MANDY: The Bradscribe Review

Which Is More Bat-Shit Bananas: 

Nicolas Cage Or This Movie…?

“Like taking a bad LSD trip with David Lynch through Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist and ending up trapped inside an early Iron Maiden album cover, it’s an extraordinary sensory overload… After this absorbing, gory movie, you’ll emerge like you’ve crawled out of its guts” – Larushka Ivan-Zadeh. 

I remember all my life, raining down as cold as ice. Shadows of a man, a face through a window, crying in the night…

Heck, this man only happens to be Nicolas frickin’ Cage! Here he’s Red Miller, a lumberjack, but – hoo boy! – he’s NOT okay. “Crying?” Ha! That’s putting it mildly. Brooding in his bathroom, Cage is growling with grief and hollerin’ with hate in his own legendary, inimitable way, splashing vodka down his throat and over his wounds, ‘cos a wacko redneck hippy cult known as Children Of The New Dawn infiltrated the blissful, pine-scented haven in the Pacific Northwest which he had shared with his girlfriend, Mandy. Until they killed and cremated her...

From Panos (Beyond The Black Rainbow) Cosmatos, prepare for a blood-red phantasmagoria of ethereal imagery and INSANE violence. 

Just one long horrific gonzo bloodfest, this most certainly is not.

No, in one of its most striking scenes, in order “to get the girl,” Brother Swan drives deep into the woods and blows the Horn of Abraxas, thus summoning a biker gang known as the Black Skulls – NOT your ordinary bunch of drug-addled Peter Fondas. This movie rams all logic and reality into the furnace, revelling instead as an almost-delirious, acid-drenched dark fantasy. Therefore these queasy riders just happen to be monstrous psychos in spiked leather gear – as if they chugged in from Mordor via the Mad Max wasteland – “speaking” with suitably deep and demonic drawls. Mercifully, we never get a proper butcher’s at their ugly mugs – perhaps it’s just as well! Once, apparently, they were normal men, but The Chemist cooked up “a special batch” of psychedelicacies, transforming them into the freakiest bunch of devilish antagonists since Hellraiser’s cenobites. They’re mostly depicted as menacing figures, eerily silhouetted against the thick, crimson smog…

Strange…

And eternal…

“This outrageously over the top film is nothing if not uninhibited, often visually amazing… an uncompromising midnight movie” – Peter Bradshaw. 

As you just heard, the intense images herein are ably and effectively complemented by Johann (Arrival) Johannsson’s in turns blistering and breathtaking soundtrack. Sadly, Johann passed away shortly before the film’s release last October, so there is a message: “Dedicated to our friend Johann Johannsson” during the end credits – the only time this whole production presents something sane and respectful. 

Arguably the outstanding track is the Love Theme; wonderfully evocative of Vini Reilly AND Robert Fripp at their sublime best- it’s uncanny. Even reminded me of Popol Vuh’s mesmerising score for Aguirre: Der Zorn Gottes (1974), itself a dizzying descent (down the Amazon river) into an ever-swirling madness.

If you go down in the woods tonight – hey! – you’re sure of Nicolas Cage being your BIG surprise! Having already played the Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance – (twice!) Nasty Nic knows plenty about exacting big paybacks. 

Here – by Jove! – he’s as cross as two sticks. And crazy?! Oh yes. Ol’ Rage Cage is – as we say in Blighty – a few Hobnobs™ short of a full packet…

Speaking of hobnobs, the leader of the New Dawn cult is Jeremiah Sand, a Manson-like, failed musician nutjob played by Linus Roache. Personally, it wasn’t his performance that unsettled me, but his uncanny resemblance to a disgraced ’70s UK children’s TV presenter… 

Thou shalt not mess with an unbalanced woodsman who makes his living using a chainsaw. Well, really: you’d think those dozy Dawn dipwits would know that!

Straight after his beloved has been killed, Red staggers indoors; the Children forgot to switch the TV off: cue the movie’s most surreal moment: a bizarre (and thankfully FAKE) commercial for Cheddar Goblin, a horrendous puppet barfing cheezy chunks over a couple of giggling children sitting at their breakfast table!

In order to wreak his lunatic revenge spree against Sant, his New Dawners AND the Black Skulls, Red pays a visit to an old chum: Caruthers (played by Bill “Predator” Duke) a taciturn recluse who lives in a dilapidated trailer elsewhere in the forest. He’s been looking after “The Reaper”: Red’s CROSSBOW.

And that’s not all! Whoa, no! 

Red even goes to the trouble of forging The Beast: his very own badass hippy-hackin’ AXE. Ah, those Dwarf-lords in their mountain halls would have been proud… 

It’s very convenient that Red has someone like Caruthers with which to discuss his revenge-spree. At one point, Caruthers remarks: “These arrows cut through the bone like a fat kid eats cake.”

HELLO? DID ANYBODY SAY CAKE?! 😉

“The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight” – Joseph Campbell. 

Mandy herself – played here by Andrea Riseborough – exudes a fragile and doe-eyed beauty, and uet there’s something creepy anout her otherwise innocent look. It’s like watching Shelley Duvall in The Shining all over again…

Although its never mentioned, Mandy seems to have suffered a shocking experience at some point in her past, for she has totally withdrawn from civilization, to nestle in the healing tranquility of nature, and while away her days producing comic book art. And reading dark fantasy novels. It would have been nice to see more of Andrea (Birdman) Riseborough and Nicolas (Birdy) Cage together, but let’s face it: this “visionary director” seemed far too eager to bring on this

CRAZY

EVIL. 

If teenage Brad had gawped at this, he would certainly have squealed with delight at the numerous sequences of blood-spewing on display here. But these days… 

Perhaps it’s a tad too excessive (for me).

Perhaps one has reached that stage in life where the flow of excellently-crafted words pouring forth is infinitely more preferable…

There’s no point in developing these one-dimensional cult members – everybody knows that gruesome ends await each one of them anyway! As to be expected, Red is haunted by disturbing dreams, but here, all those brief sequences are… animated.

And – oh yes – there’s a tiger. A live – not animated, LIVE – tiger. What’s it doing there…? Heck, not even yer ol’ buddy Brad can explain that one… 

Apart from a President Reagan speech on the car radio, and a couple of retro football shirts, there is little indication to suggest that this “supremely unnerving horror dimension” is actually set in 1983. Retrobrad had half-expected an ’80s soundtrack(!), but: soz, folks, there’s no Cyndi Lauper or Kajagoogoo to bop along to here…

However, there is an intriguing assortment of retro-references. The chainsaw duel is reminiscent of the duel featured in The Texas Chinsaw Massacre 2 (1986). And these proceedings commence with the classic Universal Pictures logo from the 70s (a personal fav!)

At one point, Red mutters something about: the psychotic drowns where the mystic swims, alluding to the quote by mythologist Joseph Campbell (see above!)

Incidentally, the epilogue – considering the cram-packed cavalcade of chaos and carnage that preceded it – is a surprisingly pleasant, almost-incongruous, but very much appreciated, totally non-trippy bittersweet sequence. Having shattered our senses and churned our stomachs, Cosmatos sees fit to round it all off by well and truly rending our hearts. (If you can call it that, the post-post-credits scene is just a still image – a montage of Mandy‘s artwork).

Would Brad recommend this gvindhouse show?

Aww gee, that’s a toughie.

There are some unusual and truly astonishing visual flourishes here, but, as forewarned, you will have to endure truly disturbing images lurking within. If and when you decide to watch, make sure that Auntie Mary has left the room… 

Stuff the sequels. Raze the remakes. 

We need MORE unique works like this, but: less gore, next time… please? 

And oh no, Brad will definitely NOT be sending Mandy away! 

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT:

Well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking
And I need you today, oh Mandy…”

 

Honestly, how can a “movie” as DEMENTED as this, offer such a hauntingly BEAUTIFUL Love Theme as this…? 

Caruthers: “So, what you huntin’?”

Red Miller: “Jesus freaks.”

Caruthers: “…I didn’t know they were in season, man.”

Red Miller: “Yeah, well…”

 

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The Hunt For The Man-Beast: The Bradscribe Expedition To Find Lost Comics!

In The Mighty Jungle, A Fearless Bunny Will Not Rest Until The Awe Of Yore Has Been Found… 

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“Permit me to sneer, Warlock! — Has one who has purity like unto a god — Yes, and innocence, too — Has he found a lasting good upon this planet? Speak truth now! Have you?” – Man-Beast. 

The galactic hero patrolled an alien world in a landspeeder. An evil, slit-eyed droid pursued him.

His hair was definitely black; his outfit? Maybe black. His adventures certainly did not appear in colour, but unmistakably graced a UK comic. Probably Marvel UK?

Who the blazes was he?!

Despite providing a thrilling read, over 35 years ago(!) his name, and – more crucially – the name of the comic in which he starred have – to my complete dismay – completely escaped me.

This Summer, reminiscing about the earliest comics to bring me inestimable pleasure so many moons ago has motivated me more than ever to track some of ’em down.

It’s now or never.

Shut out all 21st century distractions. Cast my mind back to the “Golden Age” of 1979-82 and try and work out the identity of that, and other, lost classics.

Marvel UK produced so much fantastic stuff during that period. Most notably, the bulk of their material happened to be b/w reprints of good ol’ American colour originals. Yay, ’tis through this cheap yet cheerful, and undeniably invaluable modest medium that much of my exploration of the Marvel Comics Universe gained momentum.

Perhaps the most entrancing (re)discovery from my trawl through the comics of yesteryear was Star Wars Weekly – a title reprinting the ongoing adventures of Luke Skywalker, superbly illustrated by comics legend: Carmine Infantino – enjoyed so much back in’79. However – inexplicably, and despicably! – not a single ish survived the cull that swept through the Bradhouse one fateful Winter’s day long ago. 

Now, in 2016, a dozen ishs were laid out high along one shelf of one specialist shop in London. You had to ask the ass(istant) just to TOUCH them.

One cover in particular leapt out at me – it looked SO familiar! The cover blurb stated that it also featured: Starlord, Guardians Of The Galaxy and Tales Of The Watcher. When the Guardians Of The Galaxy movie came out two Summers ago, this team didn’t ring any bells, and yet! They had been a part of my infancy… and yours truly hadn’t even realised! 

Back then, you see, those Guardians did not consist of a gun-toting raccoon, nor a talking tree. Peter Quill spacefared all by his lonesome, in his own strip, not as the leader of the Guardians. Heck, he wasn’t even associated with them neither!

As for Tales Of The Watcher, well…! Get all choked up whenever catching that title – this character had such a captivating effect on me, cos when producing my own first comic book (at the tender age of 6, no less!) it was named: “The Watcher.”

Was this the ish in my possession 37 years ago?! Was that galactic hero set to reintroduce himself to me there and then? Was it, perhaps, Starlord himself?!

Just had to open the polythene bag and find out.

Took a deep breath.

Turning over the front cover, a tingling burst of happy memories might flood my senses…

But no… 

This Starlord looked completely different. And that mysterious cosmic figure was nowhere to be seen…

Curses…!

My quest must resume… elsewhere. 

Never fear, thrill-seekers! A most unlikely target HAS been acquired!

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“The reptilian speaks more truly than you, Man-Beast! My eyes see not the humble robes of my guide, who called himself The Prophet — but the gaudy royal cloth of one who would subjugate this Second Earth!” – Adam Warlock.

Future Tense (a sci-fi Weekly launched in November 1980never – strangely enough – found its way into the Bradhouse.

…Until now.

At long last, a whole crate of original editions were located at my local comics emporium! Bought two editions: opened up the one dated: January 28 1980, and turned to the final story: And Men Shall Call Him Warlock.

The golden-skinned protagonist known as Adam Warlock is another of those numerous warmly-received, yet dimly-remembered comic characters to have danced giddily across my retinas over three decades ago.  

And what – in a gloriously dramatic splash page – is gloating imposingly on the steps of his subterranean stronghold on Counter Earth (“Like our planet, but exists on the other side of the Sun!”) with a captured Adam at his mercy?

Why, ’tis Man-Beast isself!

This humanoid creature with the head of a wolf may have been one of the more obscure oddities to emerge from the mighty Marvel Comics Universe, but – blimey Charley! – made a HUGE impression on me way back when, even though he has lain dormant in the dark recesses of the Brad mind for far too long.

If he regularly appeared in Warlock, then here – lol and behold – is where he first came to my gobsmacked attention.

Photo 31 May 2013 18-59

Garth The Hunter: “Nurse your wounds, stout one — and leave the fighting to me. Perhaps that bite’s taught you the error of your brash and vociferous ways! — Though I doubt it –”

Gorjoon: “Suck an egg, blondie!” 

Funny how something you had never even considered looking for turns up out of the blue when you are busy browsin’ for something else…

A more concentrated scope around my local comics emporium again last week brought to light some very interesting titles, including one title that almost made me jump!

Good Grud! Could not Adam-an’Eve that it was just lying there in wait for me!

As Man-Beast played a profound role in the first of my comic-collecting, so, apparently, did Man-Wolf, aka John Jameson (the son of Peter Parker’s Editor: J. Jonah Jameson).

And so ’twas: Man-Wolf #36.

The cover: a shirt-ripped lycanthrope-hero trapped in space set my arm hairs on end – a startling image not seen for 35 years! 

THIS is a major blast from my past, rediscovered: 

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“I’ll folla ya in the Sky Sled — It wuz the first thing we secured in the attack! Once we git there, though — yer on yer own” – Nick Fury.

And yes – deep joy!

This particular ish just happens to feature Nick Fury, Director and Top Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., albeit in a minor supporting role. The writing by David Kraft is top-notch, and the art – supplied by George Perez and Frank McLaughlin – is so small and meticulous that up to ten panels per page is per usual. 

John Jameson’s curse materialised in the form of the Moonstone. 

“It affixed itself to my throat,” the soldier-turned-astronaut recalled bitterly. And, since then, whenever a full moon appears, it transforms him into “a nocturnal grotesquerie, a lurking brute unleashed by lunar radiation.”

It may not cause a colossal ripple across the the fabric of spacetime, but within the perpetually awesome and award-winning Bradmosphere, this find is positively stupendous!

Huzzah!

This stage of the expedition, my fellow thrill-seekers, has revealed not one, but two, faves once trapped on the distant shores of hazy recollection. Ah, so glad… 

But what of that dark-haired cosmic hero mentioned at the beginning of this Post?

Alas, nobody can tell… yet.

Perhaps he has resurfaced on another side of the Marvel Comics Universe – rebooted and rebranded – in a completely unidentified guise. Such is the trend in comics these days, he is now likely to be a woman…

No doubt The Watcher has noticed – to considerable bemusement – my plight. Nothing gets past him…

Nevertheless, undaunted and undeterred, this bunny ventures even further into the macrocosm that is this jumbled and overloaded mind.

To unleash other long-forgotten thrills from yesteryear.

To delight you, dear reader.

mw end

Keep It Awesome! 😉