Sunday, November 10, 2019

A Superb "Last Waltz" Shines at Oakdale

In the modern world of live concerts, some shows are just plain fun. Others are technically amazing, displaying a band or individual performer’s instrumental prowess . Some are simply kick-ass rock outings, allowing fans to enjoy their favorite songs from an artist’s catalog. Once in a while, a show comes along that combines all of those elements, while adding a powerful, emotional connection between the music, the artist and the audience, creating a truly transformative experience. The Last Waltz Tour, featuring Warren Haynes, Lukas Nelson, and Jamey Johnson, which stopped off at the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford on November 8, was definitely one of those shows. The tour pays tribute to the final live performance from the original lineup of the legendary group The Band. The concert took place on Thanksgiving Day in 1976, and included guest stars such as Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond and Joni Mitchell. The show was immortalized on record (and on film) as The Last Waltz. The filmed version was directed by none other than Martin Scorsese, and is widely considered one of the best concert movies ever made.

Lukas Nelson, Warren Haynes & Jamey Johnson
For The Last Waltz Tour, Warren Haynes (of Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule fame), along with Lukas Nelson (Willie’s son) and Jamey Johnson, team up with a talented array of musicians to perform the songs from the original show. This wasn’t just a concert, it was a truly transcendent, beautiful evening of marvelous music.  The show opened with a joyous version of “Up On Cripple Creek” followed by a rollicking take on“The Shape I’m In”  featuring outstanding work from Haynes, Nelson and Johnson. What followed this fantastic opening salvo was an almost three hour celebration of the music of The Band, brilliantly performed by an outstanding ensemble. Jamey Johnson contributed a passionate lead vocal on a wonderful version of “Georgia On My Mind," which was an early highlight of the show. Guest stars Cyril Neville and Dave Malone (of The Radiators) brought a deep New Orleans vibe to jam-tastic run-throughs of  “Who Do You Love” and “Down South in New Orleans.” Neville and Malone re-appeared several times throughout the evening, adding additional depth to an already spectacular band. 

Guitarist Bob Margolin, who appeared at the original Last Waltz concert with Muddy Waters, joined the group for blues-drenched versions of "Mannish Boy" and "Further On Up The Road." There was brilliant, often searing guitar from Haynes, Nelson and Johnson, and excellent backing from acclaimed producer-musician Don Was, John Medeski on keyboards, Terence Higgins on drums and Mark Mullins on trombone, as well as The Levee Horns. The set list was filled with fantastic versions of songs such as “Stage Fright” and “It Makes No Difference,” as well as "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)." The night featured one astounding performance after another. Lukas Nelson led a breathtaking take on Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young," while Johnson anchored an emotional run through of the CSNY classic, “Helpless.” There was also an incandescent version of Dylan's “I Shall Be Released.” Of course, the enthusiastic audience of baby boomers (as well as a number of younger fans) were brought to their feet by “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “The Weight." And everyone put on their dancing shoes for "Ophelia" and Van Morrison's "Caravan."

Cyril Neville and Dave Malone join the lineup
By the time the the encore, consisting of the Dr. John standard "Such A Night" and the Marvin Gaye cover "Baby, Don't You Do It," came around, the audience had been rocked, rolled, mesmerized, transported and musically sanctified. This unforgettable show was a shared experience that will stay with those of us who attended for a long time to come. It’s obvious that these supremely talented musicians enjoy playing together, and also have a deep and abiding love for this classic music, which clearly resonated with the audience. The Band were one of the groups that helped popularize the Americana sound, combining elements of country, rock, jazz, and soul to create memorable albums such as Music From Big Pink. Truly great songs stands the test of time, and this show honors the legacy of this outstanding music. I truly enjoyed this concert, and highly recommend it. If you're a fan of the Band or any of the artists that are part of The Last Waltz Tour, this is a not to be missed experience. For more info on the tour, you can follow this link: https://blackbirdpresents.com/concert/the-last-waltz-tour-2019/.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Gothic Darkness of "Black Sunday"

Barbara Steele
Italian director Mario Bava is justly celebrated as one of the true masters of modern horror cinema. He helped popularize the giallo genre with films like Blood and Black LaceHatchet for the Honeymoon and A Bay of Blood, aka Twitch of the Death Nerve. He also directed science-fiction films like Planet of the Vampires, westerns such as Roy Colt and Winchester Jack, and the delightful pop art infused spy thriller Danger: Diabolik. In addition to directing, he was also a talented cinematographer, screenwriter and special effects artist. His ardent fans include Joe Dante, Martin Scorsese, Guillermo Del Toro and Tim Burton. One of his best early films is the 1960 thriller Black Sunday, also known as La Maschera Del Demonio, or The Mask of Satan. It's a spine-chilling tale from a truly visionary director.

As Black Sunday begins, a witch (though she’s also referred to as a vampire in the film’s opening narration) named Asa Vadja and her companion, Javutich, are about to be burned at the stake for spreading terror in the land of Moldavia, and for being loyal servants to Satan. The man in charge of carrying out the sentence is Asa’s own brother! She isn’t just going to be put to death, however. In one of the most chilling and vivid scenes in 1960s horror, she’s first branded with “the mark of Satan,” and then a spiked metal mask is hammered onto her face. Prior to her death, Asa vows revenge, and places a curse on her sibling and his descendants. 

The story then jumps forward two hundred years. Dr. Kruvajan and Dr. Gorobec are on their way to a medical convention when they are waylaid because their carriage breaks down. While waiting for the repairs to be finished, they discover Asa’s final resting place. Kruvajan accidentally cuts himself while exploring the crypt, and unwittingly revives the evil witch. When they step back outside, the two men meet Katia, a descendant of Asa’s who looks remarkably like her. Once their carriage is ready, the doctors part ways with the young woman, and head off to their lodgings at a local inn. Gorobec, the younger of the two doctors, is smitten with the lovely Katia, and their paths will cross again as the story unfolds. But there are dark times and black deeds ahead.

A rejuvenated Asa calls out to Javutich and commands him to rise from the grave. With his help, Asa plots to drain Katia’s life force, so she can once again be restored to youth and vitality. She also enslaves Dr. Kruvajan, and uses him as a pawn in her plan of revenge against Katia’s family, starting with the murder of Katia’s father, who has become obsessed by the evil deeds of his ancestors. Will Asa triumph, fulfill her curse, and begin a new reign of terror? Can Dr. Gorobec, who has fallen in love with Katia, save the day? When Asa and Javutich kidnap the young woman, and the witch poses as Katia in order to tempt him to the side of darkness, will he be able to tell the difference between the two? It all leads a frightening confrontation at the story's climax.

Black Sunday is a terrifying film that manages to use several of the themes and much of the iconography of the Gothic horror genre (crypts, castles, curses, ladies in distress, descendants haunted by the evil deeds of their ancestors) to full advantage. The movie is a fascinating hybrid, mixing the almost mythic visual style of 1930s horror films with the more graphic intensity the genre began leaning toward in the 1960s. It's a combination that could almost be called "modern Gothic," a blend of Universal horror and Hammer films, filtered through Bava's unique stylistic lens. His direction is masterful, and the movie features some truly eerie and stunning images. Black Sunday is absolutely dripping with atmosphere, and though Bava was truly innovative with the use of color in his later films, his use of black and white in this one is particularly striking. Bava (who also served as cinematographer for the film) also contributes some ingenious camera tricks and offbeat lighting effects. 

The cast is quite good, featuring John Richardson as Gorobec, Arturo Dominici as Javutich, and Ivo Garrani as Katia’s doomed father, Prince Vadja. But the real standout here is Barbara Steele in the dual role of Katia and Asa. She gives a full-blooded (pun intended) performance in both parts, contrasting Katia’s aura of light and innocence with the vindictive, gloriously evil, and darkly sensual Asa. She manages to be a Gothic style heroine and villainess at the same time! Despite the fact that, like the rest of the cast, Steele is dubbed, she managed to make a truly lasting impression in the part, one which propelled the actress into a string of roles in a number of European horror films. She also appeared in Roger Corman's The Pit and the Pendulum and Dan Curtis’ 1991 primetime television re-imagining of his fondly remembered horror soap opera Dark Shadows.

American International Pictures distributed Black Sunday in the United States. Several minutes of violence were toned down or cut from the film, and the original score by Roberto Nicolosi was replaced with one from Les Baxter. AIP later released Bava's horror anthology Black Sabbath in the US. In England, the movie was banned until 1968, when it was released in a severely edited version. The uncut edition of the film wasn’t available there until 1992! While there have been several decades worth of horror films released in the wake of Black Sunday, the movie has lost none of its power. The sense of dread, fear and terror is palpable, and it reaches you on an almost emotional level. The movie is an intense, powerful and effective chiller that you won’t soon forget. Here’s a link to the trailer for Black Sunday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjGX72iCzmI.

This post is part of Dark and Deep: The Gothic Horror Blogathon, hosted by Gabriela over at Pale Writer, a truly wonderful blog. I'm really thrilled to be a part of this blogathon with a talented group of fellow writers/bloggers. Thanks to Gabriela for letting me join in on all the scary fun! You can get more information about the blogathon and the other entries by following this link: https://palewriter2.home.blog/2019/08/03/dark-and-deep-the-gothic-horror-blogathon/.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

When is a Poe Film Not Really a Poe Film? Roger Corman's "The Haunted Palace"

By 1963, Roger Corman had directed several successful Edgar Allan Poe adaptations for American-International Pictures, and was looking to try something a bit different. The producer-director was a fan of the influential horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, and suggested the idea of doing a film version of the author’s novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward to his AIP bosses, James Nicholson and Samuel Z Arkoff. While they agreed to produce the movie, they hedged their bets a little by making the project part of the Poe series. The movie was eventually titled The Haunted Palace, after a poem written by Poe. At the end of the film, several lines from that poem were spoken by star Vincent Price. Oddly enough, Poe's name was misspelled in the credits as Edgar Allen Poe!

Debra Paget & Vincent Price
The Haunted Palace tells the story of Charles Dexter Ward, a man who has inherited his ancestral home in the village of Arkham. Along with his wife Anne, Ward visits the town, where his great-great grandfather had lived years before. The couple isn’t exactly given a warm welcome, as Ward’s ancestor, Joseph Curwen, was a warlock who terrorized Arkham, conducting fiendish rituals during which local girls disappeared, and demonic creatures were called upon to rise from a dark pit in Curwen’s home. The evil Curwen is eventually burned at the stake, but vows revenge on the townsfolk, cursing them and their descendants. Many of the residents of Arkham suffer from deformities that are blamed on the curse. Charles and Anne talk with Marinius Willet, the local doctor, who tells them the story of Curwen. When they eventually go to the house, they meet up with Simon, the odd caretaker of the estate.

Charles is strangely affected by the negative aura of the house, and is deeply influenced by an eerie portrait of Curwen. The spirit of his ancestor starts to take hold of him. The evil warlock enacts his revenge on the descendants of those who killed him, using Charles as his vessel. Along with Simon and Jabez, both of whom were compatriot of Curwen’s, the warlock plans to open a doorway to another dimension, allowing the monstrous creatures he worships to rule our world. Charles struggles for control of his mind, body and soul, but the power of his ancestor’s evil will might be too much for him. Anne and Dr. Willet try to convince Charles to leave the house before it’s too late. Will the kindly Charles be able to triumph over Curwen’s possession?

The Haunted Palace is a moody, strikingly photographed (by Floyd Crosby) chiller with solid direction by Corman. The appropriately chilling score for the movie is by Ronald Stein. The cast is especially strong; in addition to Vincent Price as Charles, and Debra Paget as Anne (in her last big-screen role), the film also features Lon Chaney, Jr., Leo Gordon, Elisha Cook, Jr. and Cathie Merchant. Price often gets an (undeserved) bad rap for being over the top and hammy, but he was a wonderful actor, steeped in the theatrical tradition in which he was trained. Price knew just when to take it over the top, and when to dial it down. Here, he's able to convey Charles' internal struggle with subtle gestures and small changes in mood and facial expression, aided by Crosby's effective lighting and use of color. The house itself is like a character in the film, evoking a real feeling of dread, especially that evil painting of Curwen, which almost feels alive. 

Roger Corman's The Haunted Palace is an eerie, well-produced thriller that will appeal to fans of Price, Corman’s Poe series, and Lovecraft aficionados. It’s one of my favorites of the “Poe” series, and it’s the first (and one of the best) onscreen adaptations of a Lovecraft work. The film effectively captures the Gothic tone of Poe's fiction and the otherworldly, fantastical elements of Lovecraft's work. AIP would later release a version of Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror, directed by frequent Corman collaborator Daniel Haller. Shout! Factory released an an excellent Blu-ray of the film as part of their “Vincent Price Collection” a few years ago, but that box set (like the MGM "Midnite Movies" DVD of the film) is now out of print. The film does show up on various cable stations on occasion, and is worth seeking out. Here’s a link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJT4uD64IZg.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Who or What is King's "The Outsider?"

Imagine what would happen if you were accused of a horrible crime that you didn’t commit, but for which much of the evidence pointed directly to you as the perpetrator? That’s the setup of the Stephen King novel The Outsider. Terry Maitland is a well-respected guy in his Oklahoma community. He's a good teacher and a well-liked (and very successful) Little League coach. One night, during an important game, Terry is arrested by police detective Ralph Anderson (in full view of the crowd) for the brutal murder of a child. Anderson (and the police) have gathered an overwhelming amount of evidence (including DNA and eyewitness accounts) that reveals Terry to be the murderer.

Terry maintains his innocence, but his reputation is ruined. He and his family are subject to scorn and harassment by a town that has turned against them. As the DA prepares his case against Terry, several pieces of conflicting evidence come to the surface. It seems Terry has an airtight alibi for the night of the murder. He was out of town with colleagues at a conference, and actually appears on videotape captured during the event. How can he have been in two places at once? Though Detective Anderson is troubled by these out of sync elements of the case, he and the DA push forward with Terry's arraignment for murder. Tragic events ensue, and Terry is killed by a distraught family member of the murder victim.

A guilt-ridden Anderson realizes there is more to the story that meets the eye. He feels that he owes it to Terry's family (and his own piece of mind) to discover the truth. Anderson decides to delve a bit deeper into the case, and enlists a private investigator named Holly Gibney (who will be familiar to fans of King's Mr. Mercedes trilogy) to help him. What they discover is that this isn't the only time a doppelganger like this has committed a murder, or the first time an innocent man was blamed for the crime. There is an evil "outsider" at work, and his true identity may be more terrifying than they could ever have imagined. It will take the combined efforts of Ralph, Holly and some additional allies to confront and defeat this powerful, otherworldly killer.

As usual, Kings gift for sharply drawn characters and naturalistic dialogue is operating at full strength. You care for these people, and the fast-moving story keeps you turning the pages. Holly Gibney, that quirky heroine of the Bill Hodges/Mr. Mercedes novels, is a rich, multi-layered character who really helps anchor the narrative. If King ever spins Holly off into her own series of mystery novels, count me in. The Outsider is an eclectic mix of straight mystery/detective thriller and supernatural horror elements. As usual, there are some creepy sequences and frightening moments in the book. The novel's turn towards the fantastic midway through is not quite as sharp as some reviewers have noted. Throughout the book, there is a sense that something is not quite right about this murder case, and once the villain's supernatural nature is revealed, you're already hooked on the story, and are ready to finish the ride along with King.

The book also makes an insightful (and quite topical) point about how easily people can be swayed by public opinion and the media. Terry is tried and convicted before he ever reaches the inside of a courthouse, and even the police aren’t initially swayed by the conflicting evidence they discover. The creature called "The Outsider" is able to take on the form of others, and commit horrific acts of murder wearing their faces. He's also able to control other people through, fear, intimidation and empty promises, feeding off the negative energy he creates through these manipulations. As is often the case, the greatest monster we face is within ourselves; it's our own weakness and prejudices. The Outsider is a compelling and intriguing tale that's well worth a read for long-time King fans, and I think newcomers will enjoy it as well.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

A Baker's Dozen of Soulful Tunes

When I started this blog back in 2011, I occasionally posted playlists of music I thought my readers might enjoy. I haven't done one of them in a while, so I thought I'd post this list of some fine modern, yet retro, soul tunes you should check out. Enjoy the music, and feel free to comment below!

1. Old Songs – Betty Wright & The Roots sing about the virtues of love and (of course) old school soul on this track from their very cool collaboration from 2011 on the album Betty Wright: The Movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTsDIgByFG8.
           2. Just Ain't Gonna Work Out - Mayer Hawthorne gets into the Motown groove on this tune from A Strange Arrangement (2009): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBKx8PyE5qQ.
           3. Sugarfoot – Black Joe Lewis & The Honey Bears do their best James Brown impression on this funk-filled track from their disc Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ-M_8pY6TI.
           4. Love That Girl - Raphael Saadiq channels equal parts of soul men Eddie Kendricks (of The Temptations) and Curtis Mayfield on this entry from the excellent album The Way I See It: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dkPFyubi_M.
           5. Mama Knows  - Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds fire up a great combination of rock and soul on this track from The Weather Belowhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOjFVuiUJPY.


           6. Tighter – A haunting ballad from Fitz & The Tantrums’ excellent debut album, Pickin Up The Pieces (2010)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UW_yRj-NlI.
           7. Longer & Stronger – From the late great Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. Wonderful song featured on the B-sides and rarities collection, Soul Time! (2011): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6ikMqmjo9c.
           8. Howling at Nothing– The incredible Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats sound like a combination of Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson on this fantastic track from their 2015 debut album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzqmVa6n-es.


           9. Make A Change – Durand Jones and The Indications get deep into a very Sly Stone-style vibe on this tune from their self-titled debut, which was released in 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZJ-7BJ46U0.
           10. Broken Bones and Pocket Change– St. Paul & The Broken Bones, a Birmingham-based soul outfit, shine on this number from Half The City (2014), featuring a powerful vocal from lead singer Paul Janeway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyeGzSA_Ua8.
           11. Call Off Your Dogs – Lake Street Dives lead singer Racheal Price has one of the most expressive voices in rock and roll these days, and she's comfortable singing in multiple genres; rock, soul and jazz. This is a fun, disco-fied track from Side Ponyhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMEPgLxvNPk.
12. Changes – The late Charles Bradley takes a Black Sabbath tune from 1972 and turns it into an incredibly mournful, emotion-filled piece of classic R&B. From the deeply soulful album Changes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi49yirJiEA.
13. Smooth Sailin' – Leon Bridges sounds very smooth indeed on this soulful number from Coming Home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTrKkqE9p1o.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Rock Hudson Gets a "Seconds" Chance

Our culture has always been obsessed with youth. You only have to take a brief look at much of the music, film and television being produced these days to see that fixation play out in real time. What if you could have a chance to reset your life and start over again at an earlier age? That's the premise of director John Frankenheimer's Seconds (1966), a remarkable film featuring Rock Hudson and Salome Jens. The story concerns a well-off middle-aged man named Arthur Hamilton (initially played by character actor John Randolph, recognizable from his many film and television roles in the 1960s and 70s) who feels he's lost the passion in his life. Arthur finds no fulfillment in his work, or from his wife, family and friends. He wonders what he would do with a if he could start over again. A brief encounter with a friend who he thought had died gives him the chance for a new start.

Rock Hudson in Seconds
Arthur learns about an organization called the "Company" which offers people like himself a rebirth. They create a new identity for you and remake you as a younger person through a process that involves extensive surgery. The only catch is that you have to permanently leave your old life behind. The death of your old self is arranged (faked) by the organization so that no one comes looking for you. Arthur agrees to the procedure and becomes an artist named Antiochus "Tony" Wilson. He is placed into a Malibu-based community of other "reborn" people like himself who socialize together and live out their new lives in luxury. He begins a romance with a woman named Nora, who's something of a lost soul. Despite their attraction, Nora's having some difficulty adjusting to her new existence. And Tony is as well.

Even though he's been given everything he ever wanted, Tony begins to feel dissatisfied. He visits his wife, and an old friend (which is against the rules of the Company) and of course, neither of them recognize him. Tony starts to have second thoughts about his decision. He begins to discover some disturbing truths about the organization that helped him start a new life. It appears the Company (and its methods) may be somewhat less benevolent than Tony originally thought. What will happen when he confronts them with his misgivings? Will he be able to free himself from the confines of their restrictive system of rebirth and transformation? There is a darker truth about the Company, and the price for second chances may be quite a lot higher than Tony originally thought.

Seconds is an intriguing, thoughtful combination of art film, science-fiction tale and thriller. Rock Hudson is excellent (it's absolutely one of his best performances) and Salome Jens is genuinely affecting as the troubled Nora. The top notch supporting cast includes familiar faces such as Jeff Corey, Will Geer, Richard Anderson and Murray Hamilton. The screenplay (based on David Ely's novel) is by Lewis John Carlino, who also wrote The Mechanic (1972) and Resurrection (1980). The film is masterfully directed by John Frankenheimer, who also helmed Seven Days in May, The Manchurian Candidate and Grand Prix. The exquisite black and white cinematography by Oscar winner James Wong Howe manages to bring a chilling look and incredible depth and texture to the movie. The haunting music is by Jerry Goldsmith, one of the true maestros of film scores.

The movie is a powerful examination of the the loss of identity, the perils of materialism, and the kind of suburban ennui that develops in some people in middle age. You can almost see a character like Mad Men's Don Draper showing up at the Company to avail himself of its services. While the movie was not a success upon its original release, it's gained a cult following and has grown in reputation over the years. The film looks and feels more timely now than ever before. I think it's one of John Frankenheimer's best films, and I highly recommend checking it out. Seconds has been released on DVD and Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection, and is available on some streaming services. Here's a link to the film's trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-vmD-vhh4I

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Mandy: Unique, Intense and Frightening

There are the movies that you watch and enjoy, and then there are the movies that you experience. For me, one of those visceral moments was The Shining, which I first saw as a teenager (in a nearly empty theater, which only added to its eeriness) during its original release in 1980. Whatever you think of its fidelity to the source novel by Stephen King, there's no doubt that Stanley Kubrick's film engenders a powerful reaction from viewers. In this world of big budget action flicks, superhero franchises and endless gross out comedies, there aren't many movies that grab you by the shoulders, pull you into their world, and don't let go. Director Panos Cosmatos' thriller Mandy (2018) is definitely one of those films. The movie has a unique style and a singular depth of vision.

This mind-bending horror tale stars Nicolas Cage and Andrea Riseborough as a couple living in California in the 1980s. Cage's Red Miller is a logger and Riseborough's title character works in a convenience store. She's also a talented illustrator who creates richly detailed fantasy art. They live a somewhat isolated existence, and it's clear that they're deeply in love with (and draw strength from) one another. They cross paths with the Children of the New Dawn, a strange cult headed by a self-appointed messiah named Jeremiah Sand. He catches sight of Mandy, and decides he wants her for himself. Sand orders his followers to kidnap her, and with the help of a demonic group of bikers (yes, you read that correctly) Mandy and Red are taken prisoner. 

Andrea Riseborough as Mandy
The narcissistic Sand drugs Mandy and attempts to seduce her, expounding about his god-like state of being and telling her she'll be his consort. Needless to say, things do not go according to plan, and she rejects him. Since he can't have her, the psychotic cult leader has her killed, right in front of Red's eyes. The group essentially leaves him for dead, and departs the scene. A broken, devastated Red survives the ordeal. What follows is a violent, disturbing sequence of events as Red goes on a very personal quest for vengeance. His rage not only empowers him, it seems to define him. Without Mandy, he's like a ship without a rudder. He's completely focused on his goal; he's going to put the hurt on those who deprived him of the love of his life, even if it consumes his soul. Red will use crossbows, chainsaws, battle axes and whatever weapons necessary to get his revenge.
  
As an actor, Nicolas Cage has become something of an acquired taste for film fans. He’s been remarkably prolific in recent years, appearing in a large number of movies, and his tendency to go over the top (and beyond) is often lampooned on shows like Saturday Night Live. His performance as Red is wildly expressive, but it fits the tone of the film perfectly. He's quiet and almost introverted until the death of Mandy breaks something inside him, and then he lets loose with a rage that keenly illustrates the character's deep sense of loss. Andrea Riseborough is excellent as Mandy. She exudes an ethereal beauty, and is able to convey the character's almost otherworldly qualities even in scenes where she has no dialogue. It's a wonderful performance. Linus Roache is chilling as the self-important cult leader, who's able to manipulate his followers by telling them what they want to hear, tailoring his "philosophy" to their needs. 

Mandy is intense, disturbing and frightening. The film's stunning imagery has an almost hallucinatory, dream-like quality. There are scenes of incredible beauty and also darker hued scenes of violence. Director Cosmatos and cinematographer Benjamin Loeb do a fantastic job creating a striking look and color scheme for the movie. The evocative score is by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson. The movie is atmospheric, quirky, haunting, and powerfully affecting. It's not quite a love story, a thriller, a horror film, or a blood-drenched tale of vigilante revenge, and yet it embraces all of those genres. Now at this point, you might be saying to yourself: Cult leaders? Demonic bikers? Chainsaws? Mandy might not be your usual cup of tea, but this offbeat film will definitely inspire conversation after you watch it, and you might find yourself swept up into this unique world.

This is writer-director Cosmatos' second film, following the equally genre-defying Beyond The Black Rainbow (2010). I can't wait to see what he does next. Mandy is available on DVD and at various online streaming sites, such as Amazon. Here's a link to the trailer for this brilliant, unusual, and imaginative film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rI054ow6KJk. I've written about the excellent movie website Trailers From Hell for this blog, the home of the absolutely essential podcast The Movies That Made Me, co-hosted by screenwriter Josh Olson and director Joe Dante. Josh is a huge fan of Mandy, and synched up the trailer for the film with the (otherwise unrelated) Barry Manilow tune. Oddly enough, the union of the two kind of works. Here's a link to that clever mashup: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NwBh2UTivs. By the way, Panos Cosmatos was also a guest on The Movies That Made Me podcastThis is a link to the episode on which he chatted with Olson and Dante: https://trailersfromhell.com/podcast/panos-cosmatos/.