Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Wedding at Cana- What a Lousy Miracle!

            Have you ever wondered about the wedding at Cana? The one Heyzeus and his boys crashed around 31 CE. The actual location of Cana, if there ever was one, is unknown. It may have been any one of a dozen little villages in Galilee, or it may have been lost to time, or it may have been completely fictitious.
Reflect upon it for a moment and I will set up the scene. Heyzeus and the boys are hanging out at a wedding party in the town of Cana. The party then runs out of wine. His mother runs up to him and says, “They have no wine.” And Heyzeus snarkily replies (I assume that he had had a few, so it’s excusable), “Oh woman, what had this to do with me? My hour is not yet come.” Meaning don’t bother him, it wasn't time to be nailed to a cross yet.
He then relents to his Jewish mother’s nagging and then orders the servants to fill the wine containers with water and then draw it out again. The servants pour out wine and take it to the head waiter, who tastes it and claims that it was the best served all evening. This miracle is regarded as the first sign among his followers that Heyzeus is the messiah and is walking the road to an impending crucifixion.
I’m going to ignore the fact that it sounds like he just mixed water with the sediment collected at the bottom of the gourds and produced a light version of the vintage. Additionally I’m going to put aside that this story is not written about  in any of the synoptic gospels, only making an appearance in John, which was written much later than the other three - about the second century CE. This act has always struck me as a very odd miracle. It doesn’t really show off much of a compassionate nature or intent- as does the other miracles. It doesn’t involve bringing people back from the dead or curing them of leprosy. It’s not even on par with the feeding of the multitudes, because that was a very public forum and regarded people’s very real need to eat. It was a show of generosity.
The Wedding at Cana comes across as more of a drunken frat trick. “Hey look at me turn water into wine dudes, it’s fucking awesome. Party!” What is the point of it? Is there one, besides him looking cool at a party? Granted I’ve often found this miracle useful is justifying my alcoholism to Christian types, but it serves no real purpose. The Wedding at Cana is the miraculous equivalent of going for a beer run.
Personally I feel that it was thrown into John from a different gospel attributed to a different messiah (there were several other contenders for the position at the time swimming around in Judea), or perhaps from a different religion entirely, maybe a Bacchanalian cult. 
But why staple this new miracle in? What was wrong with the one listed. The answer is simple and deals with numerology. There weren’t enough miracles already listed. John added one in order to reach seven. In ancient numerology, including Kabbalist lore, the number seven represents completeness and perfection in both a spiritual and physical sense. As opposed to the number six, which mankind, human weakness, and the manifestation of the Adversary. Thus man was created on the 6th day and given six days of labor. God and Heyzeus are one better, Man +1.  
The writers of the Gospel of John needed an extra miracle in order to prop up their notions of Heyzeus’s messianic claim. Thus we have the Wedding at Cana.  So sayeth the word of Rex Hurst!

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Love Butcher - The Citizen Kane of Crap!

One snow-clad evening some friends and I stumbled across The Love Butcher at our local video shop. This was back during the golden age of video stores (perhaps the shortest golden age in history) where it was easy for a mom and pop store to make money renting films, before the corporate video stores (Blockbuster and Hollywood Video) drove them all out of business.
The place we frequented was a joint called Video Factory which specialized in all of the gory low budget flicks that other chains refused to carry. You could tell this type of film simply from the packaging. For some reason the best bad films always came in an oversized box, usually blue with black and red text splattered on it. The Love Butcher was one such film.
At first it was just one of several films we had plucked out that night, squashed between House of Psychotic Women and The Blood Beast Terror, but it quickly rose above them for verve and guts. And, unlike the other two, it didn’t depend upon cheap monster props and insane plot twists (there is a plot twist in it, but it actually makes sense). There is no mystery either. You see the killer ten minutes in and find out exactly what kind of weirdo he is.
This is a bad film, low budget and with horrible acting and contorted dialogue- for example, in one scene the killer screams, “Your feminine pulchritude is detestable!” right before sticking in the knife. But, like The Room and Troll 2, The Love Butcher represents the best qualities of a bad film. Mainly that the people involved were trying their best to make a good film, but failed spectacularly. There is no intentional campiness here, it is all completely by accident.
The plot is thus: Caleb, an older bald gardener with a “gimp” hand and coke-bottle glasses, works in an area where multiple women have been raped and murdered, but not always in that order. At night, Caleb puts on a toupee and traipses around as his own brother Lester, who doesn’t need glasses and has a much larger vocabulary. Russell is a reporter trying to get to the bottom of these murders.  While Russell fights with his girlfriend and searches for clues, Lester (The self-proclaimed “Great male Adonis of the universe”.) infiltrates the houses of women Caleb gardens for using a series of disguises and unconvincing accents. 
These do lead to one amazing scene where Lester, after he drowns a woman with a garden hose, stares in the mirror and begins recreating the scene in his mind- we see the action reconstructed to show Lester as more dominant. The perspective of Lester shifts as well. In one he is seen as the smiling Adonis, and the other as the deranged maniac. It is superbly done and of a type I’ve not seen recreated elsewhere.
Meanwhile Russell and the police cannot find a connection between the victims despite:   
A. All of the women being killed in the same area.
B.  All of them having the same gardener.
C. All of the women being killed with gardening tools.
Big mistake Flo!
Russell’s girlfriend Flo, who also employs Caleb, makes the mistake of being nice to him and offering him lunch. In Caleb’s diseased mind this is practically a marriage proposal, which drives Lester wild. This leads to a confrontation between Lester and Russell and a rather different twist ending- which was very satisfying.
The Love Butcher was made in 1978 just when the supernatural slasher pics were being stamped in stone, thanks to Halloween. So while it conforms to most of the conventions of the genre, it also plays off of them very successfully.
Erik Stern in Night Rider
As is typical of a lot of these B-movies, most of the stars of The Love Butcher never appeared in another film. The exceptions being Erik Stern, who played Caleb/Lester, while never again being a star in a film, became a character actor in the 80s appearing in episodes of Night Rider, Riptide, The Love Boat, The Fall Guy, Hunter, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, Matlock, Murder She Wrote, with bit parts in Assassination (staring Charles Bronson) and Wargames (staring Mathew Broderick and Dabney Coleman). After the 80s his TV and film career petered out and he became an acting instructor, dying in 2012 at the age of 74.
Richard Kennedy in Happy Days
Second is Richard Kennedy  who plays the police detective Don Stark, and is perhaps the only competent actor in the film, was also in episodes of a number of TV show, most notably, Happy Days, Beretta, and Little House on the Prairie, and handful of bad films- such as the Nazi general who is urinated on by Diane Thorne in Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS,  Henry Kissinger in Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, and a hillbilly in Invasion of the Blood Farmers. His career continued on into the 80s where he died in 1985 at the age of 78.
The Love Butcher is a satisfying romp of cinematic effluence. It is truly a film I have seen over 50 times, can recite it line by line, and in every viewing I notice something new. It is the definition of “so bad it’s good”. Like most bad films its best viewed with a few friends and a some alcohol, the communal atmosphere somehow adds to the event. Follow those guidelines and I guarantee you that it won’t disappoint. It is truly the Citizen Kane of crap.
      Watch the full movie below. Enjoy!


Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Madison-Felix Awards: The Ways of the Madisons

The Madison-Felix Awards was an awards show in Buffalo New York, which ran from 1995-2005. It was put together by my friend Big Brian and I. In reality it was a parody of an awards show mixed with an open bar drinking contest. Still it was fun and irreverent and some of the best parties I've ever had. But like all good times, they eventually drifted off to the land of nostalgia. The next several blogs are dedicated to their memory.
Unfortunately we have come to an end in our reflections of the great show. There's not much more to tell, we scoured every nook and cranny , but I couldn't leave without one final word. A person may ask, as I sometimes am, what set the Madison-Felix’s apart? True it wasn’t a “real” awards show. Legally speaking it was a private party. Everyone who came was specially invited- except for one year when a series of old people kept blundering in asking if we were showing Metropolis.
Our first difference is not giving awards to films which had been released that year. We felt we had 90 years of films to catch up on, so our nominees ran the gambit from the recent to the cinematic stone age of silent films (BTW everyone should take another look at the old pre-Hays code silent. There was plenty of discussion of drug use, alcoholism, homosexuality and heterosexuality. On par with modern films). Our initial intent with the Madison-Felix’s was to show only good films and opening the range allowed us to display as many as we wanted. But as with all things that Big Brian and I tried it degenerated quickly.
A little anecdote here- Big Brian and I had tried something similar before. Four of us, Myself, Big Brian, Jeff Death (RIP), and Dr. I (a madman of a different stripe) had all left the cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. We then founded the Dashwood Society and vowed that we would, instead of Rocky Horror, on Friday nights, watch the greatest films of all time like the sophisticated individuals that we were.
That lasted two weeks. From there we quickly descended into series of low grade slashed flicks (where we discovered the glory that is The Love Butcher- The Citizen Kane of Crap), then pornography, then oddball subsects of porn such as bestiality and coprophagia clips- which was damn difficult to find in the pre-internet days.
The Madison-Felix’s went the same way. By the third year we wanted to show off as much weird, disgusting, offbeat material as we could lay our hands on. Now, we were never sure who would win as we did have people vote on it. Yes it was legitimate, but Big Brain and I were the ones who chose the nominees and often we would “guide” the voters to a specific choice by padding the nominations with items that they would dislike. Sometimes that worked, others time it didn't.
      The Madison-Felixs' were a cheap joke that bloomed into the best party of the year. For all of us involved, it was never about the show by itself. It was a party. It was about showing off. It was about reconnecting with people you might never see again. It gave everyone a chance to perform and be the center of attention.
      In a strange way The Madison-Felix's were a show without an audience, because everyone was involved with the performance. Whether it was a speech or skit before giving away an award, reciting a bit of poetry or a story, or just general cat calling, everyone played a part in the show. Everyone added to everyone else's enjoyment. Everyone made it special. Big Brian and I mad have stuck the match, but everyone lit a torch from it, spreading the flame wide.
     The show was cheap and grungy at times, but that added to its charm. Will it be remembered by people beyond this generation? No. It will be lost the mash of history along with the other awards and festivals that recorded history has abandoned. But it is still alive in our hearts and memories for decades to come. It was our show. Done for us, by us. And that's something we will never lose. For everyone who came, for everyone who said their piece, The Madison-Felixs' were as much your show as it was mine.  Thank you, relax and enjoy. We all made it great and we all deserve applause. Free beer!

... And llama fucking!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Madison-Felix Awards Guest Commentary III

The Madison-Felix Awards was an awards show in Buffalo New York, which ran from 1995-2005. It was put together by my friend Big Brian and I. In reality it was a parody of an awards show mixed with an open bar drinking contest. Still it was fun and irreverent and some of the best parties I've ever had. But like all good times, they eventually drifted off to the land of nostalgia. This and the next blog are dedicated to their memory.

          We now have a late entry into our guest commentary selections. Tony House has finally put finger to keyboard and unleashed his memories upon us. This will be the last commentary blog and the second to last Madison-Felix blog.

                                                                  Memories of the Madisons
       Well, for whatever reason my memory is a little hazy on this.
       What does come to mind is that I was at 9 of the 10 Madisons. I wasn't at the first one. I don't recall if Dan invited me to the second one or if I had overheard him talking about it and asked to be invited. In any case I wasn't exactly sure what to make of it that first year going. While I knew Dan, uh Rex, - oh hell, Rex= Dan and Dan=Rex - whomever it was, I didn't know all of the people Rex knew. He met some at Buff State, some from Rocky Horror and I'm assuming some from the house on Comstock. I lived three blocks away and didn't know he was there (but that has nothing to do with this story.)

       Anyways, I remember actually wearing a suit to the Madisons. It gave it a sense of elegance.

      Now comes the part where I'm mixing all the years into one thing.
      Walking into the Screening Room, Rex was there greeting people and immediately tasking people with presentation duties. There was also someone handing out ribbons of different colors each of which had some different meaning.

     There was one year when Michael Jackson was in the news for the whole kiddie touching thing. Rex asked everyone presenting to give their best Michael Jackson joke.

     I kept bringing a friend of mine, Pat. He really didn't know what to make of the whole thing but that was ok.

     Charlene mentioned the sterno can thing. When Char found me on Facebook at the end of 2008 she asked if I was Sterno Can Tony. I had no idea what she was talking about so I had her tell me the story she presented here. I have a vague memory of doing that. I'd still like to see the video for the full memory.

     And finally, the following, which I added as a comment to an earlier posting but figure I'd re-add it here:

     Brief addition to the "Free Beer" thing with respect to videos watched.

     I vaguely remember the Brutes and Savages montage. The first time it was shown, it was much later in the show. Or to phrase it a little differently, I had consumed more free beer. So what I was watching had a very surreal, bizarre quality to the whole thing, and thus, funny as hell. I seem to remember laughing hysterically as many others were too. I seem to also remember there were a few people disgusted by what was on the screen. At that point though with what we had been watching, those people shouldn't have been there.

      So the following year, when the scene was shown again, it was much earlier and I hadn't consumed quite as much beer. Due to this unfortunate circumstance I was not in quite the same frame of mind when watching the Peruvian people (or whichever South American civilization they were claiming to be) express their physical love to their beloved pack animals. Thus my reaction was a little less than enthusiastic the second time around. I think Rex might have said something about being drunker previously. Oh well.