Mulatu of Ethiopia

For the past few years I've been developing a keen taste for jazz. Not to say that I didn't always like it, I grew up with a healthy serving of Laurindo Almeida, Jean Luc Ponty and Miles Davis of course from being around my dad, but it wouldn't be until my early twenties that I started fully appreciating the variety that can be found in the genre. The three examples I just gave for instance, their sound couldn't be more different really. As a kid it's hard to listen to instrumental music and really be able to break it down and comprehend the complexity of what you're hearing, which is why most kids don't listen to very complex music.

One of my most memorable jazz memories was the first time I heard Mulatu Astatke. Known as "the Father of Ethio-Jazz" and rightfully so as he truly revolutionized the music industry in Ethiopia. A country that was horribly repressed both socially and culturally, you had to get a license to make a record, put on a play, make a film, and even after that, it had to be approved by censors. It was not an easy place to be for a musician. In fact, the only time that records were being manufactured in Ethiopia was between 1969- 1978. Astatke traveled the world, picked up different styles to combine with his own making this Ethiopian/Latin hybrid.

When you hear Astatke's compositions alot of things come to mind. It makes me think of ancient Egypt yet is incredible modern and hip. He has a unique presence that can never be duplicated. So I'm offering his most famous album, if you havent heard him, I give it my utmost reccomendation.

1. Mulatu
2. Mascaram Setaba
3. Dewel
4. Kulunmanqueleshi
5. Kasalefkut-Hulu
6. Munaye
7. Chifara



Test Tubeless Babies and Sharkless Gods

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Test Tube Babies, but I had hoped for perhaps, test tubes, and babies as a result of that. To be honest I guess I expected a sci-fi movie of sorts, and for some reason I mentally associated the term "Test Tube Babies" with "Flipper Babies", only to be disappointed by this slow moving exploitation movie about a young couple whose marriage is on the rocks, so like most naive people, they can only presume that having a child will fix their fucked up relationship. After months of trying they decided to go to a doctor to see what's the hold up, they runs some tests on the wife and find that she is normal, her uterus is perfectly functional, but how could that be? It couldn't be the man who is sterile?? This is the attitude both the husband and wife share. I know that times were different then, and my having an IQ over 90 might have something to do with this, but even as a small child I understood the concept that although different, both women AND men could face a variety of biological complications. Despite the movie itself being quite silly, this idea seems the most absurd to me. The husband goes on to say that his sex life is normal, so how can he be sterile? Should these people really be breeding? Do we really need Mr. and Mrs. Test Tube Baby to spread their seed? Perhaps his being sterile is the universe's way of course correcting itself, but alas, the doctor introduces them to the then-new concept of artificial insemination, which the wife cannot even pronounce! The husband's only worry is that some sperm donor is going to get to have sex with his wife, ha! But aside from that, they're both cool with the idea and the movie ends with them happily being a family with their multiple "test tube babies" expressing endearment towards modern technology. The end. This movie was mind numbing. The couple was just so obnoxious and they're attitude was so nauseating that I think I started to take it a little too seriously, ha! In retrospect, it was fun hating them, and even more fun making fun of them in this review.

Omoo-Omoo the Shark God! I should have known that it sounded too good to be true. I should have known that a low budget movie from 1949 based on a Herman Melville story wouldn't live up to it's title. Indeed, there are no sharks and there are no Gods, just a big lopsided statue and some stock footage of two tigers fighting. I was hoping for something that would resemble a John Huston movie, oh how I set myself up for disappointment. The captain of a ship steals two rare black pearls, the eyes of the shark god statue, falls ill, hides them and leaves. Sets to come back with a ship full of assholes, including his daughter who falls under the same hypnosis of greed for the pearls. In fact, the highlight of this movie is her borderline insane ramblings about how the pearls belong to her. A pretty intense performance from an actress who never really did anything else.To be honest though, this was probably the most disappointing movie from this month's marathon, and the one of the one's I had the highest expectations from! I can tolerate and enjoy many different varieties of "bad", but "BORING" is one element of badness I cannot accept.

These two movies almost set me off of my propaganda movie appetite! Due to this, I decided to set the "cult classics" asside for a few days. I find it easy to burn out if I over do it on a genre, I dont want that to happen so let's explore some different grist in the mill for a few weeks...


Delinquent Escort Child aka "You Can't Tell Me Anything!"

This week for Propaganda month I watched a few trashy sex "dramas", starting with the JD Classic "Delinquent Daughters". This being one of my personal favorite sub-genre's of exploitation I was excited to see this 1944 low budget pooper. It starts out with a bunch of cops investigating the suicide of a local teenage girl at her high school, there's a "bad girl" (there always has to be one) named Sally (played by Teala Loring, a pretty Rita Hayworth-ish actress who like so many others was doomed to play bit roles in movies like this and "Return of the Ape Man", she was also uncredited as a telephone operator in "Double Indemnity") who convinces her girl friend's to act "casual" by actually seeming overly guilty for some reason. As it turns out, the last place the girl was seen was the local teen hang out, which is really a cover for all kinds of illegal activities, run by a typical movie jerk/villain type named Nick Gordon (played by Jon Dawson who was also in...nothing worth mentioning) who made a career out of getting teenagers to carry out his various crimes. The movie started out pretty interesting, they're hangout spot was neat and I love seeing teenagers in the past, or at least Hollywood's perception of teenagers. The story starts to lose you somewhere around the middle when there's about 20 minutes of exposition filmed outside with literally NO LIGHTING, you're looking at blackness and listening to pointless dialogue. After that you get to see the local judge reprimand all of the teenager's parents for not taking responsibility for their kids. The highlight of the film is when our female protagonist June (who's quite boring unmemorable as a character and an actress) comes home late to find her comically angry/abusive father waiting up for her "what a nice daughter you've turned out to be!" *slaps her in the face* "but daddy let me explain!" "you can't explain", "but daddy let me tell you" "you can't tell me anything" HA! The classic words of a shitty parent in a 1940's juvenile delinquency film. Another interesting piece of trivia is that Teala Loring recently (within the past few years) died in a car accident, which her character did in the movie, OOPS...gave away the ending. Who cares?

The second bill on the triple feature is the long forgotten "Escort Girl". The story of a woman trying to hide the fact that she runs an escort service from her bratty, ungrateful daughter who just happens to be engaged to the undercover lawyer who's investigating the underground bureau. This movie is fairly decent despite it's only big flaw, that being how terribly choppy it is. Not sure if it was a damaged print or if it was cut for time, but the film cuts scenes sometimes right in the middle of crucial dialogue. It can be very frustrating as I was actually interested in the plot! The highlight of the movie is the pointless strip tease in the middle of the film, totally caught me off guard! Seeing the hookers have girl talk in their dressing room seemed more cute than sleazy, but of course, they're actresses, not real prostitutes. I wasn't satisfied with the ending, and thought it was very shitty that the daughter was so insensitive to her hard working mother's situation, but whatever. It's just a movie, a pretty bad one too. With propaganda such as this, good and bad are in as high a contrast as the resolution of the shitty print.

The final film in the triple feature was the sleaziest and most enjoyable. "Child Bride" from 1938 starring... who cares? What makes exploitation movies of this caliber so much fun is that we can usually relate in some way. Maybe not to the later exploitation films of the 70's where actors like Rudy Ray Moore takes on three rednecks then tumbles from a cliff buck naked. These early propaganda movies usually dealing with marijuana, alcohol, sex, teenage rebellion. These things are fairly typical in movies and our own experiences in general, making these films laughable. The thought of applying them to your own life is even more laughable. Child Bride stands apart from this. Both offensive, tacky and bizarre, it's hard to believe there was a time that marrying children was acceptable. Of course it was never women marrying boys, just creepy old honkies lusting after 10, 11, 12 year old girls. The creep in this movie is especially villainous, he kills the girl's father and blackmail's the mother (threatening to frame her for the murder) so he can have her nubile daughter for keeps. Had the movie not been so over the top, it may have actually disturbed me. Not to be so naive as to think this kind of thing didn't go on (well into the 50's and 60's even *ahem* Jerry Lee Lewis), but thinking of it in terms as a serious social issue is what's really disturbing. Which made it all the more entertaining! I give it my utmost recommendation, if you're into that sort of thing. "That sort of thing" being creepy, tasteless, out-dated garbage!


Frankenstein Radio Controls Bonus Disc

When I was working on the mix, I realized I had too much to fit on one disc. I tried to keep the first disc relatively mild, whatever that means. So I threw all of the film music, odds and ends on the second. The second track I transferred directly from the movie because I'm obsessed with it, and Marilyn Monroe (impersonator) plays saxophone on the roof of a building, an image I have a hard time getting out of my head. I ended the mix with what I consider to be one of the best tracks in our entire collection, also where I got the title. So if you're curious, and I know you are, download my completely free, completely copyright infringing, completely compiled by ME...mix.



Frankenstein Radio Controls vol.1

A few weeks ago I was making myself a house cleaning mix. A necessary task if I plan on actually getting anything done. After a bit of editing, I decided that it was worthy of public distribution. It's basically just a hodge podge of what I've been listening to lately. If anyone has any questions about where I got certain tracks feel free to ask.

I even made you all a front and back cover!


Propaganda Fest Part 1

I've decided to dedicate this month to drugsploitation and juvenile delinquency films. I've been sitting on a hoard of these for quite some time and in attempt to keep my hands off the horror movies until next month, these fiendishly silly exploits should keep me tide over. I started with Reefer Madness which I surprisingly held off this long without seeing. Upon finally having watched it, my prior disinterest was validified. In fact, it was probably the least entertaining of the triple feature. Although it is certainly entertaining watching kids take one puff of pot and start acting like it was laced with crack, heroin and lsd. Overall it was a bit boring and probably would have been more entertaining had I actually been high, which from what I've gathered from this film's fan base is exclusively how it should be viewed. How delightfully ironic and self defeating!

Which brings me to the second bill on the triple feature, Marihuana: the Devil's Weed! This one was less about Marihuana, more about avoiding bad guys with villainous moustaches. A group of carefree teens party at a dope peddler's house, the girl's decide to go skinny dipping (you see nipple! 1930's nipple!) one of the girl's drowns, because you know, you're supposed to wait 30 minutes after smoking marihuana. This event sparks a series of misfortunes for our female protagonists , somehow this is directly related to her leaving home, living in sin with her boyfriend, getting knocked up, him becoming a gangster thug to try and support her and her unborn child and getting himself killed in the process, she has her baby, gives it up for adoption and becomes a drug dealer. Actually, what made this movie different from the others I watched is that it actually was kind of depressing, completely unrealistic, but still just really negative and trashy. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, I guess that's what they were going for and probably achieved it more so than the others.

The final film in my triple feature was the most difficult to find the poster for. I watched it under the title "Marijuana Menace" , which I had never heard of, come to find out the reason is because it's more commonly known as "Assassin of Youth". Despite all three films being somewhat slow at times, this one kept me smiling through out the majority of the film. What makes this drugsploitation flick different from the others are it's great characters. Aside from the infamous piano playing Ralph (Dave O'brien) from Reefer Madness (who simply was NOT given enough screen time) and the moustache man from Marihuana none of the characters are very memorable. In Assassin of Youth, the bad kids are comically bad. Particularly in the opening scene when Ms. Frisbee (that's right, FRISBEE) falls off her bike and a group of teenagers cackle at her injury, HA! This set the tone for the whole movie. Ms. Frisbee was played by an actress named Fern Emmett, who looked like a cross between Margaret Hamilton and John Turturro. I enjoyed her so much as the gossiping small town spinster that I had to look her up and see what else she was in, I was surprised and impressed by her body of work. She was in over 200 low budget movies between 1930 and her death in 1946, making her a hero in my eyes! I'm making a special effort to see her 1939 film "Romance of the Potato", which is a contender for the most amazing title of all time.

I also really enjoyed Faye McKenzie who played Linda Clayton, the bad girl. Though maybe not the greatest actress to grace the silver screen, she embodied the essence of what the role needed, and really knew how to work that pretty face. I think the movie would have been better if it had just been Linda Clayton and Ms. Frisbee hurling insults at each other.

Alas, these are propaganda films. I think I deserve some kind of award for sitting through all three of these movies stone sober. Oh well...