Regular Third Eye readers should be quite familiar with our stance on streaming media. We’re physical media champions when it comes to video, and at least work with downloadable and retainable media in relation to the plethora of music labels who provide their releases for review here each and every month.
When it comes to ephemeral, time-locked, “over the airwaves” manner of consumption, there’s precious little interest, and we tend to opt out in favor of something we can hold in hand, start, stop, restart and revisit at any time, day or night, tomorrow or 10 years from now – unchanged, unedited, non-time compressed, in the same visual and audial quality we found it in the last time around, and without advertiser interruption.
That said, we did have a brief and interesting partnership with the folks at Pink Eiga Inc., who had gone from a boutique label DVD company to an (at the time) fully streamed model. We gave it a shot, did a few reviews, and hey, if you dig Netflix-style monthly fee or individual pay per play for your viewing pleasure, that’s your thing – I do get that for those less engaged by cinema (cult or otherwise), it’s often cheaper and certainly less constraining on personal storage space to adopt the handsfree route.
And so we come to today’s review, of a new streaming network for internet, Roku, Android and iOS called the Movie & Music Network (also going by @99centnet). What makes these guys a bit different from, say, Amazon Prime or Netflix is that they seem to have a cult entertainment orientation.
So enough with the setup, let’s get into what I saw when I took a look at the Movie & Music Network.
First and foremost among the company’s partnerships and/or acquisitions is a relationship with the late Mike Vraney’s Something Weird Video. While I understand that Mike was working on creating a streaming channel of his own prior to his passing, I’m unsure as to the status of same today – whether this is additional to or replacing that planned initiative is a matter outside my current awareness. Either way, Something Weird appears to be a major content provider for the network.
So with a voluminous library of previously released, packed to the gills Image DVDs and a truckload of further films, shorts and suchlike available only via DVD-R, just how much of the Something Weird vault does the Movie & Music Network tap into?
Well, the first thing viewers will notice is that several of the “intermission time” drive in shorts are present, for those looking to recapture that vintage “let’s go out to the lobby” feel. Also present is the hilarious, yet atmospherically effective Italian fumetti-inspired horror Bloody Pit of Horror, with Mickey Hargitay manically freaking out about his “perfect body”, untouched by the corrupting lusts of feminine flesh. Ahem.
Next up, Herschell Gordon Lewis is represented by a trio of films inclusive of the bizarre Something Weird (the film) do-over The Psychic, Southern fried Brigadoon-inspired classic Two Thousand Maniacs and burlesque cum unintentional horror fest Bell, Bare and Beautiful, showcasing the disgustingly overripe mammaries of the homely Virginia Bell. While Chesty Morgan was far more nausea inducing, then-pregnant Bell (see our interview with Herschell himself) sure does give the lady a run for her money in the lens-cracking sweepstakes. Piece of advice: do not watch while eating.
Texas sexploitation king Dale Berry peeps in the window with his low rent crime “epic” Hot Blooded Woman, while the Italians return to the fray with the George Sanders-narrated mondo Ecco. Even the fascinating Vinegar Syndrome released Death by Invitation pops up as welcome delectation. Doris Wishman’s amusing (if quite overrated) Bad Girls Go to Hell and two lesser efforts from Barry Mahon (Run, Swinger, Run and 50,000 BC (Before Clothing) bolster Herschell in the realm of Florida (s)exploitation and we even get a burlesque or two, such as the Tempest Storm-headlining Striptease Girl.
There are actually separate channels such as Naughty but Nice and Peepland USA (“presented by Something Weird”) that are comprised of nothing but nudie cutie and burlesque shorts, and Retro Weirdo Pop, which is more classroom scare films and suchlike, all of which are very much representative of the sort of thing that used to populate SWV’s Image DVDs as extras.
In all, Movie & Music Network’s comparatively extensive Something Weird content serves as something of an impressive introductory sampler plate, touching on most of the label’s still-retained major touchpoints (i.e. don’t expect any Harry Novak or Coffin Joe titles here), while leaving the viewer’s appetite whetted for a far more in depth exploration of the directors and regional filmmaking scenes that are still only barely touched on herein.
Cult Epics is up next and offering more of a mixed bag, with the excellent and quite bizarre 70’s tone poem Death Bed (the Bed that Eats) and a touch of Euro-erotica with Walerian Borowczyk’s oversexed nunsploitation Behind Convent Walls and his neo-giallo Love Rites. Fellow fans of the NYC transgressive art underground of the 1980’s get the all too brief Lydia Lunch/Henry Rollins “neo-southern gothic” Kiss Napoleon Goodbye.
But rather than delving deeper into these areas or taking on such amusing fare as Japanese nunsploiter School of the Holy Beast, these worthies rub shoulders with those lousy late 60’s Tinto Brass trilogy of non-erotic pop art films: namely, the incomprehensible Neurosubianco, the miserable Tina Aumont vehicle The Howl and the bottom feeding op art/fumetti Deadly Sweet, all produced prior to and bearing little in common with his far superior buttock and bush-fetishizing softcores of the 70’s such as The Voyeur, which is in fact present herein, but in what would appear to be its censored, soft-R rated form.
The third cult label involved herein is a bit of an eye opener, namely Media Blasters. While I’d found the label something of a flawed go-to for everything from Italian horror to Godzilla-style kaiju epics, pre-Code Red sublicensed oddities and even interesting J-horror (think Junk, Cursed, that sort of thing) back in their heyday, their latter day output slowed to something of a trickle, with some of their earlier (and more substantial) releases taken on by other labels for remaster and re-release…and others vanishing into the absurdly overpriced oblivion of the “collector’s market”. So to see their logo here piqued my curiosity, to say the least: would some of these early titles make a welcome reappearance here?
Unfortunately, Sirabella and company play it safe here, sticking strictly to their more Zen Pictures-style modern era Japanese samurai action, horror and softcore hybrids such as the entertaining zombie video game adaptation Onechanbara (costarring chubby Kuma-San of J-dorama Gokusen!) and it’s awful pink variant Oppai(“boobs”)Chanbara, the mediocre 90’s reboot of Meiko Kaji’s far superior Female Prisoner Scorpion series, and a whole gaggle of subpar J-horrors like Tokyo Gore Police and the highly derivative One Missed Call series. At least they didn’t opt for the label’s voluminous back catalogue of heinously low rent hentai anime…
Moving away from this trio of well known cult labels, we come to some more generic, wide net programming. The Terror Channel tosses a few lesser Bill Zebub SOV affairs (such as the cleverly titled Antfarm Dickhole, the amusing (revised version of) The Worst Horror Movie Ever Made and even a few of his rather questionable “simulated rape” productions like Breaking Her Will, which I tried to address with the man during our 2 part interview) and Tim Ritter’s Truth Or Dare into the mix alongside Bill Rebane’s The Capture of Bigfoot, the Yvette Mimieux TV movie horror Snowbeast, early Lynn Lowry oddity I Drink Your Blood and even a lesser Jess Franco (Wanda the Wicked Warden, marketed and released domestically as an Ilsa film).
You can also find an amusingly low rent film tangentially related to Roberta Findlay and recently reissued by Code Red, Ed Adlum’s Invasion of the Blood Farmers, a few 80’s slashers such as the amusing Evil Laugh, hicksploiter Slaughterhouse and the bucolic Funeral Home, a few worthy affairs such as the Witch Who Came from the Sea and Stephanie Rothman’s Velvet Vampire and even a Mark Polonia postproduction job, Snow Shark.
Those relative gems aside, however, it seems the bulk of this channel is filled with such unfortunate unpleasantness as ugly latter day Pop Cinema released “torture porn” scum fests like Babysitter Massacre, making it something of a painful slog through the dregs of modern culture to find such worthy bits of business as can be found.
Then just to throw things way off kilter, there’s an entire channel dedicated to the early B film two reelers from John Wayne (!) and a 50’s style Sci-Fi Station which is strangely empty at present, containing a mere handful of films such as Bride of the Gorilla, The Wasp Woman and Ricardo Freda’s Horrible Dr. Hichcock sequel The Ghost. Last but not least, you get a Vintage Films Channel, which seems to center mainly on 1930’s talkies and late 40’s noir, but encompasses everything from jungle films to melodramas within those general bounds.
All told, the network appears to be a worthy attempt to offer a more cult/exploitation minded library of shorts and films to the general public, perhaps hampered somewhat by early days and an effective sampling, rather than any sort of in depth exploration, of the many directors, genres and styles touched on by offerings provided. While I remain somewhat disinclined towards streaming as a rule, what Movie & Music Network appears to be offering is certainly what I consider a step in the right direction – those so inclined may want to check them out.