Saturday, October 29, 2016

Jac Avila's JUSTINE Review

Director Jac Avila has created a definitive film version of the Marquis DeSade's JUSTINE. The film, based on DeSade's famous novel about the misfortunes of virtue, is in my opinion true to the book's spirit and content in a way no other version has ever been.

If, hearing this is a film of DeSade's JUSTINE, you expect "sadistic" scenes of beautiful women subjected to whippings and other torturous ordeals, Avila's JUSTINE pulls no punches and will fulfill your expectations. But you can also approach this movie hungry for a refreshing tour de force of artistic filmmaking and have your desires fulfilled.

Avila opens JUSTINE with a startling close-up of Justine's face, beautiful and innocent, but with a haunted look in her eyes that suggests she has already been through more horrors than we can imagine and knows the worst is probably yet to come. Amy Hesketh achieves this effect by looking straight at you in a certain way that has to be experienced to be understood.

In the background we hear the ominous pounding of military drums, which immediately, given the situation, brought to my mind the "March to the Scaffold" in that great French symphony by Berlioz, SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE. And it was an appropriate association to make, for within moments, poor Justine is dragged away, bound in an X between two pillars, and mercilessly flogged, helplessly naked before a crowd of soldiers and elegantly dressed aristocrats. And, of course, this is only the beginning of what is to come. 

Hesketh again, as in other films, such as Avila's relentlessly realistic historical horror of Inquisitional terror, MALEFICARUM, pushes her art above and beyond to achieve another deeply sympathetic and totally convincing performance. Needless to say, there are no "mambo breaks" for her in JUSTINE, referring to the delightful Vampire Mambo sequence in OLALLA, the innovative and persuasively effective Vampire film she recently directed (available, as is JUSTINE, from

JUSTINE's music, sets, casting, costuming, lighting, editing, and all the other intricate and vital aspects of quality filmmaking and behind the scenes production activities are all quite excellent to my mind, but because I am a writer, I especially appreciated the writing.

The dialogue has a proper historic quality without being so authentic that modern ears might have trouble keeping up. This is a tricky effect to pull off, I guarantee, but JUSTINE does it with style. I especially enjoyed the narrative remarks spoken directly, from time to time, to the viewer by Justine, a technique that could have detached the audience from their involvement in the story if handled by a lesser filmmaker than Avila and spoken by a lesser actor than Hesketh.

Bottom line, if you have read DeSade's novel then watched Avila's JUSTINE, you might be tempted to believe Avila either employed necromancy to resurrect the corpse of the Marquis long enough to write the screenplay, or that Avila took dictation from DeSade's ghost.

I wish I had a time machine back to 1930s Paris and could screen Avila's JUSTINE for the founders of the Surrealist movement, the poets, philosophers, filmmakers, and artists. Many fans of DeSade's writing and challenging philosophy do not realize how important he was to the Surrealists.

DeSade was plumbing the forbidden depths of the subconscious long before Freud, and the subconscious is where many dreams are spawned. Dream imagery as a key to unearthing hidden psychological urges was an important theme of surrealist expression. To the surrealists, DeSade was an explorer of forbidden themes and a foe of religious and societal hypocrisy.

Consider this in connection with Avila's JUSTINE. According to SURREALISM: PERMANENT REVELATION by Cardinal and Short, the surrealists valued DeSade "…for his lucid exploration of man's darkest instincts." Avila's film also explores those instincts, in spades.

From THE HISTORY OF SURREALIST PAINTING by Marcel Jean, we are told that Luis Buñuel's film, L'AGE D'OR (AGE OF GOLD), includes the Comte de Blangis, Sade's protagonist in 120 DAYS OF SODOME, appearing as Jesus Christ, and the last image in the film is of a crucifix to which several women's scalps are nailed. Avila's last scene of surreal sadism in his JUSTINE, however, takes Buñuel's climactic image to another level entirely.

As for the surreal life-death, eros-thanatos juxtapositions in DeSade's novel and Avila's film, DEATH AND SENSUALITY: A STUDY OF EROTICISM AND THE TABOO by Georges Bataille says, in a chapter on DeSade, "Life, he maintained, was the pursuit of pleasure, and the degree of pleasure was in direct ratio to the destruction of life. In other words, life reached its highest intensity in a monstrous denial of its own principle." And with Avila's JUSTINE, this surreal theme is definitively expressed.

So, yes, I enthusiastically recommend Jac Avila's JUSTINE. I believe that the Divine Marquis would approve of its challenging, morality- twisting philosophy and scenes of well-whipped flesh. I think that Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali would applaud its surreal juxtapositions of potent imagery. And I feel that filmmakers can study and learn from Avila's masterful new film for years to come.

But most importantly, ordinary blokes like me can just be entertained, gawk in wonder, and cheer. The right person has finally created a film version of JUSTINE that brings DeSade's book to uncompromising, throbbing life.
For full cast and crew and other detailed information on IMDB, use this link: 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bathory's Viking Metal Epic, "One Rode to Asa Bay"

I wrote this on the afternoon of February 17, 2016, and only later that evening realized it was the birthday of Quorthon, about whom this blog is largely concerned. Not just any birthday, either. It would have been his 50th! But he died in 2004. So, wherever you are today, Quorthon, thanks for all the great music! And I hope you are giving 'em Holy Hel in Valhalla! Hail the Bathory Hordes! 

There is a famous "Viking Metal" song and video titled, "One Rode to Asa Bay." It was written by the Swedish musician named Quorthon, the stage name of Tomas Forsberg, and performed by his rock band, Bathory. "One Rode to Asa Bay" is the last track on the first whole Viking Metal album, HAMMERHEART.

The song is about the coming of Christianity to the Northlands. Quorthon is credited with having created the Viking Metal genre on Bathory's previous album, BLOOD FIRE DEATH, but there were also remnants of Bathory's previous style of metal music on BLOOD FIRE DEATH.

In a letter at the time, the late 1980s, Quorthon said he had created Viking Metal as a reaction to the way his Swedish heritage was being lost to foreign influences that were steadily eroding the native culture of his homeland. That letter was written when BLOOD FIRE DEATH was being created. The genre he started has grown and expanded with groups like Amon Amarth, Tyr, Unleashed, and many more. 

Here is a photograph of Quorthon showing his wearing of Mjolnir, the Hammer of Thor-style pendant that was historically worn by those who called on Thor, and is often worn now by Viking Metal bands and those who still honor the Gods and Goddesses of the North. 

Quorthon died young in 2004. "One Rode to Asa Bay" is the only music video made that showed Quorthon and Bathory. Quorthon used his own money to produce the video. It is a true "labor of love" and shows his dedication to his heart-felt art. 

People have asked me why Quorthon dedicated "One Rode to Asa Bay" to me. The short answer is, he did it because of the Hel Books. Link to Hel Books information 

The long answer about why Quorthon dedicated Bathory's famous Viking Metal song to me is as follows.

I was working on a horror novel about Elizabeth Bathory, the historical Blood Countess of Hungary. As the writing progressed, I saw a magazine that had the word "Bathory" on the cover. There was an article in it about the Swedish rock band Bathory. It was the first time I had heard of them.

My father was born in Sweden, and Swedish things interested me. I bought Bathory's album, UNDER THE SIGN OF THE BLACK MARK. There was a song on it about Elizabeth Bathory, "Woman of Dark Desires." I wanted to use a quote from the song in the front of my novel about the Blood Countess, RAW PAIN MAX. 

I wrote a letter to Bathory asking for permission to quote from the song. Quorthon wrote back and gave his permission. In thanks, I sent him the Hel Books. They had a Scandinavian Mythological setting. Quorthon said he enjoyed them.

The Hel Books were originally published under a pen name, Asa Drake. Later, when Bathory's HAMMERHEART was released, I discovered "One Rode to Asa Bay" was dedicated to me in reference to the Asa Drake Hel Books.

Art by Boris Vallejo.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review of Park Hyo Min's Japanese movie, JINX!!!

I originally wrote a review of this film for its IMDB site. This new blog review has slight differences.

Korean actor Park Hyomin created an endearing and memorable character playing Ji-Ho, a Korean exchange student in Japan. The film's subtitle, "90 Days to Say I Love You," hints at the plot. Here is a photo from the film showing Ji-Ho (Hyomin) between the two reluctant lovers. 

Ji-Ho is determined to get a withdrawn Japanese friend and the equally withdrawn boy the friend loves together, because Ji-Ho's boyfriend in Korea, as we see at the first, has died in a tragic accident, and Ji-Ho wants her new friend to find the happiness that Ji-Ho herself has lost. 

The bittersweet theme does not stop the film from having great good humor, and the ending is positive and uplifting. It is a charming romantic comedy. Its exploration into the nature of grief and how to cope with the pain of great loss never devolves into sentimentality. And Hyomin's touching portrayal of Ji-Ho, hiding her wounded soul beneath a smiling, happy face, keeps you caring and, at the end, just might have you cheering. 

Hyomin and the other members of T-ARA, the Korean pop music band of which she remains an important part, all have personally experienced the necessity to hide inner pain behind a smiling face, for both professional and personal reasons, and their tragic, unjust experiences in that regard must have contributed to the understanding with which Hyomin portrayed the wounded but heroic Ji-Ho.  Here is an interview with Hyomin when JINX!!! was released. Interview with Hyomin

Here is a link to a trailer for JINX!!! with English subtitles. JINX!!! Trailer with English Subs

Hyomin remains an important member of the superstar K- Pop group, T-ARA (pronounced Tiara). She won a MBC Best Female New Comer Drama Award in 2011 for her role in the Korean historical drama, Gyebaek. She debuted as a solo artist in 2014 with the hit, "Nice Body."  In 2015 she was the female lead in a Korean web drama titled, "When You Are in Love, It Rains." She returned as a solo artist in Spring of 2016.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My review of OLALLA, Amy Hesketh's new Vampire film.

Amy Hesketh’s OLALLA would have become a favorite film of mine even without the Vampires. And I know my female Vampires.

DRACULA’S DAUGHTER was my first (Vampire film). She seduced me when I was a kid, did it right there in my house with mom and dad sleeping in the next room and me sneaking a look at the late late show on TV. My next, one BLACK SUNDAY evening, in the balcony of an old Fox Movie Palace, was Princess Asa of the royal Moldavian House of Vaida. Asa, played by the ferociously beautiful Barbara Steele, changed my outlook on life (and Witches and the Undead). Then there was BLOOD AND ROSES, DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE, TWINS OF EVIL, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE, COUNTESS DRACULA, LA COMTESSE NOIR, VAMP, ONCE BITTEN, QUEEN OF THE DAMNED, and Jac Avila’s recent macabre masterpiece, DEAD BUT DREAMING. The point is, my long list of Famous Female Vampires of Film-dom is extensive and could be continued, on and on.

But Olalla is a Vampire like no other, and OLALLA is a Vampire film like no other. The movie thumbs its nose at almost every establishment Vampire tradition. No Danse Macabre for these Vampires. No. But there is Mambo! No sucking of blood from neat little puncture wounds on the throat. But there is chilled blood in the fridge sipped from fine crystal. Or, if you’re Olalla, the black sheep of the clan, you occasionally do it the old fashioned way, rip out the throats of your victims, and leave a bloody mess. Not good, in a family determined, for good reasons, to avoid attracting attention.

You don’t have to be a non-conformist Vampire to identify with Olalla. Are your tastes in clothing styles a little unusual? Does your career choice garner disdain and disapproval? Have you discovered your sexual preferences violate some arbitrary definition of “normal?” How about your taste in music? Art? Books. Videos? Food? Hobbies? Whatever? There’s a little Olalla in all of us.

With its roots in a story by Robert Louis Stevenson (the guy who wrote “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”), Olalla is portrayed with a sly undercurrent of self-deceptive innocence by Hesketh herself. She yearns to be an ordinary woman and go shopping, but she does not have “ordinary” in, umm, well, in her blood. She tries but cannot long stand to pretend, like the rest of her family does, not even after the repeated encouragements of a skillfully applied riding crop, wielded by the family’s dedicated enforcer, Felipe, played with exquisite intensity by Jac Avila (hard-ass to the max, but with Olalla’s best interests seething in his Vampire-heart). Tough love, thy name is Felipe.

Felipe is convincingly and sympathetically portrayed in flashbacks as Avila’s younger self by Alejandro Loayza. He has worried about Olalla’s well-being, and that of his family, since childhood (in OLALLA,  Vampires age, but slowly). Felipe’s sense of responsibility for his family’s well being is a heavy burden, especially considering what happened to Olalla’s mother (played in heart-wrenching flashbacks by Hesketh, too).

Let me tell you, I was pulling for mom and could hardly stand to watch her ending. Yes, Hesketh, both as actor and director, is so good that she did a number on jaded horror movie watcher me. Not that I’m complaining, but no one deserves to die that way (though thousands, maybe millions have, over the centuries), especially not a good-hearted mother, Vampire or not! It’s those damned villagers with their pointed sticks! And torches. Superstitious fools!

And how dare the leader, played with suitably manic enthusiasm by Eric Calancha, whip her so much? Sure, his fear makes him merciless, but over and over his whip marks her flesh…until, hey! That’s enough! Well, maybe just one more…but no one looks away! No one averts their eyes, not even me, from her pain and her shame as the flames rise higher and her screams grow more frantic. And the heartbreaking, heroic way she tries to endure it and accept it then gives up and starts desperately wrenching on her ropes. Won’t anyone show her some mercy? Won’t someone cut her loose in time? Oh! The flames! They’re coming from her now! It’s too late! But meanwhile, back in the present day—    

Olalla’s sister, Ofelia, cares about the family, too, and is fed up with her sister’s antics, endangering them all. Ofelia remembers all too well what happened to their mother. Mila Joya plays Ofelia as a playfully seductive predator, with a subtle undercurrent that made me wonder just how many throats she herself had ripped out, in secret, without telling anyone, and never getting caught.

But then there are the ordinary men who fall in love with the extraordinary Olalla and her mom. Luis Almanza’s Nathan and Cristian Del Rio’s Roberto cannot resist! Moths to the flames! The way those characters were played made me identify with them, worshipping each their own version of la belle dame sans merci, because maybe, just maybe, Hesketh herself will be merciful, maybe this time, love will find a way, maybe she’s not la belle director sans merci…yeah, right!

She has no mercy on her audience when it comes to creating other unforgettable characters, either. If the two uncles, played in fascinating synchronicity by Beto Lopez and Fermin Nuñez don’t steal the show, Erix Antoine’s Bruno does. The aunt, Maria Esther Arteaga, is a blessedly calm center of respectability, but what can she do amid all the rest? Is this old and rather decadent, in a dignified way, family doomed? Well, maybe not! After all, who among us can deny that Beto’s extended, unhurried, detailed explanation of what a “muffin” is and is not is alone worth its weight in butter running down your chin and, in my opinion, gives this family all the socially redeeming value they need to justify their continued existence.   

Bottom line, having been dominated by females (Vampire-films-wise), I have been waiting for OLALLA most of my life. But thanks to Amy Hesketh, its award-winning writer, director, star, and to Jac Avila and all the rest at Pachamama Films, none of us have to wait any longer. Three cheers and all the first magnitude stars in a star atlas for OLALLA! Just don’t watch NOSFERATU with her, okay? But if you do, at least do not talk through the film in an attempt to impress her with how well-versed you are in NOSFERATU film-lore. It’s not a good idea. Believe me. You’ll be sorry…heh heh heh...Hesketh!

Trailer for OLALLA:



Monday, July 14, 2014


"It was so hard for me,
You have no idea how much I worked for you."
--excerpt from the English lyrics to Hyo Min's "Nice Body" solo debut

 Hyo Min, Loco, "Nice Body" Music Video

"Nice Body" (Dance Version with English Subtitles)

The following is why, with all respect, I call 박효민 (Park Hyo Min) "The 'Rocky' of K-Pop." She is known to millions, of course, as one of the original members of the K-Pop group T-ARA (pronounced "tiara"), a group who is internationally popular and has even performed for royalty, among other distinctions and accomplishments. This review of Hyo Min's solo debut in 2014, "Nice Body," is derived from variously publicly available articles and video clips and interviews. As such, I acknowledge that, like the object of the K-Pop song, "Bad Girl Good Girl," made famous by the group, Miss A, I should probably "shut up, boy," because I don't know Hyo Min, personally, and I was not involved in any way in the creation of her solo debut's music video, but nevertheless, having had more than a slight touch of "showbiz" in my own life, and because I suspect that many people do not know what she went through to create this solo debut, here we go. 

So, Hyo Min, you work long and hard perfecting dance moves and singing performances, taking risks that may or may not pan out, putting your sweat and creative blood into the process, knowing that the results are going to be seen and examined and analyzed for the slightest flaws by millions of viewers.

Then, because you feel that your already fit and toned dancer's body needs to be made even better, to fully actualize the concept of the "Nice Body" song chosen for your solo debut, and to be faithful to the spirit of the lyrics, you challenge yourself to endure cross-fitness, Olympic-caliber exercises that includes training with weights, leaving you sick with muscle pain the first week, but you bear the pain and keep going.

Then you discover the exercises have added enough muscle mass that your costumes and clothes no longer fit the way you want, so you put yourself through a stringent lemon-detox diet to re-fit your new, stronger body into your clothes and to cleanse your system for the stressful debut promo process, one week before it begins.

And for the proper "break with the past" effect, you cut off your trademark long hair that you admit to having cherished, and die it blond, hoping your fans will still accept it and you (and they do).

Until finally you are ready to debut your solo, whose success is important for yourself AND your T-ARA sisters, debut it, literally, because of the Internet, TO THE WORLD--in your one chance to "get it right," so that millions can watch and deem your efforts "cute" and have fun experiencing what you and all those on your "team"--who are also depending on you to succeed--have created.

And because of the lyrics of the song and the unique dreamy Chopin piano prologue and epilogue you added, showing the glitzy and fun middle part to be the DREAM OF A BETTER LIFE in the mind of a woman (you, in extreme make-up--like the EP's title, MAKE UP) who needs (and, deep inside, WANTS) better health, you maybe dare to hope that some viewers will be INSPIRED by the song and video to exercise and FIGHT BACK and WORK to improve themselves, like Rocky Balboa did in the famous, award-winning film.

But! All that was EASY compared to what you must survive BEFORE the debut...standing alone--truly ALONE-- before the PRESS! And remaining poised, remaining calm, being charming and respectfully humble and as always, attractive, smiling, positive, and “cool,” hoping that some inadvertent mis-step doesn't scuttle the whole project before it begins...not much stress there, either, right?

Does that sum it all up, at least on the surface, maybe, just a little, Hyo Min? 

Wow. Being a pop star "idol" is definitely not a role for the weak or weak-willed. 

I’m certain that in the opinion of your countless fans, you deserve all the success in the world. And what’s more, we know that no one gave that success to you. We know you worked hard and did your best, “went the extra mile,” and EARNED this solid solo victory. And for the inspiration of your example, we all say, with a bow of sincere respect, “THANKS!”

(for my blog about how I discovered T-ARA, see T-ARA by way of a Ghastly Ghost )

Sunday, March 23, 2014

HEL X 3 "Author's Cut" of the Hel Triliogy

Covers for the Hawk Books trade sized reprints in 2000, art by Boris Vallejo,
stacked above the 2002 Russian language editions from Alpha-Kniga, art by Ilya Voronin.

I finished revising and expanding my Norse heroic fantasy trilogy into what is called an "author's cut." All three novels, Warrior Witch of Hel, Death Riders of Hel, and Werebeasts of Hel, are now bundled into a 3-in-one ebook set called HEL X 3. 

I discovered from working on the Hel novels that I liked Bloodsong and her allies, warriors, shapeshifting berserkers, Witches (good and not so good), villains (bad and worse), and monsters (don't even ask) in the three books so much that I wanted to spend more time with them and am now writing a new novel in the series, Valkyries of Hel.

Most of the characters from the first three books return in the fourth book, but there are some interesting changes. For example, there will be K-Pop.

Here is the original cover for the first edition of the first Hel book, September 1985, published in the Questar line under the Popular Library imprint (that was then owned by Warner Books), gorgeous art by the legendary Boris Vallejo, and written under my previously used pen name (because the publisher insisted) that I later stopped using.

My webpage: C. Dean Andersson

Sabine Starr's "Gone Bad" series


Sabine Starr has written a “Gone Bad” series of novels that the genre and marketing folks classify as Western Romances.  Okay. They are westerns, set in the late 1800s in Ms. Starr’s native (from the author’s information) North Texas and Southeastern Indian Territory (today’s Oklahoma), and there is romance in them. But of historical novels I have enjoyed, there were always romance in them.

You learn a lot of history while enjoying a good story with these books

To me, Sabine Starr gives you real novels, not been-there-before predictability, with great come-alive descriptions of the landscapes in which the stories take place, a nice mix of interesting characters, and of course the “hero” and “heroine.” But don’t expect the main characters or the romance between them to be stereotypes. My advice to any stereotype trying to sneak its way into a Sabine Starr novel is to run for the hills before she fills its bottom with hot lead!
Take Belle Gone Bad for example, the newest in the series AmazonLink. The heroine is a serious bounty hunter tracker out for revenge against those who killed her father and fiance. But if you think you’ve been to this round-up before, nope. She has some serious paranormal activity going on, we later learn. So does the hero, for that matter. Yes, paranormal activity in a “western romance.”

This ain’t Gunfight at the O.K. Corral territory, pa’dners. Surprises like that in Belle, and the others in the series, Lady, Angel, and Bride (which can be read in any order, by the way) each holds its own surprises and mysteries waiting to be discovered, is what makes reading still enjoyable.

I hope there are more “Gone Bad” books coming our way.