Showing posts with label film and wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label film and wine. Show all posts

Friday, May 24, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Massive Monsters

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌This week, we need some big wine pairings for some big monster movies. Big. Huge. Massive. 

I watched a lot of monster movies as a young man, often with a group of friends and often accompanied by several bottles of wine. It was a long time ago, but the names Ripple, Boone's Farm and Spanada keep flashing before my eyes. We will try to find bigger, better pairings for this trio of films, each worthy of at least a couple of bottles.

The War of the Gargantuas is a 1966 kaiju film, which in English translates to monster movie. This Japanese production features a pair of hairy yetis which are referred to as Frankensteins, even though they bear no resemblance whatsoever to Mary Shelly's homemade human. The flick was intended to be a sequel to another movie that introduced the non-Frankenstein Frankenstein, but the thread got lost somewhere along the way. It happens. Also, Frankenstein was the doctor, not the monster. I'll just leave that here in case I find some more nits to pick. 

I should mention that the version dubbed for US release dropped all references to Frankenstein, calling them instead, Gargantuas. One is green and one is brown, but there seems to be confusion as to which is which. It reminds me of the joke about the farmer who had trouble differentiating his two horses, only to measure them and find that the black one was a half inch taller than the white one.

The two Gargantuas are brothers, but they end up fighting in a Tokyo death match. I mean, where else would the monsters fight in a proper kaiju? I would say that I won't spoil the ending for you, even though you have probably watched it repeatedly throughout your life. That is some volcano, huh?

I thought it would be too much to expect a wine called gargantua to rear its hairy head, but lo, here it is. Bergström Wines of Dundee, Oregon makes three Syrahs bearing that name, one each from Oregon, Washington and California. The Cali version comes from Santa Maria's Bien Nacido Vineyard, so I don't need to look any further. By the way, the winery says they took the name from Rabelais’ 16th century book called "Gargantua et Pantagruel," not from the movie. Maybe the film was similarly influenced.

"Oh no, there goes Tokyo, go go Godzilla!" Godzilla was released in 1954, but it was 1956 before we got a taste of the Americanized version. After that, it seemed there was always another movie featuring the scaly dinosaur versus one opponent or another. The US release added shots of Raymond Burr sweating while watching the big G on his rampage. 

To say that this was a watershed movie is like saying WWII was kind of an important historical moment. I grew up with Godzilla, maybe you did, too. He is the definitive movie monster, the ultimate kaiju killer. 

"He picks up a bus and he throws it back down

As he wades through the buildings toward the center of town.

Oh no, they say he's got to go,

Go go Godzilla!"

The wine pairing for Godzilla should lean east, far east. Godzilla sake is rice wine for those who like a monster on the label. It is Junmai Daiginjo style, with its rice polished until half the grain is gone. The purveyor promises "strong aromas like Godzilla."

1955's Gigantis the Fire Monster is the title of the Americanized version of Godzilla Raids Again. This sequel to Godzilla was not received well, largely because they tried to pass off a dead monster as a new monster. Such a public relations backfire would not be seen again until New Coke.

A new foe is introduced, Anguirus, and dispensed with in true Godzilla fashion, with a giant atomic belch of fire. The military is sure they got him this time, but many more sequels will show that to be an erroneous assumption by the top brass. 

What I love about Gigantis is the head of the fishing company who worries that if the monster goes on a rampage in his fishing waters it will affect his business. Bad for business? To somewhat paraphrase Butch Cassidy, "Are you crazy? The fight will probably kill ya."

GiGantis Ventoux is a Rhône blend of Grenache and Syrah which sells for somewhere around $40. It is not named after the faux Godzilla, but after Mount Ventoux, said to be the Giant of Provence. 

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Friday, May 10, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Wacky Westerns

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌This week, we pair wines with a trio of slightly bent westerns. No deadeye, just wine. 

It's not about wine, but that won't stop us from pairing a wine with 1965's The Hallelujah Trail just a few short paragraphs from now. It's a comedy and a western, all dressed up like a documentary. As one scribe put it back in the day, "all dressed up and nowhere to go." That's how it is with a joke that takes almost three hours to play out.

The story concerns a wagon load of whiskey which is bound for Denver so the winter won't be so dry. There are a number of individuals who hope to stand in the way of that delivery, and that's where the comedy comes in. To me, Burt Lancaster and Lee Remick don't seem to lean in the direction of laughs. Jim Hutton and Pamela Tiffin strike me as better equipped to handle some whiskey wagon humor. 

As for the rest of the cast, my god, it's like a meeting of Character Actors Anonymous. Donald Pleasence, Brian Keith, Martin Landau, Helen Kleeb, Dub Taylor, Whit Bissell. There couldn't have been any other movies being made while this one was shooting. Everyone was here. 

Canadian winery Hidden Chapel makes a Viognier called Hallelujah, which is grown and made in British Columbia, in the south Okanagan Valley. It runs just under $30 a bottle. 

Support Your Local Gunfighter was 1971's answer to Support Your Local Sheriff!, which hit the screens a couple of years earlier. It stars James Garner, who lifted the comic western to an art form and carried it into more modern themes, like a detective who lives in a trailer on the Malibu beach and drives a hot car. 

Suzanne Pleshette is in the movie as Garner's love interest, while a whole host of character actors populate the cast list. Let's see, there's Harry Morgan, Jack Elam, Joan Blondell, Ellen Corby, (stop me if I'm going too fast), Dub Taylor (again) and even an uncredited Chuck Connors appearance. 

Garner plays a devil-may-care old-West gambler. Go figure how that ever popped into anyone's head. Does the name Maverick ring any bells? In this scenario, he’s on a train with a woman to whom he's supposed to be getting hitched. Cooling on the idea, he bails out of the relationship in Whatever This Town is Where I Am Right Now.

He decides to stick around, and for some reason he takes on the identity of a well-known gunslinger. Of course, said gunman comes to town and it's western farce comedy time. The film gets a bit of a bad rap as being a throwaway, cookie-cutter comedy. It does seem, however, that the more time passes the better the movie looks. 

You probably can't find any of the wine called Chateau Jimbeaux that came from James Garner's Santa Ynez Valley vineyard. He sold the estate about a quarter of a century ago. You could cast an eye towards Australia's Barossa Valley, home to Rockford Wines. No beach, no hot car, and you have to email them to order.

After more than 30 years away from the big screen, The Lone Ranger rode back into celluloid in 2013. Armie Hammer plays the masked man and Johnny Depp is Tonto, who narrates the story as an old man. Speaking of the mask, how is that supposed to hide anyone's identity? I've seen ballroom masks on sticks that served that purpose better. I've always thought he should have had a luchador mask. Nobody will recognize you in one of those. And, considering some of the allegations that have been made against Hammer by women, perhaps a mask is not a bad idea for him. 

Anyway, Tonto's tale involves the expected silver bullet as well as a mountain full of silver ore, which Tonto trades away for a pocket watch. Another bad deal for the Native Americans. Tonto had better watch his back. He gives a silver bullet to the boy who has been listening to his story. I'm sure there must be some law against giving a kid ammunition, silver or not.

California winemaker Randall Grahm was once known as The Rhône Ranger, back when Cali wine made from Rhône grapes was considered a pretty mavericky thing to do. I tend to like the Bonny Doon Vineyards Picpoul, and Le Cigare Volant is a longtime favorite of mine. 

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Friday, May 3, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - A Bounty On Larry K

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week, we pair wines with three different takes on the Mutiny on the Bounty story. Each of the trailers has commentary from Larry Karaszewski, who co-wrote Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt and Dolemite is My Name, three films bound to appear on many "favorites" lists. 

The version of Mutiny on the Bounty from 1962 stars Trevor Howard as Captain Bligh and Marlon Brando as Fletcher Christian. The whole mutiny thing transpires after Christian faces off against Bligh for his brutal treatment of the crew. Christian says "You can’t do that," and Bligh says "Yes, I can, because I’m the captain. Captains are immune from prosecution." Remind you of anyone? I suppose Fletcher Christian was the District Attorney on board the Bounty.

The '62 Mutiny, which sounds rather like a model from the Ford line, is the second telling of this tale on the big screen. We'll get to the 1935 original in a moment. The mission for the HMS Bounty was to bring fruit trees from Tahiti to Jamaica, which makes it sound like a vacation is coming. Before the sails have a good chance to unfurl, some cheese goes missing. It was strawberries in The Caine Mutiny. All the good mutinies started with some missing food, apparently. 

The movie took forever to film, but it was Tahiti, so who cared? Well, MGM for one. The budget was exceeded by about ten million dollars, so there was that. And that was back when ten million dollars was a lot of money. Brando liked his time with the Tahitian people. He liked it so much he took one of them home with him. His marriage to Tarita lasted ten years, which is not bad by Hollywood standards. By Tahitian standards, I don't know. 

It is worth noting that a bottle of wine said to have been left aboard the Bounty by Bligh sold recently at auction for about $2,700. That's a bit steep for my taste, so let's pair Howard and Brando with a sparkling wine called Stranger Than Paradise, made from Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir. What's that? It's sold out? Look, I fell in love with Hammerling Wines and their sparkling fascination, so find another one on their site and lift a toast to the '62 Mutiny. 

1984's The Bounty starred Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson as Bligh and Christian. It is regarded as more historically accurate than the two which came before it, which wasn't that hard to pull off. It was also fairly well received by the critics of the day, which was a bit trickier. The Bounty was released about a quarter century before Gibson's downfall and seven years before Hopkins made everyone hate fava beans and Chianti. 

The ship that was built to be the Bounty cost millions of dollars, but the movie still sailed in under budget, quite an accomplishment for a film set on water. It was no Titanic, of course. However, even though Titanic cost nearly 300 million to make, it raked in about five times that amount. That’s more wet dollar bills than you'd ever find on the bar during happy hour down at the neighborhood tiki lounge. 

Yeah, not going with a Chianti pairing. In fact, both Hopkins and Gibson say they are sober, and have been for years. That means more for us. Bloom & Bounty, in Paso Robles' El Pomar district, makes a lovely Arneis wine. You may find the Italian grape as exotic as the Bounty's crew found Tahiti.

The 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty starred Charles Laughton and Clark Gable as the captain and the lieutenant. Of course, they were both lieutenants but Laughton got top billing. There were plenty of opportunities for historians to quibble, like shouldn't they have said "left-tenant?" The public ate it all up with a fork and spoon, though, and the scribes seemed unusually satisfied with the picture, too. 

Look for James Cagney as a background actor. He was reportedly yachting near the shooting of a scene off Catalina Island when he pulled up starboard and joked to director Frank Lloyd that he could use some work. If you squint really hard, you can also see David Niven and Dick Haymes in the background of some shots, although it seems they didn't get their extra jobs while piloting a yacht nearby. 

While sailing the seas looking for extra work, you might want a libation from Sailor Vineyard of Port Townsend, Washington. What a delightful oddity! They make wine from the French hybrid grape Marechal Foch. That is probably more exotic than the Arneis, but just as tasty.

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Friday, April 26, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - On The Fritz

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week, a trio of films directed by Fritz Lang. We have a wine to pour with each of them.

In my younger days, oh so long ago, I would occasionally have people over to my humble apartment to enjoy a fine beverage and some music. There would inevitably come a time when I was ready for them to leave. When that time came, I would grab my VHS copy (oh so long ago) of Fritz Lang's Metropolis and say, "Have you seen this? It's great!" Rarely would my guests feel that way about Metropolis, and I would be left alone, as I wished. 

By the way, the fine beverage back then was usually a PBR or MGD. Now I know better. I have wine. And friends who like Metropolis.

Oh, the things to which a drink can lead. Lang's The Woman in the Window is a 1944 film noir in which a completely innocent man gets wrapped up in a tangled web of deception. He admires a painting of a woman that he sees in a store window. She admires him admiring it. They go back to her place for that drink. Enter the jealous boyfriend, spoiling for a fight. The admirer kills him in self defense, and we're off to the races. 

Lang threw in an extra twist at the end of the picture, a trope that's been used several times since, always to good advantage. At least, I like it.

With a nod to the twist at the end, let's pair Dreaming Tree Wine with The Woman in the Window. The Crush Red Blend comes from Dave Matthews' winery in Geyserville.

Human Desire is a 1954 film noir taken from an Émile Zola novel. Glenn Ford gets top billing, but the real stars are the trains. Railroad buffs love to argue about which line is depicted, which car is shown, which engine is doing the work. Railroad buffs are almost as insufferable as wine aficionados. 

It is a noir, so you know there is a femme fatale involved (the glorious Gloria Grahame) and a burly guy who nobody likes (Broderick Crawford). Murder and jealousy roll along like a streamliner while good guys try to stay good and bad guys just don't give a damn. Let's have a fine beverage.

In fact, let's have a fine beverage from the Texas Hill Country. Barons Creek Vineyards does a Cabernet Sauvignon (What did you expect? It’s Texas) called Crazy Train. That certainly describes the vibe on the trains frequented by the characters in Human Desire.

Ford, Grahame and Lang had teamed up the year before in The Big Heat, a 1953 film noir. I love the one-sheet: "Somebody’s going to pay … because he forgot to kill me." I can picture some noirish oaf hitting himself on the forehead, saying, "Agh! I knew I forgot to do something!" Don’t you just hate that? When you forget to kill a guy? I know I do.

So this film noir is not The Big Sleep, and it’s not The Big Clock, it's The Big Heat. Look, we've got Ford and Grahame, which is ordinarily enough to warrant a viewing. But we also have Lee Marvin as a monster mobster, the kind of guy who throws a pot of hot coffee into a woman's face. Nobody, and I mean nobody, plays the bad guy like Lee Marvin. 

Michael Franzese runs a winery now. It's challenging, but not as much as his former job, mob boss. If you think making wine is difficult, try quitting the Columbo crime family. The Franzese Areni is an Armenian Pinot Noir which sells for about 30 bucks. If you're interested in decor, his pomegranate wine comes in a really cool looking bottle.

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Friday, April 19, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Tough Sits

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we'll need a drink to get through three of what our chief guru terms "tough sits," films that are just plain hard to watch. 

The 2002 French art film, Irréversible, is the perfect candidate for leading this trio. The film depicts a brutal attack on a woman and the brutal vengeance exacted on her assailant by the two men who love her. Are we okay so far? The couple of uses of the word brutal in that sentence should give you an idea of how hard it will be to keep seated through its 97 minute run.

One critic said Irréversible would be the most walked-out-of movie of the year. Another said that the violence and cruelty in the film would make Irréversible unwatchable for most people. That was Roger Ebert's assessment, and we remember that Mr. Ebert had no stomach for gratuitous violence, especially of a sexual nature. I mean, it's not like the Marquis de Sade said it was over the top. But still, Ebert was being rather handsomely paid to sit through it and found it difficult to do so. 

A Brutal Wine for a brutal movie. The Brutal Wine Company uses the term as slang for "good." It is an open-source effort for natural wines, meaning many different winemakers are slapping the logo on their labels. Pick out a red one, from France. There are plenty, all with plenty of exclamation points.

Africa Addio is known as Africa: Blood and Guts in the US and Farewell Africa in the UK. The 1966 documentary falls into the Italian mondo category, or shockumentary, if you will. And you will. Be shocked. Over and over again. 

The film documents the bloody end of colonial Africa. A series of vignettes show crazed celebrations of independence, violent uprisings, animal torture, cannibalism, massacres and even genocide. Hard to take? You bet it is. I can only imagine how difficult it was to shoot the footage, a project that spanned three years and brought the filmmakers close to imprisonment and death on more than one occasion. You can use a drink for this film, but you may want to skip the popcorn.

Let's try a sweet wine to help take the edge off of this movie. South Africa's Klein Constantia Vin de Constance is made from Muscat de Frontignan grapes and carries a very high sugar content. Depending on the vintage, look to spend anywhere from $60 to $140 for a 500ml bottle. 

One would think that 1965's Monster A Go-Go combines sci-fi and horror in a pair of go-go boots. One would be wrong. There is no go-go to be found here. It got up and went-went. 

Here is what we should all embrace about the movie industry: its flexibility. The original filmmaker ran out of money halfway through. Another guy needed a movie to fill out a double bill of trash. He bought it and started making an entirely different movie. The scenes that are stitched together in Monster A Go-Go constitute a "movie" in the strict definition of the word, but that seam is stretched to the ripping point.

The one-sheet claims that the film could set America's space program back 50 years. Why not? That's what it did for filmmaking. There is little point trying to make sense of the plot. However, you do get bonus points for figuring out which characters are which. The shooting schedules were separated by three years, and at least one of the actors looked very different after the passage of that time. It is hailed by some as one of the worst movies of all time, and there doesn't seem to be a way to argue that point. TV Guide went on record to give it perhaps the harshest one-word review ever: garbage. 

The Big Red Monster Wine is an apt choice for this movie. They have it in Cabernet or Zinfandel, produced in Paso Robles and sold for less than $20 just about everywhere. It's cheap and it's non-vintage but at least it's not garbage. 

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Friday, April 12, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Still More Movies You Never Heard Of

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we pair wines with movies that may have fallen through the cracks. You can see them if you squint really hard and shine a flashlight down in there. 

Hey, didn't we just do this? I think it was only a couple of weeks ago that we had a trio of forgotten films. Actually, they weren't forgotten. We had never heard of them in the first place. How could we forget them? Well, here we are again, scrounging around in our digital streamers trying to find out what these flicks are all about anyway. At least we have wine. 

In 2016 Richard Gere appeared as Norman. The full title adds The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, so you get the spoiler right there on the one-sheet. It's an Israeli film which also features Michael Sheen, Steve Buscemi, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Hank Azaria, to give you an idea of the kind of talent in this picture.

Norman is a low-level fixer, a quid pro quo man, a you-scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-someone-else's-back-for-you kind of guy. He connects with a man who becomes prime minister of Israel, and finds new doors opening everywhere for his favors. That sort of life eventually wears a person down. Ask Michael Cohen. No matter how much you do for someone, it's never enough. Until it's too much. 

If you have ever wanted to see a rabbi throw a guy into a pile of trash, this is your movie. If you have ever left home without your Epi pen, this film gives you something else to think about. 

Kentucky's Chenault Vineyards makes a Concord grape wine called Sam's Fix It Juice. More serious drinkers can try Richard Gere's Brunello, made by Tenuta San Filippo di Montalcino

1999's Spring Forward features Ned Beatty and Liev Schreiber as two guys working in city maintenance. One of them is fresh out of prison. The other one has the end of his life breathing down his neck. They couldn't be more different, but they find a way to be important in each other's lives. It sounds like A Very Special Chico and the Man, but the movie was well-received, even by critics, and deserves to be found, not forgotten.

Sunset Cellars makes a Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel which they call Daylight Saving Wine. The grapes are harvested at "fall-back" time, but you can drink it all year long. 

The Hatchet Man is from 1932, which means it is pre-code. It is also pre-woke, as the cast full of Chinese characters are all played by Caucasians instead of Asians. How Caucasian? Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young, that’s how Caucasian. There is a lot of eye makeup in this film. At the time, Hollywood thought that audiences wouldn't accept big stars made up to look Asian if they were on screen right next to real Asians. So they kept the big stars and got rid of all the real Asians. 

It was a time before the Hays Code restricted what Hollywood could show on the silver screen. This one has illicit sex, drugs and a guy who serves Buddha by throwing a hatchet. Get comfortable with a big bowl of popcorn. You're in for a treat.

The film was directed by William Wellman, whose 1927 film Wings won the very first Best Picture Oscar. Wellman's directorial career spanned four decades, and he won an Oscar in 1973, Best Original Story for A Star Is Born. Oh, yeah. He co-wrote the original version in 1937. 

A wine pairing for a movie set in San Francisco's Chinatown might have once included a wine made from tiger bones, or worse parts of the tiger. However, China is now a major wine nation, although they are more infatuated with Bordeaux than their own rice or plum wines. Ao Yun is one of the premier producers in China. Their Bordeaux blend is made from grapes grown in Shangri-La, in the foothills of the Himalayas. and has a price tag north of $300 for the 2013 vintage. 

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Friday, April 5, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Happy 98th, Roger Corman

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we celebrate Roger Corman's birthday with wines for three of his films.

April 5th has special significance beyond the fact that it sits roughly halfway between my birthday and tax day, two auspicious occasions in their own right. It also happens to be the birthday of noted producer and director Roger Corman. It further happens to be birthday number 98 for the king of cult movies. We have three of his films this time, and wine pairings for each that we hope will be appreciated. Happy birthday, Roger! 

Attack of the Crab Monsters is a 1957 sci-fi, in case the title didn’t tip it off. It was produced and directed by Corman, with a cast of B-movie legends and TV character actors. Russell "The Professor" Johnson is in it, before his Gilligan Island days. Had he been professionally known as Russell "The Professor" Johnson, he might have enjoyed a career in wrestling and/or politics. 

A team of scientists experience what the one-sheet calls "a tidal wave of terror" as they investigate the effect of nuclear testing at the Bikini Atoll. We’ll give you three guesses as to what type of sea creature was most affected by the radiation, and the first two don't count. 

For crab, radiated or not, we want a white wine with plenty of acidity to provide counterpoint to the sweetness of the meat. Caves Messias has a Vinho Verde wine, from Portugal, which is called Santola. That's Portuguese for spider crab, by the way. You get an artistic rendering on the label of what the crab monster might have looked like before it was nuked. They also have it in rosé, each for around $10. 

In 1962, Corman got on board the civil rights train with The Intruder. It's about a racist who tries to undermine school desegregation in a small town in the Southern U.S. The movie has traveled under several other titles, like The Stranger, Shame, and my favorite, I Hate Your Guts. I want the cast and crew jacket from that one. 

The film was produced and directed by Corman with William Shatner topping the cast. He drifts into town like a racist Henry Hill, whipping the populace into a frenzy about those kids of other colors. His character has everything but the MAGA hat. If he is still alive 50 years down the road, he has that, too. 

Here's a great way to get back at the racists: drink wine made by African-Americans. Anderson Valley's Theopolis Vineyards is owned by Theodora Lee, known by many as Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyard. The former attorney makes a $40 Petite Sirah that people rave about. If you must have a white wine with this movie, try her dry Symphony for $25.

Corman directed The Tomb of Ligeia in 1964. Vincent Price starred in this adaptation of a story by Edgar Allan Poe, a favorite source for Corman. It was written by future Oscar-winner Robert Towne. We have mentioned before that one of Corman's great talents is his ability to surround himself with other greatly talented people.

The script has a dead wife inhabiting the body of a cat that lures the husband away from his new wife. I'm intrigued. Did I mention the dead wife is buried in the house? Talk about baggage. The new wife really shouldn't complain about the other woman's spirit padding around on four legs. It sounds to me like she got what was advertised. 

A little wine might take the edge off the situation, although it might require a lot of wine, depending on your tolerance for having the soul of your husband's dead wife hanging around. It might require a Valium. But let's say wine does it, and why not make it a wine from a Poe story? In "The Cask of Amontillado," the killer vanquishes his victim by entombing him in a wine cellar. Are there worse ways to go? Maybe. Let me think on it. While I'm thinking, I'll have Lustau's Los Arcos Amontillado sherry. It is bone dry and even more complex than Poe's villain. 

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Friday, March 29, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Still More Movies You Never Heard Of

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we dig around in the depths of our streaming platforms to find some forgotten films. We likely won't have to dig too deep to find wine pairings for the movies.

Here is another round of movies you probably don't know about, selected by the TFH gurus specifically for their insider cachet. Wine people also have a deep love for stuff which they feel only they know about. It's why you see so many nerds standing around the intersection of film and wine. 

Giants and Toys is a 1958 Japanese satire on corporate greed. The battle between competing candy conglomerates centers on a young lady who is chosen to be the face of one of these companies. Think "Gerber baby, older with a less winning smile."

She also gets to don a space suit and play around with a ray gun. I suppose she is armed in case of a surprise Godzilla attack, although Megalon and Mothra could be lurking in the shadows, too. Turns out the gig is not for her because, ya know, what she really wants to do is direct. 

While searching for a wine pairing for Giants and Toys I came across a giant wine glass offered on eBay, which is really a wine bottle with a glass affixed to its neck. Any number of cheap wines are likely available at Giant Foods, although you're probably better off with their beer selection. But, let's get serious. 

Here is a Japanese wine, made from a Japanese grape. Well, Koshu is actually a cross of Vitis vinifera and several East Asian varieties, but it is grown in Japan. Ajimu Budoushu Koubou Koshu is a white wine offering lemon, lime and almond notes. It should pair well with certain candies, too.

In 2018's Standoff at Sparrow Creek, members of a small vigilante group are holed up overnight in a warehouse while they try to figure out which one of them shot up a police funeral. The group is described as a militia, but for Second Amendment fans, let's be real. You and five of your well-armed friends do not constitute a militia. 

Standoff is a well respected film, a taut and suspenseful thriller, according to some critics. There is a big twist at the end and a lot of shooting leading up to it. Maybe the guy who was in charge of buying the body armor got mixed up and contacted Under Armor by mistake. There should be a refund due to those who remain alive. 

I could not find a winery named Sparrow Creek, but I found some wines bearing that moniker. It's an old trick in California bulk wine to devise a name for the label through a formula. You choose an animal, then a geographical feature, and put them together. Sparrow Creek Merlot is a natural from this type of branding. How many wines have you seen on supermarket shelves bearing names like Rabbit River, Moose Mountain or Hare Hollow? That formula is the reason why. 

When you want to show off your knowledge of unknown movies, citing a couple of foreign films is always a good idea. The Last Judgment was made in Italy in 1961. It starts with a voice coming from the heavens, announcing that the day of judgment has arrived and will happen at 6:00 that evening. That leaves a matter of hours in which you can repent, or not, or get in a few last good times before it's all over. The film examines how several locals handle the news that it's the end of the world as we know it. 

The movie has an all-star cast of international proportions. Jack Palance and Ernest Borgnine represent the U.S. and give us a great reason to watch. From Greece, France and Italy come Melina Mercouri, Fernandel, Anouk Aimée and Lino Ventura.

Just for fun, let's pair The Last Judgment with bottles from the wineries that rocked the world in the Judgment of Paris, the 1976 wine competition. The highest scoring red and white wines at the event were from Stag's Leap and Chateau Montelena, which beat out an array of highly-touted French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. 

The 2021 Stag's Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon tastes just as good as it did 50 vintages ago and sells for $70. Chateau Montelena's 2021 Napa Valley Chardonnay costs $75 these days. It's the modern vintage of the wine which was featured in the movie, Bottle Shock.

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Friday, March 22, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Magic And Madness

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we call on the magical properties of the grapevine for wine pairings to go with a trio of films that dabble madly in the mystical.

Wine is its own kind of magic. Through a process known only to shamans we call "winemakers," actual fruit is transformed into something that is much more than a simple beverage. It is similar to cinema, an art form which also produces magic from recording devices, scripts and people who like to pretend for a while that they are someone else. Here's to movie magic and the wines that go with them.

The Shout is from 1978, a year that really needed a horror movie. Let's see, the Jonestown massacre, the Pacific Southwest Airlines crash in San Diego, a terrible Iranian earthquake… nothin' to see here. Let's put some horror on celluloid. 

The bad guy in The Shout learned a trick from an old Aborigine, and it was something more substantial than how to make his boomerang come back. It was a shout that, delivered properly, would kill. I have fantasized about having a shout that would make drivers hit the gas when the light turned green. I have yet to make that work, but I'm still trying.

Location shots were done along the incredible Devon coastline, which added a bit of the spectacular to a film that didn't need much help in that department. 

For a movie set in beautiful Devon, UK, let's grab a sparkling wine from Heron Farms, a bubbly made from the Seyval Blanc grape. Great, another horror. Just kidding, Devonians. Seyval Blanc is a perfectly good wine grape, although it is a French hybrid. If you can't nab a $40 bottle from Devon, you can probably find one from an East Coast winery in the US. 

1973's The Wicker Man tells the tale of a detective who goes to a remote island in the Scottish Hebrides in search of a missing child. Scotland, huh? I'm already feeling that this wine pairing will be another tough one. However, if anyone should know about the taste of the blood of the vines, it should be Christopher Lee. He was tailor made to play The Wicker Man’s cult leader. 

On the island, the cop finds a culture that has given up on Christianity and opted for Paganism, complete with sacrifices made by way of fire. The unlucky offerings are placed in a giant titular wicker man, then set ablaze. That's how the Druids dispensed with their prisoners of war, back before there was a Geneva Convention. This movie is horror times ten. 

Since The Wicker Man was set in Scotland, it makes perfect sense to pair a Scottish wine with it. There must be some wineries in Scotland, somewhere amid the distilleries and golf courses. But after wearing out my Google finger, I have it on good authority that there are only a handful. Dr. Liz Thatch, a Master of Wine, scoured the countryside there when she went to play a few rounds and drink a few fingers. 

If your wine allowance is gone on that sparkler from Devon, or just want something a bit easier, try a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa's Wicker Vineyards. Or, grab an old school Chianti that comes in a wicker basket.

If you like your horror with a dash of dark humor, take in a viewing of Cemetery Man, a 1994 Italian film. Don't try to make heads or tails of it, just watch as our hero fails to get an investigation of zombie appearances because the paperwork is too dense. He is advised to simply shoot the zombies, so that's what he does. Over and over. You know, once you start shooting zombies it becomes second nature. And all my life I have believed that you couldn't stop a zombie by shooting it. Well, you learn something new in every Italian horror comedy. 

Woodbury Winery of Fredonia, NY makes something called Zombie Red, which is a sweet, cherry flavored wine. First off, I won't insult your wine intelligence by recommending it. Second, it is sold out. There must be a shortage of White Zinfandel in Fredonia.

While searching for an Italian Zombie Zin, it occurred to me that Primitivo is the Italian name for Zinfandel. The Apollonio Primitivo di Manduria is as dark as Cemetery Man's humor. And it's a damn good wine, maybe good enough to justify shooting corpses that rise from the grave. 

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Friday, March 15, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Death Wishes

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we raise our glasses to three films which point out that, though comedy may be difficult, death is a bitch.

2002's Death to Smoochy was directed by Danny DeVito, who also appeared in the film, along with Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Jon Stewart and a host of immediately recognizable character actors. Despite the wealth of talent, Smoochy died a thousand deaths. To say that nobody liked it would be inaccurate, but not too far off the mark. 

Williams plays the host of a TV kiddie show who suffers a debilitating scandal and loses everything he holds dear. How could a comedy with that premise not find an audience? Well, you could ask Bobcat Goldthwait. He did Shakes the Clown a decade before Smoochy, to a similar absence of ticket purchasers. Obviously the general public doesn't see the humor in these movies like I do. 

The disgraced kiddie host funnels his anger towards his replacement, a guy who plays the character of Smoochy the Rhino. Even though Smoochy is the target of numerous failed attempts to get him off the show, it's his cousin Moochy who ends up at the morgue. I'm not worried about this spoiler paragraph. It's not like knowing who dies is going to spoil it for you.

Monterey County's American Vintners has a line called Smooch. I know we're one letter short, but I couldn't resist. The Valentine box features a Cab, a Pinot, a red blend and a rosé for just $69. Value smooching at its finest. 

Death Wish came about in 1974, a time when the crime rate in big American cities was on the rise. The nation wanted a hero, one who was handy with a gun and could get over his non-violent stance with a little push. Enter Charles Bronson

I know he had good reason to adopt his vigilante stance, but this guy couldn't go to the grocery store without killing a couple of muggers on the way. I am reminded of the comment by a comic who spent part of his routine talking about the movies Taken, Taken 2 and Taken 3. The comment was, "Now you’re just being careless."

There were numerous sequels to Death Wish, as well as a whole subgenre of vigilante films that emulated it. 

Bounty Hunter makes a wine called The Vigilante and sells it for around $150 a bottle. It looks to be a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon made from grapes grown in Beckstoffer Vineyard, which earns them that top shelf price.

In 1975's Death Race 2000, a slightly futuristic America is consumed with a road race that is pure blood sport. The Roger Corman production shows a nation where, as the one sheet says, "hit and run driving is no longer a felony. It's a national sport." Think of it as America's Got Bad Drivers or America's Bloodiest Videos or Survivor, For Realz

The drivers are famous, they all have distinct personas and are followed by their fans the way a sports icon might be. In my teen years, when the ink on my driver's license was still wet, my cousins and I jokingly referred to a "points system" in driving. We would sarcastically mention how many points we would get for running down different types of pedestrians. Death Race 2000 removes the joking aspect from the scoring. 

Sonoma County's Adobe Road Winery has a line of racing themed wines, although they are intended to represent more serious racing than that of DR2000. The Racing Series features SHIFT, Apex, Carbon and Redline. They run from $50 and up and get a bit pricey if you buy the four- and six-bottle boxed sets.

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Friday, March 8, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Spoofery

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week is all about the laffs, as we come up with wines to pair with a trio of films that take a comedic look at other genres. No fooling.

The 1999 sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest pokes fun at TV's Star Trek and the fan base that grew up around it. The cast of the titular fictitious series apparently did such a good job of acting their parts that real aliens took it as a documentary. Is it comforting to know that if aliens attack Earth, TV stars would save us? Maybe if it were Ted Danson. Actual Star Trek actors and their massive fan base gave Galaxy Quest their seal of approval. 

I can't resist pairing this wine with an Official Star Trek Wine. Yes, there is such a thing. I'll pass on the Chateau Picard and go for the Klingon Bloodline Cabernet Sauvignon. It is produced in the fine tradition of the great Klingon vintners. Wait a minute, it's 50 bucks? Nuh uh. I don’t care if the cork does have a Klingon saying on it. It probably translates to, "Sucker!"

Mel Brooks cast a hush over the film industry in 1976 with Silent Movie, a slapstick comedy about a movie producer trying to get a silent film made in the 1970s. Wait, what? Wasn't that what he was actually doing? 

In true Brooksian fashion, fun was poked at all the big names of the silent era, with title cards to describe the action. His regular gang served as the mainstays, while a host of big-name actors appeared in the film that was being made. There is only one spoken word in the movie, and it is delivered by Marcel Marceau. Classic Brooks.

We will have to go with Harumph Wines Napa Cab here, even though the name was taken from another Brooks film, Blazing Saddles. And, even though the wine is apparently only available through allocation. Really. Harumph, indeed. Mel Brooks says it's one of the best California Cabs he has ever tasted. I'll take his word for it.

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is a 2001 spoof of 1950s B-movies. In my teenage years I would watch this sort of thing late at night on the weekends. Back then, you had to actually wait for a crappy movie to be shown on TV. 

There is a scientist in this film whose idea of a good date is to take his gal to look for a meteorite. There is an element called Atmosphereum. There is a device called a transmutatron. There are aliens who pose as humans to steal the meteorite containing Atmosphereum. Even as I write this, I feel tired of this movie, and I'm not watching it at the moment. There was a sequel made, believe it or don't, and a third movie was planned. I don't know if their Kickstarter ever got off the ground. 

Listen, I have a soft spot in my heart for the hopelessly bad. I was a regular viewer of Houston Wrestling, for the lovvagawd. But even movie nerds who rate the films on those online sites can't find it within themselves to give Cadavra three stars. 

There is a wine bar in Madrid called Cadavra, but there are no skeletons reported there. A $10 Cabernet Sauvignon called Kadabra is too far a reach, even for me. Let's go with Sovereign Brands, who bring us a Grüner Veltliner from Austria that's only $10 for the 1L bottle. That's one skeleton I won't mind having in my closet. 

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Friday, March 1, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Road Warriors

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we pair wines with movies featuring that iconic thing that goes on forever. The Road, and those who love it, travel it, live it.

Freeway, from 1996, is a dark take on the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, complete with a very strange visit to Grandma's house. It stars Kiefer Sutherland, Reese Witherspoon, Brooke Shields, Dan Hedaya and Amanda Plummer. Those who love Freeway always mention Witherspoon's performance as the main reason why.

California 12 may not be a freeway, but it is a highway, and it's where Sonoma's Highway 12 Winery got its name. They have road-themed wines like The Highwayman, Camino de Sonoma and, if you don't mind a little Dukes of Hazzard reference, The General.

The 1986 bloodbath known as The Hitcher is the one film to watch if you don't think picking up a hitchhiker is dangerous. Rutger Hauer is the hitcher, so right away you get a bad feeling about nice guy Jim giving this dude a lift. 

The traveling murderer stalks the kid relentlessly along West Texas highways and byways. As the body count spirals upward, you wonder if anyone will be left alive at the end. The Hitcher is not for the squeamish, especially if you think of French fries as finger food. 

I've been "hitching" to find a movie to pair with Hitching Post wines, and it looks like this is the one. Buellton's Gray Hartley and Frank Ostini have been making Santa Barbara County wine since way before this movie was made. Just pick one at random, you can't lose. It's a nice drive to The Hitching Post II restaurant for dinner. Just don't pick up any hitchers along the way.

When Grand Theft Auto was made, back in 1977, I thought great wine was the Spanada my mom kept in the fridge. It was not a great wine year for me, but it was a good vintage for Miller Genuine Draft. Just as there are some occasions that simply call for a can of beer, there are times when all we really need in a movie is a lot of action.

GTA - the movie, not the video game - is a white-knuckle ride featuring car chases, a souped-up Rolls Royce, a police car, of course, and a lot of stuff getting blown up. It's only natural that those stolen cars end up in a demolition derby climax.  

For a wine to pair with Grand Theft Auto, you may want to try some that's made in a place where those cars might have gone to fill 'er up at one time. Calistoga's Tank Garage Winery calls a repurposed gas station home. Try the red blend named Stunt, which features Bordeaux grapes and an old-timey photo of a genuine car stunt on the label.

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Friday, February 23, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Happy Birthday, Sidney

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we celebrate the fact that Sir Sidney Poitier walked the earth with us regular humans for 94 years. His birthday of February 20th is a great reason to pair wines with a few of the films in which he starred.

Sidney Poitier sought out roles that challenged society's norms and he became a loud voice in the fight for civil rights. That, right there, is reason enough to lift a glass in his memory. But on top of his contributions to film, and life in general, the Queen of England made him a knight. An actual knight. I never heard him talk about that, though. If it were me, I would never stop talking about it.

Brother John premiered in 1971, a damn good year for the big screen. The French Connection, Straw Dogs, A Clockwork Orange, The Last Picture Show, Harold and Maude, they were all great films that made a mark. Unfortunately, Brother John didn't make anyone's "Best Of" list. The critics didn't exactly welcome it with open arms. Some of them were downright rude about it. Vincent Canby got a little bit cranky about it.

Brother John is an enigmatic character who has answers to questions no one's asked, answers no one really wants to hear. This puts him at odds with southern law enforcement, a very popular Poitier theme.

Let's choose a wine from a city in France called Poitiers. It is in a region known as Haut-Poitou, and it is a bit of an outlier from its Loire Valley kin. Domaine La Tour Beaumont produces a Cabernet Franc which has a price tag of $10. Incroyable, non?

The real Sidney Poitier vs Southern Law Enforcement movie hit the front burner in 1967 with In the Heat of the Night. Just as the civil rights movement was reaching a riot-stoked peak in America, this film shows a white, racist southern sheriff and a black northern detective learning to work together despite their extreme differences. 

Poitier as Virgil Tibbs has one of the most memorable lines in movie history when he answers Rod Steiger's question about what they call him in Philly. The tense reading of "They call me Mister Tibbs" gave Poitier a career catchphrase. It was so good that it was used as the title for one of the film's sequels. 

There is a Tibbs wine on the market for about $10, and it's a Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County's Sta. Rita Hills. You're thinking, "Right, a $10 Pinot Noir. Pick up a gallon jug of Gallo while you’re at it." People say the Mayhall Tibbs Pinot Noir is a decent little wine. Still, it is a $10 Pinot Noir. Hey, gamble a little. They call me Mayhall Tibbs.

In 1967, Poitier also starred in To Sir With Love, a pop culture smash that once again left the critics unconvinced. But, it's a fairy tale, innit?  Everyone wanted a teacher like Sir. Social, racial and sexual inequality ended up on a level playing field, thanks to his nurturing hand. South Africa banned the film, so they must have been doing something right. 

Pop star Lulu made her first film appearance in Sir and also sang the title song, which was one of the biggest hits of the year on the charts. The Mindbenders also appeared as the dance band.

Let's lift a glass of British sparkling wine to Sir, with much love. Hattingley Valley Wines makes a classic reserve brut which goes for just $60 a bottle. It is a happy mix of Chardonnay, along with Pinots Noir, Meunière and Gris. Is it as good as Champagne? After you've plunked down the $60, you tell us. 

Happy birthday Sir.

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Friday, February 16, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Creature Comforts

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we pair wines with three creature features, the stuff we stayed up late to watch on Friday nights. Maybe we still do.

Oh joy! Three monster movies are on the menu this week. Peeps who were old enough to go into theaters by themselves will remember sitting in the icy air conditioning, soaking up the scares from the likes of Gill-man. Younger folks *ahem* will remember the Friday night Fear Theater presentations on TV, or the double features on the Saturday kiddie show at the movie house down the street. The former always featured popcorn in a big bowl, while the latter always featured Raisinettes and M&Ms bouncing off our heads. 

Revenge of the Creature was surely one of the highlights of 1955, along with The Honeymooners and "Speedoo" by the Cadillacs. It was a three dimensional fright fest, which also went under the names Return of the Creature and for those who didn't get the connection, Return of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. You have to really spell it out for some people. If there had been any more rereleases, they would have had to put the title in all capital letters.

In Revenge, Gill-man has apparently recovered from the hail of bullets he suffered in the original film and is incarcerated in an oceanarium to be studied by scientists. They make the critical mistake of bringing in a beautiful female researcher, and Gill-man falls in lust again. He can't help it, he's a sucker for a pretty face. It's terror in the city this time around, as nobody wanted to go back to the Amazon to shoot this sequel. 

Look for a fresh-from-Central-Casting Clint Eastwood here, as a young scientist trying to explain why there's a missing rat in his labcoat pocket. "You were going to try and blame the cat. Well, weren't ya, punk?"

Here is the perfect wine for Gill-man: Gillman Vineyard Clairet. Okay, so there's no hyphen, and it's from New Zealand, and it's pink. Any other complaints before we move on? This blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot runs about $60.

From the previous year, Creature from the Black Lagoon got to the 3D party a little late. It was shown only in some theaters with that technology. It is the movie where the Gill-man got his start. When it comes to instinct-driven characters in the movies, that creature has primal motivation. Does Gill-man want to kill? No. Does he want to destroy? Not really. Does he want to find a way back home? Hell no. He wants the girl. And, as we just mentioned, he keeps jumping into Love Lagoon webbed feet first. 

Not only is Gill-man the ultimate man-in-a-suit movie monster, he has also inspired countless other creatures, a song, a casino slot machine and homoerotic literature. Pretty good for a creature who just crawled out of a river.

You've seen Black Lagoon Carignan in this space before. The wine comes from the south of France - Languedoc-Roussillon, to be precise - and has a depiction of the creature on the label. At least, I'm guessing it is the Gill-man. It looks like it could be a pair of frog's legs, which is not a bad idea for what to nibble on while watching and imbibing. 

1961's Creature from the Haunted Sea is a Roger Corman special that was shot in a week for probably only a little more than the money you have in your pockets right now. The horror genre gets played for laughs, with several other genres du jour thrown in. One of the stars of the picture was Robert Towne, who would later win an Oscar for writing Chinatown. Corman may have been the B-movie king, but he knew how to surround himself with talented people. 

The plot centers on a scheme to rob Cuba's national treasury, placing the blame on the mythical Creature from the Haunted Sea. But, guess what? The creature isn't mythical, it's real, and it doesn't like being used as a beard for robbery. Never mind that it looks like an overgrown muppet, payback is a puta. 

A wine from a haunted sea would be perfect here, but is the water off Santa Barbara haunted? Only the creature knows for sure. However, the folks at Ocean Fathoms Wine say they know that their bottles age better than others because they are underwater. At least they were underwater. The company never got the proper permits from the California Coastal Commission to sink those cases, and the agency made them pour out the wine. Every last drop. Will they have more? That depends on who is handling their paperwork, I suppose. Their website looks kinda haunted right now, but if they do start selling wine again, be ready to spend $500 for a bottle with barnacles on it.

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Friday, February 9, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Soul Music

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we put on the headphones/earbuds and let the music wash over us. Are we high? If not, we have some wine pairings to go along with the musical movies.

This is one of those weeks where music and movies merge, a happy affair, for me at least, even when the sound and the pictures are not of the highest quality. The beach party movies come to mind, as do Elvis flicks. Somewhere, there is probably a home movie of the legendary 30-minute version of "Louie Louie" recorded at a Hell’s Angels party. That would fall into this category as well. But on we go to the films that reach loftier heights.

The 1986 film, Crossroads, was inspired by the legend of blues pioneer Robert Johnson. The legend says he went down to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil to get his guitar prowess. If that's how it's done, what did Carlos Santana have to give up? Eric Clapton? Stevie Ray Vaughn? Well, that last one doesn't need answering. We know what he gave up. 

For authenticity, guitar god Ry Cooder provided a lot of music for the movie, but he was passed over to play the guitarist in the film's climactic guitar battle. Ry was reportedly a little bit pissed that Steve Vai ended up shredding the hot licks. If anyone else wants to carp about the choice, Vai could easily say, "Hold my beer" while showing you a thing or two. 

Napa Valley's Crossroads Wines are made by Samantha Rudd and utilize grapes with a pedigree, from places like Oakville and Mt. Veeder. You may have to shop around to find them, and you will spend $80 or more for a Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. Their Sauvignon Blanc runs quite a bit less. 

Honeydripper was written and directed by John Sayles for a 2007 release. The plot deals with the owner of a blues club in rural Alabama and his effort to save the place by hiring a hot, young guitar man, played by Gary Clark, Jr. Keb’ Mo also appears and R&B great Ruth Brown would have had a starring role, had she lived long enough. She was replaced by Mable John.

The movie ran hot and cold for critics, with one scribe taking issue with caricatures like a "blind guitar picker, redneck sheriff, revival meetings, cotton-picking, fights in juke joints and the like." Having grown up in the American South, I can attest that blind guitar pickers, redneck sheriffs, revival meetings, cotton-picking and fights in juke joints are not so much caricatures as they are the actual stuff of everyday life. 

The story is great, and the music mixes old classics like "Good Rockin" Tonight," "Move It On Over" and "Why Don’t You Do Right" with stuff penned in more modern times. Having Gary Clark, Jr and Keb’ Mo on hand certainly doesn't hurt the soundtrack's street cred.

I ran across a recipe for a cocktail called Honeydripper, but there's no booze in it. What are they thinking? Since we are safely clear of Dry January, try Batch Mead, located in Temecula. It's honey wine. Their Smokin Hickory Barrel Aged Mead doesn't sound like it would get you into a fight in an Alabama roadhouse in 1950. Well, actually, it does. Try it anyway. 

Charlie Parker's brief life was directed for the big screen by Clint Eastwood. The biopic Bird showed the saxophonist's connection with his wife, Chan, and trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Red Rodney. Red and Bird were drug buddies of a sort, and the heroin no doubt contributed to Parker's fatal heart attack at the age of 34. As for Rodney, he lived to be 66, although he was plagued by heroin addiction, stroke and lung cancer for many of those years.

Despite the fantastic performance by Forest Whitaker as Parker, the movie stands as one of Eastwood's least successful films. It has a solid following these days, particularly among jazz fans. The soundtrack features re-recorded tracks with Parker's sax work extracted from original takes and cleaned up through the magic of modern audio technology. 

How can we not give at least a cursory glance to Jazz Cellars? They are in the Sierra Foothills village of Murphys, California, the town that needs to either drop the S or add an apostrophe. Their Grenache Rosé is a $24 bottle of Calaveras County grapes, jazzed up to a beautiful pinkish hue. 

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Friday, February 2, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Tortured Artists

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we examine three films dealing with the downside of being a fine artiste.

The 1986 biodrama, Caravaggio, is an interpretive account of the life, and death, of Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. His name was shortened for the movie title likely because the original wouldn't fit on a marquee. 

Caravaggio was what one might call "ahead of his time," in that he ran through his 17th century life, and the art world, with little regard for how others viewed him. His childhood was tough, his adult years even tougher. Those years ended before they numbered forty, and his death is still a matter for speculation. The movie opts to believe the, ahem, lead poisoning theory, while fever and murder are still getting good odds. 

Murder wouldn't seem out of bounds, as this tortured artist led a violent life that included killing a man, an act for which he was given a death sentence. He managed to evade that fate while seeking a pardon from the Pope. 

Malta winery Marsovin has a Merlot called Caravaggio, presumably after the artist since one of his paintings is depicted on the label. It should have been the one featuring Bacchus, if I had been asked. But it's not, and no one did. If you can find it, Caravaggio the wine costs about ten bucks.

The Music Lovers, from 1971, is a Ken Russell film that concerns the life of Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. His name was, again shortened for the movie title, because who the hell ever called him anything but Tchaikovsy? 

If you want a real tortured artist, this Tchaikovsky guy is the real McCoyvski. He sees his mother die a horrible death, marries a nymphomaniac who turns out to be just a plain old maniac, and hides his homosexual identity for his entire life. It's enough to drive a tortured artist to drink.

Fortunately, that's what we're here for. Vinoterra’s Saperavi is from Georgia, which is close enough for a Russian wine for me. You could also go with a Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, and no one will take points off your grade for the easy reach. Either way, plan to spend around $30. 

1972's Savage Messiah was about 20th century French sculptor and painter Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. The film was directed and produced by Ken Russell. Hey, didn't we just hear from him? Yes, he liked making movies about artists. 

This artist, Gaudier-Brzeska, did not get a lot of time to become tortured. He was killed at the age of 23 by the Germans in WWI as a member of the French army. That is a pretty big drag, but he did cram a lot into his short life. Gaudier-Brzeska left his native France for London while he was still a teenager and managed some (pre-war) studies in Germany. I would imagine that there aren't many people who died as young as he who are still remembered for their accomplishments. 

For any of these films about tortured artists, this is the wine to have. Tortured Artist Albariño is made by a Paso Robles outfit called League of Rogues. This refreshing white was made from grapes that were yanked from an Edna Valley vineyard and tortured until they became wine. They are okay with it now. 

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Friday, January 26, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Hauntings

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we hope you are ready for some ghost stories. We have wine pairings for three movies featuring spirits, which are easier to come by than spirits pairings for movies featuring wine. 

We also have wine pairings from ghost wineries for these films. These are winemaking outfits which were doing good business in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Then came phylloxera, or fire, or Prohibition, or The Great Depression. Some wineries were able to trudge through the bad times and come out on the other side. Some were not so lucky. Some are back in business today, having been resurrected by an angel who had the money, time and inclination to care for a field of neglected grapevines. 

A Haunting in Venice is another Kenneth Branagh take on Hercule Poirot. The movie is an adaptation of an Agatha Christie book, one that fell short of many Herculean fans' expectations. Mr. Branagh: Please leave Dame Christie alone. 

In this film, the great detective pays a visit to an opera singer's Venice palazzo for a Halloween party. Perfect timing, since the place was once an orphanage where children died of neglect. What's that? Is that a little child ghost I hear? 

Buena Vista Winery is the second oldest winery in California. Founded in 1857 by a wily Hungarian immigrant named Agoston Haraszthy, the winery went bankrupt 20 years later, after his death. This is one ghost winery which really does have a ghost, so they say. The founder's apparition reportedly still roams around the barrel room when it thinks no one is looking. Their 2021 Sheriff of Buena Vista will pair nicely with the Belgian detective at a cost of $55. 

1982's The Entity was directed by Sidney Furie and starred Barbara Hershey. The story - of a woman who is assaulted repeatedly by an invisible entity - was based on actual events. Sort of like The Exorcist with clippings. There was a ton of backlash at the time, with women's groups railing against the depiction of the violence. Since then, it has attracted a cult following and is now seen as an allegory of the way women are victimized. It's not a pleasant movie to view, and it's hard to write something snarkily funny about it, so pardon this paragraph's lack of laughs. There simply aren't any there.

Freemark Abbey was one of the first wineries in California that was founded by a woman. Her name was Josephine Tychson, and she started the business in the 1880s. Today, the wine is made by a woman as well. Their Restoration blend of Bordeaux grapes costs just a bit more than a Benjamin. 

The Uninvited, a 1944 Ray Milland classic, features a story about a woman who is haunted by her mother. A lot of women can say that about mom even though she's still alive. 

A brother and sister buy a house with an ocean view, and the ocean view proves to be the only good thing about the property. A young woman becomes a frequent visitor after being drawn in by the memory of her mother, who fell off the cliff years ago and got an even more close-up view of the ocean. Excitement? There's a ghost, a seance, a heart attack, a psych ward stay, an identity switcheroo and, well, there's that cliff again. Plus, it is my wife's favorite ghost movie. So, it is also mine. 

Did someone say cliff? Vine Cliff Winery is on Napa’s Silverado Trail. Most of what you see there today is reconstructed. Fire consumed the original winery, which was built in the 1870s. Vine Cliff goes full blast today, with a $125 Oakville Cabernet Franc as one of their more enticing offerings.

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Friday, January 12, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Happy Birthday Irving Rapper

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we have wine pairing for three films directed by Irving Rapper.

Irving Rapper was born on January 16th, 1898. He passed away less than a month before he was to turn 102 years old. That in itself is reason enough to lift a glass to the memory of the man. Hopefully you will find the celluloid legacy he left behind as fascinating as we do.

The Brave One, from 1956, is the story of a boy and his bull. The young Mexican lost ownership of Gitano and the animal ends up in a bullfighting ring with darts in his back and a guy dressed in funny clothes about to stab him to death. The kid watches in tears as his pet bravely confronts the matador. Inspired by the bull's courage, the crowd calls for Gitano to be given a pardon, which I didn't even know was a thing in bullfighting. They should tell more bulls about that loophole. 

The promoter wants to give the people what they want, and awards the bull the rest of the day off. The crowd watches in horror as the child runs into the ring, toward Gitano. They think he's done for, but we know better. It's a Hollywood ending.

Speaking of Hollywood, The Brave One was the final recipient of the Oscar for Best Story before the category was given the axe. That award went to a nobody who had his name placed on the script by Dalton Trumbo, who was still blacklisted at the time. The Academy reissued the award in Trumbo's name in 1975. Quite a story for a movie that unfortunately did almost nothing at the box office.

Brave & Maiden Estate in Santa Ynez puts me in mind of the 1960 Johnny Preston hit, "Running Bear." He was the young Indian brave in search of the maiden, Little White Dove. Their meeting was seriously impacted by a raging river, but we will choose the Brave & Maiden red blend called Rule of Thirds for The Brave One. It is actually two thirds Grenache and one third Syrah, with a splash of Mourvèdre. The 2020 vintage goes for $75, so put on your brave pants and pony up. 

The 1958 film, Marjorie Morningstar, was taken from the Herman Wouk book of the same name. Both show the titular young Jewish woman faced with a dilemma. Should she settle for the doctor her family wants to see her marry, or follow her heart and go with the man in show biz? It is a classic red pill/blue pill scenario. 

In the book, she makes the practical decision, while the film has her chasing her dream. Dreams are much more cinematic than marrying a doctor. Of course, doctors might argue that point. Dr. Kildare, Dr. Detroit and Dr. Zhivago, f'rinstance. 

Doctor's Orders Natural Wine Company delivers that sort of wine pleasure from vineyards in Ojai and the Central Coast. Their Santa Ynez Valley Grenache is only $21, while the really adventurous will want a prescription for their Ventura County Sangiovese. Yes, that's what I said.

Rhapsody In Blue came along in 1945, bringing the subtitle, The Story of George Gershwin, with it. Rapper wanted Tyrone Power in the title role, but he got Robert Alda instead. Other than that, he said he was happy with how the movie turned out.

Music historians may want to take note that making appearances as themselves are Gershwin cohorts Oscar Levant, Paul Whiteman and Al (Mammy!) Jolson. All those riches, and Rapper still had the gall to complain about Alda! Oh, he also thought there was too much music in the film. Ha. 

There is a Right Bank red called Soutien Georges Gershwin, so why not? Merlot and Cab Franc are two of my favorite red grapes, and here they are in a bottle together. What could be better? It comes from winemaker Nicole Tapon, fit for a rhapsody of any color.

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