Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Start Your Modems!

By Jerry Renshaw

JANUARY 20, 1998:  NIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator) was completed in l946. This Paleozoic-era device weighed 30 tons and used 17, 400 vacuum tubes. By the early Fifties, it was declared obsolete and languished in a Quonset hut until recently. Engineers at the University of Pennsylvania recently completed a project that put all of the capabilities of ENIAC on a single chip. As recently as the late Seventies, a none-too-prescient IBM executive declared that there would never be a practical application for computers in people's homes. If he only knew.... My dad was an RCA dealer in 1978, and his shop carried RCA's first line of home VCRs. The contraption was roughly the size of a Buick, weighed about 80 pounds, had a click-type non-programmable tuner and would start eating tapes after a hundred hours or so of use. Press the clunky eject lever, and the tape carriage would spring out of the top of the machine with such violence, you would expect it to shoot the tape halfway across the room. The price, an eye-popping $995 (1978 dollars!). The VCR didn't exactly fly off the showroom floors at that price.

So it's the late Nineties. You grew up enthralled by junk like The Monster of Piedras Blancas and Zontar, Thing from Venus. As a kid you stayed up on the weekends to watch your local Ghoulardi-style late night TV host present such brain-roasting fare as Attack of the Mushroom People and Terror Creatures from the Grave. Later, you got your driver's license and joined your pals at the drive-in for Pabst Blue Ribbon and Dawn of the Dead, Phantasm, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Then one day the drive-ins dried up and the Ghoulardi-wannabes went to the ratings netherworld, leaving you with your VCR and a membership card from the local video maven. And now Christmas has come and gone, and your dad/mom/sister/brother/significant other has presented you with ENIAC's great-great-grandson and an Internet connection. How can you waste untold hours and ruin your vision finding out about those great cheesy movies? Rev up your mouse and start burning rubber on the information tarmac! Ladies and gentlemen, start your modems!

  • Internet Movie Data Base (http://us.imdb.com/FAQ.html). Take your Siskel and Ebert's Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide, and all other such "comprehensive" drivel from suede-elbowed agents of the status quo and chunk 'em in the trash. You don't need them now. IMDB is a compendium of information culled from other sources on the Net, and contains capsule reviews, technical details, reviews, dates, cast, crews on every movie imaginable. There's also bio and filmography information on stars, directors, cinematographers, producers, etc. as well as a very thorough TV section. This FAQ page is a good start and a big help in wading through the site. Mainly text and not too many images, but it's a truly staggering amount of information. Numerical ratings are derived from the inputs of site visitors (everyone's a critic). [Ed. Note: Never ditch the Maltin guide -- you never know when the Net will go down and you have to know what year The Conqueror Worm came out.]

  • IMAGES (http://www.qni.com/~ijournal/index.html). Click on the home page for this site, and you are greeted by Barbara Steele's wild-eyed, nail-pocked face from the 1960 Mario Bava classic Black Sunday. Though not a "cult movie" site per se, IMAGES contains a good many film essays combining both academic and popular approaches. Among the wide range of topics: Russian pioneer Dziga Vertov, Samuel Fuller, Ida Lupino's directorial efforts, black cinema, Carnival of Souls, Italian gothic horror (including Bava and Argento's Suspiria), as well as critical pieces on contemporary releases. A good-looking site with informative, well-thought-out essays.

  • Wild Picture (http://www.europa.com/~mholcomb/wildpic/welcome.html). "Celebrating the cinema of limitations." This site doesn't have a whole lot of text, but some great images. Topics include Larry Buchanan and Mexican bizarro horror.

  • Ain't It Cool News (http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com/coaxial/index.html).



    Ain't It Cool News

    No article on movie websites would be complete without mention of Austin's own Harry Knowles. Got a yen for the latest movie scoop? Harry's got his ear to the ground and knows the inside-track facts before E! does. Looking for that rare one-sheet of It, the Creature From Beyond Space? E-mail Harry, he'll hook you up. His knowledge of movies puts the average film maniac to shame, and his pipeline on Hollywood info never fails to astonish. With a forum, news, collectibles catalogue, and Harry's uniquely personal approach to movie reviews, Ain't It Cool is easy to maneuver in, looks good, and is a lot of fun all around.

  • The Astounding B Monster (http://www.bmonster.com/index.html). Designed and managed by the B monster himself, movie nut Marty Baumann. This site is an example of how good sites are put together; great graphics, great content, easily navigable. Among the pages: interviews with Dick Contino, Corman babe Jackie Joseph, Phyllis (Lois Lane) Coates, Robert (Hideous Sun Demon) Clarke, and Beverly Garland, among others. Also check out the essays on Brain From Planet Arous, Godard's Alphaville, noir icon Tom Neal's disastrous life, Anthony Mann's Raw Deal, Arch Hall, Jr., and Hot Rod Gang (with Gene Vincent!). Terrific site!

  • Exploitation Retrospective (http://stately@dantenet.com/er/er.html). Click on this site and you come to a fork in the road: ER or The Hungover Gourmet. Hungover Gourmet, as you might have guessed, deals with cooking for males who always saw the kitchen as a forbidding minefield, as well as travel, drink, fast food, and Betty Crocker-style recipes. On the ER side of the fence, the erudite Stately Wayne Manor presents cheeky reviews of cult and mainstream movies, while Dante addresses such burning issues as the change in the formula of Mountain Dew. There's commentary on Klaus Kinski's career, an interview with John Waters, and lotsa cool links. Good junk culture overview (this site will soon be given an overhaul and better interface).

  • Amazing World of Cult Movies (http://www.serve.com/robcult/index/html).



    The Astounding B Monster

    Reviews, and nothing but. six hundred-plus capsule reviews (broken down by titles or directors) of horror, sleaze, foreign, splatter, and classic films. Most of the reviews are spot-on. [Ed. Note: I checked this site several times -- sometimes it was up and sometimes down. But when they were up they were well worth reading. Same for the next site.]

  • Shock Cinema (http://members.aol.com/shockcin/index.html). Steve Puchalski's Shock Cinema reviews-only zine is one of my favorites, and this bilious green site is the e-version of it. Click on sample reviews from the latest issue; Lana Turner's LSD-wigout movie The Big Cube (!), Pin Gods, or Roger Vadim's Charlotte. Also included are extensive archives from back issues, new releases, an article on the heyday of the grindhouses on 42nd Street, and Puchalski's recollections of l988 election-day mayhem with Hunter S. Thompson. His no-nonsense reviews get right to the point.

  • Video Eyeball (http://www.tiac.net/users/videoeye).



    IMAGES

    This sharp-looking, unpretentious site accompanies an equally sharp-looking, unpretentious zine for movie lovers of all stripes. There's drive-in news (including a spate of re-released Hammer films), soundtrack reviews, interviews with some favorite character actors and commentary on current releases. Hey, but don't take my word for it; get up off a dollar, get out from in front of that monitor, and buy the damn magazine -- it's well worth it.

  • The Bad Movie Report (http://www.fortunecity.com/roswell/chaney/54/index.html). Here's a smallish, cozy sort of site with some lovingly derogatory reviews. Click on the "Our Philosophy" icon and read: "Face it, we love crap. No need to apologize. No need to feel guilty." Man after my own heart! Review of the week is for Ed Wood's "lost film," Night of the Ghouls, which reunited our dear friends Tor Johnson and Criswell for another outing in Ed's little world. There's synopsis and commentary on about a dozen films, anecdotes on the making of a bad film, and great animated graphics. Obviously one person's labor of love (the ubiquitous Dr. Freex, with whom I'd love to chug a six-pack while parked in front of the TV).

  • The B Movie Archive (http://www.geocities.com/hollywood/set/5295/guide.html).



    Video Eyeball

    Paydirt! This sprawling site is the brainchild of a fellow from Indianapolis who has done an enormous amount of work on it. There's information on B-movie queens (broken down by cheesecake, femme fatales, tough girls, girls next door, etc. etc.), B-movie kings, studios, clichéd plot devices, histories of the poverty-row studios, a bulletin board, a chronology of B-movie history, and it just goes on and on. Hats off to whoever can slave away over their machine to come up with something as opulent and info-packed as this one. There's a "feature of the month" with synopsis and commentary on one particular film (this month is Herschell Gordon Lewis' Grand Guignol landmark Blood Feast). In keeping with the "B" theme, the background is wallpaper of Robot Monster's man-in-an-ape-suit-with-diving-helmet ; the icons run along a honeycomb design ("bee" -- get it?). There's so much to absorb here, I can't recommend this site enough. Just make sure you have some time to kill, 'cause there's a lot to load, too.

    I heard someone liken the Internet to the largest library in the world, but one where all the books are pulled down off the shelves and scattered in piles all over the floor. That sounds like a worthy analogy to me, but the Web is certainly useful if you're fixated on one particular subject (my 1973 Encyclopedia Brittanicas sure don't see a lot of use these days). So, why are you still clutching that dog-eared copy of Psychotronic and gaping slack-jawed at The Slime People or Meat Cleaver Massacre? Lever your dead ass up off that couch, then deposit that selfsame dead ass in front of your computer until someone comes in and screams at you to get a life!


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