Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Comin' At Ya: 3-D 80's Style

Of the many movie trends that sprung up in the 80’s, one of my personal favorites was a resurgence of 3-D movies. The boom actually started in 1981 with a Spaghetti western romp called Comin’ At Ya!, starring would be mogul Tony Anthony. The film itself was nothing special, but combining 3-D technology with 80’s violence and mayhem proved to be box office sensation. For the next several years, a variety of 3-D films would follow to varying degrees of success including: Treasure of the Four Crowns (also starring Anthony), Jaws 3-D, Friday the 13th Part 3, Amityville 3-D, Starchaser: The Legend of Orin, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, and The Man Who Wasn’t There (starring the incomparable Steve Guttenberg). Most of these are fairly awful, but I confess that I enjoy them for the nostalgia factor . . . with the possible exception of Jaws 3-D which really does try one’s patience. However, one film in particular shines above all others – Charles Band’s Parasite. It’s hard to say what makes this one stand out, but I’ll give it my best shot . . .

First, since I’m betting many of you have yet to catch this diamond in the rough, a brief synopsis is likely in order. Parasite is the futuristic tale of a brilliant scientist named Paul Dean (Robert Glaudini), who has developed a new life form (a parasite) to be used as a biological weapon for the purpose of population control. When Dean discovers he has been duped he flees to the post-apocalyptic wasteland, but not before becoming infected with one of the beasties. A creepy government agent gives chase, and Dean has to find a cure on the run to save himself and the human race. Along the way he runs into a vicious biker gang, a crusty old barkeep, a Broadway star turned hotel owner, and Demi Moore (in one of her earliest roles). Lots of gooey special effects and over-the-top action ensue.

Okay, so the plot of Parasite is nothing terribly original. In fact, it is one of many post-apocalyptic sci-fi quest type movies that came out during the early 80’s. Thanks to The Road Warrior, these films proliferated at American theaters at a breakneck pace. In the 3-D category alone you have not only Parasite, but also Starchaser, Spacehunter, and Metalstorm (also directed by Band)! That being said, I have a soft spot for these films. I still think The Road Warrior is one of the greatest action films (sci-fi or otherwise) ever made, and there’s just something about the premise that is appealing. Even the worst of these films (e.g. 1990: Bronx Warriors) are usually pretty fun. The beauty of Parasite is that it combines a lot of great elements into one package. You get 3-D, a gross monster, lots of cheesy action, dated interpretations of the future, the tried and true premise, and a director well-versed in B-filmdom (Trancers series, Puppet Master series, Dollman , etc.). What more could one ask?

During its initial run, the thing I remember being most intriguing (outside of the 3-D), were the truly gross photos that popped up in genre magazines (e.g. Fangoria). They showed the title monster (which featured an impossible number of teeth), and shots of the hero with the parasite embedded in his stomach. Pretty wild stuff. Come to find out the effects were an early project for the legendary Stan Winston (Aliens, Jurassic Park). Who needs dinosaurs when you’ve got parasites?!?

Perhaps the weakest element of the film is leading man Robert Glaudini (Cutting Class). I don’t know how they decided on this guy, but he looks like he’s about to fall asleep for most of the film. Perhaps they wanted someone who lacked energy to convey his illness with the parasite. Mission accomplished! As an action hero though, he doesn’t engender a lot of good will from the audience. You never really feel any identification with him, and he doesn’t ever seem too capable of handling the situations he runs into. Again, maybe they were going for some weird realism by casting a fellow who could play an everyman with a vengeance. I would be very surprised if that was the case. Even so, looking at Parasite now Glaudini’s performance bolsters the B-movie flavor of the film, making it all the more fun for his lack of charisma. Thankfully, a young Demi Moore and a hammy anti-hero (Luca Bercovici) make up for it. Plus you get several other familiar faces from cult cinema to round things out including Scott Thomson (Ghoulies, Police Academy), Cherie Currie (This Is Spinal Tap), Tom Villard (One Crazy Summer), and Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith (Vice Squad).

While I think all of the 80’s 3-D films warrant a viewing, for my money Parasite is the one that holds up the best sans 3-D. Tony Anthony’s films are ridiculous and largely exist for the effects, Jaws and Amityville are somewhat boring retreads of their predecessors, and Starchaser/Spacehunter/Metalstorm are fairly generic entries in their genre. As for the other two, I do have a soft spot for Friday 3. It’s a fun, if largely unimportant, entry in the Friday the 13th series (although it did give us the hockey mask), so it’s not so unique in my book (outside of the 3-D). The Man Who Wasn’t There is a rollicking Guttenberg classic (i.e. pretty bad), but at least distinguishes itself as being quite different from all the other 3-D films as an invisible man farce. Although Parasite certainly has plenty of moments clearly geared toward the 3-D, they aren’t the film’s raison d'être. Even without that element it plays as a fast, fun 80’s sci-fi/horror romp.

Unfortunately, there’s no way (currently) to view the film as it was originally intended. A few years back, the George Eastman House (http://www.eastmanhouse.org/) in Rochester, NY held a retrospective of these 80’s 3-D films which I would have loved to attend. I haven’t seen it anywhere else in the past several years. On a positive note, Anchor Bay has released a nice DVD which has the film in anamorphic widescreen, and even re-mastered in Dolby 5.1 surround (along with the film’s great trailer). You have to respect Anchor Bay for giving Parasite such loving treatment : )

So if you have a Saturday afternoon free, you could do a lot worse than spending it with Charles Band’s Parasite. As my good buddy John Muir might say (although perhaps not about Parasite), it has a nefarious alchemy about it!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Game On: A Brief History of Video Game Films

Coming up in March at the library we’re celebrating Teen Tech Month, which is an annual American Library Association event. Planning for this has had me thinking about video game movies a great deal, and pondering the spectrum of classics to bombs (of which there are many). Truth be told, video game films would probably make for a great all-night marathon, but we’ve already got one of those headed our way in April : ) However, you can always have your own marathon at home, and here are just a few titles you might want to have at the ready . . .

D.O.A. – Dead or Alive (2007) – Haven’t seen it, and don’t plan to. You guys are on your own here : )

Double Dragon (1994) – In a future Los Angeles devastated by catastrophic earthquakes, an evil business tycoon/martial arts master named Koga Shuko (Robert Patrick) fights two brothers also trained in the martial arts (Scott Wolf and Mark Dacascos) for possession of a magical amulet. I saw this movie during its cable run, and remember being thoroughly unimpressed. I confess that I have only vague memories of the game, so I can’t vouch for the faithfulness of the film. From what I recall there were indeed two fighters (hence the “double”), but beyond that I haven’t a clue. That being said, I would have to think that most fans would have preferred a better match-up than the T-1000 vs. the star of Party of Five. Incredibly, this film does have a cult following, so you’d better watch it. After all, you wouldn’t want to embarrass yourself at the next social gathering where conversation inevitably turns to this subject!

Joysticks (1983) – I haven’t seen this since the 80’s, so my memories are a little fuzzy, but I’m sure I would probably love it for the nostalgia factor. This is really nothing more than a Porky’s clone, set in a video arcade. And it’s got Joe Don Baker! For a more thorough review, be sure to corner Rob at the next Fantasmo as he actually saw this one in the theater!

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007) – I just saw this earlier in the month, and it is an absolute masterpiece. The true story of a high school science teacher who challenges the world Donkey Kong record of a hot sauce magnate. This may be the best film you ever see. The profile on the holder of the world Missile Command high score alone is worth the price of admission. And who knew all classic video games had a kill screen where the game abruptly ends due to lack of memory?!? I usually couldn’t make it past the 3rd screen on Kong (and many other games), so there was never any danger of my discovering this fascinating piece of information.

Mortal Kombat (1995) – If you go in with no expectations this is actually a fairly enjoyable (and entirely forgettable) film. Christopher Lambert leads a mostly no-name cast in the adaptation of one of the most wildly popular video games of the 90’s. There’s plenty of fighting amongst the characters from the game to thumping techno, which is a good thing as it diverts attention from the threadbare plot. What’s disappointing is that the hallmark of the game, ridiculously graphic finishing moves, is nowhere in sight. The makers of the film wanted to pack in a youthful audience, so the proceedings were toned down to achieve a PG-13. Given that this was directed by Paul W. S. Anderson (Resident Evil, AVP, Soldier), the toning down of source material and fluff approach is not at all surprising (full confession: I do think the first 30 minutes or so of his Event Horizon are pretty great, but things go south quickly). Either way, it’s an okay way to pass an afternoon . . . if for no other reason than to witness another cheesy Lambert performance.

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) – Wow this one is bad. You know there’s serious trouble if even Christopher Lambert couldn’t be coaxed back. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Nightmares (1983) – This is actually an anthology film featuring a bunch of great genre stars. The segment on video games stars a pre-Breakfast Club Emilio Estevez as a video game wizard obsessed with conquering the game Bishop of Battle. Unfortunately, when he reaches the high score the machine takes things personally! Perfectly encapsulates a moment in time where beating high scores on these machines was a real craze. Estevez’s character would be right at home in King of Kong! A really fun tale, in a really fun little movie.

Street Fighter (1994) – Some background here. In my college years I went to school in a very remote, small town that had a single run down theater in a dilapidated strip mall. What movies the place got (typically Hollywood’s lamest offerings) were almost always second run . . . with a couple of exceptions. For some strange reason the place ALWAYS got Van Damme and Seagal films first run. So in this bizarro universe, Van Damme flicks became event films for my friends and I (please bear in mind we were absolutely aware of how awful they mostly were). Only in that crazy place could the excitement in the air over an opening day screening of Lionheart or Double Impact have been positively palpable! On an unrelated note, another memorable first run film we got was Highlander 2: The Quickening . . . seriously, opening day there drew Episode I like crowds. Oh the disappointment. But I digress.

Back on task. So, as was customary, we excitedly went to see this turkey on opening day. I’ve gotta tell you, even for a Van Damme film this one is pretty terrible. Part of this is due to the fact it’s more geared toward a younger audience than typical Van Damme fare (it’s rated PG-13). Really, you take away the full-blown fight sequences from a Van Damme film and, with the exception of maybe Timecop or Universal Soldier, you don’t have a whole lot left. What was even more unbelievable was that this thing was sold as a legitimate blockbuster. It was unleashed with a lot of publicity, and boasted a pretty big budget for a Van Damme vehicle. They even got the great Raul Julia to play M. Bison! Unfortunately none of the supposed “magic” shows up on the screen. A lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

On a side note, the wishful thinking did not stop with Street Fighter’s theatrical release. In the days of laserdisc, this was released as a Universal “Signature Edition” multi-disc set (the content of which has been ported over to the existing DVD). You’ve got to understand, these “Signature Edition” sets were exclusively reserved for prestige titles (e.g. Jaws). To put something like Street Fighter in this category was unbelievable. It almost made me think perhaps I’d missed some hidden brilliance the first time around . . . luckily my better judgment prevailed (still haven’t seen this since opening day). I have to give the marketing folks at Universal an A for effort. Their campaign translated into a pretty decent monetary haul for a film that should have, by even the most lenient standards, been consigned to oblivion from the word go.

Super Mario Bros. (1993) – Here is a train wreck of a different sort. There’s no question this film is absolutely terrible, and probably devastating to the legion of Mario fans out there. However, unlike mediocre flotsam such as Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros. is epic in its failure. Even a passing glance at the film reveals that the studio poured heaps of money into the production. The set design is incredible (if grim and inappropriate), and the cast is A-list all the way. Bob Hoskins as Mario. Not since Shelley Duvall essayed Olive Oil on the big screen had there been such a perfect example of someone being “born” to play a particular role. John Leguizamo as Luigi. I’m not a big fan, but the guy has charisma. And Dennis Hopper as King Koopa. Okay this is just plain crazy. I understand that Hopper was cast as the bad guy in a plethora of 90’s pop films, but putting him in Mario Bros. is really a stretch. From Easy Rider to Blue Velvet to Super Mario Bros. Wow. All this, plus you get folks like Fisher Stevens and Lance Henriksen thrown in for good measure. Quite the stew.

Frankly, the above factors alone warrant a screening, but you also get a plot that is decidedly not in the fun spirit of the game. Yeah, the Mario Bros. are trying to rescue a princess, but to do so they have to make their way through an underground, dystopian nightmare called Dinohattan. I know in the game Mario has to travel through pipes (he’s a plumber after all), but Nintendo didn’t emphasize the presence of rats and raw sewage. You have to give the creative folks behind this credit for approaching the material with a decidedly unique (if unsettling) take. It may not have reaped box office rewards, but it sure is a visually interesting mess. At least, for better or worse, it is memorable.

TRON (1982) – I’ve written in detail about this before here on the blog (http://fantasmocinema.blogspot.com/2007/08/greetings-program-farewell-to-summer-of.html), so I won’t bother repeating the same old song again. Suffice it to say, this may be the greatest video game film of them all. Great cast, still great effects, and a truly revolutionary concept. And here’s something to make you fans (myself included) weep . . . or at least wish you lived in Seattle. The last surviving Cinerama theater is having a 70mm film festival (http://www.cinerama.com/special_events.asp) which includes screenings of TRON, 2001, Lawrence of Arabia, etc. I was lucky enough to be out there several years ago, and saw Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade in 70mm. It was truly an experience. Can only imagine what TRON would be like!

So, there’s a quick list of notable video game films you should (mostly) check out. Bon appétit!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Episode 35: Land of the GI-ANTS

Hey Superfans,

Our April all-night Schlock-O-Thon anniversary fast approaches, and to get you in the mood we have a cinematic B-movie feast in store for our March episode. As those who know us are well aware, your Team Fantasmo has a taste for giant critter films, so they feature frequently at Fantasmo. And in terms of giant critters, perhaps none are more vicious than the deadly killer ant! So, we've separated the wheat from the chaff and selected two of the very "best" giant, killer ant films for your viewing pleasure . . .

Our first film is the 1954 classic Them!, starring James Whitmore, in which atomic testing leads to the creation of giant, mutant ants. Not surprisingly, peaceful cohabitation is not on the menu, especially when these ants have a taste for yummy people. Lots of cool 50’s special effects, and an amazing finale in the Los Angeles storm drains ensue. The second film on the bill is the 70’s drive-in classic Empire of the Ants, from legendary B-film maestro Bert I. Gordon. In this one a pre-Dynasty Joan Collins plays a greedy businesswoman trying to pawn off a sham housing development to naïve investors. Wouldn’t you know it sits on a toxic waste dump which has (you guessed it) led to the creation of giant, killer ants! 70’s cheese gets no better than this!

Here are your full Episode 35 details:

When: Saturday, March 22, 8:00 p.m.

Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road

Films:

8:00 p.m. - Them! (1954) - Not Rated

9:45 p.m. - Empire of the Ants (1977) - Rated PG

You absolutely have to see these critters on our gi-ant screen to completely appreciate the ginormous terror they unleash! See you there!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Vern Talks Seagalogy: The Fantasmo Interview!

Photo Courtesy of Baron Yeh

You may recall a few weeks ago I reviewed (and raved about) a terrific book on the films of Steven Seagal called Seagalogy. Well, I ended up exchanging a few emails with the book’s author Vern, and he graciously agreed to an interview for the blog. Enjoy!

JB: There are quite a few action stars who have yet to be treated to a book-length analysis. What was it about Seagal that made him stand out as a worthy subject?

VERN: I liked his movies and I had reviewed a couple of the straight to video ones for The Ain’t It Cool News. I was very unpopular there at the time but people seemed to like the Seagal reviews, I think because they thought I was making fun of him. But I had noticed how almost all of the Seagal movies I’d seen were tied together by certain themes and motifs. He seemed to always have some kind of intelligence agency background, but usually had quit in disgust, and the bad guys were usually corrupt cops or former CIA guys. And his character would have adopted another culture, usually Japanese but sometimes Native American or something. There would usually be a part where his character made some sort of emotional political statement, and it seemed ad-libbed. A lot of times there would be a fight in a bar. I made this big chart for all the movies and came up with this idea of watching them all in order and analyzing those motifs and my hunch was right, they all did fit together. It’s not just a list of different movies he’s been in, it’s one complete body of work. I consider Seagal to be an auteur, he puts his imprint on every movie he ever makes. He would never do a Junior or something.

I’ve had people ask if now I’ll do a book about Bruce Willis or Dolph Lundgren or whoever, but I honestly don’t feel like I could write a book like this about any other actor. Anybody else the movies would be all over the place and would be hard to tie together. Seagal’s all seem to have the same voice.

JB: The first printing of Seagalogy has already sold out. Given that the last theatrical Seagal film (Half Past Dead) was almost six years ago, and the last really decent one (Fire Down Below) was released over a decade ago, were you surprised at the strong response to the book?

VERN: Well, unfortunately that’s not really accurate. The first edition was a print-on-demand deal, so there was no way for it to sell out, each copy was printed as it was ordered. One of those copies was read by a guy from Titan Books, who wanted to publish it. So I retired the online version as part of the deal. But I think it will be worth it because they’ll be able to get it into book stores and promote it a lot better than I can on my own.

But yes, by my standards it has done really well. I always say “I don’t think the Harry Potter lady is looking over her shoulder,” but I did sell a lot more copies than my previous book. I think it’s just because it’s an unusual topic – there aren’t too many books about action movies really, and especially not one zeroing in on a guy like Seagal.

I do hope that my book will contribute to a re-evaluation of Seagal’s work. I mean, the guy gets made fun of a lot. My dream is that Seagalogy will be like that movie Ed Wood, which completely changed the conventional wisdom about its subject. What has been really gratifying is talking to people who read the book just because they liked my reviews, not because they were interested in Seagal, and finding that they had been convinced of my thesis of Seagal as auteur. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten from people saying that they are now going through and renting all of the Seagal movies because of the book.

By the way, I just realized recently that this April is the twentieth anniversary of Seagal’s first movie Above the Law, so it’s a good time for a resurgence in interest.

JB: Due to the steady stream of subpar DTV (direct-to-video) titles released over the past several years, Seagal has been the unfortunate recipient of much negative criticism. Although to some extent his DTV output does invite negativity, you manage to strike a balance in your reviews that acknowledges the problematic elements, while still remaining respectful. Did you ever find yourself needing to dial down harshness within the reviews, or did this balance come naturally?

VERN: That’s just how I approach movies I think. I want a movie to be good. Even a so-called bad movie I want to be really interesting. I enjoy a lot of the craziness in these type of movies that is not necessarily put in there on purpose. For example the movie Out of Reach is about Seagal saving his penpal from a white slavery ring. I don’t know why they thought that was a good story for an action movie, but also I think it is a good story for an action movie.

The only thing I did try to dial down was I didn’t want to get into Seagal’s personal life at all, I didn’t think that would be nice. I sometimes mention his brushes with the mafia in real life and some of his background that is relevant to the movies, but I didn’t want to get into it too much since I don’t know the guy. I just know the movies. So I had a few jokes and observations here and there that I decided were out of line and took out. I hope I got all of them so I don’t get thrown through a window.

JB: You conclude each film review in the book with a list of observations and common threads found within Seagal’s body of work. These observations include such elements as the amount of broken glass in each film, political themes, accuracy of poster art, etc. At first glance, one might think these are included for humorous effect, but by the end of the book it’s apparent that they truly illustrate revelatory ties between films. Did these observations come after the reviews, or did you set these categories out from the very beginning? Were you surprised by the discoveries you unearthed when viewing the sum of all these parts?

VERN: I did set the categories at the beginning, although some of them (like accuracy of cover art) I decided to add later, and a few dropped out of the picture as they only happened in the early movies. In the beginning I literally had a huge chart with all those categories listed. I thought when it was all finished it would be like a diagram of DNA or something. But eventually I had to ditch the chart because it was hard to fit all the information in those little squares, and he kept putting out more movies (more than ten during the time I was working on the book).

But yes, I thought doing that list would be a good form of repitition to show how these movies connect together.

JB: A common thread you mention among the films that I’ve always enjoyed, is the consistent placement of a scene (or scenes) within each Seagal outing in which one of the villains explains in detail (and often-colorful language) why Seagal’s character is so capable and to be feared. While this sort of thing pops up in the films of other action stars, its frequency in Seagal films seems unrivaled. Do you have a theory as to why this is the case? Is it ego on the part of Seagal, or is there some higher purpose?

VERN: I’m not sure if there’s a higher purpose, I just think it’s an easy storytelling method and personally I think it’s almost always enjoyable. The character usually acts humble and doesn’t really talk himself up, in fact he usually plays down or denies those types of special skills and training. In the Under Siege movies he’ll just call himself a cook, in Into the Sun a guy calls him a sword master and he denies it. But then his adversaries will know his reputation or look up his files and speak of him in awe.

JB: You break up Seagal’s output into three distinct eras: Golden, Silver, and DTV. In so doing you discuss certain transitional films, and their importance in the trajectory of Seagal’s career. While it doesn’t mark the entry of the Silver Era, you cite On Deadly Ground as having a particularly significant impact. Do you think that On Deadly Ground was a misstep on the part of Seagal, or did it represent a necessary moment in the progression of Seagalogy? Would you personally have had the Golden Era extend indefinitely, or could you have lived without the later eras?

VERN: The Golden Era is my favorite because those are just four classic, solid B action movies. But if his movies hadn’t evolved the way they did it wouldn’t be as interesting and I don’t think there would be a Seagalogy.

Yes, to me On Deadly Ground is the most important Seagal movie. Obviously it’s the one he directed, so it’s the purest expression of what he’s about. But I think also if you look at where it happened in his career that shows the significance. He did those four low budget action movies and they were big hits. Then he did Under Siege which was a bigger movie with more mainstream appeal, an expensive studio movie, and that was his biggest hit. And one thing I don’t really explore much in the book is that in those early movies he even got a lot of positive reviews. Not universal, but there was a lot of good will toward him back then. So here he is, he’s a big star, he’s coming off his biggest hit, he decides to cash in his clout and become a director, and what is the movie he decides to do? A movie about the environment and Native Alaskans. A movie where the bad guys aren’t trying to blow something up or steal something, their villainous scheme is that they are hurrying the construction of an oil derrick to meet a deadline and it poses a threat to the environment. And at the end Seagal literally stands at a podium and makes a speech about how big business is raping the earth and what we need to do about it. And there’s also this amazing scene that starts out as a fight and turns into two men bonding and admitting that they are flawed human beings.

In the book I lay out many reasons why this is the ultimate Seagal movie, but I think that’s the most important thing is just the fact that when he was in a position to make almost any movie he wanted, this was the movie he chose. I compare it to Gus Van Sant having his biggest hit with Good Will Hunting and choosing to cash it in by doing something as crazy as a shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. It’s like, screw it, I don’t care what they say, this is what I want to do. Yes, you could say it was a misstep as far as his career, because going out on that limb turned a lot of people against him and he was never taken as seriously again. But in all sincerity I think as an artist it was not a misstep. This is Seagal expressing himself, trying to make an action movie about the things that are important to him.

JB: The quality of the many films released during Seagal’s DTV era is highly variable. You note that the greatest strength of the films is often the outrageousness of the scripts and their execution. Given the audacity of these entries, do you think there is a self-awareness on the part of Seagal with regard to how absurd the plots have become? If so, do you think this is a calculated tactic to increase the entertainment value in compensation for the reduced budgets?

VERN: I think he does have some self-awareness. I’ve seen interviews where he mentions “making people laugh” as one of his goals. But no, I don’t think the absurdity of the plots is a calculated move. And I think the craziness of the execution is just a result of the way the movies are produced. I was able to correspond a little with Joe Halpin, who wrote a lot of Seagal’s DTV movies, and it was pretty enlightening. In the darkest days of the DTV Era they were shooting movies where the premise wasn’t even set in stone until after shooting was completed. For example there’s one called Attack Force that was shot to be either about aliens or about European gangsters. Doesn’t that explain a lot? Of course the storytelling is gonna be bizarre when they wait until postproduction to decide whether or not Seagal is battling aliens.

JB: In addition to discussing the films of Seagal, you also devote attention to his side projects (e.g. energy drinks and music). From my reading, it would seem that these areas of interest are perhaps more important to Seagal than his acting career at this point. That being said, he also strikes me as one who is particularly concerned with the quality of his work. With this in mind, why do you think he has continued to produce so many DTV efforts when the majority do not live up to his classic films? We obviously can only speculate as to his financial status, but one would assume he doesn’t need the money at this point. Why then risk tarnishing his cinematic legacy?

VERN: All I can really guess is that he loves making movies and has that drive to keep making them. Plus, in most circles his cinematic legacy is not held on as high of a pedestal as people like me and you hold it. So maybe he’s not worried about that. He has said in interviews that he thinks of himself more as a musician than as an actor now, but I guess after you’ve done that many movies then it’s gonna seem more exciting to go on tour with your band. I have a lot of hope for that movie Prince of Pistols that he’s been trying to make. It keeps getting delayed, so I’m not holding my breath, but it’s about blues musicians and he plans to direct it so I imagine it will be his most heartfelt since On Deadly Ground. I’m not sure if he’ll work energy drinks into it or not.

When this whole blues musician thing came up I have to be honest, I thought he was full of shit in saying that it was something he’d always been into. It seemed like it came out of the blue. But then I found this quote that I used in the book where somebody who remembered him from his young days studying aikido in Japan said he was the guy who was always hanging around playing guitar. The article was trying to use the quote to downplay stories about his aikido history, but in the process they proved his claims about always being a guitarist.

JB: The second printing of Seagalogy is due out in May. What additional material can folks look forward to in this updated edition?

VERN: The main difference is that I added a chapter on his new one Pistol Whipped, which comes out in a few months. It was kind of risky because if it had just been a mediocre movie it could’ve been a lackluster ending to the book. But I lucked out because not only do I really like the movie but it has all kinds of things going on beneath the surface and shows many signs of a rebirth for Seagal. So it’s a perfect ending for the book.

I’m also going back and fixing a few errors that people pointed out, including a really embarrassing one where I said John Leguizamo had a bit part in Marked For Death, even though obviously it was Out For Justice.

JB: Have you received any feedback from Seagal (either directly or indirectly)? What would your ideal Seagal response be?

VERN: No, I haven't heard anything from the Seagal camp. Obviously if I heard from him I'd hope to hear that he liked the book. But honestly it's not something I want to happen or even want to think about. If I actually communicated with the guy it would be alot harder to write about his movies in the future, and I don't plan to stop. If you read the appendix in the book that's a review of his band Thunderbox playing in Seattle you know that I actually got his signature and shook his hand one time. But I'm happy to leave it at that.

JB: Lastly, if you had to pick a desert island Seagal film above all others, what would it be and why?

VERN: I guess I’d choose On Deadly Ground, because it captures both sides I love about Seagal movies, the badass side and the absurd side. But do I get to choose which edition? If so I choose the “Warner Triple Feature” edition where it comes with Out For Justice and Fire Down Below.

My many thanks again to Vern for taking the time to do this interview. You can pre-order the upcoming edition of Seagalogy now at: http://www.amazon.com/Seagalogy-Study-Ass-Kicking-Steven-Seagal/dp/1845769279/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1202163125&sr=1-1.