House Of Tudor

Wild psychobilly madmen, and campy incarcerated ladies

While the Nekromantix caught the attention of psychobilly aficionados during the early 1990s -- when Kim Nekroman first traded his drumsticks for an upright double-bass shaped like a coffin -- the Denmark trio has been very slow in coming to America. The problems were threefold: The Nekromantix's mad guitarist, Peter Sandorff, was completing his very un-mad architecture degree; sweat-flinging drummer Kristian Sandorff was taking exams to become a, um, preacher; and Rancid leader and longtime Nekromantix fan Tim Armstrong hadn't asked the group yet. Now, with Return of the Loving Dead, released on Armstrong's Hellcat label, the Dutch shovelheads are ready to rumble, bringing west a sound as dark and wild as a motorbike made of wolf bones.

Loving Deadopens with the fearsome "Nice Day for a Resurrection," which finds Nekroman beating his bass near death while growling like a ghoul and crooning like a soul singer. The very funny amphetamine-induced outsider anthem "Who Killed the Cheerleader" precedes "Nekronauts," a speedy guitar showcase that will make metalheads green with envy. Then all the furious fun collapses in exhaustion for a very silly ballad called "Subculture Girl." Thankfully, the amorous urges of the Nekromantix take on more lethal forms with "Murder for Breakfast" and the album's title tune. Not every Nekromantix slow burner is a waste, however. "Haunted Cathouse," the album's most deceptively gentle tune, bears a ghostly cowboy air that shimmers into convulsions. Finally, the record closes with a seven-minute shadowbilly epic, "Necronomicon," which uses every mood and style in the Nekromantix pantheon. If you think seven minutes is too long for a psychobilly song, you haven't heard these guys. The Nekromantix open for the Distillers and Tiger Army on Sunday, March 17, at the Great American Music Hall at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 885-0750.


Today, folks with a fetish for incarcerated females can peruse any number of Web sites -- www.ladiesofthepen.com, www.womenbehindbars.com, www.prisonbabes.com -- where thousands of prison-confined beauties offer their photos and stats. For the nominal fee of a couple bucks, one may purchase the address of a particular prisoner in a particular state with a particular age, height, weight, ethnicity, measurement, and hobby, along with the assurance of correspondence and probable long walks on the beach come parole time. (Sadly, criminal details are lacking.)

But such communication wasn't always so easy. Prior to the wonders of the Web, those gripped by penal complexes had to settle for film and fantasy. Naturally, Hollywood was quick to answer the need. In 1929, Cecil B. DeMille produced the first recognized women-in-prison film, a silent movie turned semi-talkie called The Godless Girl. For the next 20 years, B-units cranked out similarly high-toned morality tales involving hot tails and tear-stained penance. Then, in 1950, John Cromwell directed his grim classic Caged, which set up the genre's archetypes: the doe-eyed innocent wrongly institutionalized with a pack of hard-bitten bitches; the sadistic queen with lesbian tendencies; the corrupt warden running drug or prostitution rings; the frightened naif who winds up dead; and some tight-lipped lifer who finds pity in her heart for the ingénue, offering aid in the climactic riot or escape scene. Up through the 1980s, hundreds of movies with similar characters and plot lines were made -- Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS; Caged Heat; Chained Heat; Unchained; 99 Women; Bamboo House of Dolls; and Women in Prison were among the best -- but it was the noir-ish films of the 1950s that inspired Tom Eyen's wonderfully funny prison-movie sendup Women Behind Bars.

Women Behind Barspremiered off-Broadway in 1974, with Pat Ast playing the evil prison matron. In 1976, Divine took over the role, giving up his long-standing stint with San Francisco's Cockettes and beginning a relationship with Eyen that would spawn a sequel called The Neon Woman. (Eventually, Eyen won a Tony for his play Dreamgirls, and Ast starred in the 1986 spoof Reform School Girls.) The long-running production of Women Behind Barsis significant enough in stage history to merit mention in the award-winning online compendium "Timelines of History" -- placed somewhere between the Patricia Hearst kidnapping and the first radio broadcast of Prairie Home Companion -- but it is rarely performed these days, possibly due to the Internet's sprawl. Happily, Shocktoberfest! Director Russell Blackwood thinks the Web cannot meet all lascivious needs. Along with an all-female cast, he is bringing the hot hostility and hilarity of women's prison life back to the stage. The shower scene alone will be worth the price of admission. Women Behind Bars runs Thursday, March 14, through Saturday, April 13, at Theater Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), S.F. Tickets are $15-25; call 861-5079 for show times.

 
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