your reading list. It’s that good.
 

 


Until next post—Martin


The Digital Edition


 

Sunday, 13 November 2016

‘EAT THE NIGHT’ BY TIM WAGGONER


 
Whew! What a roller-coaster ride of a read. Tim Waggoner’s EAT THE NIGHT (DarkFuse) is by far the weirdest novel I have come across this year. Not that it’s a bad thing. Au contraire. It has originality, a strong narrative, a fast-paced execution, and most importantly: a pulpy flavor to it that makes the time spent reading this effort all the more worthwhile. It is a rather short novel, under 200 pages, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

The plot is sort of hard to define. Without saying too much, it involves a crazed long ago famed guru/singer who comes back from the dead to haunt a woman who has a haunting past of her own. When she discovers—after having had a bitch of a nightmare—a hidden basement in her newly-acquired house, her life as she knows it is under assault. It’s only when she pairs up with this antacid chewer agent of a secret organization called Maintenance (think MEN IN BLACK) that she’s able to merge past and present and confront evil head-on.
I know, I know. Written this way scarcely does the novel justice but trust me on this. If you dig crazy imageries, like someone being forced-fed skin from peeled-off faces or witnessing a decapitated head talk its head off (yes, I went there), you’ll have plenty to enjoy. My personal fave moment rather involves a mail carrier who turns into a bug and attacks a road vehicle. Always been a sucker for big threatening creatures in books or in films. Speaking of the latter, EAT THE NIGHT reminds me of those cool independent movies that become surprise hits from word-of-mouth advertising. I can easily see this one hitting the big or small screen, depending who gets interested in it. Personally, I would see it in theaters. We need some good-old fashioned B-grade films adapted from succulent novels such as EAT THE NIGHT. It’s a no-brainer, really.
This is the second title that I have read from Waggoner, the first one being LIKE-DEATH from the now defunct Leisure line. Having had enjoyed EAT THE NIGHT so much makes me wonder what I have been missing for the last decade or so. Pick this one up and see exactly what I’m talking about.

 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

 

Until next post—Martin

 

 

 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

BAD GIRLS CLUB: GINA LOLLOBRIGIDA IN ‘GO NAKED IN THE WORLD’


I’m always a sucker for bad girls in cinema. Give me a Neely O’Hara, a Nomi Malone, heck even a Bette Davis in an awful wig (BEYOND THE FOREST) and I’ll be your film buff for life. It’s no wonder that I fell for Gina Lollobrigida’s character in the delectably bad GO NAKED IN THE WORLD distributed by MGM in 1961. In it she plays Guilietta, a high-priced call girl who loves swinging her curvy derrière and hanging out in hippie joints. When she gets stood up by an old coot one evening she meets handsome Anthony Franciosa who has no idea that she’s a lady of the night. Strange, for you take one look at her and you connect the dots quite easily. But I digress.

When the script calls for them to fall madly in love, loud papa Ernest Borgnine hits the roof and with good reasons. He’s had her many times over, so did his friends and associates. To paraphrase Elizabeth Taylor’s character in the award winning (!) but rival BUTTERFIELD 8 (another MGM film), she’s the slut of all time. When he reveals this to Franciosa, sonny-boy cries liar but soon learns the truth and quickly ends the relationship with Lollobrigida. Miserable as any manly man of the ‘60s can be, he drowns his sorrow in cheap booze and hotels until he decides to face his problem head on. So he kills his dad. No, just kidding, but it’s not that farfetched of an idea since their relationship can only be described as very volatile. Son wants to be his own person, dad wants him to be more like him...

Like I said, Franciosa sobers up.  He soon rekindles his relationship with Lollobrigida (he’s in LOVE, people). Before she quits the business she warns him how hard it’ll be for him to get used to the idea of her past life. He acts as if it’s nothing at all but we the spectators know better. Our hunch is quickly confirmed when loud papa shows up in Acapulco where the two have moved to start anew. He bribes Lollobrigida to stay away from his son. She refuses but quickly changes her tune when she realises that, hooking or not, she will always be trouble for Franciosa. So she kills him. Nah, she instead pretends to go back to her old ways. This is the best part of the film. She flirts, she drinks, she dances (she even gets gang-raped off camera) all in the space of a few minutes while Franciosa looks like a kicked dog. Later on, unable to live with herself any longer and all clad in white (wouldn’t you know? repentance), she throws herself into the ocean to forever be with her maker. Anyway, so ends her misery and ours who are this close from running screaming from the room.

GO NAKED IN THE WORLD is based on the Tom T. Chamale’s novel and directed by MILDRED PIERCE screenwriter Ranald McDougall (helped by non-credited Charles Walters). As much as I enjoyed the film, I came away from it with a splitting headache. I blame this mostly on Borgnine’s constant shouting which made me lower the volume on my remote and put on the close captioned. Bombshell Lollobrigida may have top billing for this but it’s Franciosa who carries the film, which is a shame since the whole reason to catch this flick is to see her in action.  In fact, she should have put her foot down and convince the high rollers to use her more, like any good sleazy chicks in high-budget films should. Just ask any other celluloid bad girls, Stanwyck, Davis, Taylor. THEY knew how to make the most of it. Judging by the shaking of her bonbon in that next to last scene of the film, I’m sure Lollobrigida could have succeeded just as well. Nonetheless, give this film a try. It has its moments.

 

 

Until next post—Martin