Episode #82 of The Swampflix Podcast: Sordid Lives (2000) & Gay Plays

Welcome to Episode #82 of The Swampflix Podcast! For our eighty-second episode, Brandon & Britnee revisit the quips & quibbles of cult-classic gay stage plays. They discuss the Del Shores comedy Sordid Lives (2000), its crowd-funded sequel A Very Sordid Wedding (2017) and, for balance, the William Friedkin-directed downer The Boys in the Band (1970). Enjoy!

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– Britnee Lombas & Brandon Ledet

Episode #43 of The Swampflix Podcast: 90s Shaqsploitation & Power Rangers (2017)

Welcome to Episode #43 of The Swampflix Podcast! For our forty-third episode, we bravely dive headfirst into the Only 90s Kids Will Understand™ deep end. Brandon and James discuss the movie career of famed NBA player/rapper/podcaster Shaquille O’Neal with special guest “Shaqspert” Julia Broussard. Also, Brandon makes James watch the 2017 Power Rangers reboot for the first time. Enjoy!

-Brandon Ledet & James Cohn

Abby (1974)

In Shock Value, author Jason Zinoman discusses the fact that The Exorcist was surprisingly popular with black audiences in 1973, so it was only natural that a blaxploitation follow up would appear relatively quickly. Appearing on screens for only a month in 1974, Abby, written and directed by William Girdler (who had previously scripted and helmed cult classics like Three on a Meathook and Asylum of Satan, and who would go on to direct Pam Grier in Sheba, Baby), raked in an astonishing four million dollars before attracting the attention of Warner Brothers. WB sued American International Pictures for copyright infringement and won, leading to virtually every extant copy of the film to be destroyed, with only the film negatives thought to still exist. Until a long-forgotten copy of the film was discovered at the bottom of a box of 35 mm trailer reels at the American Genre Film Archive, that is. It’s unclear what will happen with the film now and whether it will see a new home media release (a very low quality 16 mm print was converted for DVD release in 2004, but it’s just awful), but it definitely deserves one.

The narrative opens on Reverend Emmett Williams (Terry Carter), who is going to Nigeria to perform missionary and humanitarian work during a plague. On the other side of the world, his son Garnet (William Marshall) has ascended to the rank of Bishop and taken charge of a church in Louisville, with his faithful wife Abby (Carol Speed) at his side. She, too, is active in the church, having just been certified as a marriage counselor and organizing church activities seven days a week. The two have just moved into a new home near the church, with help from Abby’s mother “Momma” (Juanita Moore) and brother Cass, a police detective. When the elder Williams opens an ebony box in Nigeria and unleashes an evil orisha spirit named Eshu, Abby becomes possessed by it and begins behaving in bizarre and dangerous ways, prompting her loved ones to try and find a way to save her, body and soul, before it’s too late.

For all that Warner Brothers did to bury Abby, they certainly had no issue taking some elements from it when drafting a script for The Exorcist 2, including the connection to ancient African myths and legends. That aside, Abby is marvelous, aside from a little bit of drag in Act III. Speed’s performance as Abby is heart-wrenching, as she struggles to make sense of the actions taken while possessed during her moments of clarity. Of particular note is the scene that follows her first episode, in which Eshu forces her to slice her wrist; Abby awakes to find her wrist bandaged and her baffled cries and moans are enough to stir even the hardest of hearts. Speed, who had recently lost her lover to a random shooting in the street outside of their home, took the role to distract herself from the tragedy, and she pours that emotional vulnerability and intensity into every scene. Also of interest is the fact that Eshu is not solely expelled through the power of Catholic exorcist intervention, but by the elder Williams donning a dashiki and kufi hat over his priestly collar, combining western Catholic tradition and ancient African mythology to solve the crisis at hand. It’s a thoughtful way to handle the film’s denouement, and serves to differentiate it from many of the run-of-the-mill Exorcist clones that followed William Friedkin’s more famous film.

Tracking down a decent copy of Abby may be no small feat, but it is highly recommended.

-Mark “Boomer” Redmond

Tangerine Dream & the Nightmare Sounds of Sorcerer (1977)


Edgar Froese, the founding member and creative mastermind behind the prolific German band Tangerine Dream, passed away this past Tuesday, January 20th. The news broke yesterday via the band’s Facebook page, with a brief message announcing that his death was sudden & unexpected. Tangerine Dream’s long history dates back almost 50 years, 20 musicians and more than 100 releases. They were an experimental, mostly instrumental band that pioneered the forefront of psychedelia, krautrock, and synthpop, pushing the limits of their music through each new evolution. As the only continuous member of the group, Edgar was there for it all.

Arguably, Tangerine Dream’s most significant contribution to music was their soundtrack work on films in the 70s & 80s. The moody synth scores that are making a comeback in recent films like Drive, The Guest, and Cold In July owe just as much of a debt to the band as they do to John Carpenter, perhaps even more. Their score for Michael Mann’s debut feature Thief perfectly updates the film’s gritty noir for a 1981 aesthetic. Their music gave Ridley Scott’s fantasy epic Legend an otherworldly atmosphere to work in. Their synthpop provided a sense of dangerous fun in Kathryn Bigelow’s vampire Western Near Dark. Tangerine Dream’s scores not only elevate the movies they’re featured in; they become intrinsic to their mood & quality. This is especially true with their score to William Friedkin’s cult classic thriller Sorcerer.

Sorcerer was Friedkin’s loving retelling of the 1953 film (or at least the same novel adapted by) Wages of Fear, a French-Italian thriller about desperate men risking their lives to transport the delicate explosives necessary to snuff an oil well fire. Hot off of his career-high success with The Exorcist, Friedkin allowed his hubris to inflate the film’s budget and shooting schedule. It was a dangerous & expensive film to make, but one Friedkin thought worth the trouble, as he hoped it would be his legacy. That’s not exactly how it worked out. Initial critical reception was mixed and the box office numbers were even worse. It’s been speculated that the film failed because of its unfortunate debut alongside the first modern blockbuster Star Wars. Its commercial failure has also been attributed to audience’s confusion with seeing a film called Sorcerer from the same director as The Exorcist and understandably expecting a supernatural horror instead of the tense, gritty thriller that was delivered. Friedkin was expecting Sorcerer to be his greatest accomplishment, the one he’d be remembered by. Commercially speaking, he failed.

The film has rightfully earned a more long-term success critically, though, gradually earning cult classic status in the decades since its initial release. It was restored for a home & brief theatrical release in early 2014 to commemorate its reappraisal. Sorcerer’s tense sense of impending doom may have not been a surefire commercial venture in the summer of 1977, but remains as potent as ever as the years go on, particularly in the film’s awe-inspiring centerpiece: “the bridge scene”. It’s an unsettling picture that slowly cranks up its existential dread over what’s got to be the most nerve-racking road trip story I’ve ever seen on film. A lot of the film’s achievement in tone is surely do to the forceful, synth-heavy score from Edgar Froese’s Tangerine Dream.

In his memoir The Friedkin Connection, Friedkin tells the following story of how he discovered the band at a show in an abandoned church in their native Black Forest, Germany: “The concert began at midnight and they played long, rhythmic, sensuous chords, somewhere between classical music and the new pop sound. They performed for three hours in darkness, outlined only by the twinkling lights of their own electronic instruments, and along with a large audience of stoned young people, I was mesmerized.” He approached the band after their set to ask if they would collaborate with him on his next film. Working with only the screenplay Friedkin provided them and not a minute of footage, Tangerine Dream sent him two hours of recordings while the film was still in production. Friedkin says he & the film’s editor cut the picture while listening to random passages of the soundtrack for inspiration. Their music had a very significant hand in the shape & the tone of Sorcerer.

Tangerine Dream had a hand in the tone of many films, including ones they didn’t directly work on. Sorcerer, however, is the film that’s most inseparable from their work. It’s undeniable that the movie would not have been the same without them, as their music literally guided the shape of the final product. Edgar Froese’s passing leaves a massive legacy in its wake. Sorcerer is just one note on an extensive list of accomplishments, but it’s a note that deserves to be highlighted.

In the band’s farewell Facebook message Froese is quoted as saying “There is no death, there is just a change of our cosmic address.” Let’s hope that before he made the journey to his new address, he was well aware of the impact he made on this one.

-Brandon Ledet