Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"The Host", the Ghost, the Most...

...Holy-O? ("He rolled around in Oleo"-- variant lyrics to the celebrated Van Vliet ditty).

Is "The Host" really the Most Holy-O of Monsters?

Well, not if you stack it up against the almighty Yog, the Monster from Outer Space (that's Goy backwards)...or against one of Jim Danforth's lovingly articulated creepy-crawly little Zantee Misfits, from the original "Outer Limits" series...or against even the talkative diminutive rubber-shower-capped head-in-the-Petri-dish dish of "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" ("What a PUNY monster!" was Beefheart's dismissive comment...though no hooves to compare there!)

Not sure really how I stand on this a-here bouncing blubbery monstrosity as featured in the okay, definitely better than average new Korean cine-shocker "The Host", currently making its slimy loathsome (but engaging) way round the art-houses here and probably soon the multiplexes there--it's certainly not as cute and cuddly a monster as some of the reviews make out (Caroline for one was pretty grossed-out by its tenticular carnivorous antics)...which is not necessarily a bad thing...the film as a whole is one big post-modern nudge nudge wink wink cop-a-cine-phile from the whole history of fantastic cinema (not just the obvious "Them!" tropisms, a precursor film set "down in the sewer" which has been cited in many reviews...but hey hey hey what about Inoshiro Honda's "The H-Man"? Great Japanese 1958 color sci-fi flick featuring a similar shape-shifting deliquescent ball 'o slime inhabiting a drainage sytem (in Tokyo, not Seoul, admittedly--but not that far afield, as the ice cream for crow flies)...

..and more obviously, how any reviewer worth his or her laminated press pass missed the obvious lift from the fabulous "The Horror of Party Beach" 1964 camp-fest (a film so audacious in its supernal idiocy that it garnered its own fumetti type one-shot commemorative mag from Warren Publications back in the day), which sported sea-faring rabid gill-men-type monsters created from a similar rum admixture of radioactive chemicals, salt water, and live sea-monkeys (actually human skeletons--but still!), growed up all wrong and runnin' wild on a bevy of bikini bustin' beauties (was Jeff Beck's former paramour beach bunny/psycho-daisy Mary Hughes in this one? Coulda been...'cept it wasn't shot in Malibu, 'twas actually filmed in Gutzon Borglum Studios in darkest Stamford Conn....yeah!)

In point of fact the original Edison "Frankenstein", which some hero finally unearthed last decade or so, which for years existed only in the form of a much-reproduced still photo of its hideous hirsute glowering monster, his deranged mug leaping right off the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine to scare the heck out of me as a boy (film's provenance? New Jersey!), boasts a terrific transformation sequence whereby the rag, the bone, the hank of hair that is Dr. Frankenstein's creature template/armature under pressure of the doc's ministrations begins to acquire fleshapoid characteristics (the animal flesh comes creeping back...)

Anyway, I rather liked "The Host"--I'll take another Jun-Hoo Bong hit!--good fun all around, not the least that my friend the great NYC character actor Paul Lazar (no relation to John "Ze-Man Barzell" Lazar) has a cameo in it as the goofy American white-smocked doc who attempts to trepan the dirty blonde-tressed male lead (Paul in real life is the cool choreographer Annie-B Parson's hubby, the 2 of them used my arrangement of the 1930's Chinese pop hit "Please Allow Me to Look At You Again" in their production of "Antigone" a few years back at Dance Theater Workshop here, Paul directed the show and did a swell dance to this music--Paul is the next Steve Buscemi, or should be)...

plus there's a couple good cheap shots at US military hubris in "The Host" (and why not?)-- similar to "Babel" in that way, also the usage of Asian school girl jail-bait as protagonist, which seemed almost a non-sequitur/cynical ploy on the part of Alejandro Inarritu in "Babel", a casting calculated to warm the, uh, cockles of many a jaded male film reviewer's heart... but here seems unforced and natural, part of the landscape you might say...film's way, way better, and much more entertaining, in any case, than "Pan's Labyrinth" (I wouldn't inflict that particular sadistic gore-fest on kids, for sure...neither would I "Happy Feet"-- go figure!)

CHANGE OF KEY-- Recently performed several solo acoustic songs for my friend Steve Paul on his Puppet Music Hall show, which you can view on his hip new internet channel downtownTV.com--see part 1 with "In a Forest" (from my album "Improve the Shining Hour") and a version of Arthur Russell's great "Let's Go Swimming", and part 2 with "Secret Agent Man" and Donovan's "Mellow Yellow"-- both parts feature Steve's friend Edgar Oliver on puppet backup vocals and general silliness.

I had a ball making them, hope you enjoy 'em.




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