Category Archives: Sweet Movies and Wild Books

Great Posters, Sweet Movies and Wild Books /

Amazing Old Bollywood Poster Shops

Somewhere on Mutton Street, in Bombay’s Chor Bazaar, sits a cave of musty sweetness. It’s filled with old movie posters, piled almost six feet high.

poster-stuff

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/ by Dean Pickles / 63 Comments
Great Posters, Sweet Movies and Wild Books / ,

A Huge Pile of Gorgeous Old Thai Movie Posters

It was the Singapore Agent who told me about the poster guy on Rambuttri. “Rambuttri like Rambutan,” he said. “But with a tree at the end. Look for the restaurant with the good pad thai, next to the massage place. That’s where you’ll find the poster guy.”

The pad thai restaurant next to a massage parlor? In Bangkok, this means nothing at all — on the restaurant-and-massage-filled Thanon Rambutri, doubly-so. But it made for a treasure hunt. And, as you know, I LOVE treasure hunts.

[If I had taken a photo of the guy selling posters, I would have put it here. But my breath was wrenched away when I saw him. I forgot my camera. I forgot this blog. I only saw amazeballs.]

His folding table on the sidewalk, nestled between a jewelry stall and a t-shirt vendor, was piled high with old Thai posters for 80s American action movies, Chinese porn, and Japanese yakuza deliciousness. They were ripped, frayed, stained with water or coffee or blood. They were just $10 a sheet. They were gorgeous.

“Michelle, can you get me a coffee and a pack of cigarettes?” I licked my leafing finger, and started sorting. Holy shit — is this Nikkatsu Noir?

thai-poster-drifters

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/ by Dean Pickles / 14 Comments
Sweet Movies and Wild Books / ,

Did You Know That India’s Greatest Actor was also… a Superhero?

I’m a huge fan of Amitabh Bachchan. But then again, who isn’t? He’s the king of Bollywood. BBC readers chose him as the greatest star of stage or screen of the last thousand years. I’m sure you’ve seen him as the angry young man in Sholay, or the angry old man in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. Or, if not, as the randy boa-wearing letch in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna? Oh, you really should. (I’m sure you’ll see him in The Great Gatsby when it finally hits screens.)

And then you should read his comics.

Yep, Amitabh, the superhero.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments
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A Huge New Horde of Hand-drawn Indian Movie Posters

I hadn’t seen Ramachandraiah for far too long. He’s the movie poster artist. Some locals curse him as a ruin on this garden city. I hail him as an urban beautifying legend.

See his first batch of posters here.
His posters for my favorite movies: Suspiria, Wild at Heart, M, The Third Man, and Sixteen Candles.

“You want some samples?” he asked. His workshop was piled high in rolls of movie posters for local cinemas. Outsider masterpieces, they’re drawn in hours, printed on cheap sheets of 30″ by 20″ paper, and slapped up on highway overpasses, building sites, and concrete walls across the city.

His horror posters render horror in full 3-color gore and madness. Sam Raimi’s The Possession has never looked scarier:

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/ by Dean Pickles / 31 Comments
Sweet Movies and Wild Books / ,

The Most Amazing Breakdancing Midget Sequence

It’s 12/12/12, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY RAJINI! I posted this before, but I think only my nephew watched it (about 47 times, my count so far says)… so here it is again. The most amazing Rajini scene of all time:

Now that’s awesome.

(As seen 10 minutes into Adhisaya Piravi, available on MoserBaer.)

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Sweet Movies and Wild Books / ,

Rajnikanth the Superstar

I couldn’t resist adding a second clip from Adhisaya Piravi, Rajnikanth’s 1990 epic.

“Whatever you hear,” says the gangster to his bodyguards, “screams, punches, cries for help… I don’t want you to turn around.”

Then Rajini the Superstar just happens to drive by.

Such bizarre new wave editing. And what a hero.

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Sweet Movies and Wild Books /

American Imperialist Bastards in a North Korean Comic Book

I don’t speak a word of Korean. I wish I did, if only so I could read this North Korean comic that’s been sitting on my bookshelf for years.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments
Sweet Movies and Wild Books / ,

A Brief Aside on Dr Rajkumar, the James Bond of Southern India

Alone in the hotel, drinking Kingfisher and watching old Karanataka films. In 1981’s Keralida Simha, an honest cop has to break up a party of riotous and drugged out delinquents. And it’s something akin to poetry.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 1 Comment
Great Posters, Our Weird Projects, Sweet Movies and Wild Books / ,

Handmade Indian Movie Posters for Unlikely Hollywood Movies

I just got some lo-res photos of the new batch of 20″ by 30″ hand-drawn litho-printed Sandalwood/Kannada movie posters, and they’re fantastic! (If you missed reading about Raju, who draws a new movie poster every three hours, and the 1901 litho machine they’re printed on, go now!)

I have 100 of each of these, so let me know if you’d like one. (If you’re in Bangalore or Beijing, you can have them for free the cost of a coffee. Overseas, I’ll have to charge.) Let me know in the comments below!

My favorite, of course, is the first one…

Jessica Harper, absolutely gorgeous in Dario Argento’s Suspiria:

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/ by Dean Pickles / 78 Comments
Great Posters, Our Weird Projects, Sweet Movies and Wild Books / ,

India’s Incredibly Cool Hand-Drawn Movie Posters

Ramachandraiah prints movie posters for a living. He’s done it ever since 1971, when he bought an ancient lithograph press. He keeps it in a factory north of Bangalore, far from the English town where it was built 111 years ago.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 118 Comments
Strange Tourism, Sweet Movies and Wild Books /

Porn, Rats, and Antique Projectors at Sri Lanka’s Classic Cinemas

We heard there were rats in The Liberty. That it smelled like urine. That the sound was awful. But it’s the most famous cinema in Sri Lanka’s capital, a 1955 Art Moderne beauty, and how could we turn that down?

So we wore socks. Rats don’t like socks.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 9 Comments
Sweet Movies and Wild Books /

The Disastrous Fall of Sanmao

Remember the last time we visited that wretched and bruised little street urchin, Sanmao? Oh, what dark laughs we shared.

Well, the other day I found two new Sanmao books. From 1980 and 1985, they were full of strips I’d never seen. I leapt with joy and overpaid for them — they were antiques, the old man insisted. When I flipped them open, though, I discovered something saccharine and horrible.

What? He’s benching 90? He’s a master of calligraphy? He’s… he’s… what about the blood, gore and sick Chinese humor???

Just to remind you, this is where we last left this homeless waif…

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Sweet Movies and Wild Books /

The Goriest, Raunchiest Chinese Classic of All Time

“Do you know Leonard Cohen?” Sidney shouts. He’s trying to be heard over the album that’s blasting through his hutong apartment. “This is one of his live sessions. I think it’s just wonderful. I like to play it really loud and do my taichi.”

Sidney Shapiro’s 90-something years old. He moved to Shanghai looking for a job in 1947. And he’s lived in Beijing since liberation. In China’s literature circles, he’s a legend. He married a movie star, lived through the Great Leap Forward, defends the Cultural Revolution, and scuffed with Jiang Qing. More than those, he translated one of China’s greatest books — 1,600 pages long — into English.

Sure, that sounds boring. But check out these sweet snippets…

“The farmer… smashed their skulls with his hoe, spattering brain matter.”

“Liu Tang and Yang Xiong brought their policemen’s staves down on Wang’s head with such force that his brains spattered and his eyes bulged, and he fell dead.”

“He whipped out a knife and cut off Ho’s ears. Blood flowed copiously.”

The book is “Outlaws of the Marsh” (水滸傳). It’s about 700 years old and it’s one of the great works of Chinese literature. It exists where Robin Hood meets The Ramayana. And it’s got everything.

Deranged romance…

The prince, impressed by his winning several archery matches in a row, had given him his daughter in marriage. But Xuan Zan’s ugliness had so revolted the girl that she died.

Tips for scoundrels….

“These seduction cases are the hardest of all. There are five conditions that have to be met before you can succeed. First, you have to be as handsome as Pan An. Second, you need a tool as big as a donkey’s. Third, you must be as rich as Deng Tong. Fourth, you must be as forbearing as a needle plying through cotton wool. Fifth, you’ve got to spend time. It can be done only if you meet these five requirements.”

“Frankly, I think I do. First, while I’m far from a Pan An, I still can get by. Second, I’ve had a big cock since childhood.”

Ass humor….

“Ximen was frolicking with Golden Lotus upstairs. At the sound of Wu Song’s voice he farted with terror and pissed in his pants.”

And this book is considered a classic? Not just a classic, but one of the FOUR greatest books of Chinese literature.

“There are hairs in this dumpling that look a lot like pubic hairs.”

“What’s in these?” he asked. “Human flesh, or dog’s?”

There are three different TV series based on the length of it, and a half-dozen movie adaptations. There’s at least one porno version. There are video games, comic books, operas, and more.

Toilet humor, you see, is considered an art in China. The Farrelly Brothers would have thrived here. Even Mao loved to litter his quotes and poems with references to his farts and shits.

And really, this book is awesome. Once you get past the blood and viscera, there’s even epicurean poetry that makes me crave a Shandong feast.

The waiter went downstairs and soon returned with a jug of “Moonlight Breeze on Lovers’ Bridge”—a fine liquor, and a tray of vegetable dishes and tidbits to go with it. Then came fat mutton, crispy chicken, less-steeped goose and fillet of beef, all served on vermilion plates and platters.

“I was saved by Song Jiang,” Sidney told Liz and me. He’d spent the turbulent China years, during the cultural revolution, translating it into English, avoiding all of the infights and the political battles that surrounded his coworkers. The only problem was the title.

“I wanted to call it Heroes of the Marsh,” he said, “but Jiang Qing wouldn’t have it.” Jiang was Mao’s witch-like wife. She was worried about celebrating rebellious miscreants. So she sent a pair of thugs to his office. “So I changed the word to Outlaws,” Sidney said, then laughed. “I don’t think she realized it’s a positive word in the West.”

I didn’t realize that either.

The book is about 108 rebels — many of them historical figures — and it seems strange to glorify them at all. They take to the mountains of Shandong to fight corruption and injustice, but dole out as much drunken violence as they can muster. They see themselves as heroic figures, but blindly slash and rape and maim with joy. Even a razing of a church is seen as a passing error.

“I used to tend the vegetable garden in the Guangming Monastery,” says Zhang Qing the Vegetable Gardener. “I got into an argument over a small thing and lost my temper. I killed the monks and burned the monastery to the ground. But nothing happened.”

And that’s one of the heroes.

Here’s another. His name is Li Kui. He’s known as the Black Whirlwind for his dark skin, incredible temper, and the two axes he waves in circles as he dives into crowds.

“These two big axes of mine haven’t had any action for a long time,” said Li Kui the Black Whirlwind. “I’m glad to hear we’re going to fight and pillage again. Let me have five hundred men and I’ll take the Northern Capital, hack Governor Liang into mincemeat, dismember the corpses of Li Gu and that adulterous female, and rescue Lu the Magnate and Shi Xiu!”

Hooray! Oh, he’s told off time and again, but it never really holds. Here’s one of my favorite Li Kui adventures. He’s been irritated by a holy man’s attitude…

Li Kui groped for his two axes, quietly opened the house door and, step by step in the moonlight, made his way up the mountain. The double portals of the Temple of Purple Void were shut, but the fence around the compound was not high, and he cleared it in a leap. After opening the portals in readiness for a retreat, he crept into the grounds till he came to the Hall of Pines and Cranes. He heard someone within chanting scriptures. He crawled closer and poked a hole through the paper window. Luo the Sage was seated alone on his dais. Two smoking candles on a table before him shed a bright light.

“That wretched Taoist,” thought Li Kui. “He deserves to die.”

Stealthily, he crept to the latticed door and, with one push, swung it creaking open. He charged in, raised his axes and brought them down on the Sage’s forehead. Luo collapsed on his dais. His flowing blood was white. Li Kui laughed.

“The varlet must have been a virgin. He’s still got all his male essence. He hasn’t used any of it! There’s not a drop of red blood in him!” Li Kui took a close look at his handiwork. His ax had cleaved the Sage’s hat and split his head right down to his neck.

“Today, I’ve removed a trouble-maker,” Black Whirlwind observed with satisfaction.

It’s a little strange.

But, at the same time, this book reads with an odd relevance, today. These 108 are disgruntled. They believe in the Emperor, and in China, but they’re sick to death of the greedy, embezzling, toadying provincial leaders. They’re sick of corrupt leaders imprisoning the innocents, stealing the contracts, polluting their cities. They’re looking for a change.

It sounds familiar. I know the book is still being read, and referenced, regularly. It’s sold in every bookstore. Every child knows the stories. But how do you think a contemporary remake might be received?

(It’s something I’d like to see.)

Discuss below, or buy the book here.

/ by Dean Pickles / 8 Comments
Sweet Movies and Wild Books /

Prosthetic Noses, Red Wigs, and Whiteface… American Characters in Chinese Films

Hollywood’s never been too subtle when it comes to Asia.

Mickey Rooney, yellow-skinned, buck-toothed and slanty-eyed, howling “Horry Gorightry!!!” down the staircase yet again. Warner Oland, carefully quoting his ancient proverbs before smacking Number Two Son yet again. And what was that Long Duck Dong quote? Oh yes, of course, “No more yankie my wankie!”

And yet… as cringeworthy as it is, the same happens back here in China.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 8 Comments
Historical Wonders, Sweet Movies and Wild Books /

Inspector Black Cat: China’s Gore-Soaked Answer to Tom & Jerry

Cute baby bunnies, frolicking in a field. Identical twin monkeys, playing hide and seek. A sweet baby panda, serving soup to his sickly mother.

This is how the 1986 mainland cartoon for kids, Inspector Black Cat (黑猫警长), always starts.

But then… well, let’s just say it’s Tarantino time.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 6 Comments
Historical Wonders, Sweet Movies and Wild Books /

China’s all-time favorite (and all-time darkest?) comic book: Sanmao

Not many foreigners know about Sanmao. Here in China, though, he’s bigger than Disney.

He’s as prone to mischief as Bart Simpson. As endlessly honest as Richie Rich. And as dark as Charlie Brown. Darker. Even though Sanmao comics are as much for kids as they are adults, they’re filled with death, bloodshed, and misery. Sanmao is one seriously weird comic book. (Many more pages, plus clip from the movie, below)

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/ by Dean Pickles / 9 Comments
Historical Wonders, Sweet Movies and Wild Books / ,

Red Detachment of Awesome

This Wednesday thru Friday, if you’re in Beijing, you shouldn’t miss the best of the “model operas,” The Red Detachment of Women (红色娘子军). Playing for three nights only at Poly Plaza.

It’s called a model opera, but it’s actually a ballet. The eight model operas were, during the height of the cultural revolution, the only artistic performances allowed. Five operas, two ballets, and a single symphony, all of them micro-controlled by Mao’s psychopathic wife, Jiang Qing.

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/ by Dean Pickles / Comments Off on Red Detachment of Awesome
Sweet Movies and Wild Books /

Kim Jong Il’s Remarkable Series of Books About Film

(Happy Kim Il Sung’s eternal birthday!)

Sergei Eisenstein wrote extensively on film theory.  As did Lloyd Kaufman.  So, knowing what a film buff Kim Jong Il is, I was proud to see he’d already hopped on that bandwagon. 

kimjongilcinemaanddirecting

I recently picked up his fascinating 1987 treatise on filmmaking techniques, “The Cinema and Directing.” It’s short at only 69 pages (while he’s short at only 69– bam!), but he really knows how to pack in those anti-consumerist punches. 

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/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments
Sweet Movies and Wild Books /

China’s first sci-fi movie: Death Ray on Coral Island (1980)

Sci-fi books?  China’s got tons of those.

But when it comes to sci-fi movies, China’s really falling behind.  One that really did impress me, though, was the very first to be produced in China: 1980’s gorgeous, fun, and campy “Death Ray on Coral Island” (珊瑚岛上的死光).

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In “Death Ray,” a good-hearted team of Chinese scientists, based in what appears to be San Francisco, finally succeed in completing their fabulous futuristic invention. That is, until the sinister back-stabbing Americans, played with Bond-villainous glee by Chinese actors in whiteface and prosthetic noses, decide to steal the invention for their evil plots. They use sabotage, death-ray guns, murder, and even cocktails, to get what they want. The head scientist, shortly after being gunned down with a 激光 laser and left for dead, hands off the circuit board to his brave son-in-law.  “Take this, and flee!”  But those lousy Americans don’t give up…  they shoot down the kid’s plane over shark-infested, death-ray-filled waters, and he ends up on a mysterious Dr Moreau island.  On this island?  Oh, just more death rays, a robot, a mute dogsbody (ahem), some cool sound effects, and loud disembodied “Number Two” announcements.  Oh, it just keeps going!

Okay, “Death Ray” is very cheesy… The effects are terrible, the plot– based on the story by Tong Enzheng — is wildly convoluted, and it really reminds me a lot of the 1950s American sci-fi films.  With more awesome Hawaiian strings on the score.

But it’s also earnest, and a really interesting slice of Reform & Opening Up China. At its core is the duelling lust & hate for the West…  shots of the futuristic and desirous overseas American life, which is ruined only by the evil Americans who live there.  (I remember experiencing the same duality as a schoolboy in England: all of my classmates were obsessed with America, but hated Americans.  I guess we all experience this everywhere…)

And then there’s the dancing, the glorious ballroom dancing!  It was all the craze in the mainland at the time, so there’s a great extended (8 minutes or so?) scene, which is set in a ballroom dancing party.  Not much point to the scene, except to watch (and study) the moves.  If you haven’t already, don’t miss Ginger Huang’s wonderful article from The World of Chinese magazine about “The Last 30 Years of Dancing in China.”  Not only is she a great writer, it’s a fascinating story.  (Executions for holding dance parties…  and more.)

The film remains unsubtitled, which is a crime — it’s delicious fun — so I’m working on fan-subtitling it. (Help always appreciated!)  But in the meantime, here are some colorful pix from a VCD copy.

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Don’t miss the futuristic backgrounds.

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I’m confused about this classic clock in among all the futuristic computery, but it works.

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The floppy disc took me back to my younger days. Plus, love the bathroom tile walls.

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What is this machine?  “Pox license”? “EGG”?

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The white-skinned, red-headed, prosthetic-nosed force of evil…

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Eight minutes of ballroom dancing.

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The evil sweater is sweet. Later, he dramatically rips off his sunglasses. Won’t reveal the shocker.

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Cut back to dancing for a while.  A long while.

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That henchman’s shnozz has to be prosthetic, no?

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Death ray effects.  Have to say…  kinda weak.

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More henchmen.  That’s a wig on the redhead, right?

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I think I know this robot guy from Fisherman’s Wharf.

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I wish you could see the massive speedboat she’s helming, but… you get the idea.

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This brilliant scientist isn’t really insane.  You have to see their trickery to believe it…

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The evil boss, in his younger, permed wig days.  I love this guy.

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Great asylum design!  Especially adore the droopy white lines.

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I won’t give away the ending, but…. well…  *KABOOM!*

If you want to help with subtitles, let me know!

/ by Dean Pickles / 10 Comments