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Things We Like: Troublemakers, Turkey Monsters and Bovine Resonators

20 February 2010 Things We Like 13,667 views No CommentPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

Every Saturday, we rummage though our bookshelves, toy boxes, DVDs, music collections and stacks of assorted stuff to pick out a few choice items that will make your life better.

Scarecrow Video’s Movie of the Week: “Blood Freak” (1972), directed by Brad F. Grinter and Steve Hawkes

If you like cheap, stupid, anti-drug, pro-God monster movies, then “Blood Freak” should top your “must-see” list. It stars thick-accented Steve Hawkes as Hershel, a slow-witted Vietnam vet biker in Elvis shades who gets involved with two sisters. Angel (Heather Hughes), a Bible-thumping goody two-shoes, introduces him to her slutty, drug fiend sister Anne (Dana Culliver). Anne takes a liking to Hersh and two soon begin sharing drugs and having premarital sex. Hershel gets a job at a turkey farm where a pair of mad scientists are experimenting on their gobblers. Hershel eats and entire bird and mutates into a ridiculous gobbling turkey monster and goes on a junkie and drug-dealer killing rampage. There’s lots of blood and chopped-off limbs flying as the same audio track is looped over and over. The comedic on-screen narration is by the cigarette-smoking director (Brad F. Grinter—a notorious Florida nudist), who reads his lines directly from his script and in one hilarious scene collapses into a coughing fit while lecturing about the dangers of drug addiction. Funny stuff! – Spenser Hoyt

“The Troublemakers” by Gilbert Hernandez

As a fan of the Hernandez Brothers work since the early days of “Love & Rockets” way back in the prehistoric early ’80s, it should be no surprise that I’m excited about Gilbert Hernandez’s new graphic novel “The Troublemakers.” What may be surprising given the nature of his long prolific career is how wholeheartedly I feel I can recommend the book.

Gilbert has long been famous for his vast series of interlocking Palomar and Luba stories, which can present a daunting challenge for newcomers, or his surreal, often bizarre shorter works, which, as much as I love them, are clearly not for all tastes. Lately he has been focusing on standalone series and graphic novels, several of which could be classified under the “surreal” heading, but “The Troublemakers” is more squarely a piece of genre fiction, a pulpy film noirish crime story that both seems familiar to its genre conventions while remaining so distinctive that nobody else could have done anything quite like it. Admittedly there is a slight connection to his earlier work (it being an “adaptation” of one of his character’s films) but that factoid, while great fun for long time fans, is not necessary for enjoyment of the work.

And enjoyment is what this is all about. The story is sexy, smart and exciting, with a fun twisty plot concerning a group of small time thieves, grifters and magicians that uses the genre while also adding the character flourishes and trademark magical realism that Gilbert has been perfecting for all these years. All in all, “The Troublemakers” not only delvers the pulpy fun, it also maintains a wholly appropriate aura of bittersweet fatalism. – David Leibow

Elliott Bay Book Company’s Suggested Reading: “The Squirrel Machine” by Hans Rickheit

Hans Rickheit is an obscurantist cartoonist, so there are certain things you might expect from this graphic novel. He certainly delivers on endless secret passageways, a subterranean factory, and a near-constant disparity between what is dreamed and what is real. The whole thing is vaguely steam-punky, in that one character insists on wearing goggles, there are tons of gears, hoses, and hand cranks, and the setting looks to be the late 19th century.

The story follows the exploits of two brothers as they perfect their invented musical instruments, which try to reconcile meat with machine. Take, for instance, their “Bovine Resonator”, which is a sort of hyper-complex pump organ that broadcasts through the carcass of a cow. They unveil it at a public fair, and from the reaction of the crowd we learn two things: It doesn’t sound very good, and it produces a smell that causes people to vomit. The brothers have a lot to learn.

The piece as a whole walks an incredible line between beauty and putrescence. Every panel is a singular work of art. Rickheit has extraordinary attention to detail, drawing individual floorboards, rocks, shingles, bricks, leaves, feathers, and gears in places a lesser artist might leave as negative space. And his characters are lovable even as they engage in stomach-churning activities. They ingest things that should never, ever be touched.

The story is a series of scenes, and excellent scenes at that. One character’s somnambulist wanderings lead him down wells, through cracks in the floor, in and out windows and dumbwaiters, to inevitably deposit him either beneath his own bed or in the middle of the woods. Two characters have sex in a vat of live snails. There is a primitive pre-electric robot operated with hoses and mirrors. Somehow these scenes all come together into a somewhat coherent narrative, one that is certainly more experience than entertainment. The front dust jacket bears a small hidden warning; on a machine in the lower left corner are the words “Do Not Misuse”, and I implore you to take this to heart. This book could scramble your brain. – Christopher Sabatini


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