Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Pawns In High Spain: In Defence of "Bluejeans and Moonbeams"





Yes, it has been a while since I last posted on this here blog thing.  But I’ve finally found the time to pick an unfairly maligned subject and try to prove that they have some worth.  This time, it’s the turn of Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band’s 1974 album Bluejeans and Moonbeams.


I have been a massive Beefheart fan since I was a teenager, going in right at the deep end with 1969’s monumental Trout Mask Replica.  Even now, there’s still so much to unpack, savour and marvel at – one-of-a-kind arrangements, supremely intricate musicianship and a truly mad genius front and centre, throwing words and musical notations around the room just to see what happens.


 

 
Enough has been written about Don Van Vliet – ranging from Bill Harkleroad’s revelatory “Lunar Notes”, Mike Barnes’ wide-ranging biography “Captain Beefheart” and John French’s long-winded “Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic” – that there really is nothing worth adding, and let’s not forget Elaine Shepherd’s 1997 documentary “The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Beefheart” and the impeccable Captain Beefheart Radar Station website (www.beefheart.com) which is chock-full of information and resources.  So instead, let’s turn our attention to an album of his that is considered the lowest point of his musical career.  One that’s glossed over as quickly as possible.

1974 was possibly Mr Van Vliet’s nadir, at least in terms of his musical career.  Having decided to tone his musical output down with the aim of commercial success, he had cut two albums (The Spotlight Kid, Clear Spot) which showed that he and The Magic Band could make relatively commercial slices of uncategorizable rock without completely compromising and making a proper effort.  Clear Spot in particular is probably his most coherent and engaging effort, combining stellar musicianship and the perfectly attuned production courtesy of Little Feat collaborator Ted Templeman.  It was a miracle that they all pulled it off, however the record only made it to #191 in the US charts and failed to chart in the UK, where Beefheart had a loyal and dedicated fanbase.  Beefheart left his current label, Warner Bros, and tried to find a new manager that would finally give him the big break that he wanted.

The infamous Andy DiMartino came on board and got Van Vliet and co. signed to Virgin (in the UK) and Mercury (in the US).  The band at this time featured Trout Mask/Decals-era stalwarts Bill Harkleroad, Mark Boston and Art Tripp, as well as the returning Alex St Clair Snouffer, the man behind the original Magic Band’s formation.  The resulting album Unconditionally Guaranteed is a disaster.  To me, this album is THE worst Beefheart record.  There is no life or spark to the album whatsoever.  The songs are trite, the band have been shorn of their edge and creativity and even Don sounds bored and tired.


The Magic Band then quit on him prior to a European tour, so DiMartino corralled some last-minute replacements who then had to scrape together a set within days of departing.  The resulting line-up has often been referred to as ‘The Tragic Band’ but to be fair they did the best they could at such ridiculously short notice.  In fact, their performance of ‘Upon The My-O-My’ on the Old Grey Whistle Test is far superior to the LP version, if only for the more powerful and snarling vocal performance.  A live version of ‘Full Moon, Hot Sun’ from a French gig, while pedestrian is still more lively than the official cut.



Shortly afterwards, the band fell apart whilst Van Vliet and DiMartino figured out what to do next.  The former’s plan involved meeting up with ex-Mothers of Invention and on-off Magic Band guitarist Elliot Ingber and his brother Ira to write some simple catchy tunes, possibly as a last ditch Project: Mersh attempt.

In an interview for the “Captain Beefheart: Under Review” documentary from 2006, Ira Ingber explained: My brother, myself and a fellow named Mark Gibbons, a very gifted keyboard player, got together here in Los Angeles and I think at the time Don was still living in North California…so we started writing songs.  It seemed innocent enough…Don had some ideas, he had lots of lyrics as I remember.  We ended up rehearsing then started recording…I think consciously we were staying away from [the] Magic Band because I think anything even remotely resembling Magic Band for Don was something where he didn’t want to go…but because of who he is they went that direction anyway.

Hitching up with Tragic Band members Michael Smotherman (keyboards), Dean Smith (guitar) and Ty Grimes (percussion),  as well as Jimmy Caravan (keyboards), Bob West (bass) and Gene Pello (drums), this makeshift unit were shoved into Stronghold Sound Recorders, a budget studio within North Hollywood in August 1974 to put an album together.   Smotherman later recounted that the album took 2 days to record.

When interviewed for Mike Barnes’ 2000 book, Smotherman said: Don was just as confused as he could be throughout the whole process.  He would sit there in a chair and sing, and he had no idea when to come in or when to stop.  Count-offs didn’t mean anything to him,  One time, about two o’clock in the morning, I had to go out and sit beside him in a chair.  When it was time for him to sing, I had my hand on the back of his neck and I would push his face up to the microphone and he would start singing.  And when it was time to stop I would pull him back gently.

Of particular note, you may notice that aside from two co-writing credits, Elliot Ingber is absent from the credits on the album.  Van Vliet himself claimed that Elliot’s parts were wiped from the tapes by DiMartino, but as the man made bizarre and contradictive remarks about the same subject many times over who knows what the real story is.  If his claim is true and Dean Smith is responsible for all guitar parts, he does a more than serviceable job, with some neat Spotlight/Clear Spot fuzzy slide work throughout, and unlike his contributions throughout the ill-fated 1974 tour, he kept his proto-Knopfler licks to a minimum.






If Van Vliet was considerably disorientated throughout the sessions, his voice (for the most part) remains in fine fettle and is a damn sight more convincing and confident than on the previous album, particularly in the opening number: ‘The Party Of Special Things To Do’.  Even if the opening verse (“the cowboy wore a nightie in the party of special things to do”) doesn’t have the same original spark of Trout Mask the song is more than serviceable and still full of Southern-fried boogie involving the Red Queen and the One-Eyed Jill (“all the cards”).

A serviceable cover of JJ Cale’s ‘Same Old Blues’ comes up next, featuring a reasonably gruff and moody Van Vliet vocal accompanied on the choruses by Smotherman, who later elaborated to Mike Barnes that “All those obnoxious vocals that you hear in the background – that’s me.  There were supposed to be some other people singing background and then DiMartino thought he could get me to sing all the background for cheaper.”


‘Observatory Crest’ follows shortly after and is possibly the highlight of the album for me.  The musical accompaniment is full of open space and the guitar playing is appropriately tidy and tasteful.  Van Vliet sings about him and his missus watching a concert where they “heard all the best” before stopping near an observatory where “the sand was hot/she wanted to dance.”  Simple enough, but it has a nice laid-back melody and was often picked out by reviews as possibly being the brightest spark on the whole platter.  Mercury Rev later covered the session for a BBC Radio session in 1999, and even my wife loved the song (this song was playing in the registry office while everyone was being seated, so go figure…)



“Is he talking to me? Right…” asks a befuddled Captain as ‘Pompadour Swamp’ starts up.  Another pleasant (noticing a theme here?) number which is not as disposable as some reviewers claim.  For an album that was recorded in a hurry almost as an afterthought, this track is a fine example of some effort being made in song arrangement.  On the whole, the album has a bit more spark and life to it than the repetitive, uneventful plod-plod-plod of Unconditionally Guaranteed.  Van Vliet is in fine form with the rasping delivery of yore conjuring an abstract tale, the title of which was borrowed from one of many works-in-progress originally demo’d back in 1972 (the original music was eventually revised as ‘Suction Prints’ on 1978’s Shiny Beast).



The closing track on side 1 is still a bone of contention and somewhat of a mystery. ‘Captain’s Holiday’ may not even be a Magic Band recording.  Smotherman: “As a matter of fact, I think that track was on a 24-track reel that nobody had picked up.”  As an unidentified chorus of ladies coo “Ooh captain, captain/play your melody” the instrumental track goes on as some half-hearted harmonica playing and soft-rock guitar action take turns popping up here and there.  Maybe it’s me living in hope, but there may be more to the song than that: Smotherman’s main choice of keyboard during the Tragic Band tour was a clavinet which can also be heard on the track, and the harmonica playing does have a slight hint of Van Vliet.  There’s no doubting Andy DiMartino’s pragmatic pilfering of the multitrack, but overdubs may have been attempted as a way of trying to make it blend in with the rest of the album.  Is it worth elaborating further?  The track is nothing special.  As Don himself sang on the previous album “lazy music’s got me laying back and laying down.”


‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Evil Doll’ greets us at the start of side 2 with some fuzzed and wobbly slide guitar playing and squelchy clavinet as Beefheart weaves a simple tale of said doll chasing him down “rock ‘n’ roll’s evil hall”.  Yet again, nothing special but it’s serviceable enough.  Co-writer Ira Ingber makes a good stab at some bass work near the end, as does Dean Smith’s multi-tracked guitar work.


Don Van Vliet transmogrifies into the Walrus of Love for ‘Further Than We’ve Gone’, a self-penned ballad that honestly cannot hold a candle to the genuinely beautiful and tender ‘Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles’ from Clear Spot.  There’s no denying that this song goes on a bit and while frothy and syrupy it’s superior to the same year’s horrid ‘This Is The Day’.


‘Twist Ah Luck’ brings the pace up a bit and is like a livelier version of Unconditionally Guaranteed’s closer ‘Peaches’, as if the latter has had a quick gulp of Lucozade to get some energy going.


The closing number ‘Bluejeans and Meanbeams’ is a nice and gentle little slow burner, replete with acoustic guitar picking and what sounds like a Mellotron.  Like the rest of the album, there’s not much substance to this number but is a welcome change of pace to the usual Beefheart aural assault (or the “exploding note theory” as he later described it).  It really is quite lovely with some delicate electric guitar runs and a basic-as-basic-can-be snare and bass drum accompaniment.  Even the prominent synthesizer twinkles near the end don’t spoil the overall atmosphere of the track and is more proof that Beefheart could genuinely sing in tune when the mood took him.


Upon its release in November that year, reviews for Bluejeans and Moonbeams leaned towards the negative.  Melody Maker’s Allan Jones (and future alt country-enabler) mentioned that the title track was “almost worth the price of the album” but apart from that, he wrote that “this album has some difficulty in justifying its existence”, all under the headline “NO MORE MAGIC.”  Lou Reed’s best mate, Robert ‘Toefucker’ Christgau gave it a B-, preferring it to Unconditionally Guaranteed.

Retrospective reviews are still considerably negative but are not content to write the whole thing off.  In a 1999 review on the Perfect Sound Forever website, Scott McFarland remarked “the record has its moments of minor-league charm, but bears little relationship to the rest of Beefheart’s extraordinary catalogue” and also says that Bluejeans is much more preferable to its predecessor, though is still greatly flawed:  “The songs are less overtly maudlin, and the sound is more relaxed…the music is well recorded, which at times just highlights the vacuousness of the whole project.”

As for the musicians present in the sessions, Ira Ingber later commented: I was disappointed…it sounded like there [were] way too much gratuitous effects – there was some early synthesizer stuff that sounded just godawful to me.  The crispness and the tightness of Clear Spot was gone.  It seemed very watery to me, it didn’t seem to have the impact that I remember it having in the studio…I was very disappointed [with] the way it sounded and very disappointed obviously with the reviews that I saw here because they were predominantly very, very negative. (Under Review, 2006)



As for the Cap?  Once the album was done and dusted, he immediately went out into the desert and DiMartino exited the picture.  Before simply refusing to discuss his DiMartino-produced albums entirely, he moaned that Mercury put Bluejeans out without his knowledge, that the original drum parts he arranged were wiped and re-recorded by someone else, etc.  For all of his unique talents, Don Van Vliet had a most unfortunate habit of blaming others for any faults in his work – read up on his underrated 1968 LP Strictly Personal for more details but as Barnes pointed out, Van Vliet should’ve been more honest and take an equal portion of the blame for how the record turned out.  He wanted a stab a commercial success and despite the dispiriting path it took him down, it was his decision and no-one else’s.

After retiring to the desert to think about things (and not become a lumberjack as he reported to the press at the time), he decided to put together another iteration of the Magic Band (featuring John French, Elliot Ingber, Jimmy Carl Black and Bruce Fowler) in time for a triumphant performance at Knebworth Festival in 1975 followed by a short European tour.  With these performances considered a true return-to-form, the reinvigorated Beefheart and his conveyor belt of Magic Band inductees recorded four more wonderfully inventive and spiky albums up until Van Vliet’s decision to retire from music in 1982 and concentrate on his art.

In French’s book “Through The Eyes Of Magic” he recounts a story of bumping into Don not long after the album was released.  Don remarked that “the only good thing about this album is the cover”.  Painted by Van Vliet’s cousin, Victor Hayden, the cover is quite delightful and seemingly features what could be a deer jumping or gliding over a fence.  Yet again, another plus over Unconditionally Guaranteed, whose cover was messy, poorly executed and with borderline unreadable text plastered on the bottom.  The Bluejeans cover, like ‘Observatory Crest’ is uncluttered, full of space and pleasing.





Over the past decades, a few affectionate nods towards Bluejeans and Moonbeams have appeared.  In an interview with Smash Hits Magazine in December 1980, Kate Bush nominated the album as part of her top ten favourite albums, claiming “…this is the Beefheart album where he writes love songs like nobody else.”  As well as Mercury Rev’s aforementioned cover listed above, The White Stripes covered ‘The Party Of Special Things To Do’ for a 2000 Beefheart tribute EP bearing the same title. 


While Bluejeans and Moonbeams certainly does not represent Captain Beefheart’s oeuvre as a whole, and I am certainly not trying to claim that it is, it is certainly worth reinvestigating and it has been a fun experience examining it and noting that it does have some redeeming features.  In fact, if you squint a bit, it can comfortably sit beside 1978’s First Taste by Juicy Groove, another gang of misfits including Mars Bonfire of Steppenwolf as well Beefheart alumni Gary Marker and Elliot Ingber.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Truly, The Ball Of The Wild! - Returning To The Well Of Carlos Tobalina



 

Finally, to no public demand, we will be delving back into the broken cinematic oeuvre of the Peruvian grot tsar, Carlos Tobalina.  As mentioned in the previous Tobalina-centric article posted back in April, when not running the assorted cinemas he owned throughout San Francisco, King Carlos made his own films.  These were mainly a way for him to avoid coughing up the readies and bringing nationwide talent to his premises and are considered by some to be the lowest of the low in terms of pornography.  I find them strangely likeable - they have a lovable charm if you have the tolerance for them.  When you spend most of the week enthusiastically humming the library music used over and over again in these films, you know that you’ve dug too deep and you might as well pull up a chair and just savour the moment of madness.


Amongst the little details that I foolishfly missed out in the previous blog post, I wanted to add that Carlos hated the police.  As an exhibitor whose films were almost constantly seized by San Fran’s finest, it’s understandable why he would get a little grumpy from time to time, whether featuring introduction cards claiming freedom of speech or quoting the 1st amendment.  He often made Hitchcockian cameos as a doctor (another profession that he disliked immensely), and even awkwardly shoehorned in righteous dialogue such as this nugget from the previously discussed filmic aneurysm Champagne Orgy:

CARLOS:  “We have some…very interesting people.  You know the gentleman with the grey suit?  He is a first amendment trial attorney.  Very good one.”
GUEST:  “Oh really?”
CARLOS:  “Yeah, quite famous.  We got a psychiatrist who…many times..testifies in court on behalf of us…”

The following films have some considerably saucy stills, and while you may think that I have put the screenshots in the wrong order, trust me when I say that I am merely following the film as accurately as possible.

 
I AM ALWAYS READY


Let’s start proceedings with a damning review from Hustler magazine of the first film in this article:

 

Harsh words.  But are they fair?  Let’s decide through my words…

The perpetually sour faced Ronnie Ross (credited as ‘Ronie’ on every grammatically challenged bit of text shown throughout the film) swans about in a permed wig and a fur coat, like a 1970s Geordie housewife heading out for some chicken in a basket and a spritzer.  At one point she calls ‘a known producer’ – Carlos in a swanky convertible, chatting away on his futuristic proto-mobile phone – who ponies up the cash to fly floppy John Holmes back to the US for a few seconds of nonsensical chat.  As you have probably surmised, whatever was shot was cut in half to make two films, regardless of whether the final cut made any sense.  The following lines appear in Lusty Princess with the lines that made it into I Am Always Ready presented in bold:

RONNIE: How big are you?
JOHN: Well…I-I’ve never really measured because when it’s inside it’s even bigger and it’s difficult to get a yardstick in there.
RONNIE: Really.  How many times a day can you cum?
JOHN: Ohh…10 or 12.  Unless I have a cold or a headache, then maybe only 8.
(Fernando springs into shot)
FERNANDO: Señorita! Señorita!  I could cum 15 or 16 times…
(Spanish guitars and castanets play as John eyes him up and down).
JOHN: Woah.
FERNANDO: If you just give me…2 weeks!
(Ronnie giggles and John covers his mouth.  Fernando ruffles John’s hair before dramatically walking out of shot).
JOHN: (laughing) Who was that?
RONNIE: That’s my cameraman.  He’s aallwwaayyss horny!
JOHN: Oh, I’ve got news for you.  They always are! (giggling)

Roll over Schoonmaker and tell Murawski the news!  It seems that Carlos may have had a box of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s “Oblique Strategies” cards to hand while making his films.
 

Anyways, we’re off on a Toba-tangent, so back to the plot:  a heavily made up lass with no trousers on is getting touched up by Mr Holmes who seems to have lost his shirt.  After a bit of limp loofah action, cutting back to Fernando (as per the Hustler review) with one hand on the camera and the other in his crotch.  Some bloke knocks on the door leaving Monsieur Wadd with little time to hide.  A voice off camera shouts “ACTION!” and the film turns out to be a film-within-a-film.  Tobalina has broken the fourth wall.  A moustache walks in and greets the couple before announcing that he will phone a friend.  Enter the lemon-sucking hypnotised nun herself for an ordeal of humping, her thoroughly bored demeanour shining through like a bipolar moon.


Next, Ronnie interviews a husband and wife who get down to business while Fernando shouts “I AM ALWAYS READY!” and grabs his crotch while a mysterious crew member sits with his back to the camera.  After ten minutes of this filth we are then whisked to a studio set of Ronnie interviewing three young hopefuls.  Carl (or Peter Long as he prefers to be called) explains that he is using his jizz bucks to become a doctor, while Louisa wants to be a nurse.  Lovely toothy Connie Peterson’s answer: “I want to make a living fucking and sucking!”  As Ronnie sits there, lost in thought and possibly mulling over whether Kodak film stock has more detail and sharpness when compared to Fuji stock, Connie is receiving some cunning linguistics from a man with a paper bag over his head.  Despite pleading “Fuck me, soundman!”, he mournfully announces that he already spaffed in his pants.  And before we have to say “I AM ALWAYS READY!” Fernando bellows it out instead and takes over.  Poor Connie deserved better than this, but she seems to like Fernando.  Still, it’s difficult to resist the urge to push the Peruvian Peter Baynham tribute act out of the way, or at least pray for an edit to not drive us to self harm.

Cue the orgy.  Well it seems to be a mixture of two orgies, cutting from what looks like a hotel room to the studio which is well equipped with all sorts of sweaty nakedness.  After the non-stop fluid fiesta, Ronnie has a strop because everyone’s too spent to give her a seeing to.  Whining “well who’s gonna fuck me?”, enter Fernando with his clarion call “I AM ALWAYS READY!” to a soundtrack now brimming with castanets and acoustic guitar.  After whipping off the jockstrap and getting down to the business with the miserable old boiler, Connie gives Fernando a snog while pumping away at Ronnie and a truly happy ending is had by all.  I don’t know about Ronnie though.  Hopefully she had a damascene-style experience and devoted herself to being all emo instead.

Christ alive, this film was a painful experience.  Ronnie really is a real sour ass and acts so badly that Edith Massey would be embarrassed, but Fernando seems to be enjoying himself and you almost feel like cheering any time he appears on screen.  Maybe if he kept his clothes on and went straight for the comedy he would be loved, but I’m seriously fed up with seeing this man wearing nothing but a grin.



 
JUNGLE BLUE

Fucking hell.  This film.  I have heard it described by others (I’m looking at you, Russell!) as a one-of-a-kind unforgettable cinematic experience.  A film that was dropped on the floor, scooped up and assembled using the element of chance and some dice.  As a lover of brain damaged cinema, the urge to watch it grew too compelling and I plunked down a fiver for the DVD, in all of its scanned-from-the-original-camera-negative glory.  The scars will never heal.

As soon as I pressed play, this is what I was immediately accosted by.  How can I describe it in a tasteful way?  Fuck it, I can’t.  A man in a gorilla suit is getting sucked off while sounding like Tom Waits with emphysema.  This is the first minute or so of the movie, and the remaining 77 minutes are an equal feast for the eyes and a destroyer of the soul.


 
After the credits (randomly cutting from close ups of the poster and the odd professional title card, accompanied by a melange of South American folk and library music), we see a melange of location footage before cutting straight away to a group of people at a ‘bar’ being offered hallucinogens by Iris Medina, the Bet Lynch of Peru.  Only Nina Fause takes her up on the offer, as they’ve run out by the time the impressively-eyebrowed Peter Beardley lookalike considers it.  They all get the horn and decide to retire to another room.  If you’re worried about things moving too fast, don’t worry because we’ll be seeing more of them.

In between all of this, we cut to Nina (again?) and a lanky streak of piss called ‘Hank’ – or ‘Brad Hank’ depending on Tobalina’s hastily scribbled narration – entering a local travel tavern.  Now back to Iris and the Americans, which gives us time to make a note of who’s here.  Apart from Nina and Beardsley, there is another moustache, an awkward looking long-haired Peruvian lad and two women shunted out of frame most of the time.  The trouble is that they happen to be Annette Haven and Candida Royalle, two of the most beautiful women ever involved in adult films of the 70s who are able to out-act everyone in this mess, but that Tobalina touch is in full effect and they are merely reduced to being ‘orgy girls #1 and #2’.  And yes, as it’s a Tobalina film, they’re not going to be sitting around and having interesting philosophical debates.  Meanwhile the Peruvian lad is keen to start a mass debate.

While a trademark lacklustre orgy kicks off, we cut to Nina spiking a cup of tea before delivering it to her friend, another blonde called Jane.  Regarding Nina: is she playing a different character? She must be because she has straight hair here and slightly wavy hair during the orgy.  Anyways, she gives her pal the drink and offers to give her a massage while the music cuts to wonky and poorly-transferred trumpets as her Kathy tells the story of “the immortal man” who “lives a happy but lonely life because he doesn’t know love.”  Cut to the hunky loincloth-clad Bill Cable as Shakin’ Tarzan (Tobalizan?) frolicking in the trees with fluffy widdle monkeys.

We cut back and forth with the chicks and Hank going on a sightseeing tour.  Cut back to the two women getting it on.  Cut to some nice location footage.  Cut to cute little gibbons, colourful birds and a crocodile.  Cut to the orgy.  Cut to the lonely Peruvian lad listlessly fiddling with his junk.  Cut to me feeling as disorientated as a car crash victim.  What is going on?



Nina’s signature narration warbles and stumbles as she listlessly talks about making her pal orgasm, the plane landing on the airstrip, her boyfriend who is “an ambitious and dangerous man”  As they sail down the river, the sound of a pre-racism Morrissey with a kidney stone emanates from the post-production booth and leaves our intrepid explorers dumbfounded.  Luckily, the boat drops them off straight in front of the beefy lad who introduces himself as ‘Evo’ or ‘Ivor’ or…I’m not sure.   And now we’re straight back to the orgy.  As the unauthorised panpipe rendition of “El Condor Pasa” builds up, our lonely pud-pulling Peruvian lad almost puts his hand on Annette Haven before having a premonition of the ‘Me Too’ movement and quickly takes his hand away.  Fernando must have been behind the camera muttering "What an amateur!"  Not creepy at all.

Back to the jungle as Evo takes our protagonists through a guided tour of the jungle, which Nina thankfully acknowledges in the voiceover (“I took one look at Evo and my pussy got wet”), in between a bizarre chorus of sped up voices saying something like “bitch bitch bitch! That’s fine! That’s fine!”.  As we get to know our character, I really want to punch Hank in the face until I got tired, had a nap and woke up to punch him again.  As Evo explains his background, Tobalina gets bored and cuts the sound.  That’s handy because we need to look for Jane’s father and have another extended tour through the jungle.  Hang on, Jane had a father? Oh don’t worry, he’s dead and they even quickly notice his grave before Nina wants to fuck.

Evo then introduces his blow-job happy gorilla chum Chico stumbles into shot, before cutting away to that bloody orgy again.  After an eternity, our silver-tongued orator and the brave brick of meat get down to business as we repeatedly cut to a proboscis monkey showing off his willy.  Tobalina is pretty much daring his audience to have a wank.  No chance, Carlos wins the contest every time.  If the close-ups of glans thrusting hither and yon is making your nature rise, the monkey’s dong will stop you in your tracks, unless you’re into that sort of thing.  Finally, Evo delivers his pop shot followed by the sound of what can only be described as a colossal fart dominating the soundtrack.  I do hope Evo went and saw a doctor after making this film.

In between cutting back to more orgy footage, we find out that Nina and Hank are a bunch of lying bastards.  Whilst they claim to be botanists and scientists, all they have on their mind are jewels, which the local indigenous tribe have in bulk.  After saying hi to everyone and chilling for a bit, our villains decide to move quickly and poison the whole tribe with cyanide-tastic candy drops, grab the jewels and kidnap Jane at gunpoint.  They even poison Evo but because he’s immortal he’s up and about within breaking into a yawn.  Gliding between trees and jumping through ponds to rescue Jane, it’s not long before the evildoers catch him and decide to tie them up.

What happens next? Oh, Nina bites Evo’s knob off, in between cutting to a parrot squawking in a voice that sounds uncannily like Carlos Tobalina saying “EEEEWWWW! EEEEWWWW!”  Totally unphased, he unties Jane and instructs Chico to look after her (cue: more gorilla sex!), while he’s on a total revenge trip.  After Evo is shot (he later goes for a swim and washes the wounds clean away, as good as new!), Nina falls victim to a fatal snakebite and Brad meets his end via a poorly photographed long shot of Evo and another tribe blowing poison darts at him as he’s paddling downstream.

At least there’s a happy ending: Evo may have lost his willy, but he’s got the girl (or rather, Chico’s got the girl because Evo has no cock anymore).  The End?  Not at all, there’s a little bit more orgy footage to use up.  Cut to Nina going to sleep after Iris has touched her up, with the Peter Beardsley lookalike and the adorable Candida looking on as Iris says “I bet she’s having fantastic dreams.”  Was it a dream? Nope, it's the end!

What can I say after that?  At least Tobalina had grand visions for this epic and chose to head back to his stomping grounds for an extended holiday, and the location footage is really nice to see.  As a child of the eighties, I kept expecting the Wish You Were Here presenter Judith Chalmers to hover into shot talking about “the sun kissed jungle”, “the cheerful carefree locals” and “impressive bitten off penises” before cutting to Rusty Lee checking out Weston-Super-Mare on a particularly overcast day.  We get to see plenty of authentic wildlife shots – fluffy big-eyed gibbons, spoonbills, baby monkeys, guineafowl, parrots – but I don’t know about the crocodile that looks like it’s catching rays in a swimming pool.  It is also really cool that he was able to get three separate Peruvian tribes to participate in the film.  They all seem rather bemused but happy enough to participate, and they even get credits at the end.  I would also add that Kathie wears some cool outfits throughout the film but, like whoever was in the gorilla suit, she must have been roasting in the humid forest.

However, if you’re looking for coherent storytelling, clear-headed sound and picture editing and a professional credits sequence, please don’t come any nearer.  The sex scenes are merely functional and have a pure inability to get you standing to attention.  Despite this, it is genuinely enjoyable and it makes you want to travel back in time and commend Tobalina for choosing not to film yet another opus in his house, as was his usual wont.

Vinegar Syndrome (who hold the keys to Tobalina but have wisely decided to give his back catalogue a rest at the mo) put this out on DVD and the results look really colourful and sharp.  You have to doff your cap to them for putting some real effort into making these exercises in cinematic dementia sparkle like gold dust on dog shit.  Their disc also features a trailer that is almost another film entirely.  Fernando pops up and does a pop shot, which is something we really don’t need to see again, and a brief scene features Carlos and Nina being attacked by a shirtless Hank.  All the while Carlos’ wonderful cry of “JAANGUULL BLOOOOOO!” blasts through the screen every 10 seconds.

I have heard a few people discuss the singular experience that is Tobalina’s two-part mantelpiece Flesh & Laces but I feel that I have reached by Tobalina quotient for now.  Maybe some other day, but for now let’s have a rest, eh?

In summary: avoid I Am Always Ready and immediately purchase Jungle Blue.  It’s up there with Mad Foxes.  No home should be without a copy of JAANGUULL BLOOOOOOOOO!!!


(Special thanks to Charles Devlin for the press clippings, plus Russell Grant and Christopher Elam for breaking my spirit and making me buy the damn thing.)