Dario Argento

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Adam E. Hoak and Jose Nateras: The Gay Appeal of Suspiria

Published November 2, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

 

 

Dario Argento’s superior Italian horror Suspiria has long held a fascination for the LGBTQ community. With Luca Guadagnino’s reimagining currently hitting the theaters, I decided to ask Adam E. Hoak and Jose Nateras, two of my favorite Chicago actors (and enthusiastic horror buffs) to chat with me about their love for the film, their thoughts on why they think it resonates so deeply within our gay culture and their hopes for this new take on it. Interestingly, both of these talented performers are appearing in genre style shows (based on important works of literature) at the moment. Nateras is currently flaunting some spooky excellence in Remy Bumppo’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein while Hoak is applying his beautiful voice to Saint Sebastian Players’ take on The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a musical inspired by the book written by Charles Dickens.

Adam, can you recall the first time that you saw the original Suspiria?

Adam E. Hoak: In the early 00’s I worked in media resources at my undergraduate campus library. Fortunately for me, we had a crazy good selection of VHS and a small but mighty nascent DVD collection. Both had a nice smattering of films I had only heard of but never seen, including Suspiria. I remember being immediately dazed by the colors and the score, like Argento and Goblin just threw me in the deep end. The sheer opulence of the film was (and remains) stunning to me, and I think that has a lot to do with my appreciation of it. Suspiria is horror in drag: lush and loud; gaudy and gorgeous, things my burgeoning baby-gay found intrinsic to my newfound queerness.

suspiria-Technicolor

Nice. I love how these films can inform and help define us. Have you always been a horror fan, Jose?

Jose Nateras: I’ve been a horror fan for as long as I can remember. Even before I actually was old enough to watch scary things I was drawn to the genre, lingering in the horror aisle of The Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. A lot of time and thought has been spent on why the queer community is so often drawn to horror films. Maybe it’s because so much of our early, closeted lives were spent in fear: of being outed, of being rejected, of being alone, of being different, of… so many things.  But horror is so much more than that too. Not only does it take fear and make it a shareable and enjoyable experience, it takes the fearful and the grotesque and the horrifying and turns it into something beautiful and glamorous. It can be sexy, campy, gory, but as a genre that is so much more nuanced and diverse in form than it gets credit for, horror has always been about pushing boundaries and confronting (for better or worse) those things and people on the outside of the social norm– the often feared and vilified Other, the outsider — in such a way, that even if that Othered Force is the monster/villain/bad guy, horror at least confronts and directly grapples with that Force’s existence. It allows that Force, and those of us who came up feeling marginalized, to be seen as opposed to ignoring us; as in most other genres, forms of media, and arenas of society, which would usually prefer to pretend we don’t exist.

Argento seems definitely straight, but he has to have some queer sensibility – especially visually.

AH: Seriously, the wallpaper alone in this film still makes my gay little heart skip a beat! Throw in ballet, witches, Udo Kier (known to me at the time as “the guy” from Madonna’s Deeper and Deeper video), the allure of the faded Hollywood icon, Joan Bennett, and Alida Valli as the elegantly butch Miss Tanner and it’s a smorgasbord of queerness.Alida Joan Suspiria

JN:  If you’re talking about horror film and cinema, you can’t not talk about Dario Argento! His jaw-dropping use of color and imagery, surreal, grotesque, and beautiful all at once, the inspired score by Goblin, all came together to make Suspiria a dreamily unsettling movie with enough squirm inducing deaths and vividly colored splashes of blood to earn it a place in the cannon of horror masterpieces. The deeply 70’s Euro aesthetic makes it sexily nostalgic for viewers in much the same way viewing porn of a certain era might. Like many horror movies of the time, Suspiria offers a Final Girl/Strong Female Protagonist in the form of Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper). Yet instead of fighting for her life against a homicidal man in a mask, Suzy finds herself the center of attention of a deadly coven of witches, established within the confines of a prestigious ballet academy. Ballet, witches, strong women, all of it is perfectly suited to the taste of any queer cinemaphile, especially if they happen to be horror fans.

Agreed! What are you two hoping for with this new version?

JN: Though to some, it might seem counter intuitive to have Luca Guadagnino directing the highly anticipated remake, especially considering his previous work includes films like Call Me By Your Name and I Am Love, in reality, Guadagnino just might be the perfect fit. Call Me By Your Name had sexy-Euro-nostalgia-style in spades and his work is consistently visually striking and equally dreamy, often alluding to the surreal while tapping into richly grounded sensory imagery. Imagine what such an expert skill set might do when deployed in a horror film context as opposed to that of a sensual romance. With the iconic Tilda Swinton (a frequent Guadagnino collaborator) bringing her brand of androgynous, otherworldly, and simultaneously beautiful and intimidating talents to the film, it’s hard to think of a re-make with more potential. If the early buzz, teaser images, and trailer are any indicator; fans of the original, of the genre at large, and film buffs of all sorts are sure to find something to love or at least talk about when Suspiria comes out later this month. As ever, though, the queer community is sure to be watching with the sort of context, appreciation, and finely tuned meter for subtext to have plenty to unpack in a remake of something so dear to so many of our hearts.

dakota-johnson-suspiria-500x332AH: As for the new version, I’m certainly looking forward to Tilda and perhaps a smidge more plot. Also for a film set in a famed dance academy, the original kind of half-asses any on-screen dancing, so I’ve got high hopes for the new choreography based on the trailer.

Well, I always like to leave ‘em with high hopes! So, thanks, gents! Everyone else be sure to check out Jose in Frankenstein (www.remybumppo.org) running until November 17th and Adam in Drood (www.saintsebastionplayers.org), running until November 18th – both in Chicago proper.

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…and until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Mystery of Edwin Drood

 

 

Cesar Romero in The Devil is a Woman

Published June 23, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

 

Cesar Romero Devil is a Woman

This Pride Month we are exploring some of the many projects of the distinguished and eclectic Cesar Romero. Best known for his comic villainy on the ‘60s television version of Batman, Romero opened up about his homosexuality toward the end of his life. His many credits include such horror offerings as Two on a Guillotine, Mortuary Academy and Night Gallery.

The last collaboration between director Josef Von Sternberg and his grand muse Marlene Dietrich, 1935’s The Devil is a Woman is full of visual flourishes that should appeal to fans of such stylistic masters as Dario Argento, Ken Russell and Guillermo Del Toro. From freight trains stranded in avalanche beds to the majestic hair pieces that Dietrich sports in a variety of scenes, this film is a kaleidoscopic delight…even though it was filmed in black and white. Cesar Romero Devil is a Woman 2

Reportedly Dietrich’s favorite among her many films, this tale recounts the adventures of Concha Perez (Dietrich), an unrepentant schemer who destroys the finances and the emotional health of the honored Captain Costelar (old school terror stalwart Lionel Atwill). Costelar’s misadventures with Perez are detailed via flashback remembrances as he warns the bold Antonio Galvan (Cesar Romero) to avoid her charms. Naturally, Galvan can’t resist this wicked enchantress and soon finds himself upon the receiving end of her brutal capriciousness. 

Cesar Romero Devil is a Woman 3Here Romero, the only gay man (thus far) in the DC universe to play the Joker, brings his typical smooth and roguish charm to the role of Galvan. But despite his magazine slickness, he also resonates with a boldness that makes the slightly criminal nature of his character truly believable as well. (Indeed, this project is doubly interesting to the gay community due to Dietrich’s own love of androgyny and oft chronicled lesbian relationships.)

Interestingly, while Romero, Dietrich and Atwill all went on to many other projects, Sternberg, despite his genuine genius, was not so lucky. His directing credits after Devil were few and he was even fired from Macao, his last high profile project, due to his onset fussiness and an incoherent vision for the project.

Thankfully, due to home media and the internet, we will always have Concha and Galvin and Spain.

Until the next time…SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Geretta Geretta: Demons and Other Adventures in Euro-Land!

Published October 16, 2015 by biggayhorrorfan

geretta headshotOften credited as Janna Ryan (or Ryann) or Geretta Giancarlo, the eternally striking Geretta Geretta lit up numerous over-the-top European horror and post-apocalyptic epics like MURDER-ROCK, RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR and WARRIORS OF THE LOST WORLD. Of course, this eclectic wonder, who is a writer and director in her own right, is best known for her aggressive portrayal of Rosemary, the first victim who turns into a dazzling, drooling creature, in the cult classic DEMONS. Ingeniously detailing what happens when a group of movie-goers are attacked and turned into zombie-like creatures, mirroring the action of the film they are viewing, DEMONS, created by the combined efforts of director Lamberto Bava and producer Dario Argento, will be shown at Chicago’s annual 24 hour THE MASSACRE (details below), on Saturday, October 17th, with Geretta in attendance. In anticipation of that event, this charming, well traveled performer talked to me about her work in the Euro scene of the 80s and about her co-stars in everyone’s favorite over-the-top monster fest.

BGHF: Your roles always seem to rely on an intense physicality. Do you approach every role that you play with the character’s physical qualities in mind or is it more of an emotional connection?

GERETTA GERETTA: Thanks for noticing. Keep in mind during a lot of that I was between the ages of 19 and 26 so I could jump, fall and run like the wind. I grew up in Oregon, basically a tomboy with a pretty face. I just didn’t know any better! I gotta lot of shit in Italy too cause they weren’t used to girls being so…well, Sporty Spice! This was like a decade earlier! I didn’t care! They’d shove a machine gun in my hand and say “Run! Shoot!” I just did it! My first film in Italy, I don’t even think I have lines. I’m in a Raquel Welch-like fur bikini bottom. Guys are raping girls, left and right, in some post apocalyptic nightmare-doomsday and I’m shot in the chest… after just running through several scenes, in high heeled boots, shooting people. Who knew!? I just did it!

BGHF: You were often credited as Janna Ryan on those early films.

GERETTA: Director David Worth had changed it to Janna Ryan on WARRIORS OF THE LOST WORLD because he said Geretta Giancarlo made the film sound too Italian! Bahahah!

BGHF: You have talked about DEMONS being a well funded production. Was it the highest budgeted project that you had worked on at that point in time?

GERETTA: Yes. I believe the budget was 1 million. Keep in mind, back then even Fellini only got six!

BGHF: The cast of DEMONS is so eclectic. Is there anything about the background of the performers involved that the fans would find interesting?geretta - bobby rhodes

GERETTA: Actually, every single of us young’uns pretty much had a claim to fame. Urbano Barberini (George) was… (Laughs) well, read a history book! They used to like be kings and he’s a direct descendant! Natasha Hovey (Cheryl) was about the most famous ingénue in Italy. She had just come off a huge financial and artistic hit film called DA GRANDE which, loosely translated, was BIG, using the same storyline that they did with Tom Hanks a few years later. Karl Zinny’s (Ken) aunt was a hugely famous actress. Paolo Cozzo (Kathy), who played the dark haired best friend, was the daughter of the cinematographer. Let’s see…That young blonde crawling under the chairs? That was Fiore Argento, Dario’s older daughter. The dark haired guy that reads the book in the movie within the movie? That’s Marcello Modungo, the son of Domenico Modungo who recorded Volare. It’s like The Girl from Ipanema, one of those world famous international classic songs! The red head usher, Nicoletta Elmi – she was a famous model and child actress…I could go on and on. We were…I dunno…the Roma Brat Pack? Yeah…why not?!? For that summer, we were the she-it! (Laughs)

BGHF: So, were there any hi-jinks with your co-stars, on set, during the filming of DEMONS?

demons_rosemaryGERETTA: You know? You have to be a lot more famous to do hi-jinks on set! They take up time and well, no one ever talks about the ones that don’t come off well.
BGHF: How long did your iconic make-up take to put on in DEMONS? Was it an arduous process?

GERETTA: My memory now says about seven hours; four for the hands and three for the face…all those veins were hand painted on, then the lashes and contact lens, and then all that stinking yogurt in my hair! Then once the bubble bursts that scar had to match….I only did about three or four hours a night on the actual shooting… and even then that’s about 15 minutes at a time. It ain’t all glam and hi-jinks! Movies are a lot of hurry up and wait!cult

BGHF: Rosemary as a demon has been immortalized with her own bobble head doll from Cult Collectibles. How did it feel to receive such an honor?

GERETTA: I was shocked as shit and very, very humbled! Thanks Mark Murray! Thanks Mary Murray! I met them during my “Italian Invasion Tour” during Chiller. They asked me then.

BGHF: Does the continued legacy of your Euro cult films like DEMONS, RATS, and SHOCKING DARK surprise you?

GERETTA: Hell yeah! But, still not as much as America voting in a black president -twice! That’s when I KNEW the apocalypse is nigh! (Laughing)

Be sure to come meet Geretta at The Massacre, 24 hours of horror film madness, on October 27th at the historic Patio Theatre in Chicago. She will be joined by original DAWN OF THE DEAD co-star SCOTT REINIGER. There will be free autographs and photos, numerous horror related vendors and auctions to benefit Vital Bridges, a non-for-profit devoted to helping those with AIDS related illnesses. More information can be gathered at https://www.facebook.com/events/1638259179791251/1661548034129032/

Music to Make Horror Movies By: Mater Suspiria Vision

Published September 14, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

mater suspiria vision
Whenever I feel the need to strap some Princess Leia dough rolls onto the side of my head (a la Argento favorite, the grand and striking Barbara Magnolfi), I always throw on some Mater Suspiria Vision. It always puts me in the right frame of mind, immediately

Inspired by ghost trance rhythms and Hansel and Gretel, this Euro collective adds dense layers of macabre fever to everyone’s favorite Italian terror soundtrack dreams – and is sure to put all wailing children to sleep…permanently.

Be sure to keep up with all of this spooky crew’s supernatural undertones at

http://matersuspiriavision.tumblr.com/ and

https://www.facebook.com/Matersuspiriavision.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

http://www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan

Horror, She Wrote: Piper Laurie in “Murder at the Oasis”

Published May 27, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

piper linda
(Exploring the horror film actors who, happily, dominated episodes of Murder, She Wrote, the show that featured everyone’s favorite 80s/90s female detective, Jessica Fletcher.)

Even when covered in pink frosting and wearing a strawberry tutu on my head, I aim for a regal nature. Funny, somehow it never quite works out.

Maybe I should take some lessons from that magnificent theatrical dame known as Piper Laurie (Ruby, Possession, Dario Argento’s Trauma and Twin Peaks). Playing the distinguished Peggy Shannon on the first season Murder at the Oasis episode of Murder, She Wrote, Laurie practically drips with royalty. Unlike her more famous counterpart, Margaret White in 1976’s Carrie, Laurie/Shannon also beams with understanding compassion for her children, here, each thought to be responsible for their aggressive comedian father’s murder.

piper josephSaid children are, also, played by actors with a number of terror credits to their names. Most fun is Linda Purl (Visiting Hours) who clearly is relishing playing the seductive and willful Terry, a lass who dates bad boys (such as Saturday Night Live’s Joseph Cali) just to anger (her soon to be dead) poppa. Supernaturally handsome Joseph Bottoms (The Intruder Within, Blind Date) counters Purl with more sensitive instincts as a musician who never quite got the needed paternal seal of approval.
group msw
With a cast of supporting Rat Pack like characters and obvious nods to Frank Sinatra’s nefarious dealings, the episode, as a whole, is a mildly enjoyable one. Although, a little bit more involvement from the distinguished Laurie (who virtually disappears in the second half of the proceedings), would have definitely helped this one along.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Sta-Prest, “Nelly Strut/Suspiria”

Published May 25, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

staprest
“In the daytime, on the dance bar, the only American came to learn. But then the nighttime, and the blood and the screams, into vampires they turned.” – Nelly Strut/Suspiria, Sta-Prest

outpunkSo, that day I ran around town with the green junk from my health smoothie spread across my upper lip was truly memorable. Thankfully, it is not quite as significant (to most folks) as the first song released by fascinating 90s queercore band Sta-Prest. Debuting on 1994’s eclectic Outpunk Dance Party compilation, Nelly Strut/Suspiria is a perfect homage to outsider pride and a gloriously homo look at the classic Dario Argento film.

http://www.allmusic.com/song/nelly-strut-suspiria-mt0028790370

The band, featuring such iconic figures as Dudley Manlove (AKA Gary Fembot), Professor Swish (Mark Bishop) and Aloofah (Irayah Robles), also released an EP called Vespa Sex – which (if you really think about it) has some pretty scary connotations, as well.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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The Backside of Horror: Argento’s Dracula (2012)

Published February 28, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

Dracula-3D-poster
Let’s face it, half the fun of horror and exploitation is seeing some hot bodies frolicking around in the buff. And while I worship the female form, I believe exploitation definitely veers into the exploitive when only gorgeous women are on display while their male counterparts remain chastely buttoned up. Therefore, The Backside of Horror salutes the filmmakers and actors whom even up the score a bit by gracing us with instances of hot and juicy male flesh in their bloody celluloid fantasies.

Things I’ve done in barns: Read a stolen Playboy in a hayloft with my preteen companions, got kicked by finicky horse (or two) and…I once used one to escape from an unstoppable serial killer (or three). (Although, that last one may be just another one of my compulsive Dana Kimmell flashbacks. H-m-m-m…) But, I have never ever gotten a straw strewn lay!

dracula1Of course, in Dario Argento’s critically unsung Dracula (2012), first victim Tanja (Miriam Giovanelli) outdoes me almost immediately. Her frantic meeting with the married Milos (Christian Burruano) soon gets more than just the rooster crowing. And while Argento has traditionally filled his filmic coffers with tons of skin baring femmes (including daughter Asia, who bares all here, as well), he finally offers up a little eye candy for the feisty gals and appreciative gay dudes in the audience with this one. For, while the glorious Giovanelli definitely displays all, the handsome Burruano also shows off his well toned ham hocks, virtually guaranteeing a moment of fast forward action for (any sensitive) relatives who may being viewing this frisky lad’s Euro horror debut.d2

Of course, Giovanelli and Burruano soon discover terror’s traditional message that sex equals death (or undeath, as the case may be), but a fine, smooth and fleshy time is had until then!

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan

http://www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan