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Written by Jay Creepy   
Tuesday, 03 April 2018
Creepy's Retro Bookshelf Corner: Texas Schlock by Bret McCormick on Severed Cinema CREEPY'S RETRO BOOKSHELF CORNER

Book: Texas Schlock
Edited by: Bret McCormick
Written by: Bret McCormick
Art by: Russell C Connor
Year: 2018

Published by: LECR Press

I tend to read a shed load of books and stick to nonfiction. Of course, being who I am, I find myself sucked by an invisible magnet to material which is devoted to horror and cult movies. When, a week or so ago, I received an email from a fella called, Bret McCormick (yep, that guy), I jumped at the chance to read and review his new paperback, Texas Schlock. It arrived at my workplace, so it was flicked through by colleagues with mixed reactions, then was taken home for a browse. Finally on that evening, I started to read the first few chapters to gather a feel to begin my review before continuing. Rarely has a book made me smile and feel as warm as this one has done so far.

“...movies are so rarely great art, that if we can't appreciate great trash, there is little reason for us to go.” thus Pauline (The New Yorker mag) Kael once wrote. If we consider, why is it that so many trash movie creators are remembered and are so often viewed? A lot of people watch the movies and throw scorn like rotten eggs at a bad stage play, but the viewer keeps watching. For many it's the fun aspect. Bad movies are so much more than a low budget festival. They are seldom boring, there is always something happening frame-by-frame. Bret himself muses that bad films are sending a signal for all their fans loud and clear: I don't give a damn! He heaves them into a pool with punk, Hip-Hop, tattoos, piercings, early rock, and in fact any scene which has segregated itself from society and the mainstream to push a finger in its direction.

For myself, I adore the sense of love and commitment which oozes out of the screen of a good schlock film. The unprofessional cast are having a fantastic time, probably because the crew behind the one camera constantly bursts at the seams with enthusiasm. And why not? In more cases than less, the folks have fought an uphill and lengthy battle to finance the bloody thing. They are exhausted and sweating, but have gained the upper grounds to assemble all of the 'actors.' Many are friends or people looking for a big break and have agreed to a small fee or no pay at all. The effects,  done as penny-pinching as possible. And so we go onto the crew, which are a small ragtag group. Usually they are pals with the director/writer and they have known each other for years, whether through film school -- which perhaps that didn't work out for them -- or from childhood as they all imitated their favorite flicks or TV series for hours on end.

That is why schlock jigsaw puzzles are so wonderful. The pieces are hard to find, they are misshaped at times, but once together, they actually look okay. Night of the Living Dead and Bad Taste could be two examples which fit into the category I have described above. So why isn't, say, Don Dohler or Nick Millard held in higher regard?

Bret McCormick is a schlock chap himself. The fiend behind low budget atrocities like Bio Tech Warrior, Ozone: Attack of the Redneck Mutants, and The Abomination. This gives him authority to write this volume. Texas Schlock is devoted to 'B-Movie Sci-Fi and Horror from the Lone Star State' and is packed with slimy tentacles of information and illustrations. From his introduction, you truly feel the love brewing as he explains his childhood and how TV serials, plus afternoon matinee showings shaped his life. Once his father had bought him a Super 8 camera, it was on! He and a friend made shorts about skateboarding werewolves, for instance. As the years went by we follow him and various connections and pals (plus the kidnapping of Big Boy advertising figures) and there are mentions of interviews conducted – which fragments, I suppose, are used in this book.

Texas Schlock is a blast to read as I ploughed ever onwards. Bret loves his chosen subject being he is part of its network. There is a very long (29 page) illuminating chapter on Larry Buchanan, which is the second longest within, and rightfully so. His CV reads like a glowing example sheet of the maddest films around the '50s and 6'0s. Larry's passing obviously hit Bret, because they had connected on so many levels. The late, Edgar G. Ulmer, of the Universal Horror era (The Black Cat), has a grand appearance with films symbolising a twilight in a varied but ultimately winding down career. He delivered to us, The Amazing Transparent Man (and it's 4th wall breaking ending!!!???) plus Beyond the Time Barrier (superb view baiting artwork for the poster), both of which are featured in-depth.

The Dungeon of Harrow by Pat Boyette, is one of my personal favorite films from that time. It is gothic to the point of being almost Mario Bava. It is very dramatic in some respects, with a truly bleak downbeat ending. However, aside from the weirdest and most mildest whipping scene I've ever witnessed in a movie, William McNulty, as the Count de Sade, has all the campiness and the over reactions of a classic gothic villain. He is simply wonderful in his role! Director, Pat, was a lost talent! Unfortunately chucking it all after only a couple of films for a cartoon illustrators career. A shame, but that was his choice. The Dungeon of Harrow, to me, surpasses many gothic horror castle chillers of the '60s.

I make a special point of handing an epic length chapter of my review to describing Bret's witty and laugh inducing scribblings. It's like a casual fanboy, in a way, putting together a fanzine with so much energy. I haven't laughed so much in ages whilst reading, but kudos to his unbelievably madcap review to a far more madcap creation, Manos: The Hands of Fate, by Hal P. Warren (incidentally there's a part 2 due out this year starring the central villain played by Tom Neyman in his final role). When a movie comes out nowadays it can force itself to be funny by trying to ape the style of an old school sci-fi or horror, and fail simply by winking at us too much. Manos wasn't trying to be funny. It is in that envelope with Plan 9 From Outer Space. I had never watched it, but after checking a few moments on YouTube, I have ordered it. Bret had me crying and choking with laughter due to his descriptions of the character, Torgo, played by John Reynolds. “... we notice his legs are oddly deformed. His thighs bulge and his limbs seem to bend at unnatural angles. What is the intent of the film makers? Are we to assume he is a satyr?” thus begins Torgo's legacy immortalised further for fans of bad cinema. Aside from “interminable close-ups in which nothing happens” as our central family speak to him, descriptions grow ever more incredible. “The strange servant stumbles in, hardly able to make it through the door” and “even an old lady in a wheelchair could probably outrun him” The best has to be: “Torgo buries his face in the transparent clothing of one of the women. Is he sniffing her?” His master fares no better. Having set fire to Torgo's hand; “The Master thinks this flaming hand is the funniest thing he's ever seen!” I must add, in the film he laughs through a closed up mouth and serious expression at some points. Absolute class! Of course, regarding Torgo, none of this would be as funny if he were to be a lowly hunchback – he is a hat wearing bearded stoner dude (see picture) In fact, one of the younger actresses now an adult, explains that John was totally high most of the time.

Elsewhere, Tom (Return to Boggy Creek, Mark of the Witch) Moore explains how his 'little' film died on the vine once Star Wars came out. It spelled the death for many movies. It's a sad read, but he explains it in an upbeat way. We also have the sorely missed, S.F. Brownrigg and the drive in classics, Don't Look in the Basement and Scum of the Earth (Poor White Trash 2) amongst well chosen others – honourable mention to DLITB 2 by his son, Tony. The late, Robert A. Burns has a great section and it's eye opening when you see which films he was involved in via art direction (The Hills Have Eyes, Tourist Trap, TCM, Re-Animator, are just a few) ,effects (Future Kill, Demonoid), and more. He only directed one film, Mongrel. The guy was a jack-of-all-trades.

All in all, fifteen people are sliced and diced and opened up. Bret, of course has his time to shine, and amusingly hands the honours of reviewing his films to a friend, whom rips them to pieces. “I made the mistake of asking my former friend (that's a joke, I say, that's a joke, son) Glen Coburn to write reviews/synopses for the films in this chapter. Oh well, I asked for it

Illustrations and pictures are in black and white, mainly of directors faces, posters, VHS covers, etcetera. Page 77, and 178 pictures will live long in your memories, trust me. I dig the hokey Amicus rip-off image for Keep my Grave Open on page 133 as well. Everything is in good quality on great binding. Don't be put off by the fact it concentrates on one area of the USA. It's a highly entertaining educational (edutainment at its cult finest) indulging read and shows how much influence the state and it's low budget movie players had on the movie world at large.

Meanwhile, here's Bret's contact email for anymore information required:
This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

 RATING:
 BOOK: 1 
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3.22 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

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