Tag Archives: nazi

Frank Sanazi, hijab stripping and Jesus Christ flying in for Hitler’s birthday gig

Pete covers up a nasty spot on his neck Frank Sanazi

Pete covers up a nasty or potentially Nazi spot on his neck

This blog was supposed to be posted on 1st April, until I realised there might be a credibility problem if I posted it on that date.

I had a chat with Pete Perke aka Pete Sinclair aka Pete Cunningham aka Tom Mones aka Frank Sanazi. Frank Sanazi sings like Frank Sinatra but looks like Adolf Hitler.

“So,” I said to Pete,  “you are going over to Austria as Frank Sanazi to celebrate Hitler’s birthday.”

“Well,” he said, “Kulture Banane,  the Austrian boylesque troupe, have become massive in Austria and have asked me to go over and do my show Das Vegas Nights (Zis Time We Win) on 18th April, two days before Hitler’s birthday. Actually, I only recently realised that Hitler was born on 20th April, which is Aries. That would make him a genuine Arian.”

“They’re just boylesque?” I asked. “Not Nazi boylesque in short trousers?”

“Well,” said Pete, “one of the guys – he could be a woman for all I know – performs a hijab act which is basically strip burlesque.”

“You’ve played Frank Sanazi in Berlin, haven’t you?” I asked.

“Yeah. Five or six times.”

“How do they react?”

“The first time I did it, the crowd were a bit…”

“Stunned?” I suggested.

“Well, I was told they loved it, but you can never tell with German audiences. There’s not laugh-out-loud vocal appreciation. When I play to an older crowd in Germany, they can be uncomfortable-squirmy a bit, but the young crowd just find it hilarious. Time has moved on so much they don’t feel part of anything their forefathers did.”

The Awards Show was a rally for the middle classes

Frank Sanazi at the 2014 Malcolm Hardee Awards Show

“I suppose Hitler will never die,” I said. “Malcolm Hardee and I booked The Rockin’ Gorbachev on a couple of TV shows and, of course, his career died when Gorbachev got ousted. But you’re not just a one character act.”

“Yes, I’ve diversified,” said Pete. “I do a lot of straight singing and I have Frank Sanazi and Tom Mones (an old Tom Jones).”

“How is your Vladimir Putin act doing?” I asked.

“I’m not sure if he has legs,” said Pete. “Putin is still very ‘in’ at the moment. As long as he keeps in the spotlight, I’m OK. At the moment, I sing Ukranian Men (to the tune It’s Raining Men) But Crimea River (Cry Me a River) is an obvious follow-up. And then there’s Putin on The Blitz (Putting On The Ritz).”

“Are you doing him at the Edinburgh Fringe this year?” I asked.

“No,” said Pete. “This year I’ve got the Voodoo Rooms to take my whole Iraq Pack show. I’ve got Pete Storm playing Dean Stalin (Stalin singing like Dean Martin) and I’ve written a great song for George who’s going to play Osama Bing Crosby and Saddami Davis Jnr is singing Arranged Marriage to the tune of Love and Marriage:

Ar-ranged marriage
Ar-ranged marriage
To a woman called Fatima Mohammed
This I’ll tell you mother
She looks just like her brother

“I wrote a new song recently for Osama Bing Crosby. He said he needed a song on his own because we were just doing a duet:

I have heard to the Taliban
You are now a forgotten man
Well, dead Jew ever
What a swell party this is

“So I wrote him:

How unlucky can one guy be
They shot her, then they shot me
Like the New York Times said
Ain’t that a shot in the head?

“I’ve never,” I said, “heard you ever talk about getting bad reactions from audiences.”

A singing Hitler - Less offensive than a dead Elvis

A singing Hitler – apparently less offensive than a dead Elvis

“I used to do an act called Dead Elvis,” Pete told me. “I used to come out of this coffin in a mask with worm holes cut out and I did send-up songs: Are You Hungry Tonight? (Are You Lonesome Tonight)… and The Burgers Went Straight To My Heart… those sort of songs. And I got more stick for doing that than I ever have for Frank Sanazi. Because people love Elvis so much they treat him like Jesus. I stopped doing that act because I was getting so much grief for it.”

“And you’re trend-proof,” I said. “because you play the comedy circuit, the cabaret circuit and the fetish circuit.”

“Yes,” said Pete. “There’s a Festival of Sins show this Saturday, a new fetish night. It ran before, five years ago. It was always overshadowed by the Torture Garden but Festival of Sins was possibly the second biggest in London – run by a guy called David de Vynél and he’s re-kickstarting it. It went tits-up when he married the woman he ran it with.”

There is a clip on Vimeo from the Festival of Sins show in 2010.

“I performed at his wedding and the wedding cake was an entire woman just covered in cake: you had to eat the cake off the top of her. It was very well-presented. This guy turned up – the best man – completely stark bollock naked. All he wore were a couple of little bits of tinsel round his penis and a couple of baubles for balls. And he had a massive dong – I think that’s why he went round naked.”

“Just to annoy people?” I asked.

“Mmmmm….,” said Pete.

“I went to one Torture Garden years ago,” I said. “I blogged about it.”

“I remember one Torture Garden,” said Pete, “where there was a guy in a cage and he had a Superman-style cape on and nothing else and he was peeing on people as they walked past. The other thing they had was like an iron lung from Barbarella with perspex over it, so you could put your hands in the gloves and feel whoever it was inside.

“And you know those things they have in Post Offices? Big thick latex things that hang down. I think they do it for health & hygiene. They have them in abattoirs – almost see-through plastic that you can push our way through…”

“Your local Post Office,” I said, “is more interesting than mine.”

“Well,” said Pete, “they had these people just chopping meat up. They had carcasses of sheep. I don’t know how they got away with that, because blood was spattering over everybody as they were going through.

“A couple came in when I was performing- I only knew they were a man and woman because of their size and shape. They had full Nazi outfits on and full gimps masks with zips so you could just see their eyes. They sat right in front of the stage when I performed, watched me for about 25 minutes, then stood up, clapped their gloves together and walked out. It was the most surreal thing.”

“Who else is on the bill with you for the Hitler birthday gig?” I asked.

“Jesus Christ is flying over from Glasgow,” said Pete.

There is a clip on YouTube of Frank Sanazi singing Strangers On My Flight.

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Lest we forget: West Berlin in 1985 and the Belsen concentration camp in 1945

Sonny Hayes

British entertainer Sonny Hayes lives in Berlin

In yesterday’s blogI quoted London-based Dutch comedian Jorik Mol on Wagner.

I received a comment from Berlin-based British entertainer Sonny Hayes saying:

“I love his take on Tristan und Isolde, “…it is like coitus interruptus without the coitus. This chord is never released – never”. We did an event in the 1970s where, for background, we combined bits of finales from Wagner, Richard Strauss et al, where the last note began the next finale and then we looped it – a never-arriving climax and very loud. It worked well, was very uncomfortable and one woman had a hysteric breakdown.”

In 1997, Sonny married Russian magician Galina and formed a professional partnership that still continues.

I Skyped Sonny in Berlin at the weekend.

“Anything glamorous coming up?” I asked.

“At the end of January, we go to Hawaii for ten months…”

“Lucky bastard,” I said.

“…which we’ve just found out is very radioactive,” continued Sonny. “The after-effect of the nuclear power plant exploding in Japan. It’s not safe to eat fish, which I was looking forward to.

“We’ve been working for some time on a solo theatre show called One For The Road which we premiered in Germany last month and we’ll be touring that after we finish our variety shows in Hawaii.”

“When did you move to Berlin?” I asked.

“In 2009, we came to work for a year at Friedrichstadt-Palast, a revue theatre, in a show called QI which was extended for a second year and then we decided we liked it here. Before that, we were living further south in Hessen.”

During the Cold War, Germany was divided into West and East Germany and Berlin was divided into West and East Berlin. The problem was that Berlin was deep within East Germany. So, to drive from West Germany proper to West Berlin, you had to travel along designated roads.

A publicity picture from around the time of Sonny’s first Berlin visit

A publicity picture around the time of Sonny’s first Berlin visit

“I remember the first time I came to Berlin in the mid-1980s,” Sonny told me. “I was working for CSE (Combined Services Entertainment).”

“We played in Helmstadt, the military police headquarters for policing the Berlin Corridor. The senior officer there was a Brigadier Gerrard, who was very impressive. I later saw him in the World at War TV series. He gave us a briefing about what to expect when we went through. And everything he said did happen.

“He told me: A Russian guard will salute you, then walk round your car then salute you again. That did happen and I gave the guard a Boy Scout salute.

“The brigadier said: At the time of night you go through, they’re going to want to do some black marketing with you. Under no circumstances are you to involve yourself in this kind of thing… But, as he was saying this, he had his thumbs in his belt and I could see he was wearing a Russian belt.

A tale of two cities - and of two countries - in the Cold War

A tale of two cities – and of two countries – in the Cold War

“You weren’t allowed to speak to anybody or to have any contact with anyone from East Germany. If you were in an accident, you weren’t allowed to get into a Russian or East German ambulance and you weren’t allowed to deal with the police.

“We were given a loose-leaf folder to take with us. If the police stopped you, you had to close the windows of your car, lock the doors and sit with your arms folded until they got really annoyed. Then you opened your folder on the first page and there was a Union Jack printed on it.

“Then you waited until they got really annoyed again and you turned to the second page where there was a smaller Union Jack and, written round it in three languages was We don’t accept you as a country. We don’t accept your authority – basically it said You don’t exist for us. We were told: You don’t speak to them unless they get a Russian officer and, unless you’ve killed someone, they are not going to get a Russian officer.”

“Did you have any problems?”

An East German GDR border scout apparently photographing grass along the border

An East German GDR border scout

“Not really. They did want to exchange bits of military gear – badges and emblems and things – for Western goods. I think I traded some chocolate for some badges. They unscrewed light bulbs and there were things inside the lightbulbs and in the hems of the curtains.

“You had to go to a hut to hand your passport in for checking. There was a small hatch and a hand came out and you could see there was an East German uniform on the arm, but you couldn’t see any more than that.

“They gave you two hours to drive through to Berlin. You didn’t drive too fast because that would mean you were speeding and you didn’t drive too slow. If you didn’t arrive within two hours, they sent a convoy out to look for you.

“Brigadier Gerrard was a super interesting guy; just a regular kind of hero of that generation. I liked him very much. He just did things his way and only followed the rules he wanted to follow. He spent a lot of time with the Russian officers drinking. They would bring vodka and he would bring whisky, which they much preferred.”

“All this happened in the mid-1980s,” I said. “Maybe 1985 – and the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 – so it was quite near the end.”

“Yes” said Sonny. “I was there in 1990 with Circus Roncali and you still needed a passport to go through the wall from West Berlin to East Berlin. Circus fans would have a minibus and take a bunch of us out from the show and treat us to dinner in the East. It was very cheap to pay for things with West German marks.”

“Brigadier Gerrard sounds like a real character,” I said.

“Yes,” said Sonny. “He was in a tank regiment and drove his tank through the wire at Belsen.”

I saw the film footage of Belsen when I was about 11 years old: an impressionable age. I hope it remains the worst thing I ever see in my life. I think, in other concentrations camps, the film cameras did not go in with the first troops; they went in slightly later, so the scenes are slightly less horrific. At Belsen they filmed what the first troops first saw. I remember a pile of corpses like skeletons. Then one of them got up – just a skeleton with thin skin stretched between the bones – and started to stagger around like a newly-born zombie foal.

Former guards are made to load the bodies of dead prisoners onto a truck for burial, April 17–18, 1945

Former guards are made to load the bodies of dead prisoners onto a truck for burial after the liberation of Belsen in 1945

“We’d done a deal with the guards,” said Sonny, “that the guards would leave before the Brits came and took over the camp, though there were still a few people there: mostly Hitler Youth, as I understand it. Brigadier Gerrard had to shoot at least one of them.

“He said they didn’t really know what to do; they just contained the situation. Later the Americans came and they reacted a bit more emotionally. I think they released some of the remaining guards at the same time that they released the women and I believe the prisoners just tore the guards apart.

Nazi doctor. Fritz Klein stands amongst corpses in Mass Grave 3 at Belsen

Nazi doctor Fritz Klein stands knee-deep in corpses at Mass Grave Number 3 in Belsen

“Brigadier Gerrard said they released some Poles who had been prisoners of war in the camp and they went out and started killing Germans at random so, in the end, he had to send out a detail to round them up.

“He told me that, on Friday nights, British soldiers used to go down and smash every window in the town. Every week they smashed the windows; every week they were repaired; the following week they were smashed again. By this time, Brigadier Gerrard was the High Sheriff of Bergen-Belsen and he said he found out about what was happening by accident so he called the mayor in and asked Why didn’t you tell me about this before? and the mayor just shrugged.

“It was extraordinary meeting someone who had been there and experienced history.”

Indeed.

Lest we forget.

So it goes.

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Filed under Cold War, Germany, Nazis, war, World War II

A birthday present from Dartmoor and the crumbling of dark Nazi structures

The perfect birthday present for a man with a slip disc

The perfect birthday present for a slipped disc man

Last night in Nuremberg, I slept on the floor because of my bad back: I was hit by a truck in was it 1990 or was it 1991? I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to check.

Rudiger, with whom I and my eternally-un-named friend are staying understands my problem. He had a slipped disc recently.

It was his birthday yesterday and one of the presents his mother gave him was a pad for his back containing, as far as I understand it, some soil from Dartmoor in England. The pad seems to be called a Moor-Rucken-Kissen. When I put that into Google Translate. it says that it is a Moor-jerking-cushion.

Multi-national life can be very complicated.

“You have to put it in a microwave or hot water and then you put it on your back,” Rudiger told me.

“But you don’t have a microwave,” my eternally-un-named friend pointed out. “It’s a heat thing?”

“Yeah,” said Rudiger, “yeah.”

Rudiger with his back pack yesterday

Rudiger with his back pack yesterday

“It’s a moor back compress,” I read out from the packet. “A pleasant heat source for your back… Helps to release neck tension. Long heat storage due to ‘ist’ whatever that means. Natural moor filling. Perfect fixation by means of individually-adjustable hook and loop fastener. Removable washable covering made from cotton and it’s from Dartmoor?”

“My sister told me it was,” replied Rudiger. “I do not know for certain. I hope so. It would make it more interesting.”

“How are you going to heat it up?” asked my eternally-un-named friend.

“You have to put it in a microwave,” said Rudiger.

“But you don’t have a microwave,” I said.

“I will have to use hot water,” said Rudiger.

“Do you sleep in it,” I asked, “or do you just walk around in it?”

“I think I walk around in it,” Rudiger told me. “I do not know.”

Later in the day, we went to the Nazi Party rally ground on the edge of Nuremberg where Hitler showpieced the best of his Thousand Year Reich.

It looked smaller than it seemed on the newsreels and in the films but, apparently, the rallies comprised 200,000 people.

One of the Thousand Year Reich’s Nuremberg Rallies

One of the Thousand Year Reich’s Nuremberg Rallies of 200,000 Nazis

The vast parade stands and outbuildings of the Thousand Year Reich’s iconic rally ground had started to crumble less than half a century after they were built. They were still crumbling. Reportedly it costs 100,000 Euros per year just to maintain the deteriorating structures and the local council is uncertain whether to keep maintaining them as historic monuments or to knock them down.

Afterwards, Rudiger told us that, once a year, in the 1930s, the Nazi Party would bring together top Nazi officials from all over the country for their own elite rally in the half-built Coliseum near the main rally ground. These vast annual meetings/rallies were filmed but took place only at night, never in the daylight. The reason was that most of the party elite looked far from the ideal of tall, thin, blonde demi-gods. Like Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler and other top Party people, they were often short and dark.

Tall Aryan troops in black uniforms and with blonde hair fronted the assembled masses for the cameras with torches flaring and, in the darkness behind them, were the Nazis.

The Nazis always had a good eye for visual composition and good theatrical events, though I have never heard of any comedy clubs.

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What Hermann Goering’s great-niece told me about the Holocaust this week

Hermann Goering, leader of the Nazi Luftwaffe

Hermann Goering, the Deputy Führer

This week, via Skype, I talked to Hermann Goering’s great-niece Bettina Goering in Thailand. She is writing a book.

“Hermann wasn’t really a nasty Nazi, though, was he?” I asked her. “He wasn’t identified with the Holocaust. He was simply head of the Luftwaffe. The image I have of him is an overweight man, who liked art, stamping around in rather flamboyant uniforms.”

“That’s what I thought,” replied Bettina. “That’s the image I had too, until I started digging further and it’s much more complex. The truth is that he was involved in the Holocaust too. I didn’t know that until I started the process of writing this book. He was as involved as any of them. He might have not been as gung-ho in his rhetoric about Jews. He came across as ‘the Luftwaffe guy’. But he was just as involved. I first learned that when I did a documentary called Bloodlines. He was part of the Final Solution. He co-authored it. So he was very involved. He was part of setting up concentration camps. And, when they decided to do the Final Solution, he was part of all that.”

Bettina has no children.

In the documentary Hitler’s Children, she says:

“My brother and I had the sterilisation done in order not to give life to other Goerings… I was feeling responsible for the Holocaust, even though I was born after the War, because of my family, who had an active part in it.”

“You got sterilised,” I asked her this week, “because you didn’t want to pass the genes on?”

“I think that was part of it,” she told me. “I think we had a lot of other intellectual arguments. There are enough children. We don’t want children, blah blah. I think, deep down, that was part of it too. It’s kinda complex.”

“And your relationship to Hermann Goering is…” I asked.

“He is the brother of my grandfather on my father’s side,” Bettina explained.

“You were born in the decade after he died,” I said.

Bettina Goering - currently living in Santa Fe, USA

Bettina Goering – currently living in Santa Fe, New Mexico

“Yes. The only member of that direct family that I knew who was really involved was my grandmother. My book is also largely about her and her relationship to Hermann and her relationship to the whole family. They were a very close-knit family.

“Her husband – Hermann’s older brother – died very young when she was in her 30s. She had three young boys and Hermann took care of her. I just found out she actually looked after his household at the beginning of the Nazi times – 1932/1933.”

“So,” I said, “by the time you’re really aware of anything, it’s the early 1960s, when people are making films about the Nazi era, but it’s not the immediate past…”

“There was a bit of a limbo time in Germany,” said Bettina, “when really not much was mentioned in education or films and it really came home to me when I was about 10 or 11 and documentaries were shown and that’s when I really started to see how bad it was. Before that, I knew bits and pieces, but I didn’t know what it meant, really.”

“Which obviously,” I said, “must have had an effect on you…”

“There have been different stages to it,” replied Bettina. “I came of age around the end of the 1960s and I got into this whole ‘Anti’ movement. I became left wing, hippie and tried to somehow understand this whole dilemma more and create something else.”

“That’s roughly the time of Baader-Meinhof,” I said.

Baader-Meinhof: a troubled generation

Baader-Meinhof – in a troubled generation

“Yeah. They were around and one of my friends became one of the second generation of Baader-Meinhof. I was in a left-leaning organisation but for me to use violence was totally out of the question. But some of my friends were starting… You’d be surprised how many people were sympathetic to them (the Baader-Meinhof activists), including us, for a while. There’s a good movie that came out a couple of years ago…”

The Baader Meinhof Complex?” I asked.

“Yes. That was about the time I was growing up and I think they (the Baader-Meinhof activists and supporters) were partly in reaction to the Nazis in some ways, because most of them were born during the War. All that manifested in themselves.”

“A very mixed-up generation,” I said.

“My mother only met my father after the War,” explained Bettina. “My family was the Hermann Goering family on one side, but my mother’s family were the opposite. Very different families who married each other. My grandfather on my mum’s side was an anti-Fascist. He was once arrested. It was well-known he was supporting Jewish people. He had to be really careful.

“So here I have the Fascist side and the anti-Fascist side both in my family and that made it very… crazy. This trouble within myself was always trying to work itself out.”

“So your book is going to give an inside view of a troubled family?”

“Yes. It’s the inside view and trying to find some way to… You can’t really marry those two sides together… Also I was judging them so negatively that I was judging some part of me. Do you get that? That came to a head at some point where I realised I couldn’t really live my fullest potential  because I was really judging part of me so negatively. That is something I have been striving to overcome. Exactly that. To find some forgiveness in myself – of myself. It’s like an impossible thing to do, but just in order to feel healthy, I feel like I need to do that.

“There’s a lot been written about the Nazis on a very intellectual level but my book will be maybe a more emotional way to deal with it, which is hard for the Germans to do. There’s still all this guilt, conscious or unconscious, and I write a lot about this guilt stuff. On an emotional level, it is not resolved.”

“Who do you think would like to read your book?”

“Well, anybody who has any traumas in their closets. So far, we’ve only approached one or two German literary agents. Until now, we’ve really not been that ready.

“Maybe it will be that a British publisher will publish it first and then it will, in a roundabout way, go to the Germans. We are writing it in both languages and I have been living more in English-speaking countries than I have in Germany. I lived even in England for a couple of years.”

“You are in Thailand at the moment, but you and your husband live in Santa Fe in the US?”

“Yes, but we are moving…”

“… to where?” I asked.

“We’re not sure just now. We are sort of in flux. We have a house in Santa Fe that has still not been sold. It’s gonna take some time.”

“Could you live back in Germany happily?”

“No, I don’t think so. It’s not that I don’t like Germany. We go visit a lot. But I’ve never felt drawn to live there again. I feel it’s a bit limiting.”

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Filed under Germany, Jewish, Psychology

Nazis from the dark side of the Moon and ultra film violence from Indonesia

Prince Charles Cinema: home of lateral thinking marketing

London would be a duller place if the Prince Charles Cinema did not exist.

A few weeks ago, the management were asking what their market position was. I said I thought the cinema filled a gap between the mainstream and art house cinemas. In among some cult commercial films, the Prince Charles screens movies the National Film Theatre seldom if ever shows.

The Prince Charles screens cult, schlock, under-the-radar and often extraordinarily quirky movies. Amid special events like Sing-a-long-a-Grease, the Bugsy Malone Sing-Along, Swear-Along-With-South-Park and a screening of ‘The Die Hard Trilogy’ (they are not including Die Hard 4.0 because they say it is not a ‘real’ Die Hard film…. they will soon be screening the little-heard-of Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie and God Bless America (with free hot dogs) as well as an all-night marathon of Friday the 13th Parts I-VIII.

They also yesterday screened two films extraordinary even by their standards – Iron Sky and The Raid both of which, I suspect, have been held back by titles less vivid than they should be. Iron Sky should, I think, really have been called Nazis From The Dark Side of The Moon… or Space Nazis… because the plot runs thus:

Iron Sky: Nazis are not a waste of space

In 1945, some Nazis escaped to the Moon, where they built a giant secret base in the shape of a swastika. Since then, they have been watching us and waiting for the right time to mount an invasion of Earth in their meteor-towing zeppelin-shaped spacecraft and take their revenge. The date is now 2018 and the time is right…

Admittedly I got in for free, but THAT is a movie I would pay good money to see and the strange thing about it is that the visuals and the special effects are excellent, as are the sound, the direction and the acting. And the acting is difficult to pull off, because all the lines are (quite rightly) delivered totally straight-faced, so the acting style has to be in that difficult region between realistic and slightly stylised cartoon – If you have a central Negro character whom the Nazis turn white and a sequence in which the vacuum of space pulls off a female Nazi’s clothes yet she is still somehow able to breathe, there is a credibility risk unless you have everything spot-on.

They get away with lines like (I paraphrase):

“I was black but now I’m white. I went to the dark side of the Moon but now I’m back. And the space Nazis are coming!”

(To a taxi driver) “Take us upState – We need to get back to the Moon”

and

“The Nazis are the only guys the US managed to beat in a fair fight”

Alright, the last line is not actually so odd; it is the truth (if you exclude the British in 1776).

Iron Sky has its faults – it would be a much better film with less ponderous, less Wagnerian music – oddly from Slovenian avant-garde group Laibach – but it is 93 minutes long and never less than interesting.

It is good clean Nazi fun and has a fair stab at satire with a cynical political PR lady who sees the benefits of having a Nazi invasion of Earth and a not-too-far-removed-from-reality Sarah Palin type female US President in 2018 who says: “All Presidents who start a war in their first term get re-elected”.

With an unsurprisingly complicated production history, it is basically a Finnish film with English and German dialogue (sub-titled) which was shot for an estimated 7.5 million Euros in Australia, Finland, Germany and New York and partly financed by ‘crowd funding’ from fan investors.

Iron Sky is well worth seeing on the big screen – something that is highly unlikely in the UK now, as distributors Revolver are putting it straight to DVD.

The Raid: wall-to-wall high-rise violence

The Raid is another film championed by the Prince Charles Cinema though, unlike Iron Sky, it did get a decent UK release.

It is a visceral, staggeringly-violent Indonesian action film directed by Welsh film-maker Gareth Evans (allegedly only 27-years-old) with jaw-dropping martial arts sequences.

I am no martial arts aficionado, but the action is amazing – it showcases the unknown-to-me Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat.

The movie won the Midnight Madness Award at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival and that sounds a pretty well-titled award.

The plot is token – more a MacGuffin than a plot.

A less-than-elite SWAT team mount an attack on the strangely run-down Jakarta tower block base of a crime lord who has rented rooms in the block out to the city’s most dangerous murderers, killers and gangsters… and, inexplicably, to one ordinary good guy and his pregnant wife.

Running 101 minutes, it could usefully have about 10 minutes trimmed off it, but it is astonishingly gripping throughout, especially given that it is simply wall-to-wall violence. Very well edited and with vivid Dolby Stereo, it is like being in a firefight. You have no idea what is going to happen next.

And the violence is relentless.

There are a couple of half-hearted attempts to give the movie depth and a late attempt to create personal sympathy with one of the characters, but this is pointless.

Watching it reminded me of the original reviews of Reservoir Dogs, which said that film was mindlessly violent, staggeringly bloody and was simply violence for the sake of violence.

Reservoir Dogs was not.

The Raid is.

And I loved it.

Director Gareth Evans could be the new Quentin Tarantino.

Uniquely different. That is what you get at the Prince Charles Cinema.

Nazis from the Dark Side of the Moon for 93 minutes and mindless martial art violence from Indonesia for 101 minutes.

Now that is what I call entertainment.

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Filed under Cult, Culture, Humor, Humour, Kitsch, London, Movies, Violence

“Most people in the mainstream film industry are the scum of the earth”

Lloyd Kaufman last night at his movie premiere

I attended a movie premiere in Leicester Square last night. Well, OK, it was just off Leicester Square. But it was still the British premiere – or it might have been the European premiere – of an American movie.

Well, OK, the premiere was of a movie by Troma Entertainment, purveyors of fine B-movie features such as The Toxic Avenger, Surf Nazis Must Die and Tromeo and Juliet. It was at the wonderfully-cultish Prince Charles Cinema.

Last night’s premiere was of Father’s Day (impressively produced, given it cost $10,000 to make), directed by five Canadians calling themselves Astron-6.

The last movie Troma released was Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead in 2006.

Introducing the new Father’s Day film was Troma’s capo di tutti capi Lloyd Kaufman. There was a queue literally round the block to see him. It is rare to see a Troma movie on the big screen in the UK and pretty-much unique to see Kaufman and his lovely wife of 40 years Patricia Swinney Kaufman, currently New York Film Commissioner. They had an announcement:

“We noticed,” said Lloyd Kaufman, “that there are currently a number of £100 million re-makes of movies that originally cost nothing. Well, Troma is going to do a re-make of a movie that cost nothing and we’re going to do the re-make for less than nothing. We’re gonna re-make Class of Nuke ‘Em High this summer and I will have the privilege of directing it. It will be a bit different. In the re-make, the young teenage couple will be a young teenage lesbian couple.”

This announcement by the neatly-suited man and his immaculately-dressed wife was greeted with whoops and cheers by the full-house audience which was dressed as if for a heavy metal rock show.

“Thankyou for supporting independent cinema and art!” Lloyd Kaufman shouted, when the whoops of joy had subsided.

Off-stage (I saw them before the screening), Lloyd Kaufman and his wife appear to be quiet, rather unassuming American tourists of a certain age. They had just flown in from Paris.

On-stage, Lloyd Kaufman turns into Mel Brooks. A loud, very funny New York Jewish salesman.

“I met Astron 6, who made Father’s Day,” he explained, “because they showed some short films at the TromaDance Film Festival. Then I met one of the Astron 6 people on the set of the re-make of Mother’s Day(The original 1980 version was directed by Lloyd Kaufman’s brother Charles)

“I thought it would be amusing if people would think Father’s Day was going to be a cynical attempt to ride the coat-tails of Charles Kaufman’s Mother’s Day which was being re-made as a big-budget movie. But Father’s Day has absolutely nothing to do with Mother’s Day, which I think is hilarious.

“I do believe,” he said, “that Astron-6 are continuing the Troma tradition of making films that come from the heart and are honest expressions of their soul without any thought to commercial success. Father’s Day is another movie that contributes to Troma’s 40 years of failed film-making.”

In fact, Father’s Day won several awards at last year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival, including Best Film, Best Trailer and Best Poster.

In its heyday, Troma was always known for its posters. They used to think of a title, then design a poster, then sell it to distributors and, only after that, try to think what the script might be.

“I think,” he said, “that you will see a lot more from these Astron-6 guys in the same way as Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the creators of animated TV series South Park, who, like many, had an early involvement with Troma)

Former Troma guy James Gunn, who wrote and directed their Tromeo and Juliet in 1996, went on to direct the more mainstream science fiction horror comedy Slither in 2006. He was said, at one time, to have written a sadly-unproduced Troma movie Schlock & Schlockability: The Revenge of Jane Austen.

“But James Gunn didn’t write that,” Lloyd Kaufman revealed last night. “Another guy did – he was a postman – I can’t remember his name. We never got anywhere with it. We were hoping to get a British partner but, thusfar, we have not been able to get anybody.”

There have also been stories that Troma are to make Toxic Avenger 5: Toxic Twins.

“We have not yet been able to do that yet,” he explained philosophically. “Since nobody goes to our movies, we have no distribution anywhere and we don’t make any money… Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, my best movie, will never break even. We were plucked on that film. So there’s no purpose in making a movie unless we really, really love it.

Father’s Day we really loved, the Astron-6 guys were ready-to-go, so we did it. But, with Toxis Avenger 5, I have not gotten to where I really believe in it. Something I can get behind or, at least, get into my behind, is the Class of Nuke ‘Em High Redux. I think that’s something I can really believe in.

“The re-make of Class of Nuke ‘Em High will be shot on video because, finally, the quality of the digital format exceeds 35mm film. But we were always way ahead of the game, because we knew how to make 35mm look like shitty, unfocused, scratched VHS tape 40 years ago. So we’re just going back to our roots.”

Troma movies influenced directors like Quentin Tarantino and gave early work to people like actor Samuel L.Jackson and director Oliver Stone (as an actor).

“I think,” said Lloyd Kaufman, “that the Atron-6 guys will be accepted in the mainstream in the same way that James Gunn and Tarantino and Eli Roth have been. They were all fans of Troma or worked for Troma and want to make money.

“I don’t want to live in a refrigerated carton and be putting my shit in a paper bag, but I’m not able to make it in the mainstream. James Gunn and Trey Parker and Matt Stone and those guys are great people. Most people in the film industry who are in the mainstream are worse than wankers; they’re scum of the earth. But there are a small number who are sensational. And I’m sure that Astron-6 will be able to go mainstream and stay true to their souls and be honest, good, serious artists.

“I guess my message is just do what you believe in. Don’t listen to people. If idiots like me can survive for 40 years making films with hideously-deformed creatures of super-human size and father’s getting boffed up the behind and hard-bodied lesbians and all that sort of stuff, then anybody can do it. To thine own self be true. That is a phrase coined by one William Shakespeare who wrote the best-selling book 101 Money-Making Screenplay Ideas otherwise known as Hamlet

“Do what you believe in.”

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Filed under Comedy, Kitsch, Movies

Fugitive rapist film director Roman Polanski delivers a pointless turkey

Last night, I was invited to a preview screening of Roman Polanski‘s new film. It was never likely to end happily. It was a bit like a Jew being invited to a screening of the Nazi propaganda movie Triumph of the Will, except that Triumph of the Will was an artistic success.

Let us get ‘the Polanski factor’ out of the way first. As any regular reader of this blog will know, I think the rich fugitive rapist should be rotting in some stinking prison cell in California.

Personally, I would not finance a movie directed by some criminal who drugged, raped and buggered a 13 year-old girl and then fled the country to escape justice – and I know something about financing films involving criminals. But Polanski’s showbiz friends seem to think an ‘artist’ of his ‘stature’ (an ironic description, given that he is vertically-challenged) should be forgiven for what they see as a past minor crime. They and I perhaps have different opinions on that – and on our choice of meaning for that crucial word ‘minor’.

I never much rated his early Knife in the Water nor Cul De Sac. But Repulsion was very effectively paranoid, Dance of The Vampires was brilliant and his Playboy-financed version of Macbeth – the first film he directed after his wife Sharon Tate was butchered by the Charles Manson ‘family’ – is one of the two best movie Shakespeares I have ever seen (the other being Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet).

Pirates (1986) and What? (1973), though, were virtually unwatchable.

Whether or not he has made great art in the past is somewhat irrelevant; artistic merit is no mitigation against serious criminal charges.

We also have to bear in mind that all views of movies are personal views. So, for example, when I saw Polanski’s allegedly comic new movie last night, it sounded to me as if the publicists had inserted ‘laughers’ in the third row to lead the hoped-for audience merriment: it is always difficult to ‘dub’ laughter naturalistically and the guffaws appeared to be slightly misplaced.

I may have been wrong, though.

Later, coming out of the screening, I talked to a comedian I know and his friend. They had both genuinely enjoyed the movie and had laughed in many places. So I was perhaps wrong in finding the thing a totally laugh-free zone – although, in my defence, they did compare the movie to Cat On a Hot In Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire, neither of which I see as laugh-a-minute raucous comedies.

So… let us get to the movie itself: Carnage, which has some passing aspiration to depth with references to atrocities in Darfur and the Congo and to the God of Carnage. At the start, it includes the line “If this kid gets away with hitting people, why would he stop?” – a line included apparently without any intentional irony, despite Polanski’s past – and, towards the end, it includes a line about how, morally, you are supposed to control your compulsions “but sometimes you can’t”.

If only the script actually addressed these points. But it does not.

This is the sort of film that actors admire.

It has four excellent actors – Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz – getting their teeth into what looks less like a movie script and more like an Actors Studio limbering-up performance piece. It is a sub-Edward Albee claustrophobic Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? style extravaganza of psychology and showy performance. Jodie Foster, with the showiest, juiciest role, displays genuinely brilliant Oscar-worthy acting of a type that Academy voters love.

But the thing I saw last night is not a movie. It might be a good stage play (which is what it originated as) or even a radio play or it certainly could be a cheap TV play, but there is no reason on God’s earth for it to be made as a big screen movie.

With the exception of a brief opening MacGuffin and a brief final coda set outside, the entire 79-minute film takes place in real time inside a New York apartment (though it was shot in Paris because Polanski is a fugitive from justice in the US).

I describe the opening scene as a Hitchcockian MacGuffin because, really, it does not matter what the protagonists are arguing about. The plot is that four people – two couples – argue throughout with each other in varying configurations. What they argue about is almost irrelevant. The plot is the psychological arc of their arguing though, it has to be said, it is aimless and, ultimately, reaches no climactic end resolution.

I suspect Polanski (who co-adapted the stage script and is therefore partly to blame) may have been attracted by the chance to show he can keep an audience’s attention in a single location as Alfred Hitchcock successfully did in Rear Window and Dial M For Murder or Oliver Stone did in Talk Radio.

It is visually competent, but no more – though Polanski shows-off to film students and cineastes by placing one wall mirror in the apartment’s living room and three in the bathroom – mirrors are difficult for directors to shoot round. But what is the point of this film other than, when it comes down to it, a self-indulgent acting exercise?

The movie does not have the psychological depth it aspires to and, though well-acted, it is a shallow shouting match between four people. It never seems to be going anywhere and, in fact, never reaches anywhere. The film just ends without warning or meaning.

I never laughed once and, as far as I could see, the only humour in the film came when Kate Winslet unexpectedly vomited on a coffee table. There was a knee-jerk laugh. But, if you have to rely on an unexpected vomit for your laughs, you are in big trouble.

Give me a knob gag any day.

From my humourless viewpoint, the marketing strategy on this film appears to be wildly misconceived. A comedy movie it is not. It is like selling Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as a comedy. Why bother? If anything, it is a filmed actors’ showcase within a stage context.

At the end of his excellent, though over-rated, movie Chinatown, someone got shot. With this new movie, it should have been Roman Polanski himself.

I was going to compare the movie (filmed a year ago) to the Emperor’s New Clothes but, really, I think I will settle on describing it as a movie which should have been released at Christmas. That is the traditional time to sell turkeys.

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Filed under Crime, Movies