Wayning Interests

Random thoughts on and of the modern age

Month: May, 2012

THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD

Author’s note: apologies for the uneven quality of the pictures in this article.

A few years ago, when video shops were going under, you could find some obscure and pretty funny tapes on the cheap. Forget the billion copies of Caddyshack II and The Matrix Reloaded stacked up on tables – the real gems were 90s video shop era porn like Zane’s World, Edward Penishands and Hindfeld, the Video Ezy exclusives like Dating the Enemy, and films that never made it to DVD like Hulk Hogan’s No Holds Barred (or so I thought. Sell your VHS copies now before Vince McMahon makes ’em worthless).

But sometimes you’d stumble upon something so freaky and underground you’d have to question its origin. I paid 50c too much for a 50c tape containing a trailer for the Jet Li film Unleashed aka Danny the Dog…or so says the dodgy label. I also ended up with a tape of a 1976 slasher movie called Blood Voyage.

I haven’t watched it, and I don’t care to. I’m not even really interested in what it’s about; there are enough ironic comedy reviews of the movie online as it is. No, I’m much more interested in the poster, because the video’s cover art is what attracted me to it in the first place, and certainly went a long way toward sealing the $2 deal.

It’s one of those movies that never made it to DVD either, even though it looks like it should sit next to Lance Henriksen’s Spit Fire on the $5 shelf at Kmart or even worse, in one of those 10 DVD horror packs you see at Go-Lo. Despite this, it’s apparently been released on VHS several times. I have to presume that someone at the video distribution company hated the poster artist, because they abused the hell out of that image.

Here’s what I’m guessing was the first US video release:

Now okay, I can give that a pass. They’ve kind of embellished the Blood Voyager a bit, but you still get the idea that that boat isn’t going to be a safe place to be.

Eventually (slow, weren’t they?), the distributors realised the film’s potential as a late night camp classic, and marketed it accordingly. Here’s the second release:

They amped up the blood on his knife, so we’re now halfway through the voyage. In fact, if this is supposed to be a whodunit, why are they showing us the perp on the cover? Is this the ultimate spoiler? This would be like having The Sixth Sense‘s video cover be a picture of Bruce Willis’ grave.

When it was time for a cheap end-of-the-VHS-era re-release, someone called the colouring crew.

Now he looks like a demon, and his body is…too wide. Look at his right arm. He’s built like a tank. To be fair, this deformity is in the original, but it was way less visible there. At least this one restores the multi-perp scenario on the beach, but if it’s on the beach it ain’t a voyage. Did they get on the boat at the beach, or did they disembark on the beach? Plus, thanks for the second use of the title just in case we couldn’t see the first one.

Eventually, Blood Voyage made the voyage to international waters. Here’s the Japanese VHS:

No idea if that random screenshot is from the movie at all. At this distance it looks like he’s on some kind of stage show harness. At least it looks like a nice day. Good work too using the screenshot to cover up the guy’s mega-arm, and monotoning his colour is surprisingly effective. Still, that it’s brought to you by ‘Woo Video’ doesn’t do anything to dispel the reputation of the film as an unintentional comedy.

In the UK, the film is inexplicably known as Nightmare Voyage:

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was The Natalie Wood Story given the wildly different approach to the cover art. I’d argue that this is less effective, and even the title seems less campy as Nightmare Voyage. A small crew of four on a tiny boat, and one gets explosive diarrhoea, that’s a Nightmare Voyage. A train trip to Sydney Central at peak hour on the East Hills line, that’s a Nightmare Voyage. Yachting on into the moonlit night when your nagging wife falls overboard? You’re doing alright, comparatively. And so is she, when you think about it. Overboard started this way, and it turned out great for Annie Goolahee.

Looks like it came out in the Czech Republic too. Release a horror movie about an ocean cruise in a landlocked country? Good idea!

Damn, who’s this guy? We’ve never seen him before? He looks like he’s having the headache from hell, and he’s ruined a perfectly good shirt to boot. Now he has to go back to the shop before closing time and try to get a refund. THAT’S a Nightmare Voyage.

Anyway, the version I got had none of this. Here’s what got me aboard the Voyage:

Look at that. Look at it.

Someone did this. Why couldn’t they just use the poster art? Why did they have to redraw it? Why didn’t they hire someone who could draw? Look at his face. Look at his mega-arm; never before has it looked so dislocated. Look at his eyes! He’s the first Blood Voyage guy to look totally crazy rather than just enjoying the release of some pent up rage. This cover is chilling for all the right and wrong reasons, and for $2, it was an absolute bargain. Incidentally, K&C Video were a local Sydney distributor based in Chester Hill. Their address is printed on the video’s label, so it might end up on my other blog one of these days.

Turns out Blood Voyage did eventually make the voyage to DVD via an independent company called Digital Conquest, which transfers out of print VHS movies to DVD and sells them. Good idea, shame about the cover:

Epilogue.

The Blood Voyage poster boy is a character named Mason, played by an actor credited as Jonathan Lippe. Lippe is a pseudonym for actor Jonathan Goldsmith, who in 2006 starred in an ad that would spawn a meme and make him an internet superstar.

Yes, the Blood Voyage guy so betrayed by artists all over the world is now this man:

MEETING RAOUL

Hubris is an ugly thing. If I had my time again, would I have respected the wishes of a spiteful has-been instead of letting my pride get in the way? Could it have changed my entire life, and saved another? Lemme tell ya a story…

Several years ago now, a friend and I came up with a brilliant idea for a television sitcom. So brilliant was this idea that we put together a package to send to prospective producers that included a CD of us as the characters from the show in a series of sketches leading into the show’s storyline itself (I may upload it on here one of these days). So brilliant was this idea that we found ten surefire picks to send the package to.

So brilliant that we only got one considered response. Of the ten places we sent it to, most were the kind of ‘we can’t read unsolicited stuff for legal reasons’ replies we’d half expected, one never sent a reply, and the last was Raoul. In a former life he’d been big in the Australian comedy scene; edgy, hip, dangerous. His comedy efforts had encouraged a fanatical following, one that still persists to this day. I have to admit I hadn’t been heavily into his stuff back in the day; I’d only caught onto his career once he’d gone commercial.

But that was then, and this was now, and the now hadn’t been as kind to Raoul as had the past. Things had wound down for him performance-wise by this point in his career. He was simultaneously teaching an expensive course on comedy writing, and writing a much cheaper book on the same subject. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

We met up with Raoul, and I’ll freely admit I was psyched. It felt as if it was my first real validation as a writer (or performer, for that matter, given the CD). For two hours, Raoul sat with us at Bondi Westfield, chatting about a variety of things…but primarily his uni comedy writing course. I didn’t understand – was he trying to tell us we needed his course? That our writing wasn’t good enough? The other problem was he was sending mixed messages: he gave us all of the notes from his course, and even told us that we now had everything we needed to teach the course ourselves.

The more we talked, and particularly when we talked about our pitch, I got the impression he hadn’t actually read it. He must have read the cover letter and opportunistically thought that we could use his comedy teachings. He kept referencing Everybody Loves Raymond, a show my friend and I both detested, as the perfect sitcom; not a good sign. By the end of the meeting, all he’d successfully convinced us of was that taking his uni course would be a waste of time, since we’d already just heard it all.

Raoul didn’t leave us completely empty handed, though; we had homework. We were to write up a character relationship tree for the main characters of our sitcom. ‘Hell no,’ I said to my friend. There was no way I was doing a character tree for this guy when it was all so clear in the pitch. It was insulting because it was further evidence that he just hadn’t read it, and that even if we did do the tree for him, he either wouldn’t read it or we’d get it back to find our characters had become Raymond and his loving family. We left it at that for a few weeks.

During that silent era, my friend and I made a short film. Once it was done, we thought it’d be a good idea to send it to Raoul, so that he could get a sense of how we approached comedy on film. We emailed him to ask if he’d check it out, and where to send it. ‘Sure, send it,’ he replied. ‘How are you going with the character tree?’

Really? Over eight weeks later, and here he was still adamant that the character tree was the way to go. We ignored that part and sent him the film.

It’s now four years later, and we have received no reply. I guess in a way I’m grateful – I wasn’t going to write a character tree for the man and the duck. The story doesn’t end there, though. Not long after we sent him the film (but long enough to know we weren’t getting a reply), I attended a writers conference in the Barossa Valley, and who was in attendance but Raoul. He was hanging out with his contemporaries, other once-big names who’d been relegated to events as fruitless, so to speak, as writers conferences doubling as an excuse to drink wine. I wasn’t going to approach him – I’d sent him the film, he’d never responded. The ball was in his court. He skilfully managed to maintain possession of the ball for the entire day, noticing me but not actively recognising me, and certainly not approaching me. Maybe he was expecting me to march up with the character tree for him. After walking out of the conference during a self-congratulatory speech by one of the 11 writers of Shrek 2, I did as Raoul had done, and turned my back on the saga for good.

Or so I thought.

It turns out time really does heal all wounds, and that there’s nothing like a crisis to pull people together, and all those other cliched lessons you’ve learned a million times on Everybody Loves Raymond. Two weeks ago, I received the first email I’d gotten from Raoul in four years:

Vaya con Dios, Raoul.

MY BIGGEST FANS

I run another blog; one that gets updated far more often than this one does. As a result I get a lot of comments, and even more spam. Every now and then I like to take a look at this spam just to see if anything real slipped by, because a. filters aren’t perfect and b. I crave acceptance and positive reinforcement, without which I am nothing. Here is a selection of some comments that warmed my heart, that I can look to when I doubt myself and my dedication to my blog.

It really means a lot when your parents support what you do.

Yes, shoe shops can at times feel both complicated and broad at the same time.

I’m glad he liked the articles trulier than the style, since I didn’t design the blog. Good luck with the pull-ups.

Hitting the nail upon the top is what it’s all about.

It affected me on a deep level to learn that the first commenter here had taken time out from his chosen crusade to let me know how much my blog meant to him. There are so many male breasts in the world right now, and he has such a big job ahead of him, yet he still took a moment to give someone else a boost.

That’s not to say that I don’t get my share of comments here either: