Back in the murky, distant past, one of the first reviews I did for this blog was a retrospective look back at Jess (then Jeff) Johnson’s Nurture The Devil, a short-lived series that continues to mystify and haunt me to this day, so it’s only fitting that I should also take a look at one of the late cartoonist/mixed-media artist/author’s final works, as well, I suppose — that being Forward Looking Statement, subtitled And Other Split Texts From The Evaporated Floor Of The Ill-Lit Bibliotheque, a decidedly experimental and idiosyncratic mini published back in 2014 by Robyn Chapman’s Paper Rocket Mini Comics that maps and limns a concrete physical reality (indeed, a structure) that is nevertheless impermanent in all ways and at all times.
Combining collage, found and/or appropriated text, diagrams, and sketches to make a kind of subtly bold statement about life and and identity and…
After killing her rapist in self-defense, young and pretty Bonnie (Michelle Newkirk) is sentenced to two years in prison. It’s one of those tough women’s prisons where all of the inmates dress like they’ve just come back from shooting an 80s music video and where the prisoners only have arcade games, a Olympic-size swimming pool, and a fully stocked gym to help them pass the time. It’s so tough that, when it comes to conjugal visits, the prisoners have to settle for being driven to a nearby motel. It’s the toughest prison since Leavenworth.
Because she’s blonde and innocent-looking, Bonnie is targeted by the predatory Kay Butler (Sandy Martin). After Bonnie rejects Kay’s advances in the public shower room (while all of the other prisoners watch), Kay get her revenge by giving Bonnie a hot dose and then shoving her over a railing. Even though all the evidence indicates that Bonnie was murdered, the official cause of death is ruled to be suicide.
What no one considered was that Bonnie’s older sister, a Hollywood stuntwoman named Laurie (played by real-life stuntwoman Karen Chase), would want revenge. Determined to investigate the prison on her own, Laurie steals a judge’s car. When that same judge attempts to suspend Laurie’s sentence, Laurie attacks him in the courtroom. (Why would a judge be allowed to oversee a trial that directly involved him as a witness?) Laurie finally gets her wish and is sentenced to prison. Having now compiled the type of criminal record that will probably make her unemployable for the rest of her life, Laurie sets out to discover who is responsible for the death of her sister. Soon, Laurie is tracking down and murdering every member of Kay’s gang, all the while trying to avoid getting caught by the head guard, Miss Dice (Roberta Collins).
In many ways, Vendetta is a typical 80s women-in-prison movie. It has everything that you would expect to find in one of these movies: predatory lesbians, a victimized innocent, corrupt guards, and a gratuitous shower scene. What sets Vendetta apart from similar films is that the prison is more of a health club than a prison and, while she’s hardly the world’s greatest actress, Karen Chase looks very credible when she’s beating the other inmates to death. As a result, the fight scenes are more exciting than they usually are in a film like this and Karen Chase’s Laurie is a stronger heroine. She can hold her own against anyone who comes at her. Sandy Martin is also an effective villain and there’s actually some unexpected depth to her character. She actually gets upset when her gang start to get killed, not just because she’s losing people who are willing to do her bidding but also because she’s losing the only people that she feels close to. Thanks to Karen Chase’s fight skills and Sandy Martin’s unexpected performance, Vendetta is better the than the average 80s prison flick.
If there’s one nominal “positive” to come from the current COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the fact that I’m getting a good chance to catch up on stuff I should have read, like, ages ago — although “read” isn’t exactly the word for Jess Rullifson’s Characters : Fifty Portraits Of Contemporary Cartoonists, a handsome full-color mini that was part of publisher Robyn Chapman’s 2014 Kickstarter for her Paper Rocket Mini Comics imprint and is a collection of portraiture done for a gallery show collected herein between two covers. Yes, I really am that late to the party.
That being said, wordless as the bulk of this particular ‘zine may be, it’s nevertheless a difficult item to review without resorting to some serious “inside baseball”-type referencing. This is a nice-looking publication, to be sure, and Rullifson’s illustrations are well-rendered, emotive, and expressionistic — all very good things — but the project itself…
Since it’s Orson Welles’s birthday and everyone’s kind of nervous about going outside right now, why not experience the live radio broadcast that panicked America in 1938?
Actually, there’s some debate as to just how panicked America got when they heard the Mercury Theater On The Air’s adaptation of War of the Worlds. There was definitely some panic but there are differing reports on just how wide spread it was. For our purposes, let’s assume that the entire country was terrified at the same time and that everyone was loading up a shotgun and planning to go out and look for aliens. One thing is for sure. With his adaptation of War of the Worlds, Orson Welles managed to invent the whole found footage genre that would later come to dominate horror cinema in the late 90s and the aughts. Every Paranormal Activity film owes a debt to what Orson Welles accomplished with War of the Worlds. We won’t hold that against Orson.
H.G. Wells, the original author of War of the Worlds, and Orson Welles only met once. Interestingly enough, they were both in San Antonio, Texas in 1940. They were interviewed for a local radio station. H.G. Wells expressed some skepticism about the reports of Americans panicking while Welles compared the radio broadcast to someone dressing up like a ghost and shouting “Boo!” during Halloween. Both Wells and Welles then encouraged Americans to worry less about Martians and more about the growing threat of Hitler and the war in Europe.
I’ve shared this before but this just seems like the time to share it again. Here is the 1938 Mercury Theater On The Air production of The War of the Worlds!
Today is the 105th anniversary of the birth of the great Orson Welles. As those of you who have been reading us for a while know, Orson Welles is a bit of patron saint around here. With this year being the 10th anniversary of the creation of Through the Shattered Lens (and wow, what a year to celebrate that moment, right?), there was no way that we couldn’t pay tribute to Orson Welles on his birthday.
The scene below comes form the 1965 film, Chimes at Midnight. Based on several of Shakespeare’s history plays (Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2, and also Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor), Chimes at Midnight was one of Welles’s dream projects. Though it was initially dismissed by critics, it has since been rediscovered and is now regularly cited as one of the greatest Shakespearean films of all time.
Welles not only directed this film but he also played the key role of Falstaff, the knight who loves good food, good drink, and low company. Falstaff acts as a mentor to Price Hal and, when Hal is finally ready to make his move and assume the throne of England as Henry V, Falstaff supports him. Falstaff believes that Hal will remember his friends once he is king. Sadly, Falstaff turns out to have been far too trusting.
In the poignant scene below, Falstaff greets the newly crowned King Henry V (played by Keith Baxter), just to be coldly rebuffed by his former friend. Now that Henry is king, he no longer has time for the loyal Falstaff. In Shakespeare’s time, this scene was probably meant to reflect that, now that he was king, Henry V was prepared to set aside childish games and devote himself to ruling England. Seen, today, it just comes across as being a betrayal of a good man who deserved better.
It’s a heart-breaking scene. Critic Danny Peary has speculated that, in this scene, Prince Hal/Henry V is a stand-in for every director who Welles mentored in Hollywood who later refused to help Welles when the latter was struggling to get his projects off the ground. Peary may be right because Welles was betrayed by quite a few people during his lifetime. As Welles himself put it, “They’ll love me when I’m dead,” and indeed, it wasn’t until after Welles was dead that his post-Citizen Kane work was truly appreciated.
From the 1950s through the early 70s, Man’s Life was “the action magazine for men.” Or, at least, that’s what it claimed on the covers. Judging from these covers, a man’s life back in the 20th century consisted of 1) fighting wild animals, 2) getting attacked by woman who had forgotten to button up their shirts, and 3) standing up for truth, justice, and the American way.
Here are a few of the extremely manly covers of Man’s Life. Be sure to check out the headlines too because some of them are certainly interesting. Any comments from any men as to whether or not these covers present an accurate representation would be greatly appreciated. As always, the artist has been credited where known!