That Sepp Blatter, eh? Multiple investigations into corruption at FIFA, including one by the FBI, senior officials arrested, long-running allegations of misconduct with regard to the world cup bidding process, disharmony amongst the member associations, all happening on your watch, so what do you do? Just shrug and say it had nothing to do with you - damn it, you can't be expected know what every individual employed by FIFA is up to all the time can you? So it would be unreasonable to expect you to resign or, at the very least, withdraw your nomination for the next presidential election, wouldn't it? Incredibly, a majority of FIFA affiliates would seem to agree, as the bastard has just been re-elected for another term as FIFA president. But we really shouldn't be surprised, as we live in an age where nobody in charge of anything is expected to actually take responsibility for anything bad that happens in their organisations.
I mean, just look at the banks - their activities result in a global economic meltdown and what happens? Do senior bankers resign? Do they face legal sanctions? Do they, at the very least, face internal disciplinary action? Of course not, Instead their political friends spin some yarn about the crash actually being the result of the last Labour government's spending plans in order to divert the public's attention, then impose economic measures which ensure the very poorest and must vulnerable end up paying for the recession, while said bankers award themselves bonuses and find new ways to screw the system by manipulating the Libor rate. It was the same with the likes of Serco and G4S failing to fulfil the government contracts they bid for - were their bosses repentant? Did they repay the money they'd taken? Of course not.
I was half-watching Watchdog yesterday, when an item came up about private parking enforcement companies and their blatant disregard for consumers' legal rights. 'Can it be right that companies can be allowed to behave like this toward people?' they wailed. Welcome to Cameron's Britain, I thought, where the interests of private capital take precedence over those of private citizens. Surely they must have noticed this sort of thing going on before? And the worst thing? A significant proportion of those bastards complaining about these parking privateers gone wild must have voted Tory, thereby enabling the companies in the first place. Take responsibility for your actions, for God's sake! But this lack of responsibility extends to the government. Did George Osborne actually achieve any of the economic targets he set back in 2005? Nope. But that didn't stop the Tories from gaining a majority in the election earlier this month. Failure rewarded by the voters. Just like Blatter and FIFA. When will people learn? Democracy doesn't work!
I've found that walking is just about pain free for me, with regard to my still healing mattress-spring injury. Consequently, I've been spending a fair amount of my week off engaged in long country walks. Which is nice. I've not neglected my other objectives for this week off - I bought some paint today and I might manage to get around to putting the first top coat on the bit of the spare room wall which was damaged by damp last Autumn. The affected area is all reachable without resort to a ladder or stretching, which is good news for my slash wound, which is still tender if I move the wrong way. Anyway, if I get that painting done, then the spare room will be more or less recovered from the various damp-related mishaps which have afflicted it over the past eighteen months, or so. Which leaves the kitchen, which still needs repainting (only the ceiling is done so far), and the garden, which will have to wait a while longer before I attempt to bring it filly under control again.
But enough talk of dull domestic chores. I've also been using my time off and injury-induced inactivity to catch up with a whole stack of Mondo movies. I've already spoken, briefly, about the original 'shockumentary', Mondo Cane, but I've now followed it up with Savage Man, Savage Beast, Violent World and the spoof Mr Mike's Mondo Video. All fascinating in their own ways. I've just started looking at Shocking Asia and have Africa Addio (an English sub-titled version of the Italian original, rather than the mangled English re-release Africa Blood and Guts) and Goodbye, Uncle Tom cued up. There are also several other intriguing-sounding Mondos from the 'classic' period of the genre (early sixties to mid seventies) which I'm trying to track down. One in particular, Naked England, is proving very elusive, with only an English-language trailer and a few fragments so far turning up online. If anyone out there knows where I can get a copy, even an Italian-language original, I'd be grateful. Interestingly, whilst originating in Italy, I've also come across US and German Mondos, but none from the UK. It seems to be a genre we've remained immune to, in terms of production, at least. It might have something to do with the amount of animal cruelty associated with the genre - most of the cuts imposed on UK prints of Mondo movies were at the behest of the RSPCA, rather than resulting from objections to the human suffering often shown. Anyway, once I've finished watching this lot, I'll probably write at greater length about them.
OK, the cistern is fixed, the cistern supplies shop which had miraculously appeared in Crapchester did indeed have the part I needed. Fitting it turned out to be just about the most constructive thing I did today. The whole business with the cistern, then the mattress-spring inflicted injury to my back, have resulted in all my plans for this week off of work going out of the window. With my back still painful and not wanting to risk opening up the cut, I've had to avoid any activities too strenuous. So the garden is still running amok and I haven't been climbing up step ladders to paint bits of the spare room and kitchen. Apart from a leisurely walk in country this afternoon, fixing the cistern was as energetic as it got for me today. Of course, I probably shouldn't be complaining about not being able to do stuff like gardening and decorating during my week off. After all, time off work should be about relaxing and doing bugger all.
I did do some more on line research into a replacement bed and mattress and hope to have that sorted out in the next couple of days. In the meantime, I count every night that I sleep on the old bed and mattress without being stabbed again as a triumph. I suppose that I should really be using this period of enforced physical inactivity to do something constructive, like starting to build that website devoted to schlock movies that I keep threatening to launch. Or, I could try getting back to recording my own podcasts, rather than just contributing to other people's. I certainly have sufficient material for another edition of 'Schlock Treatment' (or 'Schlock Express', depending on which title I settle on) and I've got a lot of the segments I'd need for another 'Sleazecast'. So there really is no excuse for idleness, although I'll probably still indulge in it over the next few days.
Well, some bank holiday weekend this has turned out to be - I've had to dodge multiple attempts by household objects to maim and kill me. First thing on Saturday the push button which operates the flush on my toilet fractured as I pushed it down, driving the push rod it operates into the palm of my hand. The mark it left is still visible. I should add here that the cistern on my toilet is over twenty five years old, so the 'push button' mechanism isn't one of those modern ones with no mechanical linkage. It is simply a rectangular piece of plastic which covers the top end of a plastic rod which is physically depressed to operate the flushing mechanism. I had hoped that finding a replacement button would prove straightforward. How wrong I was. I eventually turned to web, but found that I first had to identify the make and model of the cistern (it isn't visibly marked with these details). I can honestly say that looking at photo after photo of toilet cisterns on plumbing supplies sites is the least exciting internet experience I've ever had. Anyway, I eventually identified it as a Thomas Dudley Ltd Elite cistern - a type which hasn't been manufactured in donkey's years. Consequently, whilst some sites offered the button as a spare, they were asking exorbitant prices - one wanted £16.50 for what is essentially a small piece of moulded plastic. Somewhat bizarrely, I found that one supplier offering it for the relatively more 'reasonable' price of £10.50 actually have a retail outlet here in Crapchester. Within walking distance of my house, in fact. So, I'll go down there tomorrow (they've been closed all bank holiday weekend) and see if I can get a replacement button.
Having effected a temporary repair to the old button, so that I wouldn't have to keep taking the lid off of the cistern in order to operate the flush via the internal linkage, I thought I could relax. But no, I soon found myself under attack again. As I finally thought I was drifting of to sleep in the early hours of this morning (I've been having real trouble sleeping of late), I found my stabbed in the back by my clapped out mattress as a spring broke through the fabric and pierced the sheets. Luckily, it wasn't a penetrating wound - I was turning over as it happened, so the spring scored across my back and side, breaking the skin and causing some minor bleeding. I'm left with a still bloody painful wheal across my back. Not surprisingly, I now found myself wide awake and it was light before I got back to sleep (I made the mattress 'safe' by rotating to move the holed part to the opposite and of the bed and put a thick blanket between it's surface and the fitted sheet). Consequently, I've spent a lot of this bank holiday Monday catching up with my sleep. And looking into getting a new mattress and bed. my regular reader(s) will undoubtedly be thinking at this point that the whole incident is a case of chickens coming home to roost after my bed problems of a few months ago, when I repaired the bed rather than replacing it and the mattress. Well OK, obviously in hindsight I should have dealt with the matter back then and avoided being stabbed in the back by the ungrateful bastard of a bed. But as I'd just had to fork out for replacing the hot water cylinder after the disaster its leaking had caused in the kitchen, I just didn't have the energy to deal with replacing the bed as well. Luckily, I'm off work all this week, so I should be able to resolve the situation fairly promptly. The moral of all this is that you can't bloody trust anything - not even household objects which have previously served you faithfully for years!
I found it more than slightly disconcerting when Arnold Schwarzenneger turned up in a TV commercial for an insurance comparison site, only to find himself out acted by a pair of CGI meerkats. But it really got weird when Sylvester Stallone started advertising Warburton's bread. I mean, it's just not the sort of thing you expect to see in UK TV commercials: our idea of a star in such things usually doesn't go much beyond Joan Collins. TV personalities who have appeared in some naff sitcom or reality series are usually considered sufficient to sell crap in the UK. Which is why the appearance of two legendary Hollywood action stars in ads for insurance and sliced bread seem so bizarre. Just why are they doing it? I thought those Expendables films had done sufficiently well that Stallone no longer had to do crap to keep his face in front of the camera - and surely Arnie must have made enough in the past that he doesn't need to co-star with meerkats? And let's face it, the kind of firms they are shilling for aren't likely to pay really big bucks. Maybe they think that there's no chance these ads will ever be seen in the US - back in the day all manner of A-listers used to do TV commercials they'd never have lowered themselves to do in the English speaking world in Japan for this reason - but in these days of the internet, they must surely know that it is only a matter of time before they pop up on YouTube.
Obviously, these aren't the first Hollywood stars to appear in UK TV ads - I have fond memories of Orson Welles advertising sherry in the 1970s, for instance, and the likes of Bruce Willis and Al Pacino have appeared in Sky TV commercials. But these were more understandable than Arnie and Sly - Welles always needed money for one of his off beat projects (he also liked sherry) and Sky has a lot of financial clout, with its pay TV service showing a lot of Willis' and Pacino's movies, (indeed, an increasingly important part of the financing for studio movies comes from the revenue generated by pre-selling their TV rights to the likes of Sky). But Sly and Arnie are advertising pretty mundane products of the sort that you'd normally expect to see the likes of Danny Baker or someone off of The Only Way is Essex plugging. However, they aren't the most bizarre Hollywood actors currently appearing in UK TV commercials: that accolade must surely go to Harvey Keitel and his series of Direct Line insurance ads, all performed in-character as Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction. There is just something disturbing about seeing Keitel, with his trademark combination of menace and sleaze, supposedly sorting out insurance problems for Direct Line customers. Mind you, we should probably be thankful that they didn't hire him to perform the ads in-character as The Bad Lieutenant - the thought of him prostrate on the ground after his TV has exploded, or something, screaming 'Why don't you fucking help me Direct Line? I tried to take out insurance, but I'm too weak', just doesn't bear thinking about.
Still, I guess that UK TV commercials must be lucrative, as I see that it isn't just Hollywood stars who are muscling in on them. I've recently seen French actor Tcheky Karyo doing an advert for instant coffee. At least I think its for coffee, it involves dinosaurs, which confused me as they have no obvious link with the product, but I was too astounded to see someone I've seen in so many sub-titled films over the years doing a UK TV commercial to pay close attention to what was going on Then again, there's no obvious link between French actors and British instant coffee. At least when Gerard Depardieu did those TV ads over here a dew years ago they were for French brandy...
Today's random movie trailer is for the Italian film which launched a whole genre: Mondo Cane (A Dog's Life), the granddaddy of all 'Mondo Movies'. An alleged documentary chronicling various weird and eccentric cultural practices from around the world, it caused something of a sensation when released back in 1962. Of course, the world was a bigger place back in 1962 - nowadays, thanks to TV and the internet, there is virtually no corner of the globe so remote that we can't see it, hear it or read about it. Everything is available at the touch of a key pad. But back then, for the supposedly 'civilised' world of Europe and the US, much of the rest of the planet was remote and mysterious and films like Mono Cane had novelty value with their depictions of the weird and the wonderful.
That said, a lot of the footage in the 'documentary' was actually staged by the film makers themselves. Which is what the subsequent genre became about: sensationalised reconstructions of supposedly exotic, forbidden or completely made up rites from around the world. As time went on, 'Mondo Movies' tended to focus on a single theme: witchcraft, cannibalism, sex, slavery and the like. But, being the first, Mondo Cane presents the viewer with a smorgasbord of the bizarre, from a dog cemetery in the US to cargo cults in the southern pacific, via Chinese funeral rites, mating rituals in New Guinea, Italian catacombs and much, much more. The trailer gives something of a false impression, with its jocular tone, as the actual film clearly sets out to shock and consequently maintains a relatively serious tone, (as befits a supposed documentary.
I finally got around to watching Mondo Cane this week, having previously seen various other, later 'Mondo Movies'. Whilst its power to shock has diminished somewhat over the course of more than half a century - bared breasts don't have the novelty value they held for audiences in 1962, for instance - some sequences, particularly those involving pretty graphic animal cruelty - remain quite disturbing. Indeed, animal cruelty, nudity and a condescending attitude toward supposed 'primitive' peoples are characteristics which 'Mondo Movies' have in common with another, later, Italian genre, the cannibal movie. Technically well made, with a memorable soundtrack, Mondo Cane is itself now a curiosity, a relic of a bygone, more 'primitive' age.
Apparently it's not enough just to obey the law anymore. Whilst you might have thought that being a law-abiding citizen was enough to make you safe from the state and its agents from curbing your liberties, Dave has decided - on the back of his 37% of the popular vote landslide election victory - that the British state faces such severe, yet vaguely defined, threats that it is necessary to restrict freedom in order to protect freedom. Don't say I didn't warn you that we were on a downward slide to repression under these Tory bastards. So complain to me - you voted for them. Well, at least 37% of you did. With every day which goes by, the need for revolution becomes ever more urgent - it's clear that the violent overthrow of this right-wing dictatorship is the only way to preserve our freedoms. Now, having said that, will I find myself arrested and banned from the web? Because, as I understand it, one of the legal things you can do now which won't be tolerated is expressing an opinion. An opinion that Dave or Theresa May or some other fascist doesn't like. More specifically, they want to ban people from expressing views that might be 'anti-democracy'. So, as I've just called for the overthrow of a 'democratically' elected government, can I expect to get the 'knock on the door in the night?'
But to be slightly more serious, this country has been sleep walking toward repression for decades now. Not just under the Tories, but under Blair's New Labour as well, there has been a progressive erosion of our liberties in the name of 'protecting' us from various supposed 'threats'. But the real threat lies with our own governments who seek ever greater levels of control over all aspects of our lives. I find it bizarre that this Tory government wants to scrap the Human Rights Act because it sees it as an obstacle to restricting our liberties - the Blair government introduced the Act, yet still increased surveillance levels and tried to bring in things like ID cards. All in the name of saving us from those terrorists. But what really disturbs is the quiescence of the British public in the face of these onslaughts on their liberties. Nobody seems to care. Can people really have been so brainwashed by the right-wing press that they actually now believe that that human rights aren't essential to their continued liberty? It seems to me that people these days are more interested in materialism than liberty. Just look at that the civil unrest which accompanied the Blair government's increases in fuel duty - people were blockading oil refineries whilst the police stood by and did nothing. Yet, when, around the same time, the government introduced the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which increased the scope of official surveillance of individuals, not to mention the number of bodies which could covertly spy on you, nobody went out onto the streets and rioted. Really, what's wrong with people? Well, I've got to go now and warm up the tank ready for the assault on Downing Street...
I'm afraid that I'm back to the politics today, (don't worry, I've been watching a lot more obscure movies of late, so there's more of that sort of thing to come after this brief political interlude), inspired by something I read over the weekend. Last week I defended the pollsters, noting that the actual general election results (in percentage of votes cast, at least), were pretty much within the margin of error compared to the polls in the run-up to election day. However, our 'first-past-the-post' electoral system skewed the results so that the Tories were rewarded with sufficient seats to form an overall majority, despite polling only 37% of votes cast - slightly less than they polled in 2010. This point is further emphasised here, where it is pointed out that if less than 3,000 voters who voted Green had voted Labour in key constituencies, then the Tories would have been denied a majority. Despite what some of the morons commenting on the linked article seem to think, the author isn't suggesting that Labour's 'failure' is somehow the 'fault' of the Greens and that you should hurl a blazing bin through the window of your local Green Party branch office. He's making the point that our political system is so inadequate in terms of representing the 'will of the people', that even very small and localised fluctuations in electoral support between candidates can have major repurcussions. In short, the existing system creates a situation where some people's votes are worth more than others.
All of which brings us to my second point, that in view of these issues surrounding the electoral system, Labour's poor showing needs to be put into perspective. Rather than representing the complete electoral disaster that the press (and many Labour MPs and left of centre commentators) have characterised the results as being, it should be remembered that Labour actually increased their share of the vote compared to 2010 - more than a million more people voted Labour in 2015 than 2010. Which is, in itself, remarkable, bearing in mind the party's complete surrender to the SNP in Scotland. There was a letter in today's Guardian warning that Labour was in danger of talking itself into a negative narrative about the 2015 election results which could have serious consequences for the party's future. They are, of course, quite correct. By characterising the results as an unmitigated disaster, it allows some elements in the Labour movement to argue that the supposed 'leftward' move of the party was wrong and alienated voters, so they need to go back to Blairism and embracing business and austerity. The reality, of course, is that this supposed 'leftward' drift by Labour actually seemed to attract voters. Arguably, it was their failure to move even further 'leftward' - by articulating a credible economic alternative to austerity - that turned Scottish voters against them. Mind you, it should be borne in mind that this 'leftward' drift consisted of decidedly non-radical proposals like restricting zero hours contracts and greater regulation of energy suppliers - if that can get you a million extra votes, just imagine what a proper radical agenda might achieve? Anyway, I can but hope that at least some of the current candidates for the Labour leadership grasp these facts.
A real curiosity, this relatively unknown British sex movie from the seventies is fascinating on several levels. Right from the off - the opening titles unfold over kaleidoscopic images of naked breasts being massaged, as a slow lounge bar-type piano number plays in the background - it comes over as some kind of daytime soap opera. An especially smutty soap opera set in a 'clinic' dispensing highly dubious treatments to it's wealthy clients, (in addition to the breast massages being administered to the ladies, male clients get cold baths, birchings, mechanised testicle slappings and, it is implied, much more), but a soap opera, nonetheless. Which shouldn't be any surprise as, lurking behind the 'Elton Hawke' writer/producer credit is Hazel Adair, creator of legendary seventies ITV soap Crossroads. Sharing the pseudonymous credit with her is Adair's usual partner-in-crime in the smut movie business, TV wresting commentator Kent Walton. I must admit, the knowledge that the man who had been ringside during the Saturday tea time wrestling slot throughout my childhood, urging viewers to 'have a good week, 'til next week, grapple fans' had also bee behind Sex Clinic did make me feel somewhat uneasy whilst I was watching the film. I couldn't stop my mind from straying into speculations as to what extracurricular activities his erstwhile colleagues from ITV's World of Sport might have got up to: did Dickie Davis organise illegal bare knuckle fights in his spare time, one wonders?
But to return to the film itself, in true soap opera fashion, plot lines involving the various staff and clients of the clinic proliferate, but the main driving force of the narrative is Julie Mason's (played by TV actress Georgina Ward), the clinic's owner and star therapist, schemes to scam money from her clientele. She tells each of them that the establishment is in financial trouble and that, in order to guarantee continued access to their 'treatments', they'll need to help her out financially. Running parallel to this are plots involving a local estate agent's unrequited love for Mason, which she uses in order to get access to a pop star's mansion he's trying to sell so as to hold sex parties for her clients there, and her PA's, in turn, unrequited love for the estate agent. Other storylines include the arrest of one of her clients for fraud, a female client's infatuation with Mason, (said client being played by Carmen Silvera of 'Allo, 'Allo fame and the machinations of a mysterious stranger (portrayed by Alex Davion, best remembered now for playing the lead in Titan's unfinished-yet-still released 1969 horror fiasco Incense For the Damned), who sweeps Mason off her feet.
As well as offering plenty of titillation, Sex Clinic also captures the sheer, stultifying, dullness of seventies British suburbia. Filmed against a wintry background of post war semi-detached houses with gravel drives, faceless hotel rooms and vinyl-bedecked bars, the film succeeds in conjuring up a distinctly British vision of Hell: a middle class mediocrity which suffocates ambition under a blanket of conformity. Indeed, Mason's entire motivation for both the clinic and her ripping off of her clients is a desire to escape this stifling suburban milieu. Her description of the childhood abuse she suffered at the hands of her father makes clear that, like her clinic, middle class suburbia's outward appearance of respectability masks all manner of dubious activities - a theme echoed in Davion's apparently respectable jet setting businessman's plotting. It is this plotting which moves the film into its final act, where it turns from smutty soap opera into one of those fifties or sixties British crime movies which often made up the lower half of a double bill, as Mason finds herself framed for murder.
The whole thing is very slickly made, with a cast of familiar seventies TV faces bringing their customary professionalism to proceedings. It's a little surprising to find Don Chaffey in the director's chair - something of a heavyweight for this kind of movie, only a few years previously he'd been directing high profile (and financially successful) fare like Jason and The Argonauts and One Million Years BC and would go on to direct for Disney before moving back into TV. In contrast with his colourful fantasy films, in Sex Clinic he conjures up an effectively depressing vision of suburban dullness. However, his direction never quite manages to move the film into top gear pace-wise and it does seem to drag at some points as one typically talky soap scene follows another. Released under a variety of titles, including Clinic Exclusive and With These Hands, (the on screen title on the copy I have), Sex Clinic is, despite the pacing problems, a surprisingly entertaining and professionally assembled, slice of vintage British filth. I mean, where else can you get to see Edith from 'Allo, 'Allo topless? (There's another pub quiz question for you: in which British porn movie did Madame Artois get her norks out?) And let's not forget that it's thanks to the Tories' effective privatisation of our health service that we can no longer get the services of clinics like this on the NHS.
It seems only fitting that the British film industry's contribution to the flood of cheap science fiction movies which flooded the market in the wake of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind should be a sex comedy. After all, it was a genre which had pretty much kept commercial film making in the UK afloat for the better part of the seventies. Spaced Out is every bit as cheap and corny as you'd expect, with no cliché left unturned. In terms of production values it stands somewhere between a contemporary episode of Dr Who and the kids TV series Rentaghost. In fact, in terms of its level of humour, Rentaghost is a good benchmark - an especially filthy episode with lots of sex and nudity, obviously. Having said all of that, it is also a film impossible to dislike. Personally, I found it immensely entertaining, much in the same way that seventies sitcoms are still entertaining: ignore the wobbly sets and - to modern sensibilities - non-PC humour and you'll find something surprisingly charming and innocent.
Whilst the spaceship interiors are all silver foil, flashing lights and bits of electrical junction boxes stuck to the walls, the exterior shots of the spaceship in flight are very impressive. As they should be as they are footage from the Gerry Anderson effects library. Unfortunately, the use of library footage also means that the spaceship changes shape, with shots of two different models being used - one for the ship in flight and a completely different one for its take offs and landings. (Stock footage of the one used for the take offs and landings also turn up in the video for the Rah Band's 'Clouds Across the Moon', which otherwise has far poorer production values and design to Spaced Out). But the ramshackle look of the ship's interior is consistent with the film's plot, which concerns a clapped out alien spaceship, a sort of intergalactic tramp steamer, being forced to land on earth to carry out essential maintenance, where they inadvertently pick up four earth people. The ship's crew consists of three female aliens who have never seen a man before and have no concept of sex (which raises many, many unanswered questions about their reproductive cycle). The earthlings, who were all in the London park the ship landed in, consist of teenager Willy, who was there to secretly whack off to his jazz mags, a bickering couple consisting of aloof pseudo intellectual Oliver and repressed Prudence, and boorish and sexually aggressive Cliff.
The plot develops fairly obviously from this set up, with the alien women, intrigued by both the earthmen's anatomy and Willy's wank mags, subject the men to various tests, before finally experimenting with sex. Tensions between the earth people emerge, with Cliff having designs on Prudence, much to Oliver's chagrin, before the aliens determine that Willy represents the ultimate male body and so must stay with them to satisfy their newly ignited sexual desires, (Oliver has eyes only for Prudence whilst Cliff proves to be lacking in stamina). Willy is persuaded to stay whilst the other three humans are returned to earth, before the ship continues on its journey, with Willy getting his end away with the captain so vigourously that it goes out of control and explodes in a strangely downbeat ending.
The closest thing to stars the film has are the late Tony Maiden as Willy, who had been a child performer in such TV series as Black Beauty, and the lovely Ava Cadell as Partha, the ship's engineer. (At risk of being crude and sexist, I have to say that she had a truly magnificent pair of knockers). Cadell was no stranger to this sort of film and gives a surprisingly engaging performance. She later moved to the US where she eventually reinvented herself as the best-selling 'sexologist' 'Dr Ava'. Perhaps the real 'star' of Spaced Out is director Norman J Warren. A veteran of low budget British film making, Warren actually coaxed pretty decent performances from all of his cast and succeeded in giving the film an air professionalism, despite the meagre resources at his disposal. Well paced and nicely edited, Spaced Out could, in the hands of a lesser director, ended up as just another soft core quickie. Warren is probably better known for his efficient low budget horror flicks, (I have a real soft spot for Satan's Slave, whilst Terror is surprisingly effective attempt to imitate Argento-style Italian Giallo movies), and, a few years after Spaced Out, enjoyed some financial success with the Alien knock off Inseminoid.
Originally filmed and released in the UK under the title Outer Touch, the film was picked up for US distribution by Miramax, who made several changes - including the title - for the US release. Most notably, the downbeat ending was excised and two vocal roles were redubbed. The ship's computer acquired a camp US voice (as heard in the US trailer above) in place of the world weary British accent of the original, whilst the Wurlitzer (an automated psychotherapist in the shape of a juke box), originally voiced by Canadian Bill Mitchell, was redubbed by Bob Saget. That's right, Bob Saget. The same Bob Saget who used to be the voice of the older hero of How I met Your Mother. There's a great question for pub quiz nights: which British porn film did Bob Saget appear in? Whichever version of Spaced Out you see, it remains a likeable slice of seventies British sex comedy. Surprisingly coy in some rspects (there are no full frontals, it's just bared boobs and bums on display) it really does come over as a slightly naughtier-than-usual sitcom of the era. By the time Spaced Out was made the British sex comedy formula had pretty much been distilled to its basics: boobs, bums, bad jokes and sitcom stereotype characters. Spaced Out pretty much delivers on all counts. It's no masterpiece but, to everyone except those with hearts of stone, it provides eighty or so minutes of undemanding entertainment.
As I attempt to steer this blog back on course after my recent excursions into political ranting - which formed a vital part of my mourning process following the general election result - I've found myself musing as to the conduct of Hollywood stars and the apparent belief of some that they are somehow beyond reproach for their conduct. I refer, of course, to Robert Downey Jr and the way he took umbrage at a Channel Four News interviewer having the audacity to ask him questions about his past and which were unconnected to the movie he apparently thought he was there to plug. His reaction - exiting the studio stage left in a walk out - serves to emphasise the closeted world in which many of his ilk live in, where they honestly seem to believe that they only attend press interviews to advertise their latest cinematic venture and that it should ultimately be about some fawning journo telling them how wonderful they are. Because they spend their lives living in a bubble where their egos are constantly massaged by studios, producers, directors and hangers on, in order to keep the 'talent' onside and minimise the risk of star tantrums which could expensively delay already expensive movie projects.
Consequently, when the interview goes 'off script' and they find they can't control the agenda, they react badly. In Downey's case, it was the posing of questions about his substance-abusing past which resulted in his walk out. But really, with such a spectacular and well documented history of drug and alcohol abuse, including some jail time, did he honestly think that his past wouldn't be a legitimate area of discussion? Particularly when he was being interviewed for a news programme, by an news reporter, rather than an entertainment reporter. Surely he couldn't have thought that it was just going to be another puff piece? His attempts to defend his walk out were, frankly, pathetic. The main one was that the film he was plugging - another 'Avengers' movie - was a family orientated film, so discussion of things like drugs in the interview was inappropriate. Like I said, pathetic. By his own logic, if the film was so family orientated, then it is legitimate to ask why it then stars someone with such a public history of substance abuse? Hardly a good role model for children. In the end, his only response (once he was safely back in the US) was to publicly call the interviewer in question names, (before also going on to be rude about independent film makers because their low budget product is just so inferior to films about people in their underwear saving the earth from aliens). But we shouldn't be surprised at Mr Downey's ungracious response to being asked about his past - I recall a similar reaction when Ricky Gervais made reference to his sojourn in various rehab clinics when he was presenting some award ceremony or other. I suppose it must be shocking to someone like Downey to find that all that wealth and adulation, not to mention the services of expensive lawyers and PR firms, can't rewrite his personal history and that, like us mere mortals, he's stuck with his past misdemeanours for life.
The more time I've had to think about it, the more I'm coming to the conclusion that we shouldn't all be so quick to condemn the pollsters for their apparent inability to predict the outcome of last week's general election. Virtually all of them were putting both Labour and Tories on 33%-34% in the run up to polling day. The actual figures (Labour 30%, Tories 37%) are therefore pretty much within the 3% margin of error all polls allow. The problem, as I've already ranted about, lies in our electoral system: 'first past the post' rewards 37% of the vote with over 50% of the seats, (it's even worse in Scotland, where less than 5% of the total UK vote can get you over 50 seats). However, this doesn't mean that Labour can just shrug off its defeat as one of the vagaries of the electoral system: the fact is that they should have polled higher and more widely, reaching more voters in the Midlands and South (where they failed miserably to capture many key marginals). Moreover, not only do they have to embrace electoral reform, but they have to find a way to win under the existing system.
What they shouldn't do is listen to the advice of has-beens like Mandelson, Blair and David Miliband. Labour's defeat doesn't show that moving leftwards is a vote loser - indeed, just when did this shift left occur? It certainly wasn't evident in their economic policy or stance on immigration, let alone their approach to social welfare. It's clear that their attempt to be Tory-lite was what turned voters off: why vote for a pale imitation when you can have the real thing? The kind of people they were trying to attract were never going to vote for them anyway and their traditional supporters were alienated. It's all very well the likes of Miliband D, Blair and Mandy going on about how the centre ground is the key to success and Labour needs to build on the success of 1997, but that was nearly twenty years ago - time has moved on, what worked then won't work now. They are the ones living in the past. It's those working class and lower middle class people who voted UKIP or, worse, didn't vote at all, who are the key to Labour's future: they are the people the party used to represent and who feel abandoned by Labour. The party has to convince them that it understands their concerns and wants to address them - they need to convince the Ukippers that their problems won't be solved by stopping immigration and leaving the UK as they are actually the result of a socio-economic situation created by government policies. Likewise, they need to convince the young, the unemployed, the disadvantaged and the low paid that their best bet of alleviating their problems is by voting for a Labour government. It won't be easy, but if they don't try, then there is no hope.
Well, the good news is that I think I've finally got the fall out from the election out of my system You'll all be glad to know that, in reaction to that awful election result, I spent a large part of the weekend watching yet more schlocky movies. So, hopefully, we can get back to the usual business here soon!
Only a couple of days into the next five years of the new dark ages and already there are anti-Tory riots going on in London. Not that you'd know anything about them if you were solely reliant upon the UK's mainstream media, who seem to be maintaining some kind of media black out with regard to the protests. Thank God for the internet - no wonder the Tory bastards want to censor it. Trust me, today it's internet porn, tomorrow it will be independent news sources. Which is why I urge everyone to protest by looking at even more internet pornography than they do already - it's the only way we can safeguard our freedoms. I know it will be hell, but we've got to do it. If that doesn't have all those knee-jerk reactionaries out there harrumphing with displeasure, nothing will. Actually, while I remember, there's a question I'd like to ask all those bastards who voted Tory out there: did Dave 'Swinging Dick' Cameron keep his top hat on when he took you up the arse in the polling booth? Because that's what it all amounts to: the political equivalent a quick knee trembler. You might well have been flattered by the posh git's attentions at the time, but trust me, now that you've dropped your pants and he's got what he wants, he won't call you for another five years.
Jesus, you can see how much this election result has pissed me off: I'm still posting rants about it on a Saturday. I can't remember the last time I posted anything on a Saturday! Personally, I blame the SNP. Well, today I do, at least. Trust me on this, but a Tory majority in Westminster was exactly what they wanted - what will be perceived as an English Tory government will be used to further inflame anti-Union sentiments North of the border. All that SNP talk of coaltions with Labour, or even just supporting a minority Labour government were cynically designed by the SNP leadership to whip up anti-Scots nationalist feeling in England and scare people into voting Tory. But to return to the original point of this post: good luck to the protesters in London. Clearly they've heeded my long-standing counsel that it will need a revolution to change anything in this country. Until we start putting some of the bastards up against the wall and shooting them, the city fat cats and their ilk will never take us seriously. But to be slightly more serious - it was the failure of Labour to connect with the protesters who hit the streets five years ago and harness their energies, which played a large part in the party's poor showing last Thursday. These people have perfectly legitimate grievances, but feel they have no option but to resort to street protests because they aren't being adequately addressed by mainstream politicians. Whoever succeeds Ed Miliband needs to pay heed.
I can only spare you a few minutes today - I'm too busy packing as I prepare to flee the country after that election. Look, I know that I said things would be back to normal here today, post-election. But I lied. Just like an opinion poll. But what can I say about that disastrous result? Other than it left me despairing as to the stupidity of the British electorate. (To give you some idea of how traumatised I was after coming home from the pub and seeing those exit polls, I switched channels and ended up watching two episodes of The Walking Dead back-to-back rather than endure the closet Tory triumphalism of the TV pundits as the results rolled in. To be frank, the zombie apocalypse seemed like a fitting analogy for what was unfolding electorally). To be fair, our first-past-the post system has skewed the results so that number of seats held by the Tories, for instance, doesn't reflect their percentage share (around 37%). Indeed, if I'm not much mistaken, Labour actually registered a slight increase in percentage share of the vote, yet lost a significant number of seats. Even UKIP have a right to feel aggrieved, as they actually polled a higher percentage of the popular vote than the Lib Dems, yet have only 1 MP to the Lib Dem's 8 to show for it. But how do we explain what appears to be a travesty of a result in the face of all those pre-election polls telling us it was neck-and-neck between Labour and the Tories? Personally, I think that I'm going to become one of those internet cranks who spends his time pouring out ream after ream of blog posts which somehow 'prove' that the election was rigged.
That said, it is notable that I haven't met anybody today who admits to have voted Tory. Whilst that probably reflects the circles I move in more than anything else, the fact that I live in a constituency which the sitting Tory MP retained with an 11,000 majority, despite being involved in widely publicised expenses scandal, makes me wonder who did vote for her? That's the funny thing about many Tory voters - casting their vote for the bastards seems to make them feel so dirty that they don't want to admit to having done the deed. Still, we have to look at the positives: the likes of Danny Alexander and Vince Cable have rightly been thrown out on their ears - and Ed Balls is gone from the Labour front bench. That can only be good news - I remain convinced that his inability to articulate a coherent and viable alternative economic policy to the Tories' austerity con lies at the root of Labour's poor showing. To be fair, it reflected their wider unwillingness to defend their traditional core values or to counter the Tories' pro-austerity propaganda. Frankly, what we need now as Labour leader is some kind of passionate street-fighting firebrand who isn't ashamed to embrace the party's traditional values and electoral base. Even if they still lose, at least it will be on their own terms, rather than because they simply tried to be more Tory than the Tories.
But in the more immediate future, what do we do? How can we recover from this trauma? Well, there's always the option of leaving the country. I mean, it doesn't even have to be somewhere with a left wing government, just so long as the weather is better - if I have to live under a right-wing dictatorship it might as well be somewhere sunny. But if we choose to stay, can we start the regrouping and rebuilding by getting all those fringe 'supporters' on Twitter and the like, who so love to be outraged by the slightest thing and are vociferous out of all proportion to their numbers, to shut the fuck up? Their constant shrill bleatings really don't help, alienating normal, rational human beings who might otherwise be inclined to support whatever cause they've latched onto this week. Anyway, I've rambled enough. It's time to try and snap out of this post-election haze. I'll leave you with this thought, though: haven't I been telling you for the last five years that we'd need a revolution to effect change, eh? Now will you fucking listen to me?
I know that by the time anyone reads this it will be too late, but you really need to get off of your arses and go and vote, if you haven't done so already. I've gone on at length here as to why not voting simply isn't any kind of protest but, to reiterate, the fact is that the system isn't just going to grind to a halt if you don't vote. Come tomorrow, a new Parliament will have been elected, regardless, (although, if the opinion polls are in any way accurate, it might take some time for a viable new government to emerge), so you might as well have your say. Damn it, even just spoiling the ballot paper is better than not voting at all - spoiled papers are counted, so at least constitute some form of protest, (or simple idiocy in some cases). I also don't hold with all the nonsense about the parties 'all being the same' or that 'none of them represent me'. I know that the Labour Party, for instance, hasn't done great job of articulating a clear alternative to the Tories, but the fact remains that there are fundamental differences in the underlying philosophies of the parties. No single political party will ever represent the exact opinions and ideals of individual voters, but it's a case of finding the best fit. Sometimes it comes down to trying to decide which is the least worst. But even that represents a positive decision. Certainly more positive than doing nothing to effect change, which is what not voting amounts to.
We live in an age when it has become fashionable to vilify politicians and dismiss them all as being venal and self serving. Whilst they often don't do a great deal to dispel this characterisation, it is grossly unfair. Moreover, if you don't like the way they behave, you always have opportunity to register your disapproval via the ballot box. Indeed, if you really feel that they are all corrupt, then you always have the option of seeking election yourself. Whether we like it or not, the way we effect change, for good or bad, is through politics. Ultimately, in a democracy, only by engaging with the existing system will you ever be able to change it. (Unless you want to start a revolution, but despite my continued calls foe people to rise up and get out on those streets, I haven't seen a lot of enthusiasm for this option). The bottom line is that if you actually bother to vote then, in the weeks, months and years to come, at least you'll be in a position to moan about the government. You can tell anyone who will listen: 'Don't blame me, I didn't vote for these buggers, I voted for the other lot', or 'Don't blame, when I voted for these buggers, I didn't know they were going to do this - it wasn't in their manifesto' - delete as applicable. Anyway, polemics over (I think allowed to get sanctimonious about politics once every five years or so), hopefully we can start getting back to normal tomorrow...
The car's service didn't cost me anything like as much as I feared it would, so maybe things are looking up. I mean, I wasn't electrocuted over the weekend by my faulty laptop mains charger cable - the insulation on the end which plugs into the laptop had split, exposing the wire inside. There were, quite literally, sparks flying off of it when I picked the laptop up to move it on Thursday evening. Pretty scary stuff. But as Lenovo have changed to using a USB-shaped connector for their charger cables none of my other chargers was compatible. So, after ordering a replacement charger on line, I wrapped insulation tape around the split and carried on using it over the bank holiday weekend. Sure, it crackled every time I moved the laptop, but it held and I didn't get a shock. I like living dangerously. Anyway, the replacement arrived this morning, so everything's OK now. I also managed to put another coat of paint on the ceilings of both the kitchen and spare room today - both projects are inching towards completion. It will be particularly gratifying when the spare room's refurbishment is complete, as I'll be able to start setting up the model railway in there again. Believe me, the problems of track geometry, gradients and signalling can provide a welcome relief from the crap I deal with at work.
But enough of the domestic updates. With everything going on, both in my life and in the outside world, it feels as if we're about to embark on a new 'season' (to use US TV terminology). So, perhaps this is a good time to look forward to what I'm planning for the near future here on Sleaze Diary. Basically, more of the same but with a greater emphasis on the obscure and arcane films. Of late I've been watching an insane number of such movies and I'm planning to watch a lot more. Whilst I'll continue discussing them here, I'm thinking more and more of setting up a new site devoted entirely to schlock, cinematic or otherwise, where I can look at this stuff in greater detail. I'm also coming around to the idea of producing that schlock movie podcast I piloted over at the Overnightscape Underground recently, on a regular basis. There's even an outside chance that I might finally crank out another episode of 'The Sleazecast'. As to where I'm going to find the time for all this, well, after last week's developments, I intend adjusting my work hours - no more late working and unpaid overtime. But before we can do anything else, we've first got to get through the general election on Thursday and its undoubtedly messy aftermath, which, I suspect, will keep me occupied for a while.
My unilateral decision to take Friday afternoon off and go poking around second hand bookshops has contributed to me seriously losing track of time this bank holiday weekend. In addition to that extra afternoon and the bank holiday itself, I also had all of Sunday to myself as, unusually, I wasn't off visiting relatives. Consequently, I had to keep reminding myself that yesterday wasn't Monday and that today wasn't Tuesday. To add to my confusion, I've got tomorrow off as well, (although there's still a part of me that would dearly love to not bother going back to work at all after the events which precipitated my going AWOL on Friday afternoon). Anyway, confusion aside, I had a lot of plans for this long weekend, most of which were blown off course because of my state of mind with regard to work. So, instead of continuing my decorating and repair work in the kitchen and spare room, I ended up drinking beer and watching a lot of movies. Not only did I finally get around to watching a double bill of British seventies smut on DVD which I'd been given as a birthday present, but I also caught several Terence Hill/Bud Spencer comedies from the seventies and eighties, before settling down to revisit some British horror classics from the sixties and early seventies. All of which has been a mellowing experience.
Mellow enough to start formulating a strategy for dealing with the work situation. I still need to get some more advice, but at least now the options are clearer in my mind than they were on Friday. The knee-jerk reaction of simply walking out is clearly not the best (although it would be the most immediately satisfying). I've got to try and play, if not a long game with the bastards, a medium one which will get me to the short-term goal of paying off my mortgage (now less than two years away if circumstances don't change). Once that's done, then I've got far more room for manoeuvre as it will effectively give me the upper hand as I will have divested myself of my main financial commitment. But we've still a way to go until I can secure my position sufficiently to be sure of achieving this goal. In the meantime, I've still got another day off to enjoy. Although, 'enjoy' might not be right word - I've got to be up early to deliver the car to the garage for a service, (which is bound to end up costing me an arm and a leg - I can just feel it), then, whilst I await its return, get on with that delayed decorating work. Mind you, it's still better than having to go into the office. Besides, I'm also buoyed by the knowledge that it's only a couple of weeks until the next bank holiday, when I have the entire week off.
This afternoon I went AWOL from work and took a brief trip to another town. One with a decent second hand bookshop. The closest thing we come to such things here in Crapchester are charity shops which have a few shelves of books at the back. These range from the disorganised but unbelievably cheap, like the RSPCA shop, to the well organised and relatively expensive, like the Heart Foundation. (I have a friend who frequents the latter on the grounds that he's willing to pay the higher prices for the convenience of having everything organised alphabetically and by genre, so that he doesn't waste as much time as he does in the RSPCA shop, whose bookshelves play only lip service to the notion of either). The shop I went to today used to be one of my regular haunts, but over the past few years the regularity of my visits have tailed off. Indeed, before today's visit, I can't remember the last time I was there. Anyway, it was something of an overwhelming experience: they quite literally have piles of books there, ranging from crime and science fiction paperbacks to vintage children's books. I ended up buying only a battered (and somewhat overpriced) 1960s paperback edition of PG Wodehouse's Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (Wodehouse is my latest 'thing', I recently realised that I'd never actually read any of his books, so I'm currently remedying the situation). Actually, prices there always have been a bit high, but they stock stuff that, around here at least, you just can't get anywhere else.
All of which begs the question as to why I was going AWOL in the first place, even if it is the Friday before a bank holiday weekend. Suffice to say that something happened earlier in the day which not only made me extremely angry, but which also laid bare a staggering record of duplicity on the part of various of my colleagues. The whole business has, in addition to leaving a vey bad taste in my mouth, left me in absolutely no doubt as to the contempt I'm clearly held in by some people in the organisation and the fact that my contribution isn't valued at all. I've now got the long weekend to lick my wounds and consider my position. In fact, I'm not actually due back in the office until Wednesday. The way I'm feeling right now, I'm not sure I'll bother going back even then. I would dearly love to walk away from the whole cess pool (as several former colleagues have done of late) and I'll be spending some of my time off assessing my financial situation to see if it is in any way viable. I've only got a couple of years to go until my mortgage is paid off and I was going to try and stick it out at work until then. But it seems that there are those who can't wait that long and would clearly like me to go sooner. Of course, it isn't just the financial considerations which keep any of us in jobs we hate - fear of the unknown if we leave is perhaps the most powerful thing reinforcing our inertia. No matter how bad our situation is, the workplace provides a curious sense of security and continuity - a case of better the devil we know. But I'm increasingly veering toward the idea that I should take the risk and step into the unknown. If nothing else, it would provide me with the stimulus I badly need in my life right now. I'm weary of this routine existence, serving a system I no longer believe in - I need to make some kind of radical change for the sake of my sanity, if nothing else.