Friday, October 28, 2022

Review: 'The Inner Light: How India Influenced The Beatles'

The influence of Indian culture on The Beatles' lives and music was far reaching. George Harrison's overwhelming love of Indian classical music drove him to study the sitar seriously, which helped to expand an appreciation for that music-- and his teacher, Ravi Shankar-- throughout the world. His interest in Indian philosophy led him and the rest of The Beatles to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, with whom they studied Transcendental Meditation (TM). The universal love philosophy that has more in common with Indian philosophy than western ideals was integral to The Beatles' psychedelic-era persona. After The Beatles, John Lennon sang about karma and George Harrison's worked to raise awareness of the suffering of India's neighbor Bangladesh. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr continue to stump for David Lynch's TM promoting foundation today.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Review: 'I, Monster' DVD

In 1971, Hammer was having another go at Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a decade after its failed first attempt, Terence Fisher's generally misguided The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll. Perhaps to avoid confusion with Roy Ward Baker's Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, Milton Subotsky opted to call his own adaptation of the same year I, Monster and changed the names of the title character(s) to Dr. Marlowe and Mr. Blake. 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Review: 'Totally Wired: The Rise and Fall of the Music Press'

One of the major factors that helped rock and roll "mature" from juvenile delinquent-soundtrack to the kind of thing they plop in a hall of fame was the emergence of a serious rock press. This went through its own maturation process beginning with the lightweight writing that appeared in rivals Melody Maker and New Musical Express in the early sixties through Paul Williams's informed and passionate Crawdaddy in the mid sixties to the destined-for-corporate-greatness Rolling Stone in the late sixties and on to overbearingly "anarchic" rags like Creem in the seventies and later taste-makers like Q, Spin, Vibe, and Mojo

Friday, October 21, 2022

Review: 'ABBA at 50'

Last year ABBA surprised their fans by doing the unimaginable: making their first music together in thirty years. Not that cashing in on a legacy is outlandish in the pop industry, but most members seemed to want to distance themselves from memories of "Waterloo" and "Dancing Queen". After having some success with more conceptual musical theater type pieces, chief songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeous regarded ABBA's pop glory as silly. Agnetha Fältskog seemed content to lead a civilian life outside the spotlight. There were also the members' broken marriages and the general lack of respect they'd always received from the snobby rock press that might make a reunion less than harmonious.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Review: 'Revolution: The History of Turntable Design'

The record revolution that now sees vinyl outselling CDs for the first time since the eighties is probably mostly due to two kinds of collectors: audiophiles who genuinely prefer the sound of vinyl to its little digital counterpart and take their equipment purchases very seriously and those who just dig the aesthetic of tactile vinyl LPs, with their groovy grooves, artful full-sized sleeves, and mechanically complex playing devises that will always be more interesting to look at than a sleek, slim, featureless CD player. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Review: The Beatles' 'Revolver' Special Edition Vinyl Box Set

From the garage band simplicity of their first couple of albums to the more refined folk rock of their next few, and on to the genuine sophistication of Rubber Soul, the first half of The Beatles' career was a constant succession of progressions.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Review: Bob Dylan's 'The Philosophy of Modern Song'

How is someone like Bob Dylan going to write a book that purports to explore The Philosophy of Modern Song? Such a title seems to suggest an academic approach to analyzing songwriting. Dylan may be clever, but he's no academic. It implies a study performed with discipline. As anyone who ever read his rambling autobiography Chronicles: Volume One or the liner notes of Highway 61 Revisited knows, Dylan sneers at discipline.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Review: 'The Team-Up Companion'

In 1954, DC halved the page count of its World's Finest Comics and forced Superman and Batman into the same book as if they were a couple of recently divorced bozos sharing a flat. They mostly kept to their own sides of the room, but a new format was inadvertently born: the team-up. This was distinct from crossovers or guest appearances because both heroes were on equal footing in a shared title with both their logos on display. Pretty soon, team ups of everyone from Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter to Supergirl and Wonder Woman to Aqualad and Robin to Richie Rich and Casper to Spider-Man and Dracula (!) began proliferating funny books. 

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Review: 'The Many Lives of The Twilight Zone: Essays on the Television and Film Franchise'

With so many episodes, so many themes, so many incarnations, and so much continuing influence over the pop-culture zone, Rod Serling's Twilight Zone is ripe for deep analysis, which is why there has been so much of it. Editors Ron Riekki and Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr., are now dragging in even more by compiling eighteen new essays by various writers in their book The Many Lives of The Twilight Zone: Essays on the Television and Film Franchise

Friday, October 14, 2022

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Review: 'Horror Hotel' DVD

In 1960, director John Moxey arguably outdid Hammer with his own atmosphere-rich Gothic horror. In contrast to Hammer's vibrant colors, Moxey opted for high-contrast black and white and deep focus photography to tell his tale of a burned witch who reappears in the present to lure a young woman to her sacrificial death. Much has been made of the structural similarities between Moxey's City of the Dead and Hitchcock's Psycho, but Moxey's story is purely supernatural and his film much more stylized. It's also a lot more fun than the grim and realistic Psycho

Monday, October 10, 2022

Review: 'Prince: All the Songs- The Story Behind Every Track '

Even if his music wasn't so extraordinarily inventive and alluring, even if he wasn't one of the very few pop artists who actually deserves the crown "genius," Prince would still be noteworthy for his Herculean productivity. The guy never stopped making music, and whether he was among the top stars of his time or more of a "legacy artist," he never slowed down. So we're left with lots and lots and lots of Prince music, and his estate keeps on finding new ways to scrape the archives. 

Review" 'The Bat' Special Edition Blu-ray

The Film Detective issued a blu-ray of The Bat in 2015, and though Crane Wilbur's comedic 1959 old dark house flick, based on a play by Mary Roberts Rinehart, remained a complete delight, the disc was not without issues. While I did note in my review that it was a vast improvement over the myriad DVD editions of this public domain picture, I also noted the myriad "specs and thin scratches" that invade the image regularly and the disc's crackly audio. It was also a pretty bare bones package.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Review: 'Nosferatu: 100th Anniversary Edition' Blu-ray

This year is the 100th anniversary of F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, certainly one of the most important horror films ever made for its status as the inaugural Dracula adaptation and its impressively enduring ability to unsettle, which is largely down to Murnau's unrelentingly Goth atmosphere and Max Schreck's still-scary bald-rat portrayal of the count in the days before the character became all urbane and sexy. Because of the anniversary's significance, you could bet there would be some low-budget video releases of this public-domain film to cash in on the occasion. As far as that sort of thing goes, you could do worse than Reel Vault's "100th Anniversary Edition" of Nosferatu. Compared with Kino Lorber's blu-ray from 2013, the one "official" U.S. release, some complaints can still be lodged. While both editions have their share of scratches and blotches, Kino's trounces Reel Vault's in the stability department. The grain of Reel Vault's squirms around the picture like an ant colony, and the intertitles vibrate.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Review: 'E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial- The Ultimate Visual History'

Because it didn't spawn an endless series of sequels and spin-offs, because its tie-in merchandise didn't dig itself into the ongoing pop-cultural consciousness with complete success, it's easy to forget what a phenomenon E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was upon its release in 1982. It outgrossed Steven Spielberg's own previous blockbusters and his buddy George Lucas's Star Wars films (which, needless to say, had no issues in the sequel, spin-off, or merch departments). "E.T. phone home" became a catch phrase of "May the force be with you" or "Where's the beef?" ubiquity. Most kids didn't completely kit out their bedrooms with E.T. stuff the way they did with Star Wars toys, posters, and bed sheets, but most of us had an E.T. doll or two. I know I did.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Review: 'Britmania: The British Invasion of the Sixties in Pop Culture'

That The Beatles changed the world is as widely known as the fact that there's this fiery thingy in the sky called "the sun." The most obvious offshoot of the international success of four British lads was all the English groups that went global in their wake: not just critical dah-lings like the Stones, Who, Kinks, and Animals, but also cuddlier fave raves like Herman's Hermits, The Dave Clark Five, Peter and Gordon, and Petula Clark. But the influence went deeper, farther, and weirder than that, as shaggy, buck-toothed, often incongruously posh British characters began invading American sitcoms, comics, dopey beach movies, cartoons, bath products, and pretty much everything else an ad-man could imagine. The British Invasion was a siege fought and won in the record shops, but its aftershocks rattled everything everywhere. 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Review: 'Lost Highway' Blu-ray

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me was such a tremendous (and underserved) critical and commercial flop that former golden boy David Lynch had a hard time following it up. Waiting for inspiration, he read a single line in a novel by Wild at Heart-scribe Barry Gifford that finally set off that old lightbulb above his quiff, and he knew he wanted to make a movie called Lost Highway and he wanted Gifford to co-write it. 

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