Saturday, July 18, 2015

Interview: Ira Brooker

Ira caught my attention when I saw in a post on "Rupert Pupkin Speaks" that, like me, he'd seen "Godmonster of Indian Flats" - and liked it. Then I saw that we live in the same town and had some other common interests. He's gainfully employed as a writer and editor, is married with a child and has a group of long-term friends he keeps close; in other words, he's a successful version of me.

This interview, unedited, was done on Twitter.
I haven't done an interview on my blog in quite a while. Would you care to answer about 10 questions on the subject of bad films?
I'd love to! I'm working on a profile of local trash film series right now, so it'd be good for my street cred. Thanks for asking.
The warm-up task: 1) In five minutes, name as many prolific directors as bad as Ed Wood as you can.
With the caveat that I genuinely appreciate most of these folks, William Beaudine, Andy Milligan, Michael and Roberta Findlay, Ray Dennis
Steckler and Coleman Francis.
Oh, can I scratch Steckler in favor of Dwain Esper?
And swap the Findlays for Al Adamson?
Oh wait, I misread the question. No need for swapping. Although I'm having second thoughts about calling the Findlays bad. Ah well.
2) You may have seen more Andy Milligan films than anyone else. Why?! Is it like when I watched all 250 films with John Carradine in them?
I don't know if it's quite the same. I'm a bit of a Carradine hound too, but when I watch even his worst movies I'm waiting for the splash
of beautiful, bloviating Carradinery I know is coming. It's fun. Andy Milligan movies are not fun. But I love watching them anyway, because
Milligan was such a unique voice with an inimitable personal style. His world is hateful and ugly and horrifying and I find all of that
fascinating. None of his movies works more than sporadically as entertainment but a good number of them work as art.
(There are still a handful of surviving Milligan films that I haven't seen, but only because I haven't been able to track them down.)
I've seen 11 Milligan films, though I despise them (and he was from St. Paul!) I should try again as I've survived Ulli Lommel's worst.
3) In the bad film made about your life, why is the man in the gorilla suit on fire?
Because the director understood that nothing would honor my memory better than shoehorning in a Duke Mitchell-Sammy Petrillo reference
that'd be lost on 99% of the audience.
[And yeah, it bothers me that no one from here seems to care that we birthed something like Andy Milligan. Where's Andy's statue?]
[I just did a post on a Bill Cody B western. He was from St. Paul, too!] 4) Doris Wishman or Roberta Findlay? (I think I know...)
Roberta Findlay, all day, every day. In fact, I desperately want to backtrack on calling the Findlays bad filmmakers a few questions ago.
The Findlays made many bad, very bad, movies, but they were always opportunists, not hacks. Roberta in particular is one of the savviest
directors in the history of exploitation cinema. She knows how to give the people exactly what they want without giving them so much of it
that it'll exceed a shoestring budget. You don't make trash as perfect as TENEMENT if you don't have a pretty damn good idea of what you're
doing. I honestly think Roberta Findlay is one of the most important female directors of her era. I hope someday she's recognized as such.
But she doesn't desultorily get shots of carpeting and knickknacks during conversations like Doris did! I once got a Findlay film for the U
Film Society and it had to be cash only with her and the film was hand-delivered by a guy in a trenchcoat and sunglasses.
5) I find trash to be a solitary endeavor. Do you have friends that would watch "White Slaves of Chinatown" with you? What's your wife say?
When did you work for UFS? I was the writer/PR guy/Milgrom wrangler from '98-'00. One of the best jobs I've ever had.
5) I usually watch my trash alone too, but I do have one pal with whom I watch all sorts of shameful stuff. He lives elsewhere so we don't
get to indulge often, but when he's in town we always set aside at least one night to dig in the dirt. It's a rare thing to find
someone who's up for that. (Even he draws the line at Andy Milligan, though.)
My wife generally ignores that aspect of my arts intake, although she will occasionally sit down and watch with me if it's something
post-apocalyptic or action-heavy.
I never really worked at UFS (or anywhere, for that matter), but they were doing exploitation and I had some connections.
6) Is there anything you absolutely refuse to watch?
I can't do modern "torture porn" (which I know is a problematic term) or anything of recent vintage where extreme sadism drives the movie.
For some reason I have no problem with the darker corners of '60s, '70s and '80s cinema but even reading descriptions of modern stuff like,
say, COLLAR or CHAOS or even higher-minded things like MARTYRS or INSIDE turns me off completely. Also, I have no time for winking,
self-aware "bad movies" of the SyFy Original ilk. Those things are an insult to true trash auteurs.
(Oh, and thinking of the sleazier corners of the '70s and '80s reminds me Joe D'Amato belongs on that list of bad directors.)
I stopped with D'Amato around "Anal Paprika;" besides Ator and Blade Master, he seems to have gone hard-core.
We'll always have ANTHROPOPHAGUS...
I've seen so many films with that title that I forget which one is his.
7) How would you describe your blog? It reminds me of my first one, where I profiled failed geniuses one day, explained how to make Vitamin
B-12 at home with six compatible organisms the next and then explained how to write in the undecipherable Voynich B language. No one read it
That does sound like a similar focus, or lack thereof. When I started A Talent for Idleness the idea was to catalog all of my pop culture
intake, but that got tiresome and it quickly turned into a clearinghouse for essays about underappreciated or bizarre bits of art, lists of
songs and movies that are primarily of interest to an audience of me, and the dissection of every minute aspect of Lou Reed's career.
Over the 6 years that I've been maintaining it, the writing landscape has changed a ton. The market for a lot of things that I used to be
able to sell to or at least publish on external sites stopped existing, so instead I post that stuff on my blog.
I mean, it's not like I have the option of NOT writing about Tommy James's weird '90s concept album.
Okay, now I have to tout some of my favorite posts from my "running" blog. First:
Where were we? 8) If someone were new to the world of bad films, where would you suggest they start (and don't say Milligan)?
Man, never apologize for self-promotion. Gotta have your hustle in this modern world. This is keen stuff, especially that last piece about
Jenny. (Although I am feeling a tad runner-shamed now - I haven't been out running for a week.)
This is a huge question because bad cinema is such a big umbrella. Your Spaghetti Western people are not always your ’50s monster movie
people, for instance. Loving a late ‘60s sex comedy doesn’t mean you’re going to love a psychedelic biker flick from the same year. Heck,
even people who love ‘80s American slasher films might not be able to dig into their nastier Euro counterparts. I guess I’d say start with
what you like best and work backwards – whatever genre of “good” films you’re into, I guarantee there’s a deep well of “bad” counterparts
and knock-offs that you can track down online. Start a Letterboxd account and find some trash aficionados to follow. A good chunk of my
discoveries lately have come from Letterboxd reviews. Dig into the Mystery Science Theater 3000 archive and notice which movies seem like
they’d be actually kind of enjoyable even without the riffing. You can usually follow a director or an actor down a bad movie rabbit hole
from there. But if I had to pick just one gateway, I suppose I’d say Larry Cohen. He’s a legitimately excellent writer and director who’s
worked primarily on the trashy end of the spectrum and covered a wide range of genres. Cohen movies have all the earmarks of bad cinema, but
the man makes good movies that aren’t going to scare away the neophytes. GOD TOLD ME TO is my personal favorite of his.
That was such a cogent answer, I think I'll stop there, even if it was only 8 questions. I'll probably post this as is (unless I spot a typo
) soon.
 I think the 12-13 people who read this blog would get he Sammy Petrillo reference, but here's my review of that particular film:
"Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper" didn't make this blog because I thought it worked pretty well for a gore film.
Ira's blog post he mentions is at

1 comment:

  1. This has been viewed 70 times already! Where did you all come from? [and yes, I end sentences with prepositions]