Dr Phibes Rises Again!

Dr Phibes Rises Again!I’ve been very much aware of the Vincent Price “Dr Phibes” films for some time. First came, The Abominable Dr Phibes in 1971 (co-starring Joseph Cotten). And then came, Dr Phibes Rises Again! in 1972. But it can take me forever to get around to seeing films. For one thing, if I’m awake, I tend to be working. So I usually have to assign time to watch a film — usually with the intent of writing about it. So it’s kind of like work and I usually take notes. And it was in this vein (and to escape the Iowa Caucus) that I watched the second Dr Phibes film Monday night.

Why did I wait so long? I love those early 1970s British Vincent Price vehicles. Theatre of Blood is one of my all time favorite films. (I wrote about it a couple of years ago, Two Great Vincent Price Murder Films.) Part of it is just the color. In black and white, a film like The Last Man on Earth can still be pretty frightening. (When I was a kid it terrified me — but then so did The Bride of Frankenstein.) But in color, it’s just so much fun. I am of the opinion that horror films are never supposed to be taken seriously. Just look at wonderful films like Dead Alive and Dead Snow.

In fact, let’s watch a little Dead Snow:

You get the idea. Well, Dr Phibes Rises Again! is very much in this tradition. The film doesn’t make a lot of sense. Remember the Ben Affleck Daredevil film where he has this whole elaborate lair? (Or Batman or just about any other superhero movie?) Well, it’s kind of the same thing here. Somehow, Dr Phibes and his assistant manage to get his huge pipe organ transferred from his hidden lair in London to his hidden lair in Egypt. How? Oh, it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that Dr Phibes is going to kill a bunch of people in ingenious ways, and in between, there is a very good police procedural. But there is surprisingly little gore. This is after all, the early 1970s — from England! This isn’t some indy (great) nonsense from Norway or New Zealand. People had taste!

But while Theatre of Blood is implicitly campy and humorous, Dr Phibes Rises Again! is explicitly a comedy. And it does not go for naturalism. The art direction is distinctly flamboyant. The set designer was Brian Eatwell, who was art director on such gorgeous classics as Godspell, The Three Musketeers, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Much of it looks like it is right out of the last act of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Perhaps the greatest thing about it is that all the acting is so great. So it really is a joy to watch it even while you are waiting for the next gruesome murder. Of course, it wouldn’t work if it didn’t have Vincent Price to work his magic. Apparently, co-star Robert Quarry (who is great in it) thought that Price overacted. Well, yeah. What kind of film did Quarry think they were making? Perhaps he should have asked some of these questions:

  • Why does Dr Phibes want to kill all these people, given that it just makes what he’s trying to do harder?
  • How did Dr Phibes plant the spike in that phone, since he hadn’t been in the room before?
  • Why do both Dr Phibes and Darius Biederbeck (Quarry) need the papyrus scroll when they both clearly have it memorized?
  • Why do all the murder victims do just exactly what Dr Phibes expects?
  • Where the hell did they get that wind machine?!

I could go on and on and on. The point is that it doesn’t matter. It’s just a really fun movie that is acted great, looks beautiful, and even, is well written. It’s not like Attack of the Puppet People (See my review: Earth vs. Burt I. Gordon!) that just plods along with no direction. You get pulled through this movie. What a joy!

Note: you can get both Dr Phibes films in one set: The Abominable Dr Phibes / Dr Phibes Rises Again!

Donate to Sanders! Krugman Did It Again!

Donate to Sanders!I can’t believe I’m writing this again. But The Paul Krugman Bernie Sanders Giving Game continues and it is again time to donate to Sanders!

About as soon as he possibly could, Paul Krugman wrote, Post-Iowa Notes. And in it, he made the point that really doesn’t need to be made — that Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio are all horrifying. But that wasn’t really what the article was about. It was another swipe at the “Bernie bros” and to say, “To be blunt, I think Sanders is selling an illusion, but it’s an illusion many people want to believe in, and there’s no easy way to counter that.”

Donate to Sanders!

Attention Paul Krugman: you aren’t being anymore blunt than you have been for the last two weeks. We get it! Bernie is an idealist who is selling a lie and Clinton is a realist who will produce. Thus far, he has not provided a shred of evidence that Clinton actually would be more successful on a practical level than Sanders would be. This is just an unstated assumption — something Krugman “knows” just as sure as Ted Cruz “knows” that Jesus walks with him and tax cuts pay for themselves.

Look: I don’t care. I think Krugman means to say something else. I think he means to say that Sanders won’t win in the general election. He could make the quite reasonable claim that a Republican president would be so disastrous at this point that we can’t take the chance. He could write a reasonable article like Erik Loomis’s Bernie Skepticism. But he doesn’t. Krugman is just embarrassing himself at this point.

Donate to Sanders!

You may not know this but there is this thing called The Two Rules of Paul Krugman: “Rule number one: Paul Krugman is right; rule number two: if you think Paul Krugman is wrong, refer to rule number one.” And there is a reason for that. Krugman has always been a very careful thinker. He is not inclined toward saying outrageous things. Just the same, he doesn’t back away from saying things that are clearly true but “just aren’t said.” But I’m beginning to think that rule number two needs to be changed to: “If you think Paul Krugman is wrong, and it doesn’t involve Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, refer to rule number one.”

This isn’t just a matter of politics. Check out what Krugman has to say about financial reform, “Substantively, her financial reform ideas are as tough as his, just different in focus.” Oh, is that right?! Well, to start with, they’ve gotten tougher because Sanders is in this race. (Thanks Bernie!) But there just so happens to be an economist I find far more credible on economic matters than Krugman: Dean Baker. Baker has not only been right about just about every important economic issue over the last 15 years, he’s also a very creative thinker.

About a week ago, Baker wrote, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Wall Street. He points out how much wiggle room there is in all the proposed regulations. He ended by asking the serious question of which of the candidates would actually be willing to break up the too-big-to-fail banks. I think we know the answer to that.

But more important, there is one thing that we absolutely should do: enact a financial transaction tax. Sanders has been very strong on this. Clinton has only proposed such a tax on high frequency trading. Why?! I think if you look at the last question, you can see that there is one candidate that is more beholden to Wall Street.

Does any of this matter if Republicans still have control of the House in 2017? No, I don’t think it does. I’ve said many times before: I don’t think there would be much a difference between a Clinton administration and a Sanders administration. But to glibly claim that Clinton’s financial reforms “are as tough as his, just different in focus,” is just wrong.

Krugman wants to have it both ways. He wants to claim that Clinton is the practical choice. And then, he wants to claim that Clinton is just as ideologically keen as Sanders is. Which is it Krugman? Because The Paul Krugman Bernie Sanders Giving Game is getting really expensive.

Donate to Sanders!

If you would like to donate to Sanders: This is YOUR movement.

Morning Music: Cat Power’s Colors and the Kids

Moon Pix - Cat PowerCat Power sounds like the name of a band, but it is actually the moniker of Chan Marshall. She is remarkable because, well, she’s really great. But also because she’s a woman, as the pronoun implies. She’s also had far more popular success than the other bands we’ve been listening to.

Her work is quite varied. You certainly couldn’t say that her style was sadcore. Then again, as I go through this week, I realize that it is’t pretty hard to say what the hell sadcore is. I listen to a lot of bands that get the label, and I don’t too much buy it. Truthfully, the only bands I feel really good about using the moniker on are the three featured thus far: American Music Club, Codeine, and Red House Painters.

But there is no doubt that Cat Power is sad. She’s had major problems with alcohol overuse and at least one psychotic breakdown. I don’t mean to be cavalier, but that kind of thing definitely goes along with this kind of music. When you think of rockers drinking, you think of parties and generally an extroverted experience. When you think of Mark Eitzel or Cat Power, you imagine them alone and lost in their dark thoughts.

The song for today comes off Cat Power’s four album, Moon Pix — which is widely considered her masterpiece. The album isn’t a total downer at all. Of course, you could say that of the other acts. But I’ve picked one that is weirdly down, “Colors and the Kids.” It’s hard to say what it is about. It’s just short of hopeful. Like so much of her work, it sounds like a cry for help. It is highly evocative, but other than that she is managing to hang on for one or another reasons, I can’t say.

Anniversary Post: 2007 Baghdad Market Bombing

2007 Baghdad Market BombingOn this day in 2007, the Baghdad market bombing killed at least 135 people and injured over 300 others. It was a suicide bombing and and is generally considered part of the Iraq War. Obviously, it was a result of the Iraq War.

But wait! Wasn’t it a suicide bomber?! Wasn’t it a Muslim who did it? Doesn’t that mean that it was all — or almost all — due to the fact that the Quran says you gotta kill the infidel or Sam Harris or something?

Of course, these weren’t actually infidels. This was a Muslim attacking and killing a bunch of other Muslims. It was certainly part of the war that we started between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites. So definitely it was part of the war. The one we started. Did I say that?

But wait! Doesn’t the fact that this guy was willing to kill himself mean that he believes in an afterlife with 72 virgins and all the ice cream he can eat?! Isn’t that itself an indictment of Islam? Doesn’t that mean it is a religion of war and hatred for our freedoms?

Well, there have been cases where Americans took part in suicide missions during wars. Certainly the guys at the Alamo could have surrendered. They might have been thinking that their belief in Jesus would provide them with even more orgasms than one would get from the 72 virgins and, of course, the requisite ice cream for eternity.

Or maybe not. Maybe these guys just really believed in what they were fighting for and were willing to die for it. I don’t agree with it, but there are a lot of reasons people are willing to die — often in the service of killing others.

But wait! Isn’t it true that all of the people commonly called Islamophobes are really just saying that religion plays a part in all of this?

No. The Islamophobes only start throwing around caveats when they are talking to people like me. When they are around each other, they show their true colors and admit that they would vote for Ben Carson over Noam Chomsky. Because a fundamentalist Christian Islamophobe is better than non-religious intellectual who doesn’t have a knee-jerk hatred of Muslims.

But the 2007 Baghdad Market Bombing proves we’re right! Go team!