1980s Honky Dancing (A Primer)

As Eddie notes in the clip above, it’s long been known that people without colour lack rhythm. It’s a given. For as long as Chinese people have been smart, black people have had big lips and Latino’s quick tempers, white people couldn’t dance.

For shit.

Particularly in the 1980s it seemed, where white dancing was more pervasive than ever due to the golden age of MTV, and the desire of movies to include dance scenes was consequently more prevalent more than ever before.

I feel somewhat maligned.  While few white people turn out to be Rudolf Nureyev, we’re not all Lewis Skolnick’s either. Though media in the 1980s seems to have given others little choice in visualising us in any other way as the following examples ably illustrate:

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Molly Ringwold at the 25 second mark is exactly what Eddie Murphy refers to above.

Dancing In The Streets (1985)

So, as you can see it wasn’t all great tunes like Ashes to Ashes from the now dead icon. It was also ravaged Motown covers with dreadful dancing and mutual screaming thrown in. Surely, these two could have afforded choreography? Jagger in particular looks like someone’s hitting him from behind with a cattle prod. Laughing in the streets would be a more appropriate title.

Madonna Holiday (1983)

Holy fucking shit! How bad is this? The choreography is out of sync significantly and all three participants are not in time. Particularly Madonna’s brother Christopher on the left hand side.

Wake Me Up Before You Go Go (1984)

If there was a visual dictionary for archetypal 1980s white boy dancing it would be this clip. Although in all fairness George Michael had Cypriot heritage.

Ant Music (1982)

The origins of atrocious white dancing may be possibly traced back to this catchy slice of pop. On the heels of $5,000 worth of advice from Malcolm McLaren, Adam Ant created his highway man persona, two successful albums and this jaunty primer on how not to dance. That being said, this is one catchy tune and somehow, retains some of punk’s ‘fuck you’ spirit.

Dancing In The Dark (1984)

Apt title. Pretty much sums up awful honky dancing with shit music to boot. I don’t care what anyone says, Springsteen sucks. Never understood any level of his appeal.

Flashdance (1983)

This, along with Jane Fonda started some kind of honky dance/aerobics zeitgeist and whilst I can understand the appeal of a pretty girl in tight pants, both the music and dancing are terrible.

Footloose (1984)

Oooooh so much angst… manifested in some of the gayest dancing this side of Glee. Seems 1984 was a great year for honky dancing. How this film became a classic for some people I’ll never know.

Faith (1987)

Probably seems wrong in light of his very recent death, but yes, this too deserves to be here. And when I see or hear this, I am reminded of the brillance of the movie version of The Rules of Attraction (2002). The only good Brett Easton Ellis adaptation.

Rock Me Tonite (1984)

This is everything Louis Farrakhan warned us of in the 1980s, and with good reason. Skip in to the 30 second mark to see moves that’ll put your drunken uncle to shame.

You Spin Me Round (1984)

Got the basic honky arm moves from 18 seconds onwards. It may be fucking terrible, but it’s undeniably upbeat.

Turning Japanese (1980)

Pretty archetypical honky dancing from the period. Bad dancing and vaguely racist to boot!

 

With evidence like this, it’s no wonder the rhythimically challenged white boy stereotype remains entrenched until this day. One day we will rise up on a dance floor and prove that not all our feet are left only. Perhaps.

 

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

Less Than Zero (1987) : Movie Review

Less Than Zero Poster

I love the first three novels Brett Easton Ellis wrote. I even like parts of fourth. Sadly, both his remaining books and almost all the films that have been made from his books, kind of suck the proverbial big one.

Less than Zero (1987) was the first film made from his debut novel and came out only two years after the original publication. Rick Rubin was the music supervisor and Thomas Numan did an amazing original score, which sadly fail to improve the film itself which unremittingly terrible.

Less Than Zero First Edition

Front Cover Of First Edition Photo Stolen From Web.

Andy McCarthy is ten shades of shite. He’s absolutely awful. Miscast and unable to act,  he really eviscerates the part of Clay. His character is always shrill and moralistically patronising. The whole point of the protaganist in the novel was that he wasn’t better or more virtuous than those surrounding him. He was just less antagonistic and more observant. He didn’t wish any one well. He just could be slightly less bothered than the person next to him to do someone else some harm.

Andrew McCarthy Can't Act

Andrew McCarthy Attempting To Emote… Or Take A Shit. It’s Hard To Tell ReallyScreenshot by author.

The characters as designed are meant to be mono syllabic and apathetic. Not verbose do gooders who moralise on drug use and try to do right by people. I am not sure whether the MPAA, the studio or the director chose to go down this path and whether it was for ratings, box office or sensibility it ultimately fails on all levels.

The only actor in this mess who seems to have read the book and actually comprehends it is James Spader. He is fantastic. He really understands the part and is by far the best thing in the film.

James Spader Can Act_1 James Spader Can Act_2 James Spader Can Act_3 James Spader Can Act_4

James SpaderScreenshots by author.

Robert Downey Jr – essentially being himself at the time – does capture what it is like to be fucked up and not give a shit.  Whether pulling a quick hit of crack in the shadows of a club, or rolling onto a cliff top at dawn with a Sol in his hand realising he may as well sleep here, ‘cause life is fucked and what’s the point, he captures an element of his character. Physically at least.

Robert Downey Jr On Tha Pipe_1

Robert Downey Jr On Tha Pipe_2 Robert Downey Jr On Tha Pipe_0 Robert Downey Jr On Tha Pipe_3 Robert Downey Jr On Tha Pipe_4

Mr “I’ve Got a Shotgun In My Mouth & I Like The Taste of Gunmetal”Screenshots by author

In the film Clay drives around L.A. looking for Julian – who has previously fucked his girlfriend no less – because he concerned about him.

Fuck My Friend

I Care Because You Don’tScreenshot By Author.

Whilst in the book Clay is vaguely aware Julian has problems, he isn’t either sober enough, or caring enough, to give enough of a shit to ever really look for him. However, the film desperately wants to have a moral core, a character that their predicted audience could supposedly identify with. It just makes the whole exercise seem trite. Clay in the film is a sanctimonious, pious Reagan era anti drugs speech in an ill fitting suit endlessly looking pained and delivering equally ill conceived moralistic speeches at those around him.

Finer Points Of Morality

Fuck YeahScreenshot By Author.

There’s a scene in the film, where both Clay and Blair spend an evening coaxing Julian out of an OD. Thomas Newman’s admittedly good music flares up at appropriate moments and the whole thing is rendered as one big ‘just say no’ commercial. In the book neither Clay nor Blair could give two shits whether he OD’s or not, and that’s the point.

Andrew McCarthy Oscar Performance

Andrew McCarthy Going For the 1988 Oscar. He Didn’t Get It  – Screenshot by author

All the characters in the book are just coasting. Apathetic, misanthropic and anaesthetised via huge volumes of blow and inherited money. They just don’t give a shit. These same characters go to university (Rules of Attraction), and then wind up in the workplace (Amercian Psycho) and their whole numb to life, rich as fuck, better than the next man philosophy essentially turns them into uncompassionate killers.

Palm Springs is used as some kind of grand denouement to climax the film, whilst in the book it was the place where Clay and Blair’s relationship slowly dies over the course of a two week holiday. In the script writer’s desperation to make a three act piece, they must’ve noticed the locations importance and decided that the place, not the gravitas, should be put in the last act.

In Palm Springs, Clay finds Julian tricking men for cash and is horrified and tries to convince him to go back to school. What the fuck? In the novel Clay is bisexual and would not have given two shits. At the end (SPOILER ALERT) Julian dies in a car almost exactly as Jeff Bridges did at the end of 1974’s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Cop out much?

Less Than Thunderbolt & Lightfoot

Significantly Less Than Thunderbolt & LightfootScreenshot by author.

This film is neutered and not worth any one’s time. I wish I had more hands, so I could give it four thumbs down. Fucking Booooo! Piece of shit! Do yourself a favour and watch Rules of Attraction (2002). That is a great film and the only movie that ever captured the essence of good era Brett Easton Ellis.

Corn 1 out of 5

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Culture Snappin’ USA – Part 4 – Dirty Harry (1971): Filming Locations

Northern California is known for many things… Hippies, Zinfandel wines, as the birthplace of both the Beats and the Black Panthers, tremendous scenic beauty, devastating earthquakes and the Symbionese Liberation Army. For me however, it’s Clint Eastwood’s domain, and synonymous with both the man and his fictional characters.

Dirty Harry Logo

The character that is traditionally most associated with Eastwood is of course, Dirty Harry. Starting life as a script entitled Dead Right. It was initially to feature Frank Sinatra and be directed by Sidney Pollack, however the script was eventually acquired by Warner Brothers, filtered to Eastwood and his Malpaso production group, who in turn hired Don Siegel to direct it. The film came in on a relatively low budget and under schedule and benefitted from Eastwood’s desire to do most of his own stunts, most notably the jump from a railway trestle bridge onto a speeding school bus.

Eastwood Bus Jump...

Eastwood Doing His Own Stunts – Photo Stolen From Web

Detailing the desperate attempt to bring to justice a maniacal sniper (played Andy Robinson), who is black mailing city authorities by killing successive victims unless a huge ransom is paid, in a similar manner to Death Wish (1974) (see https://theeasternterraces.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/culture-snappin-usa-part-3-death-wish-1974-filming-locations), the film shows that a responsible lone individual is a more effective instrument of law and order than the apparatus of the state, and the toll that maintaining such a thin blue line rests upon those weary and foolish enough to maintain its imprint.

DH City Hall

City Hall – Lower Photo & Diptych By Author

By modern standards, Dirty Harry may seem somewhat tame, however at the time of its release it garnered significant notoriety due to the fact that the cop played by Eastwood, fought violence with violence and played by his own rules. In the eyes of a wider public who were fed up with increasing crime, this made him a hero. In the eyes of certain critics – notably New York Times’ Pauline Kael – this made him a fascist, and at the 1971 Academy Awards there were protests outside the auditorium by left wing elements holding signs proclaiming ’Dirty Harry Is A Rotten Pig’.

Eastwood, not one to hold back on his opinions, responded to Kael’s criticism in a contemporary interview by commenting, “I’d say she’s crazy.”

Don Siegel when asked about the level of violence in the film said, “I dimly remember that at the end of Hamlet there are five bodies lying around, so that’s balderdash. This constantly plainted ditty against violence – if people didn’t want it, they wouldn’t go to the movies.”

Dirty Harry was a major success. It quickly out grossed all of Eastwood’s previous films and ushered in an era of Vigilante flicks such as Walking Tall (1972) and Death Wish (1974). If critics were divided, audiences weren’t. They stood in line in huge numbers to see Eastwood kick some ass.

Washinton Square Logo

Washington Square Park – Lower Photo & Diptych By Author

It was the fourth collaboration between Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood. In their first project Coogan’s Bluff (1968), the two skilfully relocated Eastwood’s man with no name to an urban setting. Dirty Harry is an elaboration of that idea and character. He now has a back story of a dead wife who was lost in an accident and years of police work have hardened him and made him reckless to both himself and his partners. Callahan is not the superhero that he became in the subsequent sequels, and the ambivalence of the character often comes to the fore. Therefore early on, he approaches a robbery with his gun drawn and not taking cover, whilst later he climbs aboard a cherry picker without thinking to grab a jumper from a roof.

Robbery Shootout

Harry Callahan With a Chip On His Shoulder – Screenshot Stolen From Web

Andy Robinson is perfect as the antagonist. Originally rejected by Siegel due to the fact he looked angelic and attractive, it was later realised that the killer would be far more frightening if indeed he was the antithesis of a screen villain and he was cast accordingly. The choice was a wise one and Robinson essayed one of the most memorable screen villains of all time.  From doing a huge flip on the football field, ad-libbing the line “my that’s a big one” in response to Callahan’s 44., showing a neon Jesus sign who’s boss or letting out a scream that would put Fay Wray to shame, he is the incontestably the best screen crazy ever committed to celluloid. So much so, he apparently put himself out of work for about a decade or so, as people could not imagine him as anything else or were too frightened to work with him. He didn’t re-appear on the silver screen much again (1973’s Charley Varrick not withstanding) until the 1980s when he was cast as a police chief in Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra (1986) – coincidentally featuring  Dirty Harry’s Rene Santoni  – or against type as the most normal person in Clive Barker’s Hell Raiser (1987).

Scorpio Scream

Scorpio Screaming For America – Photo stolen from web

Huge props must also be given to the composer Lalo Schifrin who was on a streak in the late 1960s to early 1970s. A classically trained conductor from South America with a passion for jazz, Schifrin provided a number of seminal scores for Hollywood golden era movies such as Enter The Dragon (1973), Bullit (1968) and Cool Hand Luke (1967), whilst also finding time to provide the distinctive theme music for the Mission Impossible television series (1966). In Dirty Harry, Lalo showed the world the power of a hi-hat breakdown and conducted some of the best kick drum sounds ever recorded to wax.

Lalo Schifirin

Lalo Schifrin – Photo stolen from web

Dirty Harry was filmed on location in San Francisco, with the only studio based scene being the opening bank robbery sequence which was shot on the Universal back lot. Siegel reportedly complained that the location shooting put enormous strain on him. One problem being that night sequence filming was usually limited to a few hours due to resident complaints that all the filming activity was keeping them awake.

Don Siegal & Eastwood

Don Siegel & Clint Eastwood On Set – Photo Stolen From Web

I visited these locations in early 2015, and as much possible, attempted to view them at a similar time of day to when they were filmed. Due to time constraints and my own fears however I visited Mt Davidson around 4pm in the afternoon rather than at night-time, as I had no wish to be solicited by Alice or his modern day contemporaries.

The Cross Logo

The Cross – Photo By Author

Surprisingly, in our current CNN terrorist contrived environment, no one seemed to give a shit about what I was doing. I stood at the Marina around 12.30am filming the boats near a construction crew and no one asked me what I was up to.

Marina Logo

The Marina – Photo By Author

Similarly, I filmed the entrance to the Fort Mason Tunnel (which is now blocked off) in front of a Safeway – itself briefly featured in 1968’s Bullit – around 1am and no one seemed to care.

Tunnel 1 LogoTunnel 2 Logo

The Tunnel – Photo By Author

At the other side of said tunnel, near the now defunct hamburger stand, my only competition for the space was a drop bear squirrel (which frankly scared the shit out of me when it fell from the top of the tunnel exit to my feet) and what I can now only assume was a drug dealer who sat in black Lexus with all his lights off, but engine quietly running at about 1:30am.

Tunnel 3 Logo Hamburger Stand_Logo

Tunnel Exit & Hamburger Stand – Photos by Author

Interestingly, the marina and the tunnel are super close. It is demonstrative of Scorpio’s meanness that he asked Harry to go from the Marina, to Forest Hills Station and then back to Aquatic Park. The Marina, tunnel and hamburger stand are within extremely close proximity, and whilst Forest Hills Station and Mt Davidson are very close, they are nowhere near these locations

Speaking of which, special thanks must be given to the kind ticket master at Forest Hills Station. I walked in and said I was there only for Dirty Harry nostalgia and not a BART ticket, and he was awesome enough to let me though the gates, film what I needed and then let me out again. He even looked slightly perturbed when a homeless guy started accosting people (including me) near the turnstiles.

DH2 DH3

Forest Hill Station – Photos By Author

The Alley that was the location for Hot Mary and her boyfriend, was only occupied by a Chinese Chef at 11pm when I filmed it.

Hot Mary 1 LogoHot Mary 2 Logo

Hot Mary Alley – Photos by Author

Conversely the location at the corner of Turk and Polk Street where Harry convinces a jumper to come down, was absolutely loaded with crazy homeless people around 2am. I literally had to wait for the all clear before leaping out of my rented Mustang and taking the footage as quickly as possible while a basehead looking guy (reminiscent of Flava Flav’s lean years) repeatedly circled the block screaming ‘What time is it’ at the top of his lungs.

Jumper Lobby Card

Jumper Logo

Jumper Building – Photo By Author

Columbus Avenue is cool whatever time of day and North Beach in general was my favourite part of San Francisco. City Hall was no problem and the China Town / Downtown area where you can locate both the Hilton Hotel (where the opening death was filmed) and the building on 555 California Street (the vantage point from where Scorpio shoots this first victim) are easy enough to find.

Scorpio 555 Opening Shot

Scorpio’s View From 555 Building – Screenshot Stolen From Web

555 Building Logo

Building Where Scorpio First Shoots From – Photo By Author

The thing is though, unlike the other locations, if it weren’t for the film, you wouldn’t want to go there. 555 and The Hilton are either downtown business city until 5pm, or absolute fucking freak show central after 8pm. Either way, I had to give them a pass.  I did visit the Hall of Justice featured briefly in the film, however as this was at approximately 4:45pm, I found myself unable to stop and was soon bundled onto a freeway that lead me out to Oakland. If you choose to visit, I suggest you do it between 11am and 3pm.

The results of my explorations my be seen in another shakily filmed clip below:

 

San Francisco, is a beautiful city for the most part, and two of my best times within its boundaries were sitting at the apex of the hill at Kearny Street (one street over from Romolo Place where Scorpio limps up after being busted by Harry at Roaring 20s). The view from here is fantastic, no one ever bothers you even late at night, and you have a great view of San Francisco, the Trans America Pyramid and its surrounds.

Favourite View Logo

My Favourite Place in San Francisco – Photo By Author

I’ll close this post in the same way I closed my Death Wish one… With some selected panels from the Mad Magazine satire of this movie published around 1971 or 1972. Again, I have to note that the writers and publishers of Mad Magazine were on totally on point in the 1960s, 1970s and up to the mid 1980s. One of the greatest streaks of modern publishing in this author’s opinion. To think that they were churning out stuff like this before video, DVD and digital downloads and just using studio stills or their memory to turn out hilarious parodies like this month after month. My proverbial hat is forever tipped in their direction.

Mad 1

Dirty Larry – Copyright E.C. Publications 1971

Mad 2

Dirty Larry – Copyright E.C. Publications 1971

Mad 3

Dirty Larry – Copyright E.C. Publications 1971

Mad 4

 

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Culture Snappin’ USA – Part 3 – Death Wish (1974): Filming Locations

“We were driving to Kennedy airport in 1973 to shoot the last scene of The Stone Killer, the third film we made together, when Charlie asked me what we should do next. I told him I had this script about a man whose wife and daughter are mugged and then the man goes out and shoots muggers. I mentioned that I’d had it for five years but no one seemed interested. Charlie said, ‘I’d like to do it.’ I said, ‘What, you mean you want to do this movie?’ And Charlie replied, ‘No, I’d like to shoot muggers”.

Michael Winner – Director of Death Wish

Splash

Michael Winner’s 1974 film ‘Death Wish’ rarely sits upon any film guide’s top ten and yet it is one of the more referenced and controversial films of its era. Providing the same kind of view of the big apple that the Dirty Harry films had of San Francisco, the film shows muggers, hoods and rapists lurking around every corner and the thin blue line too powerless or apathetic to make any difference.

Enter one lone individual with a loaded gun and a sense of frontier justice and a franchise is born.

Following on from both the amazing Dirty Harry (1971) and the frankly pretty shit, Walking Tall (1973), Death Wish helped usher in a wave of vigilante films and was based upon Brian Garfield’s identically titled 1972 novel. Garfield reportedly having left a party on the upper west side of Manhattan (coincidently where Bronson’s character lives in the film), came back to find his car window broken and his coat stolen. Thinking to himself how he would’ve killed the perpetrator if he had caught him in the act, Garfield conjured the idea of a twisted avenger, an accountant no less, taking revenge on any scumbag that crosses his path in the wake of his wife’s murder.

Like the protagonist of First Blood by David Morrell, which was later turned into the first Rambo movie, this character was damaged and becomes increasingly more so though out the course of the story. The film’s main character Paul Kersey however, like the cinematic version of John Rambo, was seen as a hero at the time of the film’s release with his psychopathic actions ignored or downplayed. Echoes of the psychosis may be seen in Bronson’s stony faced performance, but whether by Winner’s design or Bronson’s lack of ability, they remain only that.

Winner & Bronson(Ronald Grant Archive)

Michael Winner & Charles Bronson On Set. Ronald Grant Archive

The book was purchased by a film production duo, who after commissioning several drafts, on sold it to the Italian movie magnate Dino de Laurentiis, who hired Michael Winner, who in turn cast Charles Bronson with whom he had previously worked. Filmed on location in New York City in January 1974, Bronson, as Vincent Carnaby memorably describes in his contemporary review, “…roams the night time streets of New York, which… are so filled with vandals, would-be muggers, rapists and the like that Charlie never goes home without scoring. On streets, in parks, on subway platforms, in subway cars. It’s like shooting ducks in a bird sanctuary”.

In the face of such criticism, producer de Laurentiis stated, “Violence is not typical of New York alone. All big cities are jungles. New York is a symbol of all the metropolitan areas of our planet”.

Certainly, along with the previously noted The Warriors (1979), Taxi Driver (1976), Midnight Cowboy (1969), Coogans Bluff (1968) and The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 (1974), this was a film that perversely made me want to visit New York City. An urban nightmare on the edge of insanity, an asphalt playground where anything went, New York seemed a million miles away from where I grew up watching it from the comfort of a VCR. Thankfully though, it was not like that when I visited and I was able to walk in Paul Kersey’s footsteps without fear of having to clock a mugger with a sock full of pennies.

Bronson Sock Full O Pennies

Charles Bronson And His Sock Full o’ Pennies. Screenshot by Author

As it was filmed in winter, many of the places I visited looked much the same 41 years later. The night before searching the locations, I watched a copy of the film from my base at the St James Hotel, itself featured in a number of films, notably Maniac (1980), Big (1987) and Cruising (1980).

St James Hotel

St James Hotel. Diptych by author

Over the course of the next afternoon/evening, I managed to find the D’ Agostino market featured prominently in the film, Kersey’s uptown apartment, the stone steps he walks down to shoot his first mugger (coincidently also used in The Warriors) and the midtown café where he lures two heist men to their doom. The café, although shuttered, still has the same neon sign it had in 1974, but midtown itself no longer has the scary vibe shown in Taxi Driver or Maniac. The closest thing I saw to crime was when some guy tried to sell me weed on the street.

Death Wish Credits

72nd Street Station. Diptych by author

Death Wish Apt Building1

Kerseys Building/ Sidewalk. Diptych by author

Death Wish Apt Building2

Kersey’s Building / Sidewalk. Diptych by author

Death Wish Service Entrance

Apartment Service Entrance. Diptych by author

Death Wish Steps

Riverside Park Steps. Diptych by author

Death Wish Bus Stop

Where Kersey Gets Off The Bus. Diptych by author

Death Wish_Subway

8th Avenue Subway. Diptych by author

The results of this exploration may be seen in another shakily filmed clip below. In my own defence, it was freezing when I shot this footage and every removal of my gloves almost resulted in frostbite.

 

Almost a decade later Winner resurrected Paul Kersey for the incredibly scuzzy Death Wish II (1982) and the so bad, it’s downright awesome, Death Wish III (1985). Indeed Death Wish III has to be seen to be believed. Its cardboard characters are so caricatured as to almost be rendered as a live action cartoon.

Speaking of which, the 1974 Mad Magazine satire of Death Wish is pretty funny and I’ll close out this post with some selected panels. New York based William Gaines & Co. were on a streak between 1965 and 1985 that no other publication has ever matched.

Mad Panels 1

Death Wishers – Copyright E.C. Publications 1974

Mad Panels 2

Death Wishers – Copyright E.C. Publications 1974

 

 

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Culture Snappin’ USA – Part 2 – The Warriors (1979): Filming Locations

Eastern Terraces_ The Warriors Logo

As previously posted in February, I took an opportunity to visit the United States earlier this year and whilst there indulged myself in tracking down the locations of some of my favourite twentieth century cultural moments in an attempt to match the present with the past. (See: https://theeasternterraces.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/culture-snappin-usa-part-one/)

One film above all others had long incited me to visit New York City… Walter Hill’s 1979 gang opus ‘The Warriors’.

ConeyBridge

Wonderwheel and Bridge. Diptychs by author.

Having first seen it at the tender age of ten and some sixty times since, its power to entertain, thrill and delight me has certainly not diminished over the years. Scripted by Hill from Sol Yurick’s 1965 novel of the same name, the film elected to discard much of the social commentary and depressing reality of the original story to instead distil it down to the more photogenic tale of one gang crossing turfs in a bid to “make it back” home after being unfairly blamed for a rival gang leaders death.

Conclave 1Conclave 2

Conclave. Diptychs by author.

People have tipped their hats to it more times than anyone could likely remember in the thirty-five years since its release. From being extensively sampled in any number of electronic and hip hop tunes (such as Schoolly D’s Run or PWEI’s Can UDig It?), referenced (NWA’s 100 Miles & Running) or just plain ripped off in a slew of early 80s gang movies that tried to copy its flavour (such as 1990: The Bronx Warriors), the film has gone on to become enshrined in a certain segment of the world’s memory. Certainly, having been released at the beginning of what was expected to be a big gang film cycle in 1979, The Warriors has gone on to vastly outlive its progeny which included Boulevard Nights, The Wanders, Walk Proud and Defiance.

Conclave Gate72nd Street Swan

Conclave Cops and 96th Street Station. Diptychs by author.

Walter Hill, like all great directors who have made a magnum opus, kind of shot his wad on this one. And after creating it, he sadly never did anything to equal it. In much the same way that Orson Welles struggled to follow Citizen Kane or Francis Ford Coppola dropped nothing but turkey’s after Apocalypse Now. Sure, he subsequently created some good flicks such as the prototype buddy comedy 48 Hours or the Vietnam War parable Southern Comfort, but this remains the high water mark from which his career receded rather than developed. Which is a shame, because earlier efforts such as the Charles Bronson vehicle Street Fighter and 1978’s The Driver, featuring somnambulist / actor Ryan O Neal showed great promise and were influential in their own right too. The inspiration of the latter being most obviously seen in Nicholas Winding Refen’s 2011 virtual homage Drive.

72nd Street Chase100th Street

Baseball Furies Chase. Diptychs by author.

The Warriors continually walks an interesting line between surrealism and reality. The Koch era big apple is portrayed as some kind of neon lit playground and the beautiful – if eerie – blinking lights of cityscape contrasted with the litter strewn streets and subway platforms. Similarly the use of real locations (primarily Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Coney Island), is juxtaposed with Sam Peckinpah style slow motion and fast cuts which creates a heightened tone which feels unique to the film.

FM1FM2

Baseball Furies Chase. Diptychs by author.

Upon its release, it was met with a mixed critical response and some violent incidents in the theatres in which it was shown. A shooting at a drive-in, brawls between actual gangs during showings and a fatal stabbing were just some of the stories reported. Whether the film itself was an incitement to violence, or more likely, actual gang members realised they were sitting across from their enemies in the aisles and chose to throw down, it nonetheless caused citizens groups to stage protests and ultimately forced distributor Paramount Pictures to pay for cinema security and tone down their advertising campaign.

FM3Cyclone

Baseball Furies Chase and Cyclone. Diptychs by author.

Having promised myself after my first viewing all those years ago, that one day I would soldier those same streets and see that Wonder Wheel close up, it was a happy (albeit incredibly cold) day when I finally managed to give it a shot. The results are in the shakily filmed video below.

P.S. Special thanks must be given to the Scouting New York blog (http://www.scoutingny.com/) which helped me to find many of these locations and which is an excellent blog in its own right.

P.P.S. I certainly did not sign up to display advertisements on youtube. The powers that be likely notice the use of third party music or clips and spam accounts accordingly.

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Culture Snappin’ USA – Part One

Recently I had the good fortune to be able to go to the United States. Time was limited at just under 2 weeks and I elected to go to the places that interested me the most, primarily New York and northern California.

The reason for wanting to go to those cities so much is that I was weaned on 1960s / 1970s movies and pop culture and wished to make an effort to see many of the places I had either seen in movies or only read about in books. Whilst there, I frequently attempted to match the reality with the image… something I call Culture Snappin’ (trademark pending).

Obviously this has been done before, and certainly more successfully. However, to the best of my knowledge, no one calls it Culture Snappin’ and frankly, I’d like to see the name stick. [Click on pictures for larger view].

DH1

Dirty Harry (1971)

Orphans

The Warriors (1979)

DH4

Dirty Harry (1971)

DH2

Dirty Harry (1971)

Sudden Impact Logo

Sudden Impact (1983)

Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Misty

Play Misty For Me (1971)

Subway

Death Wish (1974)

The Enforcer

The Enforcer (1976)

Physical Graffitti

Physical Graffiti album cover (1975)

Lost Boys Bikes

The Lost Boys (1987)

Magnum Force Gusman

Magnum Force (1973)

Bullitt Crossing

Bullitt (1968)

DH3

Dirty Harry (1971)

Regrettably, culture snappin’ isn’t always easy. For example, trying to match up a famous photo of Steve McQueen with the exact corner he stole a newspaper from in Bullitt, necessitated me squatting in the middle of the street. This was literally impossible at 5.15 in the afternoon and I nearly had my ass removed by car bumpers in the attempt before giving up and taking this flawed version seen below:

Bullit Market

Bullitt (1968)

Similarly, the site of Ricca’s bloody death from 1973’s Magnum Force posed a problem as it is located right near a Freeway exit ramp and similarly requires a middle of the street low angle to pull it off. No easy feat at 3.30pm on a weekday, so this picture doesn’t match as I’d like either.

Magnum Force Ricca

Magnum Force (1973)

The building featured in Dirty Harry where he pulls a potential jumper from a building, was surrounded by homeless / crazy people at 1.30am when I took this picture. I literally had to wait for the all clear before leaping out of my car and taking the photo as quickly as possible while a basehead looking guy (reminiscent of Flava Flav’s lean years) repeatedly circled the block screaming ‘What time is it’!

Polk Logo

Dirty Harry (1971)

While this photo of the Cost Plus store used in Magnum Force (1973) is slightly flawed, I plead circumstance as I was fearful of waking the homeless guy who lay sleeping on the other side of the picture I am holding up.

Magnum Force Robbery

Magnum Force (1973)

My culture snappin’ was not limited to films either. I also managed to find cultural landmarks such as where John Gotti held meetings, album covers (such as those of Paul’s Boutique and Physical Graffiti), artistic touch stones in Greenwich Village, punk landmarks in The East Village/Bowery and places where Mafiosi met their ends, such as Joe Gallo in Mulberry Street.

Umbertos

Suffice to say, I got 28 GB of photos/video to sort out, so more to come as time and inclination permits. This is also dependent upon people not stealing my shit and claiming it as their own (see post below).

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Film Review – Beware of Mr Baker

“I’ve got more regrets than you’d ever care to believe. Hundred’s of them”

Ginger Baker in a Q &A regarding this film.

Just caught a screening of Jay Bulger’s new documentary Beware of Mr Baker which documents the current and past situations of one of rock’s most famous skinsmen. Baker, unlike the majority of his contemporaries, resisted the urge to sell out and never comes across as remotely contrite for anything he’s ever done. Moreover he’ll likely punch you for suggesting that he ever should be.

After the dissolution of his overrated, but nonetheless pivotal band Cream, Baker bugged out to Lagos where he joined the crowd surrounding Fela Kuti and Africa 70 and according to Femi Kuti (Fela’s son), lived, played and fucked (women) with his father. He also imported music equipment and set up a studio where he recorded the cream of African talent for several years, before reportedly fleeing Nigeria in a hail of bullets.

Certainly, escaping one country to re-establish his life in another is a recurring theme of the film, and the reason that at least one of his four wives divorced him. Various well known musicians speak up to offer their guarded opinions of Ginger, including the obvious choices of Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton, as well as Charlie Watts, Steve Winwood, Stewart Copeland, Marky Ramone, Bill Laswell and John Lydon.

Sadly Baker’s contribution to P.i.L’s Album/Cassette/Compact Disc is glossed over very fleetingly and his time in Hawkwind does not appear at all, but the director gets good mileage out of his time in Africa and L.A and spends a considerable amount of time detailing his polo obsession, which not only caused his alienation from Fela Kuti (due to the ruling African elite all playing polo with him), but also seemingly bankrupted him more than once.

His children appear to point out that he probably should have never had any and his current 29 year old African wife pointedly says nothing in response to the interviewer asking whether he’s a good step dad. Various other people also step to the camera to highlight that he seemed ‘mad’ or ‘…like the devil…’ in his dealings with them. Like Keith Richards, Baker appears to have the constitution of an ox and the film shows him still kicking along after a long history of heroin abuse, popping pills and smacking the director in the eye with a cane for announcing he will interview people from his past. All in all, he comes across as the gloriously cantankerous geezer one would imagine him to be. Aware of his strengths and not prepared to put up with other’s weaknesses, while nonetheless being acutely cognisant of his own.

I really admire him. The amount of honest individuals in music who haven’t sold out their ideals for a pension can be counted on one hand and while the director appears to be using Ginger to make a name for himself, we should be grateful that someone has finally turned their lens to one of music’s less understood and less represented virtuosos.

Trailer

Ginger Baker and Africa 70

Politician taken from Cream’s 1968 London farewell concert.

Art Blakey Versus Ginger Baker Drum Battle [Quality is shite, but footage is gold].

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.