Monday, November 14, 2005

Weekend at Sandy's...

This weekend I went down to Dallas and stayed at the home of RPG author/demi-god and Jabootu philanthropist Sandy Petersen. Chris Holland drove in from Austin. Aside from a small amount of time firming up tentative plans for next year’s T-Fest (our own little B-movie fest), we basically just sat around and watched movies.

I arrived at the airport around four in the afternoon on Friday, and immediately got lost, giving Sandy (who had come to pick me up) his first indication of what a wonderful guest I’d be. By the time he finally managed to locate me and we drove back to his house, Chris had arrived. We set out for dinner, and Sandy went far above and beyond his hosting duties by treating us to an extremely good steak dinner. If you’re in Dallas and want such, the T-Bone at Culpepper’s won't do you wrong.

Thus fortified, we returned to Casa Petersen. Sandy scanned his voluminous DVD collection (larger even than mine, and don’t even get me started on his zillions of books, computer games, etc., nor his original oil painting of Cthulu hanging in his living room). Sandy’s entertainment center is extremely impressive, the centerpiece being a huge widescreen TV set.

Knowing that I was benighted in terms of a knowledge of foreign horror (mostly due to the fact that I’m famously squeamish about gore), Sandy elected the first of the Brazilian ‘Coffin Joe’ movies, At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, to kick things off. I don’t know if the latter ones get more grisly, but this fell easily into my comfort level, and was frankly a hoot.

The series’ protagonist is Xe, the undertaker in a small town. Xe—which I assume roughly translates to our Joe—is a purposely evil man who basically controls the town via a reign of terror. He wears a highly theatrical black cape and top hat who basically commits vile acts to prove that neither God nor Satan exist. These acts rage from eating meat on Good Friday (a big no-no in a community wholly Catholic) to numerous acts of murder, which he barely even bothers to deny.

Xe kills in a highly baroque manner, including knocking off his mistress with a poisonous spider. His only real drive, other than to flaunt the idea of anything higher than himself, is to propagate. Although utterly nihilistic, Xe fears dying without leaving behind a son, the only manner of achieving immortality that he recognizes.

In the end, Xe reaps the torments of hell, and quite evidently is dead. Whether his subsequent return is explained, or instead his death is ignored, I don’t know.

Next up was Scipio Africanus, an Italian fascist film made during Mussolini’s reign and basically a propoganda film meant to shore up the purported historical justification for Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, which occurred soon after.

The film is fairly turgid, and watching huge masses of Roman citizens all stand around and constantly throw Roman general Scipio (the film’s stand-in for Il Duce) the fascist raised arm salute is pretty revolting. Still, the incredible scale of the film is noteworthy (as with Goebble’s production of Kohlberg—when fascist governments make a movie, no expense is spared), with the legion of the real Italian army playing their historical equivalents.

Best of all was Sandy’s running commentary. The man knows his ancient Rome, and was able to keep us apprised of the various players in the drama and helped cut through some of the film’s less reliable plot elements. Not a great movie, perhaps, but I can’t say it didn’t make for fascinating viewing.

Given the late hour and travel fatigue, not to mention all the steak we’d eaten, the next movie had to be lively. Sandy came through again, pulling a classic Shaw Brothers film from his extensive collection of Chinese martial arts movies. This one was Invincible Pole Fighters, which counterintuitively began with seven pole-fighting brothers being slaughtered by specially-trained anti-pole fighters. Two brothers escape; one has been driven mad, and the other retreats to a Buddhist monastary, hoping to leave his past behind. Needless to say, this doesn’t happen, and several zillions of corpses later, the bad guys have all been violently served. Great stuff.

After that it was bedtime. More to follow.


At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Chad said...

Luckily for your sanity you failed to realize that the picture of Cthulhu was a portrait painted from life!! It's madness I say!

Anyway, you got to hang out at Sandy Petersen's? Lucky!

At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Mike Czaplinski said...

Jeez. I ought to read the blog more often; if I had I'd've told you to tell Sandy 'Hi!' for me. A great human being.... well, a great being, anyway.....

And his kids were/are lovely. All blonde and bright eyed and... rather like the kids of Midwich....

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

Yes, they're all smart, funny, polite and know their b-movies. Hopefully we'll see one or two of them at B-Fest in '06.


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