Thursday, January 31, 2008


It's been several days since the annual State of the Union message and I am still not feeling well. The sight of Kukla, Fran and Ollie -- the top three leaders of this here semi-United States -- invariably invokes in me a nausea not unlike the time I was forced to watch all of WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, the Technicolor pap smear that is definitely among the worst movies ever.

Having said this, I must admit to a small sense of amusement as I watch Congress act like they are singing I'M A LITTLE TEAPOT. You know, as in:

I'm a little teapot
Short and stout...
When I get all steamed up
Hear me shout

As for me, I simply want to scream.

Let's face it, Bush, Pelosi and Cheney are imposters. They are not even close to being "leaders," nor are they the real Kukla, Fran and Ollie.

It's as plain as black & white -- these three from the good old days of yesteryear would be better.

And should they not be available, how about the Nairobi Trio instead?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Nonsensical Christmas Postmortem

I got a sweater for Christmas...

I really wanted a screamer or a groaner.

(The good news is that I just now decided where I want my cremated ashes interred.)

Friday, January 25, 2008


Let's see if I get this straight. The President and the House of Representatives have joined forces and announced a "stimulus" package that will give me a $600.00 tax rebate to quickly boost the American economy and lead this nation back to prosperity.

As Lord Byron once wrote, "Crimini, jimini! Did you ever hear such a mimminy pimminy story...?"

This "generous" $600 rebate means that every day over the next full year I can purchase a Hostess Twinkie at the local Tiger Mart and still have a shiny quarter left over for something else. I can't recall when I have ever felt so "flush."

Or is it "flushed?"

As in down the toilet.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I'm sure that most of you will agree that a person's name can have a huge impact on his or her life, as well as those around them. What little boy named Jesse isn't going to be a trouble-maker? How many Heathers have you met that are ugly? In fact, a person's name can actually define them as well as their place in history. Take, for example, Machiavelli or Ebenezer Scrooge or Antoni Gaudi or Groucho Marx or General Ambrose Burnside or Madonna (not!). Anyway, with all due respect to Shirley Ellis, let's play "The Name Game" with the current crop of presidential frontrunners.

Hillary (No last name needed) -- All I can say is that I'm pretty sure every evil, wicked witch in every Nordic fairy tale is named Hillary. And that ain't a good thing...

Rudy Giuliani -- As the only candidate with a name that possesses rime couee I have to give him a point or two. But the spelling is all wrong; if only it were "Jewliani."

John McCain and John Edwards -- The two "Johns" help define the term "American Standard." The former lacks two fully articulating arms and mouth, the latter is too unpredictable should he ever experience a bad hair day. As the saying goes, it's now time for them to "get off the pot."

Mike Huckabee -- Is this an appropriate name for the leader of the free world? I don't know who's pulling his strings unless it is Buffalo Bob Smith. Hell, he might as well be named Howdy Doody.

Barack Obama -- Oh momma, could this name be any worse? Iraq Islama, maybe, but there's no way this guy will be elected in these here United States, Oprah notwithstanding.

Mitt Romney -- Here's the other follicle folly still running. It's obvious he doesn't know shit from Shinola (unless it is used to color his hair) and my biggest fear is that he would tab Slick Rick Perry to be his running mate. Anyway, getting back to his name -- Mitt? What kind of name is Mitt? I'm definitely all for America being MOR -- "Mitt out Romney."


Just as things appear bleakest I look up and see a faint light at the end of the tunnel. It's only a flicker, a flicker of hope, but maybe, just maybe Ron Paul can take it all. Of all the candidates I like him the best. He doesn't flip-flop and he seems to actually have the country's best interests at heart (vs. his own). As it stands now, Ron Paul is my choice.

Besides, I really like his wife's fish sticks.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Hallelujah! British director Arthur Crabtree has just joined the exclusive ranks of such luminaries as Altman, Truffaut, Fellini, Hitchcock, Eisenstein, Fassbinder and Godard thanks to the prestigious Criterion Collection having just released FIEND WITHOUT A FACE in its "continuing series of important classics and contemporary films." This is a terrific and well-deserved honor.

I first saw FIEND WITHOUT A FACE when I was an impressionable ten-year-old-boy living in New Braunfels, Texas. The tagline simply declared: "Invisible Monsters Suck Out Your Brains!" And they suck out spinal cords as well. What else could I have asked for back then? The same question holds today, some fifty years later.

Some critics have called FIEND among the very first "gore films" ever. That's a bit of a stretch, although it was banned in several countries when it was first distributed in 1958, while here in America the MPAA required several minutes to be cut because of scenes deemed to be "too disturbing." Thankfully, the Criterion DVD restores the film to its original 74-minute running time. And what a remarkable seventy-four minutes this is.

The screenplay by Herbert J. Leder was adapted from a frightening short story by Amelia Reynolds Long that first appeared in the greatest pulp magazine ever -- "Weird Tales." And it is a weird tale giving us invisible creatures emanating from pure thought which feed on atomic energy until they grow in strength and, finally, materialize approximately fifty minutes after the opening credits. The wait is well worth it.

Crabtree's direction keeps the story moving along crisply. Marshall Thompson (with over 100 acting credits listed at does a good job playing Major Cummings, the Air Force officer who ultimately saves the day. Kim Parker portrays Barbara Griselle, the obligatory female love interest with perky breasts and a winning smile. Kynaston Reeves, as Professor Walgate, is solid in his role that is somewhat reminiscent of Walter Pidgeon's Dr. Morbius character in FORBIDDEN PLANET. In fact, FIEND and FORBIDDEN share another similarity in that they both explore the concept of a destructive power residing within the subconscious of each and every one of us. This is heady stuff that is presented extremely well in both cases. In addition, both films are great examples of what sound can do to enhance the feeling of doom and/or terror by an unseen enemy. But it is the slurpy sounds uttered by the attacking creatures in FIEND that will keep you away from a 7-11 for a long time to come. Oh thank heaven for Major Cummings.

One more thing -- the animated main menu on this Criterion DVD is priceless. You won't have a more entertaining, fun introduction to a film anywhere. Heck, this feature alone is worth the entire rental fee.

FIEND WITHOUT A FACE is far more than a low-budget sci-fi/horror flick -- in fact, it ranks among the most rigorously anti-intellectual films of all time. Clearly a product of Cold War paranoia, FIEND reflects the period in which it was made. It was a time (much like now, unfortunately) when any type of thought that did not conform to very conservative and traditional lines was treated suspiciously at best, and, all-too-often, was even considered treasonous. In this particular case the biggest danger facing mankind is the misuse of atomic energy -- the de facto result of anyone other than the U.S. government possessing such enormous power. (Maybe Bush is right about Iran and North Korea after all).

Historical, sociological and political perspectives aside, it is the Harryhausen-style stop-motion animation that makes the biggest impact. These disembodied brains made a lasting impression on yours truly, serving as inspiration for the creature appearing in my very first film, THE HORROR OF APRIL 27TH. In this case the creature is an alien who lands in the Texas Hill Country only to be confronted by a gun-toting teenager driving an old Willys Jeep station wagon. (A gun-toting teenager? Hey, don't forget this 8mm masterpiece was shot in Texas.)

Instrumental in the production of THE HORROR OF APRIL 27TH was Mike Byrnes, my Co-Producer, Co-Director and Special Effects Whiz. Also assisting in this endeavor was Tim Hufft, Jim Brietzke and Jon Meyer. Feel free to confront any and all for their involvement in helping foster my "checkered" motion picture career.

THE HORROR OF APRIL 27TH premiered, appropriately enough, the evening of April 27, 1964, in my backyard at 576 Willow Avenue. The audience consisted of approximately thirty friends and family members and one Beagle. The friends and family members were very complimentary; the Beagle showed a remarkable degree of indifference.

Always trust the instincts of a dog...

Monday, January 14, 2008


The voters of Texas got it wrong in the most recent election for Governor.

Dead wrong.

Oh well, at least for one day the Kinkster was the Governor of the Lone Star State thanks to his appearance in a key scene for PALO PINTO GOLD, currently in principal photography at the Enchanted Springs Ranch just outside of Boerne. That's yours truly with Mr. Friedman just prior to his taking the stage in front of 60+ Western-clad townsfolk with Bexar County Judge Nelson W. Wolff, News-Talk Radio Revolutionary Chris Duel from KTSA and, of course, Little Jewford at his side. Writer/Director Anthony Henslee deserves a great big KFC ("Kinky Friedman Cigars") Corona for "righting a wrong," at least on the silver screen, as well as possibly giving us a glimpse of the future.

You see, the climax of this series of scenes has the Honorable Nelson Wolff saying: "Governor Friedman, in light of the fact that this is a presidential election year and not one of the current political candidates has the ability to think, all of us in Palo Pinto want you to know that if you decide to join in this race our vote is for you."

Kinky's reply: "President Friedman. Hmmmm, why the hell not?"

Why the hell not, indeed...

Watch for more updates on PALO PINTO GOLD in the days and weeks ahead.
Robert A. Nowotny, Associate Producer and "The Town Drunk" (Talk about typecasting!)

Monday, January 07, 2008


The Smackdown. Two motion pictures share a similar theme. Both have a pair of geriatric geezers (one white, one black) undertaking adventure in the twilight of their lives. Both films are entertaining, but can the big budget, major studio offering with an "A List" cast and a big name director trump a small, independently-made gem based on a Bram Stoker Award nominated short story? Can Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman best Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis? Is gallimaufry globetrotting more poignant than fighting giant roaches in Nacogdoches? Will the Hollywood-based screenwriter from NYU's film school hold his own against the Mojo Storyteller from the Big Thicket in East Texas? In short, will "The Bucket List" command as fervent and as loyal a following as "Bubba Ho-Tep?"

Fruit of the Loom jumpsuits and a Maxwell parachute -- "Good to the last drop!" What's next?

The Challenger. "The Bucket List" stars two of the biggest, most well-respected actors of our time. Nicholson plays Edward Cole, an enormously wealthy, crotchety cancer patient whose hospital roommate is Carter Chambers (portrayed by Freeman), a middle-class auto mechanic with a big family, a longtime marriage and a penchant for "Jeopardy." He, too, has only six or so months to live. Together they concoct a list of things to do before "they kick the bucket," and thanks to Cole's financial capability the sky's the limit, literally, as they jet their way to the French Riviera, the Serengeti, the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the great Wall of China and on to Tibet. AARP would be proud. Yes, it's a wonderful, albeit, brief life they live, to the fullest, with a lesson or two being learned along the way. There's no question that Screenwriter Justin Zackham pitched a terrific premise for Rob Reiner to direct. And Nicholson and Freeman undoubtedly make the most talented "odd couple" ever. Clearly "The Bucket List" seems to have everything in place to make it a box office hit.

To save money, the patients at the Mud Creek Convalescent Home are provided Maxwell House coffee instead of Starbucks.

The Champion. "Bubba Ho-Tep" opens with three sentences of voice-over that rank among the most outrageous, audacious and bodacious lines in the history of American cinema. And that's just the beginning of a wildly imaginative tale concocted by Joe R. Lansdale and adapated to the screen by writer/director Don Coscarelli that proposes Elvis Presley is now a 68 year old resident of an East Texas nursing home. Of course, no one believes that he is the real deal despite the remarkable resemblance (portrayed brilliantly by Bruce Campbell) and his unrelenting insistence that he swapped lives with an Elvis impersonator so he could escape the hassles of unprecedented fame. I said no one believes him; that's not entirely true. One old codger (played by the late, great Ossie Davis) does accept Elvis' story as true. Then again, this man believes he's none other than John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his now-black skin is just another example of the Johnson Administration's evil ingenuity. What a pair -- and so the stage is set for the King of Rock and Roll and the King of Camelot to undertake the greatest challenge of their lives. You see, residents of this nondescript convalescent center are dying at an alarming rate and the culprit isn't Old Man Time. Rather, it is a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy who just happens to be in the area thanks to a nearby highway accident. And while the mummified soul sucker's roaches are no match for a swift bedpan, he's the real deal as two full body burns will attest.

The Scorecard. Surprisingly, "The Bucket List" borders on being a Hope-Crosby "Road" picture replete with some rather cheesy stock footage backgrounds reminiscent of "The Road to Zanzibar." Despite various technical glitches, Nicholson and Freeman do an admirable job of keeping the viewer entertained in what could have been called "The Road to Cremation." That's star power...but it is star power engulfed in a black hole thanks to the disappointing screenplay by Justin Zackham. Purportedly written in a mere two weeks, it is readily apparent that, despite the best of intentions, Zackham needed not only more time, but more inspiration and another Big Chief Notebook Tablet or two. On the other hand, "Bubba Ho-Tep" works on every level -- it is touching, it is convincingly acted, it is extremely entertaining, it is thought-provoking and it succeeds because it treats its outrageous premise with total sincerity. Let me emphasize that it is also very well written.

The Decision. "Bucket" or "Bubba?" "Bubba Ho-Tep" is a triumph of the human spirit. Coscarelli has an uncanny way of making us really care for Lansdale's cooped-up old coots living their last days in ignominity. Unfortunately, "The Bucket List" fails to do the same. Ironically, one of the items on "The Bucket List" is to "witness something truly majestic." When comparing these two feature films, it is "Bubba," not "Bucket," that comes closest to that goal.