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Retro Penguin Paperback Covers #12: Penguin Crime Special #2

I’ve been neglectful of the blog in the last week. I’d like to think that someone out there has noticed. I’ll endeavour to step up my game – I promise. I couldn’t leave all of my retro Penguin paperback loving brethren in the lurch though. Welcome to this week’s edition of Retro Penguin Covers. This is another special edition, featuring designs from the often-stunning Penguin Crime series. You can find my first Penguin Crime special here, and all other Penguin entries here. As usual, each are scanned at 300dpi. Have an amazing weekend.

Death of a Stray Cat by Jean Potts (design by Romek Marber)

Dreadful Summit by Stanley Ellin (design by Germano Facetti)

Gun Before Butter by Nicolas Freeling (design by Denise York)

Little Brother Fate by Mark-Carter Roberts (design by Romek Marber)

Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham (design by Minale/Tattersfield/Provinciall)

Police Blotter by Robert L. Pike (design by Humphrey Stutton)

Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham (design by Minale/Tattersfield/Provinciali)

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (design by Romek Marber)

The High Wire by William Haggard (design by Martin Bassett)

The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (photo by Alan Spain and Nelson Christmas)

- Matthew Revert

Documentary of the Week: Pretty As A Picture – The Art of David Lynch (1997)

Here’s a great documentary from 1997 about David Lynch, filmed during the making off and premiere of ‘Lost Highway’. My personal feelings about Lynch are somewhat mixed, but I respect him enormously and really think this documentary is worth your time.

From an early age, David Lynch was inspired by the arts and the warm inner glow that comes with the pursuit of creative expression. “Pretty as a Picture:The Art of David Lynch” examines how this modern day Renaissance man makes a motion picture, and examines, through his artistic explorations, the very nature of creativity.

Please enjoy ‘Pretty as a Picture: The Art of David Lynch’ and have yourself a great Sunday.

- Matthew Revert

Drooling Over Vinyl: ‘I Trust My Guitar, etc.” by Magik Markers

Today it dawned on me… I now have a scanner big enough to scan LP covers! As such, this new series has been born. I’m not 100% happy with the quality of these scans. I need to learn how to treat the scanner just right. I promise that I’ll stop banging on about my scanner soon. It probably strikes you as a little obsessive. Enjoy the design for ‘I Trust My Guitar, etc.’ by Magik Markers. I’ve loved this jacket since the day I got it (quite a bit more than the music, truth be told).

- Matthew Revert

Retro Penguin Paperback Covers #11

It feels good to be back on schedule. My new scanner is proving itself a worthy replacement and the retro Penguin love is ready to flow in an effort to bolster your Friday. All previous entries in this seemingly endless series can be found here. Please enjoy this week’s selection and thank you so much for stopping by. Click on each cover for the full 300dpi experience.

Drunkard’s Walk by Frederik Pohl (illustration by Kenneth Randall)

Faith Healing by Louis Rose (photograph by Peter Goodliffe)

Girl With Green Eyes by Edna O’Brien (design not credited)

Knots by R.D. Laing (design by Jutta Werner)

Lady Luck: The Theory of Probability by Warren Weaver (design by Tony Meeuwissen)

Ripley Underground by Patricia Highsmith (design by Ivan Holmes)

The Architecture of Matter by S. Toulmin & J. Goodfield (design by Germano Facetti)

Spencer: The Man Versus the State edited by Donald Macrae (cover shows detail from ‘Design for a Lighthouse’ by Boullée)

The Oracle of Change: How to Consult the I Ching by Alfred Douglas (design uncredited)

What is History? by E.H. Carr (design by Sydney King)

RIP Donna Summer

I was saddened this morning to learn of the death of Donna Summer who, at 63, lost her fight with cancer. I’ve long had a soft spot for Summer’s impossibly sexy disco sound. I rate the following songs as two of the sexiest ever recorded.

- Matthew Revert

Lee Friedlander’s Workplace Photography

In the 80s, photographer Lee Friedlander took his camera into various workplaces around America and emerged with these stunning photos. All scanned at 300dpi.

Akron, Ohio – 1980

Akron, Ohio – 1980

Cleveland, Ohio – 1980

Canton, Ohio – 1980

Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin – 1986

Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin – 1986

Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin – 1986

Rice Lake, Wisconsin – 1986

Boston – 1985

Boston – 1986

Boston – 1985

Boston – 1985

Boston – 1986

Boston – 1985

Boston – 1985

Boston – 1985

Boston – 1985

- Matthew Revert

Film Review: Secret Weapons (1972, David Cronenberg)

In the hearts of cinema lovers everywhere, David Cronenberg hold a special place, particularly his early period. From the late 60s to the early 80s, we are rewarded with what many (including myself) view as the quintessential Cronenberg. From his early experimental short films such as ‘Stereo’ and ‘Crimes of the Future’ to his commercially viable creep fests like ‘Rabid’, ‘Scanners’ and ‘Videodrome’, Cronenberg has never failed to infuse his films (no matter how trashy) with genuine intelligence and multi-facetted dread. Cronenberg’s quintessential horror, although certainly visceral and often gory, was the horror of the body. Cronenberg was more interested in the pernicious activities lurking within the fortean walls of monolithic corporations than the psycho lurking with a knife in the bushes. It has always been my contention that Cronenberg’s early films represent true horror.

In the 70s, Cronenberg directed a number of seldom-seen, made-for-TV shorts. This was before he’d blow audiences away with the genuinely unnerving, ‘Shivers’ in 1975. With the interesting but meandering shorts, ‘Stereo’ and ‘Crimes of the Future’ under his belt, he certainly must have seemed like an odd proposition. While both of these films contained wonderful, distinctly Cronenbergian ideas, they betrayed their student origins, lacking dynamics and toying with pretention like only a student film can. For those who haven’t had the opportunity to see these two early films, I’d direct you toward the very generous 2-disc ‘Fast Company’ set, which offers them both as a bonus. The ‘Fast Company’ set is a treat for Cronenberg completists and highly recommended.

In 1972, as part of a ‘Programme X’ TV series, Cronenberg directed a short film called ‘Secret Weapons’, which he has, for one reason or another, referred to evermore as his ‘suppressed’ film. I can find no information as to exactly how this was suppressed. It seems more logical to me that the film wasn’t a success and canned by the TV studio, but if you have any information, please feel free to comment.  ‘Secret Weapons’ represents a few milestones for Cronenberg. For one, it was his first to include synced sound, but it was also the first real indicator that Cronenberg was capable of corralling his ingenious ideas into narrative form. To this day it remains perhaps his most seldom seen film and it’s safe to say that too few people are aware of its existence to truly consider it ‘sought after’.

‘Secret Weapons’ was written by Norman Snider, who Cronenberg would, over a decade later, collaborate with when writing his masterpiece, ‘Dead Ringers’. It concerns a depiction of America 6 years in the future that has plunged into civil war. From this dystopian base, a man has invented a drug that purports to increase fighting ability among those who take it. The decision must now be made as to whether the drug should be handed over to the oppressive government regime or to the rebels. As you can see, several of Cronenberg’s thematic staples are present here. We have a mysterious drug that alters the makeup of the body and then we have the shady organisation whose intentions are not to be trusted. But perhaps, more than anything else, we have that distinct, impossibly uncomfortable vibe that Cronenberg so effortlessly created with his early films. It’s hard to pin down exactly how this vibe is achieved. The mis-en-scene is infused with negative space, which adds to the sense of isolation. This has the unusual effect of momentarily removing Cronenberg’s film outside of the existing cinematic canon and into a sterilised realm of its own. It’s distinctly uncomfortable, yet hypnotic in execution. The characters speak without much emotion, further distancing you from them and the film in general.

‘Secret Weapons’ is of importance because it represents the first Cronenberg film that truly works outside of the intellectual undercurrents of its subject matter. It was an important bridge between his interesting, but ultimately failed early film experiments, and the powerful commercially viability of what followed. Cronenberg, even in his most commercial fare, hasn’t had to compromise as much as many of his peers, but the ways in which he did learn to compromise became an extension of his art. It was a compromise that served the importance of his message rather than detracting from it.

‘Secret Weapons’ is a film that should be seen but is, as yet, unavailable in any commercial form. Not so long ago, it emerged in its entirety on http://www.indiemoviesonline.com, which was a boon to many, but not available to all. To this day, if you reside outside of America, UK or Australia, you are unable to stream the film. This means that those in Cronenberg’s homecountry of Canada are still unable to watch an early curio by one of their greatest exports. This infuriates me. For this reason, I’ve decided to upload to full film to YouTube so that (unless it gets taken down) it will be accessible to all. Please enjoy David Cronenberg’s ‘Secret Weapons’.

- Matthew Revert (this post was originally written for www.mondoexploito.com)

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