Thursday, June 30, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 274


The Date: June 30

The Movie: The Invisible Ray (1936)

What Is It?: In one of the last gasps of the first wave of Universal horror, the studio’s two biggest legends—Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff—are scientists who form an uneasy alliance after Karloff captures a ray from the Andromeda nebula that leads him to a pre-historic meteor in Africa. The partnership gets a bit complicated when that meteor turns Karloff into a psycho King Midas in Reverse. The Invisible Ray is almost like a two-decades-early bridge between the Gothic horrors of the thirties and the atom-age paranoia of the fifties with lightning storm-soaked castles sharing the screen with radiation-derived monsterism.

Why Today?: Today is Meteor Watch Day.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 273


The Date: June 29

The Movie: Vertigo (1958)

What Is It?: Fear-addled Jimmy Stewart is made to believe that Kim Novak has been possessed by the ghost of a woman named Carlotta Valdes. This proves a ruse, but it allows Hitchcock to indulge in a sort of California-Gothic sensibility. Stewart’s acrophobic episodes (his vertigo doesn’t seem as acute, but I guess Acrophobia isn’t a very catchy movie title) are made horrific with Hitchcock’s distorted camera effects. His psychedelic nightmare is like something from one of Roger Corman’s Poe pictures and Bernard Herrmann’s score is disorienting and romantic.

Why Today?: On this day in 1911, Bernard Herrmann is born.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 272


The Date: June 28
The Movie: Double Indemnity (1944)
What Is It?: Your noir education resides in Nowheresville until you see what may be the genre’s quintessential film. You’ve got your femme fatale, your dupe duped into committing a heinous crime for her, the cuckold, the steaminess, violence, and B&W shadow play. Billy Wilder brings his masterful style, Barbara Stanwyck electrifies, and Fred MacMurray once again raises a confounding question: how did this dude get cast as the dad from “My Three Sons”?
Why Today?: Today is Insurance Awareness Day.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Psychobabble’s Twelve Greatest Rarities and Reconstructions (a slight detour in the Great Albums Series…)


In a perfect world, all the great music that great artists have recorded would end up on The Great Albums. I’m sure I do not need to tell you that this world is far from perfect, and I’m also sure you’re aware that a lot of great music was not released in its own time. Perhaps its creators misjudged its quality and decided to leave it in the vaults. Perhaps its creators intended it to be part of a greater concept, and when that concept evaporated, some great songs went out with the bathwater. Perhaps its creators were riddled with self-doubts and believed naysayers who didn’t understand the vision behind the work. Perhaps the music consisted of demos never intended for public consumption or the band broke up before they got a chance to put out the great music they’d created.

Here at the Psychobabble Preservation Society, I believe that this great music should not be punished for failing to see release when it was it made, and I believe that Psychobabble’s Great Albums series should not be punished with its absence. After all, much of it eventually saw release, even if that release was absurdly belated. So what follows is an unusual detour in The Great Albums. The albums may be reconstructions of ones that were supposed to be released but weren’t or they may be compilations of unreleased songs spanning different eras (occasionally peppered with a few tunes that managed to slip out on B-sides or flop A-sides). However, they all contain some music as essential as anything the artists properly released, regardless of whether or not the artists even wanted these rarities and reconstructions to be released.

(Note: I usually try to assemble the albums in this series according to how I personally rate them—from least great to most great—but I decided that chronological order makes more sense for this atypical installment).

1. The Great Lost Kinks Album by The Kinks (1973)

As the sixties came to an end, rarities compilations began emerging with greater frequency. Some, such as The Turtles’ Wooden Head, commemorated bands that ended with the decade. Some, such as The Byrds’ Preflyte, looked back on the beginnings of bands that had changed so much that they might as well have become different ones. The Great Lost Kinks Album was a different story: a contractual obligation archive sweep consisting of songs its chief creator would have preferred to leave in the archives. As these collections go, Great Lost is one of the messier ones because not everything on it had been lost. “I’m Not Like Everyone Else” was the B-side of a smash single, “Plastic Man” had been released as a moderately successful A-side, and “The Way Love Used to Be” had appeared on an LP just two years earlier. The greatness of this stuff is another matter. Favoring outtakes from The Kinks greatest LP, The Village Green Preservation Society (I’m sorry…did I say The Kinks’ greatest LP? I meant the greatest LP) and the aborted solo album Dave Davies’ made with the help of his day-job coworkers, The Great Lost Kinks Album is packed with absolutely wonderful songs that definitely deserved to be heard. “Pictures in the Sand”, “Mister Songbird”, “Groovy Movies”, “This Man He Weeps Tonight” (which had already been on the B-side of the flop “Shangri-La” single), and “Pictures in the Sand” are rollicking, joyful tunes, as marvelously written and rendered as anything Ray and Dave Davies were writing in the late sixties. “’Til Death Us Do Part” (written for the feature version of the UK TV series that inspired the US’s All in the Family), “Rosemary Rose”, “Lavender Hill”, and “There Is No Life without Love” find the Davies brothers in more sighful mode, while “Misty Water” rollicks and sighs in equal proportion, making for what may be the most enchanting track on the collection. One man who most definitely was not enchanted by The Great Lost Kinks Album was Ray Davies, and he successfully forced Reprise Records to discontinue the disc after a mere two years on record shop shelves, sadly forcing some great music back to rarity status for decades. Fortunately, everything on The Great Lost Kinks Album can now be obtained on various deluxe editions and box sets, though the original compilation remains out of print and will likely stay that way.

2. Odds & Sods by The Who (1974)

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 271


The Date: June 27
The Movie: Reservoir Dogs (1992)
What Is It?: All of the self-consciously clever postmodern gobbledygook that has cluttered every crime picture made during the past two decades was completely fresh in Reservoir Dogs. The image of a group of cold-blooded hoods sitting around the breakfast table and discussing Madonna lyrics was truly original and really funny. While it’s tough to still quote Pulp Fiction without sounding like a doofus, Reservoir Dogs hasn’t been totally appropriated and crushed under the clumsy wing tip of pop culture. It remains fresh when you see it today; Mr. Orange is just as tragic, Mr. Pink is just as hilariously neurotic, Mr. White is just as conflicted and complex, and Mr. Blonde is just as psychotic… and there’s still no way to watch this movie without getting chills as soon as Steeler’s Wheel comes on K-Billy's "Super Sounds of the Seventies" radio show.
Why Today?: Today is Sunglasses Day.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 270


The Date: June 26
The Movie: Hairspray (1988)
What Is It?: John Waters sacrifices the shocks and scatology to go mainstream, and lo and behold, the master of ironic schlock makes a sincerely lovely film with a message of equality, empowerment, and dancing. Ricki Lake becomes the star of a teen dance show and Divine shuns the clown makeup and cha-cha heels to play her schlumpy mom with subtlety. Proof that the King of Filth is just a big, old softy.
Why Today?: Today is Beautician’s Day.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 269


The Date: June 25

The Movie: The Complete Beatles (1982)

What Is It?: The first Beatles documentary of any significance managed to boil the band’s hefty history down to two hours. Narration by Malcolm McDowell is an extra cool touch. I always suspected that Patrick Montgomery based his film on The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash. My favorite moment is the copy of Revolver that starts spinning as “Tomorrow Never Knows” plays… trippy special effects, man! Sadly, McCartney bought The Complete Beatles and pulled it off the market so it wouldn’t compete with the Anthology, though you can still find it on YouTube.

Why Today?: Today is Global Beatles Day.

Friday, June 24, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 268


The Date: June 24

The Movie: I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)

What Is It?: Robert Zemeckis's ode to Beatlemania is as weighty as an unused Kleenex, but it's sweet, fun froth, and Nancy Allen's molestation of Paul's Hofner after she and her Beatlemaniac buddies break into the Fabs' hotel room is bizarrely erotic.

Why Today?: I wish I could say today is "National Make Out with a Bass Guitar Day," but it is not. However, on this day in 1950, Nancy Allen is born. That's pretty good too!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 267


The Date: June 23

The Movie: Paul McCartney and Wings: Rockshow (1980)

What Is It?: Concert film of Wings’ 1976 tour catches the band at a point when they were sharp as nails, putting on a mammoth, crowd-pleasing show. Most important of all, Paul had finally decided to work some Beatles material into the performance, which included lots of songs the fabs never got a chance to play. Despite several dollops of classic Wings corniness (“Awlriiiiight!”), this is a solid rock show.

Why Today?: This day in 1976 is the final day footage for this film was shot. Awlriiiiight!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 266


The Date: June 22
The Movie: House of Frankenstein (1944)
What Is It?: “FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER! WOLF MAN! DRACULA! HUNCHBACK! MAD DOCTOR!... All the Screen's Titans of Terror - Together in the Greatest of All SCREEN SENSATIONS!” House of Frankenstein is the kind of matinee pap one would expect from a movie with such a tagline, but as far as matinee pap goes, it’s gold. Logic, craft, and all pretensions toward thoughtfulness are pitched out the crypt door, leaving nothing more than a gullet-choking feast for monster aficionados. If one could detect the last gasps of a once formidable genre in House of Frankenstein, at least the Universal monster movie was going to go out just as it came in: overflowing with fun.
Why Today?: On this day in 1816, Mary Shelley allegedly had the dream that inspired the book without which there’d be no Frankenstein and no house for him.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 265


The Date: June 21
The Movie: Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)
What Is It?: Roger excelled at making weird movies, so it’s no small thing to say that Attack of the Crab Monsters is one of his weirdest. Nuclear radiation from the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests not only makes crabs grow to requisite 1950s sci-fi proportions but also makes them absorb the brains of dead people, thereby acquiring intelligence, telepathic communication skills, the ability to cause landslides, and bizarre human-like faces. What makes this weirder than, say, The Little Shop of Horrors or Creature from the Haunted Sea is the seriousness with which it’s all played.
Why Today?: Today is the first day of that crabby cancer star sign.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Review: 'Stanley Kubrick and Me'


In late 1970, a former formula-one race car driver and current minicab driver received an assignment to deliver a large porcelain phallus to a movie set in Thamesmead. The driver was Emilio D’Alessandro. The sculpture would end up being used by Malcolm McDowell as a murder weapon in A Clockwork Orange. The film’s director, Stanley Kubrick, would end up hiring D’Alessandro as his driver. Despite strict British Union rules, that job also entailed being Kubrick’s personal maid, librarian, TV repairman, deliveryman, shopper, translator (for conversations with Federico Fellini!), veterinarian, dog groomer, tour guide for when his parents were in town, condom smuggler, and defender against everyone who believed the myths that Kubrick was a tyrant or a whack job.

Eighteen years after Kubrick’s death, Emilio D’Alessandro continues to serve in that latter role with his new memoir Stanley Kubrick and Me. Kubrick’s infamously demanding nature is on full display in this book, and D’Alessandro is frank about the strain his 24-hour-a-day work schedule put on his own marriage, but the author never has an unkind word to say about the legendary filmmaker. Consequently, Stanley Kubrick and Me serves a valuable function in the already massive Kubrick bibliography by truly humanizing the legend. Through D’Alessandro’s stories we learn of Kubrick’s tendency to be scatterbrained despite his reputation for being robotically methodical, helpless despite his reputation for being in complete control of his work, and utterly dependent on fellow humans despite his reputation for making chilly films about dehumanization. We get a very intimate look at Kubrick’s love for animals, and the only thing that really makes him lose his shit is when something goes wrong with one of his many pets. We learn of his extreme generosity, such as when he offers to care for D’Alessandro’s children after the driver’s wife loses her father and falls ill. We also learn about the limitations of Kubrick’s thoughtfulness. He calls D’Alessandro at all hours of the day for assistance and is baffled when another employee quits because of the job’s demands. Kubrick assumed that everyone was as devoted to work as he was. He could also be a real pain in the ass to his wife and daughters and possessed a wealth of quirks. D’Alessandro confirms the rumors that Kubrick was paranoid about journalists leaking his ideas and other filmmakers (such as Federico Fellini!) stealing them. Kubrick thought it strange that D’Alessandro wasn’t related to Francis Ford Coppola since they are both Italian. He was an incorrigible pack rat and a massive Danny DeVito fan. Kubrick’s love for and dependence on the author is also on full display and it makes for some truly touching moments.

With the assistance of writer Fillippo Uliovieri, D’Alessandro tells his stories without an ounce of pretension, and the charming, regular-guy simplicity of the storytelling further emphasizes the main thrust of Stanley Kubrick and Me: Kubrick was extraordinary in multitudinous ways, but when it comes down to it, he was still pretty down-to-earth and a real, flesh-and-blood human being.

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 264


The Date: June 20

The Movie: Fail Safe (1964)

What Is It?: The same year that Stanley Kubrick decided the subject of accidental nuclear annihilation was too absurd to take seriously, Sydney Lumet took it quite seriously. The results are taut and terrifying. The cast—Dan O’Herlihy, Walter Matthau, Fritz Weaver, Henry Fonda, Larry Hagman—is explosive.

Why Today?: On this day in 1963, Washington and Moscow establish a “red telephone” link after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 263


The Date: June 19

The Movie: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

What Is It?: The second Star Wars picture belongs on that short list of sequels that best their predecessors. After battling space yetis and dinosaur trucks, the old gang splits up to get hunted by super-cool bounty hunters with barely any screen time, train with a puppet master, and learn terrible things about their families. The cool blue aesthetic is as enchanting as the snowy, swampy, and cloudy environments.

Why Today?: Today is Father’s Day. I hope your dad is better than the one in this flick.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 262


The Date: June 18

The Movie: Jimi Plays Monterey (1986)

What Is It?: Short film spotlighting Jimi Hendrix’s complete set at Monterey. He steals The Who’s act (or “does” it, as Pete Townshend prefers to say) and arguably upstages those heathens. Needless to say, Hendrix plays guitar like no one else on Earth. He plays the hippie crowd just as masterfully.

Why Today?: This day in 1967 is the second day of the three-day Monterey Pop Festival, and it’s the one on which Jimi abused his guitar.

Friday, June 17, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 261


The Date: June 17

The Movie: Shake! Otis at Monterey (1987)

What Is It?: Short film spotlighting Otis Redding’s complete set at Monterey. He charms the beads off the “love crowd” with a set built on unfashionable professionalism and timeless emotional honesty.

Why Today?: This day in 1967 is the second day of the three-day Monterey Pop Festival, and it’s the one Otis shook.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 260


The Date: June 16

The Movie: Monterey Pop (1968)

What Is It?: Perhaps the best multi-artist concert film, capturing rock at a more progressive phase than  The T.A.M.I. Show does but not as self-indulgent and dreary as Woodstock. The Who, Jimi, Otis, Janis, Jefferson Airplane, and Ravi all give transcendent performances. Don’t fast forward through Ravi! His raga rocks.

Why Today?: This day in 1967 is the first day of the three-day Monterey Pop Festival.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 259


The Date: June 15
The Movie: Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of Smile (2004)
What Is It?: David Leaf’s triumphant documentary traces the long and troubled history of Brian Wilson’s abandoned masterpiece SMiLE. Wilson overcomes the odds of his own mental issues and his Beach Boy band mates to finish the project with the help of Darian Sahanaja and the Wondermints.
Why Today?: Today is National Smile Power Day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 258


The Date: June 14

The Movie: House of Dracula (1945)

What Is It?: The golden age monsters reunite for one last go round before hooking up with Abbott and Costello and swooshing into parody for good. Not that this story is serious stuff. John Carradine’s Dracula seeks a cure for his vampirism as Lon Chaney’s Larry Talbot does the same for his werewolfism. Onslow Stevens is the mad doctor who tries to accommodate them and Poni Adams is the rare female hunchbacked assistant.

Why Today?: Today is World Blood Donor Day. Just don’t donate any to Dracula.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Review: Criterion's 'Dr. Strangelove' Blu-ray


Stanley Kubrick had been an audacious filmmaker since he’d made his flawed debut Fear and Desire and a great one since he’d made The Killing, but with Lolita, he truly hit upon the qualities that made him a giant by combining the scandalous with the satirical and presenting it with grand scope. Lolita was a great film, but even its most loyal fans had to admit that he mostly skirted the scandalous nature of Nabokov’s novel (by necessity of course… that book would still be pretty impossible to film faithfully today). With his next project, he let its scandalous nature drop on audiences like a bomb, and his decision to film Peter George’s Cold War doomsday thriller Red Alert as the most absurd satire he’d ever make did not blunt its scandalousness one iota. In fact, by making asses of the U.S. military and Soviet leadership and highlighting the U.S. President’s complete inability to juggle them, he made an already controversial story even more daring.

Decades beyond the Cold War, Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, remains a towering piece of cinema because of its heroic ability to laugh in the face of disaster—and not just the threat of disaster, but a disaster that actually comes to pass in the film (errr, spoiler alert)—and its power to still make us laugh. Nuclear annihilation is probably the most serious, horrifying event imaginable, but Kubrick treats the topic with helium-huffing silliness. There are a few relatively serious characters to ground the story in reality—President Merkin Muffley and Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (pay no attention to their names. They’re serious.), both played by master clown Peter Sellers, ironically enough—but the rest of the cast is totally gonzo with Slim Pickens as a shit-kickin’ air force captain, Keenan Wynn as a dense Colonel who frets about the consequences of shooting a Coke machine, Sterling Hayden as the monstrous embodiment of McCarthy paranoia, and Sellers, again, as a Nazi mad-scientist with some pretty grotesque ideas about saving the remaining human race.

While most of Stanley Kubrick’s films have been readily available in hi-def in the United States since the dawn of blu-ray, Dr. Strangelove has been an odd duck, going in and out of print as a stand-alone release. After all this high jinks, the Criterion Collection that is now releasing a gorgeously high-contrast, beautifully detailed, naturally grained blu-ray of one Kubrick’s and cinema’s finest, and there will now be no question that this is the definitive home-video version of Dr. Strangelove.

Three and a half hours of bonus materials cover nearly every aspect of the film that begs for further exploration. The film’s essential history (a 46-minute documentary called “Inside Dr. Strangelove”); portraits of Kubrick (“The Art of Stanley Kubrick”), Sellers (“Best Sellers”), and Peter George; a documentary that puts the film in the context of its troubled times (“No Fighting in the War Room”); period interviews with Kubrick, Sellers, and George C. Scott; and assorted retrospectives by film historians lead the pack.  Much of this stuff has slipped out on previous editions of the film, but it gets the job done well enough to warrant rerelease here.

The big surprise among the bonus material is a 14-minute featurette starring Richard Daniels, the senior man at the Stanley Kubrick Archives. This is a Kubrick geek’s dream as Daniels leads us through oodles of memorabilia, props, script drafts, press packs, projectionist directives, and letters. He shows off the original memo from the U.S. Air Force demanding a disclaimer be plopped on the beginning of the film and reveals Kubrick’s casting wish list from the days before Red Alert went silly (Burt Lanchaster as the president, Orson Welles as the Russian ambassador…).

The final cherry on this cherry bomb is the coolest packaging I’ve ever seen on a Criterion release. An essay by David Bromwich is typed up as a reproduction of the Top Secret Attack Plan R from the film. Another by Strangelove-screenwriter Terry Southern is printed in a phony girly magazine complete with hilarious ads and centerfold of Ms. Foreign Affairs. The technical specs are printed in a miniature Bible/Rooshan phrase book, and all of these goodies are packaged in a recreation of the envelope that houses the attack plan in the film. The only things that are missing are chewing gum, lipsticks, and prophylactics. Shoot, a fella’ could still have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with this blu-ray.

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 257


The Date: June 13

The Movie: Child’s Play (1988)

What Is It?: Chucky shoves a kitchen knife through the annoying trends of slasher movies and absurdly expensive talking dolls with gruesome hilarity (thanks to Mancini, Lafia, and Holland’s script and the inimitable vocal talents of Mr. Brad Dourif). He remains my eighties monster hero for that.

Why Today?: Today is World Doll Day.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 256


The Date: June 12
The Movie: Superman (1978)
What Is It?: The real battle in the very first blockbuster superhero movie is between campiness and gravity. Fortunately, the camp camp wins, making for a very enjoyable romp with Margot Kidder having a ball as Lois Lane and Gene Hackman, Valerie Perrine, and Ned Beatty hamming it up as Team Luthor. Christopher Reeve is iconic as the flying toothpaste commercial and the epic structure flattens out most of the flaws.
Why Today?: Today is Superman Day!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 255


The Date: June 11

The Movie: Un Chien Andalou (1929)

What Is It?: Landmark surrealist short unites two giants in the field specializing in different mediums: filmmaker Luis Buñuel and painter Salvador Dali. Still incredibly shocking (yes, I’m thinking of that eyeball). So good, The Pixies wrote a song about it.

Why Today?: On this day in 1936, the London International Surrealist Exhibition opens at the New Burlington Galleries.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Review: The Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary' Box Set


The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds is so essential, influential, and culturally significant that a tired phrase like “It’s an album that needs no introduction” really does apply. Capitol/UMe’s new box set devoted to the 1966 monolith may require a bit more background though, especially since Pet Sounds has been remastered and rereleased so many times. This five-disc, 50th Anniversary collection is really an expanded, reconfigured rerelease of the landmark 1997 box The Pet Sounds Sessions, which was the first time the ultimate mono album was presented in stereo. It also gave a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the mythical, mystical sessions with a series of “tracking date highlights” devoted to each of the original album’s thirteen songs and the outtakes “Hang on to Your Ego” and “Trombone Dixie”, as well as an early version of “Good Vibrations”. These highlights are much tidier than the ones on the more sprawling SMiLE Sessions box (which included a demanding disc consisting of nothing but “Good Vibrations” sessions). Consequently, they do not demystify the sessions completely but do provide a fascinating keyhole-peek at Brian Wilson’s working methods. His directions to his musicians could be incredibly specific or as unhelpfully general as “Can we do a real good one this time?” The guy’s sense of humor definitely comes out in these sessions.

Everything that was on The Pet Sounds Sessions is on the 50th Anniversary box, though in a different order, and it’s expanded with eleven live tracks spanning 1966 to 1993. There are also previously unreleased alternate mix and vocal sessions for “I Know There’s an Answer” (the sessions feature some grand moments but may also test your tolerance for Mike Love doing “funny” voices) and a master track of “Good Vibrations”. Disc Five consists of the previously released mono, stereo, instrumental, and 5.1 mixes in Blu-ray Pure Audio with a few bonus tracking date highlights and “Summer Means New Love”. The lead-up single “The Little Girl I Once Knew” would have been a much better choice than that 1965 instrumental. Nevertheless, these are all basically welcome additions, but the 50th Anniversary set could have really been the ultimate Pet Sounds box by including the stray material that didn’t find a place on The Pet Sounds Sessions for whatever reason. Where’s the Brian-solo version of “Hang on to Your Ego”—the best version of that song and “I Know There’s an Answer”— and the mono mix of “Trombone Dixie” from the 1990 CD? “God Only Knows” is one of the greatest songs ever written, but I would have been happy to lose half of the four live renditions of it included here to make room for those missing versions of “Hang on to Your Ego” and “Trombone Dixie”. These tracks are important and unique enough that wishing they were included amounts to more than fan-boy bellyaching.

Fortunately, there’s little to bellyache about in terms of sound quality. I don’t have everyone of the multitudinous Pet Sounds rereleases on hand for comparing and contrasting, but I can say that Mark Linett’s latest remastering job is livelier and more detailed than the flat CD he oversaw in 1990 and warmer and quieter than Ron McMaster’s slightly harsh 1999 remaster. The book-style box is pretty (the fuzzy textures of the album title and goat on the cover is a nifty touch), but the CDs fall out of their slots too easily and the contents are too light on track notes and history. Of course, Pet Sounds is an album that needs no introduction, so you probably already know everything there is to know about it. It’s beautiful, and it sounds beautiful on this 50th Anniversary set.

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 254


The Date: June 10

The Movie: Dune (1984)

What Is It?: David Lynch’s worst film is still worth watching because the idea of such a surrealist handling a space opera is fascinating and so very wrong. Yet the film rewards repeated viewings, its garbled plot making a little more sense each time, its excellent cast (Kyle Maclachlan, Kenneth MacMillan, Francesca Anis, Jürgen Prochnow, Everett McGill, Max Von Sydow, etc.) affording some very good performances, and its Lynchian grotesqueries jumping off the screen more and more.

Why Today?: On this day in 1941, Jürgen Prochnow is born.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Review: '61 Classics from The Cramps’ Crazy Collection'


The Cramps became one of the most influential bands of the eighties by forcing rockabilly into the sack with punk at gunpoint. The Cramps’ mastered their leg shimmying, fanny wiggling take on punk by steeping themselves in some of the wildest records of the fifties, and last year, Righteous Records gathered 60 of those singles onto a comp called The Incredibly Strange Music Box: 60 Songs from The Cramps’ Crazy Collection. A year later, Righteous is dumping 61 staggering additions to that set onto another double-disc set.

Culled from vinyl Lux Interior spun as a DJ or shared in his private collection with bandmate/soulmate Poison Ivy, 61 Classics from The Cramps’ Crazy Collection is a blitzkrieg of gonzo rockabilly, brain-damaged lounge, daffy doo-wop, cuckoo country and western, satanic surf, and quite a bit of stuff that we shall only call uncategorizable.

Driving tracks in the Loud, Fast, and Out of Control bag grounds the collection, and there are some fabulous numbers by Johnny Burnette, Ron Haydock, Ronnie Dawson, and others for the D.A. set. But it’s the ones that really go off the rails that make 61 Classics earn its keep. Stan Freberg’s asinine silliness “John and Marsha” is just the tip of this trip. Dig Andre Williams begging for a helping of biscuits the way most rockers beg for lovin’ on “Pass the Biscuits Please”. Marvel at Moses Longpiece cheesily crooning about how his girlfriend recently had an unfortunate encounter with a steamroller on “Slide Her Under the Door”, or The Clovers indulging in unmentionable a cappella on “Rotten Cocksuckers Ball”. Jackie and the Starlites’ “Valerie” is as ramshackle as the customarily slick doo-wop gets, while Joe Clay tries to turn “What you said, Cabbage Head” into the next “See you later, Alligator” on “Did You Mean Jellybean”. By the time we hit The 5 Jones Boys’ bizarre “Mr. Ghost Goes to Town” (a track apparently from the 1920s…thorough annotation is not a strength of this CD) toward the end of Disc Two, 61 Classics has parked its jalopy in Flip City for good. Perhaps the wildest thing of all is hearing totally straight stuff like The Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes for You” and The Fleetwoods’ “Unchained Melody” in this ga-ga context. Crazy, man, crazy.

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 253


The Date: June 9

The Movie: Lonesome Ghosts (1937)

What Is It?: Today’s selection is a mere 8-minute short. Micky, Goofy, and Donald are ghostbusters facing off against a group of bowler-hatted phantoms. Beautifully animated with wonderfully spooky atmosphere. It should’ve been a feature.

Why Today?: Today is Donald Duck Day.
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