Joseph A. Ziemba was born and raised in the greater Chicagoland area. He’s an art director and film programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX. In addition to creatingBleedingskull.com, he is the co-creator of BLEEDING SKULL! VIDEO (bleedingskullvideo.com) and the co-author and designer of BLEEDING SKULL! A 1980s TRASH-HORROR ODYSSEY (Headpress, 2013). Joe has toured extensively as a member of the bands Wolfie, The Like Young, Beaujolais, and Taken By Savages.
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In 1964, Buster Keaton travelled to Canada and made one of his final short films, THE RAILRODDER. It's a quiet travelogue that feels like Jacques Tati directing an educational newsreel. Concurrently, Canada's National Film Board shot BUSTER KEATON RIDES AGAIN -- a behind the scenes documentary about the making of the short. RIDES AGAIN captures Keaton arguing with his director, arguing with his wife, singing songs with his ukelele, and laughing. It's a sad, honest, and beautifully designed snapshot of one of the most neglected filmmakers of humankind at the end of his twilight years. None of us ever had a chance to hang out with Buster Keaton, but this movie gives us an idea of what that might have been like.
This movie is equal parts documentary, gutter noir, and sexploitation -- all unintentional. Shot on location at Manzini’s Museum Of The Macabre in Greenwich Village, LOVE CAPTIVE follows a girl named Jane as she gets locked in the museum and steals Houdini’s straight-jacket. And then a drooling werewolf wearing a velour shirt molests a nude vampire woman while Dracula, a hunchback, and erotique dancers watch. This isn’t a perfect place to spend 65 minutes. Because in a perfect place, the boring sex scenes wouldn’t last so long. But this smudgy, dream-like smut collage is as close to perfection as we can get in a movie about people having sex through their underwear at a fleabag tourist trap that specializes in fake Houdini artifacts.
I'm not including RUN COYOTE RUN because it was released through BLEEDING SKULL! VIDEO this year. I'm including it because it was the most brain-crushing first-time viewing experience that I had in 2014. This lost project from exploitation juggernauts Renee Harmon (LADY STREET FIGHTER) and James Bryan (DON'T GO IN THE WOODS) was compiled from over a decade of footage and discovered in the trunk of a used car. It makes the recycled lunacy of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 2 seem logical by comparison. Actors age ten years between scenes. Brawls begin in apartments, but end in a warehouses. A stuffed animal appears on the chest of a corpse for no good reason. Ambitious, nightmarish, and impossible to comprehend, this movie rallies for both determination and madness, but never chooses sides.
Ray Milland plays a sweaty nuclear physicist who finds himself on the run from the FBI after messing around with the Russians. This movie probably would have turned out as mediocre as that plot if it wasn't for one detail -- there isn't a single line of dialogue in the entire thing. Instead of a typical low-budget 1950s noir, we get a gorgeous exercise in style and creativity. Shot in NYC and Washington DC, THE THIEF builds a wall of enthralling anxiety through sound effects, music, shadows, and silent performances. This was allegedly Ed Wood's inspiration for writing I AWOKE EARLY THE DAY I DIED, a project that he would spend most of his adult life trying to get made. After experiencing this spooky netherworld, I can understand why.
A woman buys a TV set for her husband, in hopes that it will keep him company while she's on vacation. The TV set comes to life and attempts to take over the world through crude stop-motion and obsolete sight gags. Hooray! Written and directed by old time radio renaissance man Arch Oboler (LIGHTS OUT) on two sets for no money, THE TWONKY is what would happen if Harvey Kurtzman from MAD MAGAZINE collaborated with silent comedy nice-guy Charley Chase on a full-length episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. It's a charming domestic comedy that also has risque puns, dumb psychology, and a surprising amount of pulpy violence. This movie was way better than I thought it would be.