Still Killing after 50 Years.
August 6, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most iconic films ever made.
Many years back, City TV would show this film right after their televised 'New Years Eve' party from Nathan Philips Square. And every year, I would watch it with utter fascination. I even remember the first time I watched it. It was a New Year's eve party at a friend's house and it was playing on a small tv in the corner of the room . I was glued to the black and white photography of the racing cars whipping through the desert and from that moment, I was hooked.
Russ Meyers 1965 cult classic, 'Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! was a film that was certainly not your typical film from the 60's, in fact, it was years ahead of it's time. The film is about three exotic dancers (or strippers if you will) who are out for a ride in the desert looking for thrills. Rosie (Hajie) Billie (Lori Williams), and Varla (played by iconic cult film actress Tura Satana) who resembles a Kabuki actress on steroids, kills a man after a car racing dispute and kidnaps his girlfriend. While getting gas, the attendant tells Varla about a man who lives with his two sons that is sitting on a 'ton of cash'. So they scheme to try and steal the money from him.
Of course in these movies, nothing goes as planned and mayhem ensues.
When Myers was writing this film he thought of key elements to exploit in shaping the story. Cars (Faster), Sex (Pussycat) and Violence (kill! Kill!) By doing so, he created a film that showed as he calls it, 'The Violence in women'. They are certainly not your typical Hollywood pushovers and they will put you down in a single strike courtesy of the intimidating Varla karate chopping her way through men 20 years before Arnold Schwarzenegger or Steven Seagal started doing it on the big screen.
When the film was first released, it did not make a lot of money but eventually found a cult audience later on and became the classic that it is today. Many people call it the 'Citizen Kane of Trash films' but I think it's more than that, and Russ Myer ended up creating an incredible film that became of part of our pop culture lexicon and influenced many future celebrities. For example;
John Waters was quoted as saying in his 1981 autobiography, 'Shock Value'. 'beyond a doubt, the best movie ever made. It is possibly better than any film that will be made in the future.' This film is credited with creating John Waters style of cinema. Also, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and Madonna. The late Roger Ebert (yes, that Roger Ebert) early in his career, was a screenwriter before becoming the great critic as we knew him for another cult film by Myers entitled, 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls'.
It even made an impact on me as a young film enthusiast and photographer, and I did an homage to the film a few years back which you can check out in my portrait gallery.
With an unforgettable soundtrack by 'The Bostweeds', Myers creates his own style and pacing. The women in his films always had the same look (curvy and buxom) and Myers is identified with this very obvious element. He certainly does not shy away from it and it mixes with some of the best dialogue I have ever heard. One line in particular that always comes to mind is this little gem….
Gas Station Attendant: [staring at Varla's chest as he pumps gas] Just passing through, huh? Boy, that motor's sure hot! You gals really must have been moving on these little machines. Yessir, the thrill of the open road. New places, new people, new sights of interest. Now that's what I believe in, seeing America first!
Varla: You won't find it down there, Columbus!
There was even an episode on Seinfeld entitled ' The Pilot' where the dialogue went something like this;
JERRY: I mean look at this. Every waitress working here has the same proportions. Wouldn't you say?
ELAINE: Yes, I would say.
JERRY: What's going on here. How is that possible?
ELAINE: Do you think it's a coincidence?
JERRY: No. I haven't seen four women like this together outside of a Russ Meyer film.
I remember reading an article years ago by feminist and film critic B. Ruby Rich, writing at length on "Pussycat" in a Village Voice article, and how she dismissed "Pussycat" many years ago as just a 'skin flick'. But when she watched the film at the 30th anniversary, she had a very different perception of it. She found the images of female empowerment fascinating to her, maybe that's why this movie still gains popularity with women as it moves through time.
The one disappointment that I have is that there has not been an anniversary or special edition release to mark the occasion, in fact, it's not even available on Blu ray. But, never the less, you should definitely check this film out because it's like nothing you have seen before.
'Holy Blu ray Batman!'
July 6, 2015 the world celebrated the 70th birthday of one Burt Ward, AKA 'Robin, the Boy Wonder'. Therefore with this in mind, I couldn't have picked a better time to talk about the awesome item that I got to cross promote the occasion.
When I was 8 years old, I had the opportunity to watch my first episode of the classic 1966 television series, 'Batman'. CityTV would play the classic episodes weekdays at noon so this had me running home for lunch from school to see what happened next. Seeing the famous 'Batmobile' charge out of the Batcave to meet the villain of the week. Was it the Riddler? Penguin? Joker? Catwoman? Even at that age, I always wished it was Catwoman (the Julie Newmar one that is). I could watch Julie Newmar all day. If they had a show where she just read the dictionary, I would watch it, lol.
You see, for anyone my age, back then, television programming was very different and there were not that many channels. There was no'Teletoon Retro' so used to play these shows all the time on regular tv. The internet was not around and we did not have a VCR so If you missed an episode, you had to wait until they showed it again.
It's strange how as a kid, it took this show to be serious and did not understand what the adults found so funny. When I got older, I began to understand what was so funny and appreciate the show even more for how witty and campy it really was. The dialogue was clever and the sight gags were even better.
At the time of release, the show was an instant hit and was red hot. Everyone wanted to be a part of it in some form or another. Besides the primary cast of 'Bat villains' such as ''The Riddler (with an incredible performance by Frank Gorshin) the Penguin (Incredibly acted by another legend, Burgess Meredith), Catwoman played by three actresses (Julie Newmar, Lee Meriweather, and Eartha Kitt) and Caeser Romero as 'The Joker'.
Other Hollywood actors wanted some part of the show as characters and they starred such legends as Anne Baxter, Vincent Price, and Milton Berle. One celebrity that got a role as a villain was Liberace playing a villain concert pianist named Chandel (yup that's not a stretch) and not only playing one character, but also his evil twin brother! If you've never seen this episode, it is definitely something to watch. lol!
If they couldn't get a role in the show as a villain, there was always the window gag that had the 'Dynamic Duo' scaling a wall and a random celebrity from other shows from other networks making appearances such as Colonel Klink from 'Hogans Heroe's, Lurch from 'The Addams Family' and Jerry Lewis, would open the window and have a brief conversation with the crime fighters as they scaled their way to fight for justice.
The reason for all this 'Bat talk' is because 'Batman 1966' finally got it's long overdue first time release on Bluray and it looks spectacular. The incredible transfer really bring out all the bright colours and the incredible costumes and sets that really come to life in this collection. In addition to all 120 episodes, the set also include ; Hot Wheels Replica Batmobile, The Adam West Scrapbook, 44 Vintage Trading Cards, Ultraviolet Digital Copy, 32-Page Complete Episode Guide, plus a ton of extra features that make this set worth checking out.
So if you're looking for some great nostaglia or something you can watch with the whole family, 'Batman 1966' is definitely worth checking out..
Christopher Lee: Immortal
Last week I took a walk to my local library (you know, the place that has books, movies, music, librarians) to check out what they had new in store. As I was chatting it up with the librarian, I asked about if she had heard about the passing of the great Sir Christopher Lee. She looked at me with a puzzled look and said,
'I don't know who that is'.
Me: 'You know 'Count Dracula', 'Frankenstein', 'The Mummy' from the classic Hammer horror film series……
Me: 'Francisco Scaramanga' from the 'Man With the Golden Gun',
Me: Saruman the White from 'The Lord of the Rings', Count Dooku...
Librarian: No, I can't say I know who that is.
I was stunned. Not angry, but stunned. Lee's film career spanned an incredible 8 decades and was known as the 'Master of Horror' sharing a birthday with another horror legend, Vincent Price. Lee had a very deep distinct voice and tall frame that could never be mistaken for anyone else. The Librarian was in her sixties so I was puzzled as how someone could not know who he was even if she had not seen any of the aforementioned films. He was not just an actor that was limited to one genre, he also played a variety of roles from Sherlock Holmes to Ramses. He was so incredibly talented and diverse that he was knighted in 2009 by Queen Elizabeth II.
Christopher Lee was the guy who I first watched as a 9 year old in the classic, 'Dracula Has Risen From the Grave' and I was just blown away at how terrifying this man truly was as the notorious blood sucker. No matter how many times they killed this fiend, he was always resurrected somehow and brought back to star in the countless sequels that Hammer Films churned out, and I couldn't wait to see what happened next. He was like a family member that always came to visit me on my small black and white television that sat in the corner of my parents basement. When Sunday afternoon hit, I was watching WUTV Buffalo 29 to await his visit and follow whatever adventure he took me on.
Even though Lee has departed from this world, he will always be there in the form of his 200 plus films that he leaves us with. And, like Dracula, he will always be coming back to greet us in the years to come. Thank you for all your incredible work and for creating some of the greatest moments in cinema that I enjoyed and for the many generations ahead that have yet to discover your true genius.
Dominick Petrungaro is an award winning photographer and pop culture enthusiast that resides in Toronto, Ontario Canada.
Visions of Light
I would like to welcome everybody to my band new website. For those that do not know me, my name is Dominick Petrungaro and I am a photographer who is very passionate about what I do.
I have been shooting since the age of 16 and it has always been something that I have never gotten bored of, probably because of the huge influence that it has had in my life. If photography started at 16, then cinema got my attention way before then.
I remember when I was about 5 years old, my father would take me to the local library every Saturday where they would show free movies for kids. The first movie I ever watched was Sam Wanamaker's 'Sinbad and the Eye of The Tiger'. I was literally glued to my seat and did not movie until the good guys won and the end credits rolled. I was hooked and I wanted to see more of these phenomenal visions that formed out of light. It was magic right before my eyes and I wanted to see more of these spectacles.
Then came 'The Wizard of Oz' that was a yearly ritual that was broadcast on Halloween. This was the time before VCR's so you had to catch it when it aired. The mesmerizing special effects and the intense scenes with Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West terrifying Dorthy and her friends was always a lot of fun. Sunday afternoons were reserved for the 'Godzilla' features from Japan and the fantastic martial arts films from China.
As I got into my teens, directors such as John Carpenter, Orson Welles, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Martin Scorcese, Francis Ford Coppola, Stephen Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, and the list goes on. I watched so many films and television shows that, subconsciously, began to influence the way I photographed my subject matter.
So if you haven't guessed it by now, this is what I will be talking about here on my blog; photography and Pop Culture. I hope to get feed back from you on the topics I write about and I also encourage you to take a look at my work and tell me what you think.
With that being said, I will be taking part of the 'Contact' Photography Festival' which is the largest photography festival in the world held right here in beautiful Toronto, Ontario Canada. The gallery opening will be on Saturday May 9, 2015 from 6:30 to 9:00 pm at the Incredible 'Artworld Fine Art' Gallery at 365 Evans Avenue in Etobicoke, Ontario and will run till the end of May. I hope to see you all there.
April 21st, 2015
Dominick Petrungaro is an Award Winning photographer that resides in Toronto, ON