Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies Film Club 2017: A Year in Review!

What with 2017 imminently drawing to a close, let’s take a wistful misty-eyed look back at what we screened this year at Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies – the free monthly film club downstairs at Fontaine’s bar in Dalston devoted to Bad Movies We Love (our motto: Bad Movies for Bad People), specialising in the kitsch, the cult and the queer! 

Considering Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies launched in November 2015, the film club is now two years old! If you've still never ventured downstairs into the Polynesian-style Tiki splendour of the Bamboo Lounge for one of our movie nights, what are you waiting for? Come explore the Wild, Wild World of Lobotomy Room! 

/ Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell: doomed girl band The Carrie Nations in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls /

/ “Men were toys for her amusement …” The truly glorious glamazonian Edy Williams as sexually voracious porn starlet Ashley St Ives in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (that’s Russ Meyer himself in the background) /

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls -  25 January 2017

Beyond bizarre! Beyond outrageous! Beyond any film you’ve ever seen before! Lobotomy Room presents the notorious Beyond the Valley of The Dolls

Most definitely not a sequel to the 1967 hit Valley of The Dolls (which we screened last year. An outraged Jacqueline Susann sued 20th Century Fox over the title and won), Beyond is entirely it’s its own animal. And what a frenzied animal it is! Co-author Roger Ebert himself called it “a camp sexploitation horror musical that ends in a quadruple ritual murder and a triple wedding.”

Like the original, however, Beyond – to quote the opening voice-over narration – “deals with the oft-times nightmare world of show business”, this time charting the progress of all-girl rock’n’roll trio The Carrie Nations in Hollywood’s ruthless and hedonistic glamour jungle. This is the Woodstock era but the bouffant-haired Carrie Nation are the girliest of girl bands. As John Waters says, “The Carrie Nations hardly looked like hippies. They looked like showgirls on LSD.” And for an emergent red-hot pop sensation, they only apparently have about three songs which we hear over and over and over again! (Members of The Carrie Nations neither sing or play their own instruments, which adds to the sense of artifice).

In any case, the rather vapid Carrie Nations are arguably overshadowed by sexually voracious porn starlet Ashley St Ives – a predatory glamazon in a crocheted bikini portrayed by the statuesque Edy Williams (whom Meyer would marry in 1970). Beyond concludes in a genuinely tasteless orgy of violence inspired by The Manson family murders. How many other films can you describe as “Jackie Susann-meets-Charles Manson”?

Rated “X” upon its release, Beyond represented b-movie sleaze maestro Meyer’s first time working at a big mainstream studio and the biggest budget he’d ever worked with. It shows onscreen: the costumes and decors are wildly baroque. Beyond is garish Pop Art, a comic strip come to life!

Decades later, Beyond still begs many questions: is it a parody of an exploitation film? Is it meant to be a satire? Are we supposed to take any of this seriously? Trying to work out Beyond is part of the fun! Certainly, its depiction of gay, lesbian and trans characters is what we would now call “problematic” to say the least. Commercially the film was successful, but the reviews were savage (Variety declared it “as funny as a burning orphanage”. Other assessments included “true pornography” and “utter garbage”). Judge for yourself on 25 January! The campy dialogue alone makes Beyond the Valley of the Dolls essential: “Hey! Don’t Bogart the joint!” “You’re a groovy boy. I’d like to strap you on sometime!” "This is my happening - and it freaks me out!" “Now you listen to me, hippie!” Kelly: “You’re turning me into a whore!” Lance: “You love it, you little freak!” “You will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!”

"I'll never look like Barbie. Barbie doesn't have bruises." Chloe Webb as Nancy Spungen in Sid and Nancy /

Sid and Nancy – 22 February 2017

Considering February is the month of Valentine’s, we’ll be embracing a romantic theme with … Sid and Nancy (1986)! Hey! It’s a love story! (Well, director Alex Cox himself describes the film as “a horrific love story”. Its original title was going to be Love Kills). It outlines the doomed tragicomic amour fou between punk’s Romeo and Juliet: Sex Pistols’ bassist Sid Vicious and his heroin-addicted groupie girlfriend Nancy Spungen … and let’s just say it all ends messily. 

So – why not throw on a black leather jacket, stick a safety pin through your nostril and join us on 22 February for a quiet night with Sid and Nancy?

Read more here.

/ Below: my favourite of all Faye Dunaway’s Joan Crawford “looks” in Mommie Dearest: the bizarre 1960s blue pant-suited image with the huge chestnut bouffant wiglet. It’s very Jacqueline Susann / Valley of the Dolls

Mommie Dearest – 22 March 2017

Attention, all you bad muthas! This month the Lobotomy Room film club presents … Mommie Dearest!

Screening this notorious unintended camp classic (adapted from Christina Crawford’s 1978 revenge memoir about her relationship with adopted mother Joan Crawford) right now is timely for several reasons. We’ve scheduled it a bit earlier in the month to embrace the spirit of Mother’s Day! Its leading lady – scary screen diva Faye Dunaway - is currently in the news for that very unfortunate mishap with the Best Film winner envelope at the Academy Awards. And finally: now that the much-anticipated TV series Feud: Bette and Joan is underway, you can contrast Jessica Lange’s interpretation of Joan Crawford with Dunaway’s.

Anyway, ANY time is a good time to watch Mommie Dearest. Sure, it’s widely ridiculed as an embarrassing fiasco - but it’s also wildly entertaining. As John Waters argues, "I don't think this is a campy movie. I don't think it's so bad it's good. I think it's so good it's perfect."

Female Trouble – 26 April 2017

Cinema’s Sleaze Maestro (and Patron Saint of Lobotomy Room) John Waters turns 71 in April. To celebrate, this month’s presentation is Waters’ definitive trash epic Female Trouble (1974) on Wednesday 26 April! See freaky 300-pound hog princess Divine in his greatest role as unrepentant bad girl and criminal Dawn Davenport! 

In his 1981 book Shock Value, Waters himself outlines Female Trouble as “the story of a headline-seeking criminal named Dawn Davenport (Divine). The film traces her life from teenage years as a suburban brat to her untimely death in the electric chair.” As Jack Stevenson eloquently argues in his essay on Female Trouble in issue number five of Little Joe Magazine: “Waters’ films have been called comedies but this one is full of horror … the chemistry of the cast sets this film apart and makes it Waters’ most collaborative and yes, spiritual work. It was the film they were all put on earth to make, the culmination of a collective vision. The unjustly more celebrated Pink Flamingos is lifeless in comparison and was really just a dress rehearsal for Female Trouble. For Female Trouble Waters functioned more as a psychic medium than a movie director, populating his all-American disaster story with a large movable feast of cast, crew, friends and oddball “discoveries”, tapping into the spirit of the times as well as the spirit of a specific rebel milieu in Baltimore. Then he spiked it with energy, attitude and weirdness, and zapped it to life.”

/ Diana Ross in full diva-gone-berserk mode in Mahogany /

Mahogany – 17 May 2017

“I can never stress enough the importance of Diana Ross as a gay icon and Mahogany perfectly explains why. Both impossibly fabulous and impossibly camp, Ms. Ross is throwing tantrums, slapping people, fucking shit up, wearing an endless array of kimonos as a matter of course and just generally living her life.” OUT Magazine

This month’s presentation is Mahogany (1975) starring pop diva Diana Ross. And boy does Ross seize the opportunity to emote! It’s an outrageous, unintended so-bad-it’s-GREAT camp classic in the tradition of Valley of the Dolls, Mommie Dearest and Showgirls particularly beloved by drag queens. Find out why on Wednesday 17 May!

Mahogany is a lurid rags-to-riches melodrama starring Ross as Tracy, a poor but determined girl from the gritty Chicago slums dreaming of becoming a fashion designer. Instead, she winds up transformed into international supermodel Mahogany. But is success - and her decadent Euro-trash existence in La Dolce Vita Rome - all it’s cracked up to be? Note: your enjoyment of Mahogany will depend how much you like the number one Diana Ross song “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?” (It’s played over and OVER again in the film).

/ Jayne Mansfield's frosted white-lipsticked smile in The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield /

/ "Roma! City of gladiators!" Jayne Mansfield embracing Rome's la dolce vita in The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield

29 June 2017 is a holy day! It represents the fiftieth anniversary of the fatal car crash that killed beloved Lobotomy Room patron saint Jayne Mansfield (19 April 1933 – 29 June 1967). Let’s commemorate Jayne’s memory in the boozy style she would have wanted with a FREE screening of The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield!

Rated “X” upon its release in 1968, the ultra-trashy faux documentary Wild, Wild World chronicles the kinky globe-trotting misadventures of Hollywood sex kitten-gone-berserk Jayne Mansfield. Watch agog as scantily-clad camp icon Mansfield - the punk Marilyn Monroe, revered by John Waters and Divine (and “the face” of Lobotomy Room) - visits the hedonistic “sin spots” of the world, encompassing topless go-go clubs, gay bars, drag queen beauty contests and nudist colonies, accompanied by her pet Chihuahua!

Let’s make the night a celebration of all things Jayne! Come dragged-up as Jayne Mansfield! Throw on a ratty blonde wig! Bring a Chihuahua! Giggle, squeal and cavort!

Not enough incentive? Drink a Jayne Mansfield-themed cocktail (light rum, raspberry liqueur and prosecco) for special offer price of £6.50! Free love heart candy, strawberry ice-cream and popcorn! Traditional white trash-style American hot dogs for £6!

/ See Marlene Dietrich wear a mini-dress - in 1931?! /

/ Marlene Dietrich in butch black leather as prostitute-turned-spy X-27 in the sublime 1931 film Dishonored /

Dishonored – 19 July 2017

Strictly speaking July is “Pride month”, so let’s seize the opportunity for a night of old-school diva worship on Wednesday 19 July! Dishonored (1931) stars sultry German glamour-puss (and perennial LGBTQ favourite) Marlene Dietrich as a World War I prostitute turned spy in a variation of the Mata Hara story. Filled with shimmering close-ups of Dietrich’s face and stylishly directed by Josef von Sternberg, Dishonored is strange, exotic, morbid and sexy – and the perfect film to watch over cocktails in the Art Deco surroundings of Fontaine’s!

/ The sensational Dorothy Malone in Written on the Wind /

/ The opulence! The fabulous Lauren Bacall, leading lady of Written on the Wind

Written on the Wind – 16 August 2017

On Wednesday 16 August, we present a night of sex and dying in high society – with a screening of Written on the Wind (1956)!

Director Douglas Sirk was the absolute maestro of lush, deluxe Techincolour fifties “women’s films” (think beautiful people with beautiful problems). Written on the Wind - praised by Roger Ebert as "a perverse and wickedly funny melodrama" – is one of his artistic pinnacles. It stars Rock Hudson and Lauren Bacall, but the film is well and truly stolen by Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone in supporting roles as the rich and wildly dysfunctional siblings Kyle and Marylee Hadley. He’s a tortured, self-loathing and insecure alcoholic with “weak sperm”; she’s a voracious hot-pool-of-woman-need nymphomaniac tormented by her unrequited love for Hudson. Both devour the screen! Throughout, Malone - who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance - looks like one of the bullet bra’d bad girls from a trashy 1950s pulp novel come to pouting life. The scene where cat-on-a-hot tin roof Marylee dances to frantic mambo music in sexy lingerie in her bedroom … well, it just has to be seen to be believed! Watching Written on the Wind on the big screen over cocktails promises to be a lurid and head-spinning experience! 

/ Patty Duke and Susan Hayward in Valley of the Dolls /

Valley of the Dolls – 20 September 2017

Before Mommie Dearest ... before Showgirls ... the original “What the hell were they thinking?” Bad Movie We Love was show business cautionary tale Valley of the Dolls. A perennial favourite of drag queens and a cult classic for connoisseurs of kitsch, the unintentionally hilarious and wildly entertaining 1967 film adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s scandalous 1966 bestseller took the already lurid source material – and went even trashier with it!

Throw on a bouffant wig, get yourself a stiff drink and strap yourselves in for a wild ride when Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies presents Valley of The Dolls! 

Read more here

/ “Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt or even the simple lounging outfit he has on – and he’s the happiest man in the world!” Legendarily inept "gutter auteur" Edward D Wood Jr in Glen or Glenda? /

Halloween Double Bill: Ed Wood / Glen or Glenda? 18 October 2017

Considering Halloween is “gay Christmas”, we’re embracing it big-style this October – with a themed double bill of Ed Wood (1994) and Glen or Glenda (1953)!

Yes! A Halloween tribute to Edward Wood Jr (1924 – 1978) and his frequent leading man, horror movie icon Bela Lugosi (1882 -1956)! Filmed in atmospheric black and white, Ed Wood is an affectionate biopic of the man widely hailed as the worst filmmaker of all time and the definitive collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Glen or Glenda? - also known as I Changed My Sex - is Wood’s own gloriously inept debut film, an autobiographical and mind-boggling cri de coeur as a transvestite and angora sweater fetishist

/ Ona Munson as Mother Gin Sling in The Shanghai Gesture

/ Ona Munson and Gene Tierney in The Shanghai Gesture / 

The Shanghai Gesture – 15 November 2017

Join us on 15 November for a descent into depravity with Josef von Sternberg’s The Shanghai Gesture (1941) – perhaps the wildest, weirdest film to come out of Golden Age Hollywood!

A torrid and baroque study in vengeance and corruption, the film sees Sir Guy Charteris (Walter Huston), a rich white industrialist with a murky past, seeking to gentrify Shanghai (he calls it "the cesspool of the Far East"). When gorgon-like dragon lady Mother Gin Sling (Ona Munson) learns he intends to close her gambling den she starts plotting her revenge. Meanwhile, slumming rich girl Poppy (the exquisite Gene Tierney) becomes ensnared by the toxic allure of the casino ("It smells so incredibly evil ..."), addicted both to gambling and the heavy-lidded charms of Dr Omar (a torpid Victor Mature in a burnoose and fez).

Filled with exotic locales, outrageous costumes, campy dialogue ("my plucked bird of paradise"; "Stop behaving like a disabled flamingo!") and featuring in the sinister Mother Gin Sling one of the all-time great screen villainesses, The Shanghai Gesture is the perfect film to watch over cocktails in the Tiki surroundings of The Bamboo Lounge! (Remember: the film is FREE so you can buy more cocktails!). Doors to the Bamboo Lounge open at 8 pm. Film starts at 8:30 prompt. Seating is limited - come early! Wearing a fez is highly encouraged!

Read more here

As you may know, BBC2 finally begins screening the sublime seven-part TV series Feud: Bette and Joan (about the arch rivalry of Golden Age Hollywood bitch goddesses extraordinaire Bette Davis and Joan Crawford) from Saturday 16 December. Therefore, Lobotomy Room is jumping on the bandwagon (I mean, embracing the spirit!) with a themed mini-season of "hagsploitation" horror films starring Crawford and Davis. We start on 20 December with the original mutha of them all, Gothic camp classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)! Upcoming titles in the New Year will include Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and Strait-jacket!

Who knows what other putrid delights the Lobotomy Room film club holds in store for you next year? Some hints: 2018 represents the thirtieth anniversaries of the deaths of Divine and heroin-ravaged Warhol Superstar Nico - and the release of John Waters' 1988 masterpiece Hairspray! 

Further reading:

Everything we screened in 2016

Read more about Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies in Loverboy magazine

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"Like" and follow the official Lobotomy Room Facebook page - for all your Lobotomy Room needs!

Coming up … the last Lobotomy Room club night of 2017!

Feeling jaded? Didn’t get the cha-cha heels you wanted? Head-bang away your post-Christmas blues – at Lobotomy Room!

Yes! Revel in sleaze, voodoo and rock’n’roll - when incredibly strange dance party Lobotomy Room returns to the Polynesian-style basement Bamboo Lounge of Dalston’s most unique nite spot Fontaine’s! Friday 29 December 2017!

Lobotomy Room! Where sin lives! A punkabilly booze party! Sensual and depraved! A spectacle of decadence! Bad Music for Bad People! A Mondo Trasho evening of Beat, Beat Beatsville Beatnik Rock’n’Roll! Rockabilly Psychosis! Wailing Rhythm and Blues! Twisted Tittyshakers! Punk! White Trash Rockers! Kitsch! Exotica! Think John Waters soundtracks, or Songs the Cramps Taught Us, hosted by Graham Russell (of Dr Sketchy and Cockabilly notoriety).

Expect desperate stabs from the jukebox jungle! Savage rhythms to make you writhe and rock! Grainy black-and-white vintage erotica projected on the big screen all night for your adult viewing pleasure!

Admission: gratuit - that’s French for FREE!

Lobotomy Room: Faster. Further. Filthier.

It’s sleazy. It’s grubby. It’s trashy - you’ll love it!

Full rancid details on the Facebook event page

Monday, 4 December 2017

Reflections on … Ari and Mario (1966)

/ The ever-inscrutable Nico (1938 - 1988): Warhol Superstar, Velvet Underground chanteuse, heroin-ravaged diva and “possessor of the most haunting wraith cheekbones of the 20th century” (thank you, James Wolcott of Vanity Fair) /

What's a busy single mother and Warhol Superstar to do? Nico needs to go out so, naturally, calls on Puerto Rican drag queen / underground film starlet Mario Montez to baby-sit her young son Ari Boulogne at her cramped apartment in New York's louche Chelsea Hotel.

/ Ari and Nico: this is very much how they appear in Ari and Mario /

High jinks ensue: cherub-faced Ari is adorable but so hyperactive and wild he is virtually feral. Montez offers to read to him, sing to him and dance for him, but Ari is oblivious to her charms and more interested in alternately pretending to be a crocodile and a cowboy and shooting her with his toy gun (towards the end Montez finally snaps, "Can't you find something else to shoot at?"). Off-screen from behind the camera director Andy Warhol himself is frequently audible encouraging urging Ari to misbehave.

All the "action" takes place within the confined space of the tiny kitchen and there is no editing. The film feels like a home movie (it’s filmed in grainy Super 8 but in grunge-y bleached-out colour instead of black and white), albeit a home movie with an exceptionally hip and stylish bohemian cast.

/ Andy Warhol and Mario Montez during the making of The Chelsea Girls (1966) /

In lieu of narrative the film is primarily an affectionate character study of the unlikely duo of three-year-old boy and transvestite. Warhol's more famous Superstar transvestites Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn emerged later; the rather swarthy Mario Montez (1935-2013) can be seen as their precursor. Montez (real name: Rene Rivera from Brooklyn, with a day job at the post office) was the then-reigning drag queen of choice for underground filmmakers in the early sixties: she'd already worked with Jack Smith in the notorious Flaming Creatures (1963) and appeared in off-Broadway plays; Montez and Nico would both subsequently feature in Warhol's The Chelsea Girls (1966), also set at the Chelsea Hotel. For her baby-sitting assignment Montez chooses to wear an incongruous ensemble of long powder-blue taffeta evening gown, blonde bouffant wig, dangling earrings and heavily-layered clown-like make-up.

/ Pioneering Warhol drag queen superstar Mario Montez /

Ari (born 1962) was the son Nico claimed was fathered by the European art cinema heartthrob Alain Delon (to this day Delon denies paternity). Certainly, if Ari is the offspring of Nico and Delon he inherited their looks: he is an exceptionally beautiful child.

Montez, befitting an exhibitionistic, attention-seeking Warhol Superstar, is acutely conscious of being filmed and is eager to seize the opportunity to perform but when she offers to entertain Ari by singing for him, Ari shakes his head no. She sings "Ten Little Indians" anyway; Ari stonily ignores her. In keeping with the cowboys and Indians theme, when Montez improvises an interpretative Indian squaw dance, Ari hides his face behind a curtain rather than watch her. It's Montez's exasperated attempts to both try to relate to Ari and to maintain her sweet-voiced, lady-like demeanor that make Ari and Mario one of Warhol's funniest and most likable films.

Early in the film the actress, jazz singer and fellow Chelsea Hotel habitué Tally Brown (another veteran of both Warhol and Jack Smith films) makes a brief but vivid appearance. She drops by to use Nico's phone: hers has been cut off because hasn't paid the bill. A charismatic figure in a fur hat and suede go-go boots, she speaks to Ari in French with genuine warmth, asking if he knows any songs. When Ari answers No, Tally points out, “Your mother is a singer” but Ari doesn't reply.

/ Above: Tally Brown photographed by Billy Name at Max's Kansas City in the sixties /

When Nico returns from her outing she sits on the floor and talks casually in her whisper-soft German accent to Montez while Ari tears around, sometimes playing with the off-screen Warhol. The film captures a radiantly beautiful Nico with almost waist-length pale blonde hair, looking fashion model-elegant in a man's navy-blue pea coat over a turtle
neck sweater and pinstriped hipster trousers.

Knowledge of Nico's biography foreshadows Ari and Mario with a tragic extra resonance. She has been routinely vilified in print for her parenting ability, with some justification. Not long after the film Nico would hand Ari over to Alain Delon's parents in France to raise and descend into heroin addiction. More damningly, the general consensus is that later in life when they were reunited Nico initiated the adult Ari into heroin use.

In Ari and Mario, though, we see only relaxed, unaffected affection between Nico and her young son. Pouring him orange juice, Nico teases, "Ari doesn't love me anymore." At one point Ari approaches and spontaneously plants a kiss on the side of Nico's face then goes back to careening around like a Tasmanian devil. The sight of Nico and Ari at this point in their lives when there would seemingly be so much potential and optimism ahead for them, you can't help but feel a wave of sadness for the despair, addiction and premature death that awaits them both in the future. (Nico died in 1988 aged 49).

Devoid of his usual cocktail of sadomasochism and amphetamines, Ari and Mario's emphasis on innocence and domesticity is a sweet exception in the Warhol canon.

I've blogged about "the Marlene Dietrich of Punk" Nico many times over the years: her contemporary Marianne Faithfull reflects on Nico here; the historic encounter When John Waters Met Nico; Nico’s 1960s modelling days; how the old jazz standard “My Funny Valentine” (and heroin) connects Nico with Chet Baker; When Patti Smith Met Nico and finally, the relationship between Leonard Cohen and Nico.