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Remembering Todd Stadtman


Todd Stadtman passed away on January 9th, 2021 Todd was a musician, writer, movie lover, and cofounder with me of the Infernal Brains Podcast. Most importantly, he is my friend and I’m going to miss him dearly. Many people knew Todd from his long career as a musician, but I really am not someone who listens to a lot of music, so I knew Todd mostly from the cinema aspect. That’s what I’ll be focusing on here.

I first met Todd back around 2007-8 when I was still in graduate school, I had stumbled across an old program for a Jane Bond film festival and googled some of the titles of this fascinating genre I had never heard of, and one of the top hits was this website from Todd Stadtman called The Lucha Diaries. He was attempting to watch every Santo movie (which he managed), and then after that expanded to more Mexican cinema, and then funky films from across the globe. The writing was great, and he lived close by (I was in Santa Cruz at the time while he lived in San Francisco) so I shot him an email. I don’t do that often, and it’s even rarer when the person writes back, but Todd did, and soon we were trading emails and eventually met up in person at a bar in the Mission called Docs Clock. I’m normally very shy and reserved so I brought along my wife and we ended up chatting for hours. I’m not 100% certain but I think this is when we also then went to a burrito place and Todd’s amazing wife Liza dropped by, but that may have been a later time at the same burrito place. For once, meeting someone you met on the internet didn’t mean that you were meeting up with crazed killers and we hit it off well enough to start making plans to go see movies together. Todd and I became semi-regular movie buddies, whenever a festival had something weird or a revival theater had something cool we’d see if we could meet up. We also had just some days to hang out or go out on double dates with our wives. We don’t make a lot of friends easily so it was nice to have another set of cool people to spend time with. Todd was personable and easy to get along with, his boundless enthusiasm for cinema winning him many fans. Todd was an active participant in the Drive-In Mob on Twitter, a movie watch-along that I was rarely home in time to join in, but I enjoyed seeing the commentary run by on my feed as most of the films were familiar favs.

Todd and I created and cohosted a podcast called the Infernal Brains. At this point it was both of our first forays into podcasting, so we had to learn everything as we went. The first few episodes have some questionable quality audio, but we were both working our best to make it sound as good as we could. Beyond skype calls, some episodes were recorded in Todd’s kitchen as we searched for the best audio quality we could muster (We tried both a shared microphone and literally sitting across from the table from each other recording on our own laptops!) We went from having a few notes about the films to literal stacks and stacks of papers, it was like we were preparing for finals before every podcast. We took the “brains” part seriously, and there is no way I would have sounded anywhere near as clear and prepared as I was without his help. You might also notice most episodes are 80% Todd talking, which was by design as Todd had the gift of gab and could just go on endlessly about what he loved, with me occasionally steering him back on topic. The Infernal Brains podcast is one of the best things on TarsTarkas.NET, and I’m eternally sad I just got too busy with night school classes to keep up with it. Todd kept up the enthusiasm with his other podcasts he cohosted, including the Taiwan Noir podcast, which is another must-listen.

Whenever I’d find a new weird movie or stumble across a formerly lost film suddenly appeared on the internet, I’d think how Todd would like it. We traded movies a lot. I mean a lot. I literally have a stack of vcds/dvds on my table that I was slowly transferring to external drives (very slowly), and Todd’s handwriting is on some of them. A good chunk of the movies on this site and FourDK are films we traded with each other. This is where Shaitani Dracula went from just a weird disk I owned to a cult movie phenomenon. Through Todd I met DurianDave, who was another cool movie guy who knew a lot about older Cantonese and Taiwanese cinema, especially the Jane Bond films and stars Connie Chan and Josephine Siao. Todd and I was also part of a loose alliance of cool movie bloggers called the Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit, which might have been the last of the old style movie blogger leagues. The internet has seemingly become just a few major websites and blogging is on the outs, which makes Todd’s loss even bigger, as he was still active on his site.

Todd and I shared movie tastes but we each had our particular favorite genres. There was still enough overlap that we’d both like the same films. Todd announced he was starting Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill! shortly after I met him, and it was great to see (and read) him at full writing blast. That was around the time we were both at our most prolific of site updates, which means that we were in danger of picking the same obscure film to review. Once, I had just gotten done watching a movie only to hop on and see Todd had just published a review of it. When I brought this up with Todd, he admitted he had a similar experience. When searching for a lot of topics related to the genres we love, the top two results are almost always from Todd and my sites. This became a running joke between us about how little coverage the films we watched got in English language publications, but has also become a thing that other people have told me, that they were interested in the same types of films or actors/directors, but kept only finding articles from Todd or I. We had some fun with being similar on occasions, as my tastes cast a wider net even into mainstream stuff, a response from Todd resulted in us going back and forth reviewing different versions of Puss in Boots movies. Todd and I shared the philosophy that these weren’t terrible movies to mock and feel better than, but they were great fun on their own. That movies were good when masked wrestlers fight Dracula or Taiwanese kaiju rampage or funky space ladies invade Earth. Todd translated his love of genre cinema into a book, and Funky Bollywood is essential reading for any gonzo cinema fan.

I lost touch with Todd in the past few years which is something I’ll always regret. As I got too busy for some projects, we still regularly went to go see the various RiffTrax Live events together at the downtown SF theaters. Eventually, the theaters stopped carrying the events, and by then Todd had moved to Oakland. It was just too hard to coordinate me getting off work in the South Bay, driving up to SF, and then finding a theater and then getting Todd back on BART and to Oakland before BART closed. I always assumed we’d just figure something out later. We even emailed a bit back in early 2020 to try to meet up, but by then it was March, my mom was coming into town, and my wife was pregnant with our first child, so I thought I’d just push it until April. Then COVID happened with the lockdowns, and going in public while you have a pregnant wife was a thing I wasn’t going to do. Todd moved to Brooklyn later that year when his wife got a good job offer, and even after I found out, I didn’t think it was the end of the world, he had family around and I’d still be able to hit him up online. I wish I had ended things with one last meet up before he left. I found out he died due to a memorial post by Miguel Rodriguez, as I hadn’t logged into Facebook for years and that was were the updates on his health were.

Todd made me a better writer because he pushed me to do better just through sheer enthusiasm and his own good writing. He made me a better person just due to being such a good person. No one ever had a bad word to say about Todd, he was friendly to everyone. Todd had lots of different circles of friends, I was just a small part of one, but he made a big impression on me, and Todd Stadtman will always live on in me. I cried when I heard the news. I’ve been crying off and on all week. I cried when I wrote this. I’ll still be sad for a good while afterwards. I’ll probably be misty eyed every time I see War of the Gargantuas. But I’m determined to make him proud. It was hard to write this, it made it more a finality that Todd won’t be there to answer my message. Even while I was finishing writing this, someone dropped me a message about a certain Indian film director showing up with more work that Todd would have jumped on immediately. Todd led a full life, and I’m going to be as much like Todd as I can and accomplish as many goals as I can. He was very prolific with his writing, not only are there a ton of sites with articles to read, he has novels and some finished stories that have yet to be published according to a post of his. Hopefully I’ll get to read them too someday. I love you Todd, you were the cool big brother I never had. I’m sorry we didn’t get one last meetup, I’m sorry my son will never get to meet one of the men who influenced him on his dad’s weirdo hobbies. You better have access to all the cool lost films wherever you are, or I’m going to have to kick some afterlife butt one day.

Things you can do –
Todd’s wife Liza posted that you can express your condolences by donating in his name to one of the following charities:
ACLU
Planned Parenthood
Southern Poverty Law Center

And don’t settle for whatever is on Netflix, go seek out cool movies that are hard to find but looks cool, subtitles be damned. There is a whole world of cinema out there just waiting for an audience!

Cool Todd Stadtman links –

Websites:
Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill!
The Lucha Diaries

Teleport City
Movie-fan Princess
Cinemaazi

Books:
Funky Bollywood
SF Punk Trilogy –
Please Don’t Be Waiting For Me
So Good It’s Bad
Never Divided

Movie podcasts:
Infernal Brains
Taiwan Noir
Monster Island Resort guest episodes (embedded in post)
Fighting Femmes, Fiends, and Fanatics (video)

Music podcasts:
Friday’s Best Pop Song Ever

Radio shows:
Pop Offensive

Music:
Out of the Past: The Best and the Rest of Todd Stadtman 1999 – 2007
Bandcamp
iTunes
Only I Can Save You
Anxotica
TheLuchadiaries youtube channel (with live show recordings)
B TEAM – “I Fall”
B TEAM – “Eyes Bleeding”

If you know of more please let me know and I’ll add them!

Image via Todd’s Facebook

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 18, 2021 at 8:19 am

Categories: Podcasts, Site News   Tags:

Son of Tars and the obvious site slowdown

Godzilla Minya teach
You’ve probably noticed things have been pretty quiet here lately at TarsTarkas.NET. There’s a good reason, which is there is now a baby Tars Tarkas running around! Of course that means I don’t got a bunch of free time to watch ridiculous and cool movies from around the globe and offer exciting write-ups about them. But TarsTarkas.NET is not going anywhere, it’s just in slowmo mode for a while. There are a bunch of almost finished reviews sitting around, and eventually some will get pushed out and new ones written. Do I have a time schedule for this? Nope! But it’s going to happen…someday! Until then, we got a big archive of reviews and I still have time to yell at idiots on Twitter. Until things get back to a bit of normal, have fun!

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 2, 2020 at 1:46 pm

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Snow Monster (Review)

Snow Monster

aka 大雪怪 aka Da Xue Guai
Snow Monster 大雪怪
2019
Written by Sheng Fan Zhang and Pian Jia Leng
Directed by Huang He

Snow Monster 大雪怪
NetFlix isn’t the only streaming platform pumping out a ton of their original movies to drive up views, China has several big streaming companies and they are all creating their own content in a bet to win sole control of views. Streaming platform Youku has greenlit a ton of original content, but the films of interest to us are several that are basically SyFy Channel original movies! They got giant snakes, giant alligators, sea monsters, the list goes on and on. But most importantly, they have Snow Monster, which is pretty much King Kong in snow demon form. Also there are ice sharks! Yes, Snow Monster fights the ice sharks! This is some of what we call pretty amazing stuff.

The Snow Monster himself is not a gorilla or even an ape. It appears to be a huge furry satyr, complete with a long tail. The fur is snow white, the hands only have three fingers and a thumb, the legs are bent like goat legs, and the head is adorned with two large goat horns, one of which is partially snapped off. The monster himself is a mix of guy in suit and CGI depending on the scene needs, but more often than not he is just a guy standing there reacting to what is going on. This makes it sort of charming in a low budget cinema sort of way.
Snow Monster 大雪怪
Of course there are no English subtitles, but at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles! The plot is pretty easy to follow, the monsters don’t need to talk, and while we have all seen this before, and it’s fun to see it again done different with the shadow of the original sprawling over it. Part of the film has the same trouble the Peter Jackson King Kong did, in that we spend a bunch of time running around with monsters that aren’t the giant monster of the title. I don’t know how much planning you need for a Snow Monster movie but there are like 25 people credited. If this keeps up with the other Youku films I got on the docket than I will keep you posted, otherwise I would advise getting a job as a film planner as they seem to be giving them away! I identified who I could in the cast, but as I don’t know what the names of the characters they are playing are, I’m just going to refer to them by their real names. Since this is a harder to find movie (unless you are specifically looking for it), this will be more of a recap review.
Snow Monster 大雪怪
Snow Monster does keep the monster in the winter wonderland where it exists instead of having a sequence where it is brought back to the city to cause trouble. That’s obviously a cost consideration, but it also points to the reality of transporting a gigantic monster out of a hostile environment and then into an urban environment without their being any sort of issues, something most of the Kong films just handwave away.

Snow monster, snow sharks, monster birds, a random dinosaur skeleton that seems put there because there were big skeletons in Kong: Skull Island except those were Kong’s family and here it makes no sense unless Snow Monster’s dad was a tyrannosaur. It’s Snow Monster, baby!
Snow Monster 大雪怪
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - March 2, 2020 at 8:12 am

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In the Shadow of the Moon (Review)

In the Shadow of the Moon

In The Shadow Of The Moon
2019
Written by Gregory Weidman and Geoffrey Tock
Directed by Jim Mickle

In The Shadow Of The Moon
In the Shadow of the Moon is a fun little time travel murder mystery that gets too convoluted for its own good. In 1988, three seemingly random people drop dead, blood and their brains leaking out of their face. Officer Locke (Boyd Holbrook) manages to insert himself into the case as part of his bid to make detective. His partner Maddox (Bokeem Woodbine) is less enthused about the extra work, and brother-in-law and current detective Holt (Michael C. Hall) doesn’t want his sister’s husband messing up his first big case. Soon it is evident the dead have all been attacked, and a mysterious woman (Cleopatra Coleman) is responsible. After a chase she winds up dead, but who she is or how she ended up with a police service revolver bullet in her hand despite no officer shooting that night remains a mystery.

The only problem is she shows up again 9 years later alive and killing again, and will keep reappearing as an increasingly obsessed and isolated Locke attempts to solve the mystery of who she’s killing and how she’s doing it. Things are best when we don’t know anything and are caught up in what is going on. There is a clue in the very beginning, but it becomes obvious really fast what is going on and why, and once you figure that out all the rest of the twists unravel in your mind and it just becomes a waiting game for them to happen on screen.

Speaking of mysterious deaths, the writers just go and fridge Locke’s wife by having her die in childbirth, which he misses part of due to the time traveling killer. Locke’s estrangement from his family as the years go on mean we drop most of the supporting cast that hasn’t died by other means, forcing Boyd Holbrook to largely carry things on his own. While he isn’t bad, sometimes it good to have more people to interact with for a film instead of it just being a succession of things that happen to Locke.
In The Shadow Of The Moon
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 3, 2020 at 8:31 am

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Godziban Episode 21 – Go!Go!ゴジラくん#12「飛べ!未来へ向かって」(Review)

March of Godzilla 2019

Godziban Episode 21 – Go!Go!ゴジラくん#12「飛べ!未来へ向かって」

aka ゴジばん
Godziban title English
December 31, 2019
Written and directed by Hideyuki Kobayashi
Godziban
King Ghidorah makes his grand entry into the Godziban story line proper and causes a whole heap of trouble! Keep in mind King Ghidorah’s puppet has been seen in the stage play that was put on in the special event episode, but that is not entirely canon to the current story line even though it could easily fit in before the actual show as where Mothra came from. So maybe it is canon. It’s canon! If Santa Kaiju can be canon, this is canon. Canon!

Not only do we got King Ghidorah, but there are some other new faces in this episode, which turned out to be the final Godziban episode. Of the season? Of all time? We will wait to see. Until then, it looks like March of Godzilla 2019 in 2020 has come to an end. But don’t fret, because March of Godzilla 2020 will be starting up soon enough! Godzilla marching will never die as long as they keep producing more and more Godzilla stuff to keep marching on!

Go! Go! Godzilla-kun
Minya is still taking care of Baby Rodan, giving him food and trying to get him strong. He’s basically doing for Rodan what Godzilla-kun was doing for him in earlier episodes. Godzilla-kun and Little stop by (Little tossing a folded leaf around like a paper airplane) to check on the pair. Little asks about flying, and Godzilla-kun thinks about flying using his atomic breath to power it (like in Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster) and then laughs as he dismisses the concept!

But the message is clear…Minya must teach Rodan how to fly. Even though Minya can’t fly! So expect a lot of puppets falling to Earth!

Next we see Minya and Rodan at the top of a big cliff. Minya demonstrates flying by launching the paper/leaf airplane off the cliff into the sky. Rodan tries to fly…and hovers for about a second before dropping like a rock. Minya runs down to go get him and carries Rodan all the way back up the mountain. Minya is a pretty good dad, but he should be, as he had a pretty good dad himself. That’s been consistently one of Godzilla’s best traits.

Rodan tries again, fails again, and Minya hauls him back up the cliff again. Rodan is apprehensive about trying again. Minya is trying to encourage him when suddenly they hear the cries of “Dorat dorat dorat dorat dorat!” Yes, the Dorats are back, who you may remember tried to eat Baby Rodan’s egg last time we saw them.
Godziban
The Dorats are still jerks, and are back to eat Rodan now that h’es big enough to make a full meal for the trio. They try to float the Baby Rodan away, but Minya grabs him. So they start blasting Minya with electricity! Again and again until eventually Minya is scorched and collapses. Rodan begins to panic and desperately tries to wake him. The drama going on here!

Then the fear becomes blinding white hot rage as Rodan takes flight and smashes through the villains, knocking them around as he swoops and soars among their ranks, causing them to all crash into the ground. Minya is back awake with Rodan returns, and they are both happy at the victory and Rodan’s new flying ability.

The Dorats aren’t going to go away that easily. They get mad and decide to get even, thus they merge into King Ghidorah! It’s a truly massive King Ghidorah, larger than all the other puppets on the show combined! King Ghidorah floats in the sky as Minya and Rodan shake in fear, then King Ghidorah blasts them with the electric breath rays. Good ol’ Minya still protects Rodan despite now being blasted with even more powerful blasts than before. The two are helpless…until Godzilla-kun is there!
Godziban
Godzilla-kun charges…despite King Ghidorah being 20 times his size! He is not detoured by being blasted, Godzilla-kun jumps and grabs onto the neck of King Ghidorah’s central head! He tries chocking and scratching it, but the other two heads clamp on to Godzilla-kun’s head and tail and tosses him into a cliffside.

Godzilla-kun gets up, still determined to fight even though it is fruitless and he’s going to die. But behind him…Minya and Rodan got every other kaiju in town with them! Little, Baby Mothra, Anguirus, Baragon, even Gorosaurus, Manda, Kumonga, and Varan who we’ve not even seen before on this program. Somehow Minya and Rodan got new characters to join the show in order to help their friend. That’s some pretty effecient help! This is amazing!!! It’s Godziban: Endgame! Or Destroy All Monsters, yes yes, but that means I can’t make my jokes!

They all charge at King Ghidorah….and then it ends.

Godzilla-kun talks directly to the camera to thank everyone for watching the show. We are either taking a series break or this is the end of the line, but we go out on something amazing and this show rules so hard I hope it continues. Either way it is an amazing journey.
Godziban
We end with the full version of the theme song playing to some of the highlights of the season while drawings by Onigiri and シウ*単行本発売中 flank the action.

Here’s hoping there is more Godziban in our future, whenever that may be! Until then, March of Godzilla 2019 in 2020 concludes, but keep on marching, people! Okay, I lied, there will be one more March of Godzilla 2019 in 2020 article, because I’m going to make a character guide for the show, but as that is a guide and not an article we gotta say goodbye here! (and there might be a few movie reviews in between depending on how lazy I am in posting the backlog of completed reviews!)
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 19, 2020 at 9:01 am

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Godziban Episode 20 – Go!Go!ゴジラくん#11「メリゴジ ゴジラが聖夜にやってきた」(Review)

March of Godzilla 2019

Godziban Episode 20 – Go!Go!ゴジラくん#11「メリゴジ ゴジラが聖夜にやってきた」

aka ゴジばん
Godziban title English
December 24, 2019
Written and directed by Hideyuki Kobayashi
Godziban
Have a Merry Godziban Christmas!! (We got to this weeks late, but who cares!) March of Godzilla 2019 in 2020 continues with the special Christmas episode of Godziban, which like all Godziban episodes are strange and awesome!

We got Christmas graphics! We got Kaiju Christmas! We got kaiju in antlers and red noses, we got kaiju in Santa clothes, we got trees, we got presents, we got joy, we got Megalon upset at all this joy. These are done by the artist who does the Jet Jaguar shorts, who I believe is Onigiri though there are some other artists credited on the show (and the graphics we see at the end of the episode are obviously in a different artist’s style!)

Go! Go! Godzilla-kun
The three Godzilla Brothers read about Santa Claus. They discuss it a bit and then realize that someone is leaving presents for kid fans of kaiju, ShoGoji must know something. So they go spy and find ShoGoji loading presents into a sleigh!

ShoGoji admits it and invites the brothers to help pack presents and prepare for the journey to give gifts to children. Baragon and Anguirus are also there, dressed up as reindeer with fake felt antlers and big red noses. The Godzillas all dress up in Santa suits with hats and coats.
Godziban
This is all canon, people. 100% canon. Godzilla is Santa. It is real! How can it be real? May I remind you of The Santa Clause? When Santa dies, the killer becomes the new Santa. Thus, ShoGoji killed Santa, and became the new Santa! Complete with his magic cane!

ShoGoji then starts to tell a story, it’s about the girl way back in the original GEMSTONE contest pilot! The young girl who wanted a pet and found the Kamatte Godzilla left alone in a box, which she then picked up and loved. It turns out her parents didn’t love it as much as her and banned it from the house, so the girl had to keep the poor pet in an abandoned building nearby with a lot of straw and a dog house. She named it Kamachi and would bring it food, but one day it was very cold, and Kamachi DIED!

Yes, Kamachi is dead! They killed Kamachi! They killed a child’s pet! Losing a pet you love is traumatic, and here it is, in Godziban form. How many shows do you know that feature a beloved child’s pet die? The kid is obviously upset that her beloved pet is dead. There are shots of the girl crying and holding her dead pet as she walks despondantly through town, while children are at their homes having Christmas fun (and there is a big K on the Christmas tree because they are worshippers of Kaiju, not Christ!)

The dichotomy is amazing! Also amazing is there is this entire kaiju-worshipping background religion happening that is just flavor to the story and not the actual story! This is great world-building, of course children growing up in a world with real monsters would love monsters more than usual. Monster rule!

The sleigh rushes to Earth as the child collapses crying in the middle of some sort of walkway late at night. The images of Godzilla-kun, Minya, Little, and ShoGoji dressed in Santa costumes appear before her. They all bow and she thinks she’s freaking out and seeing things. Godzilla-kun introduces everyone, and then ShoGoji uses his magic cane to zap Kamachi’s body. It is brought over to the kaiju and revived and grown bigger!
Godziban
Kamachi is back alive! The kid can hug Kamachi again! At least for now, Kamachi has to go live with the kaiju. The Godzilla give the kid a gift before they depart.

Next we get a montage of the kaiju appearing in random bedrooms of kids who are kaiju fans and gifting them presents. Even Hedoji and Hedochi get in on the gift giving action! And are dressed as Santa! This is canon, btw. The Smog Monster gives gifts to children. After the monsters have handed out all of their gifts, they wish everyone a Merry Christmas! So you better have had a Merry Kaiju Christmas in 2019! Or whatever holiday you celebrate.

At the end we see the kid and her gift, a Kamachi keychain! Kamachi will be with her always.
Godziban
The final content is a different graphic toon with the Mothra twin fairies and the Mothra larvae also dressed as Santa, and the evil triplet fairy and Battra wearing purple Santa outfits. Grown up Mothra is in the picture as well despite not making an in-puppet appearance yet, but it counts enough to be added to our character list one I get around to making it!

The credits are new as well for the second week in a row, it is the kids from the Christmas story we saw earlier dressed in Christmas costumes all doing the Godzilla-kun dance! Including the young actress who played Kamachi’s owner and was the original doer of the dance for the closing credits. This show is pretty darn fun, and fully embracing the weirdness makes it amazingly memorable.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 10, 2020 at 9:57 am

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