Price Club 

High style on Poverty Row


Edgar G. Ulmer was first anointed patron saint of cheapo movies by critics in the 1960s --before the rediscovery of Ed Wood, Al Adamson, Doris Wishman, Herschell Gordon Lewis, et al. -- largely on the strength of his 1945 noir-for-a-nickel masterpiece, Detour. But low budgets don't tell the whole story. The European-born set-designer-turned-Hollywood
-B-movie-director lent his refined sensibilities to an amazing number of modest films in a ridiculously wide variety of genres. In Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man from Planet B, a mini-retrospective opening Friday night at the Pacific Film Archive with a twin bill of The Black Cat and Strange Illusion, film fans willing to go beyond hooting at the Poverty Row production values will discover an embarrassment of stylistic riches to offset Ulmer's routine embarrassment of having to work with no money. From among the 120 or so films helmed by Ulmer before his death in 1972, PFA director Edith Kramer picked a smattering of his Yiddish-language pics, including the lowbrow comedy American Matchmaker (1940); a '50s sci-fi number, The Man from Planet X; and the all-African-American-cast social drama Moon Over Harlem (1939), with an appearance by Sidney Bechet. Ulmer excelled at expressionistic horror. The Boris Karloff-Bela Lugosi vehicle The Black Cat (1934), made for Universal, is justly renowned for its sinister mood and ultra-Euro sets. Meanwhile, John Carradine prowls a patently artificial Paris for female victims as Bluebeard. And then there's Natalka Poltavka, a 1937 adaptation of a Ukrainian comic operetta, starring diva Thalia Sabanieeva and financed by the members of the New York Union of Window Washers. Whether toiling for one-shot producers or inside the big-studio system, Ulmer did more with less than practically any director of his day.

Ann Savage, the snarling hitchhiker from Detour, appears in person at the March 25 screening of that film. Arianné Ulmer Cipes, the director's daughter and also the producer of a new documentary bio on her father's career, appears in person April 1 and 2. For more info, visit -- Kelly Vance


Lit Happens

A finicky fashionisto's bloody corpse lies in a Pacific Heights apartment and his ex-lover finds it, when all she really wanted was lunch. The East Bay's own Linda Lee Peterson reads from her new mystery Edited to Death at Orinda Books (Thu., 4 p.m.). ... Weighing in about moving on, Luis Francia, Nick Carbo, and Patrick Rosal headline a panel discussion, "Navigating Place: Philippine-American Writers & the Diaspora," at UC Berkeley's Townsend Center (Fri., 4:30 p.m.). ... Word balloons bounce at Pegasus in downtown Berkeley, where a panoply of celebrated local cartoonists strives to save the world with multimedia readings (Fri., 8 p.m.). ... Life has already been cruel enough to Elvis Cole: He lost everything he had to the dudes who kidnapped his girlfriend's ten-year-old son -- and then one day, the phone rings, and it's the cops. Robert Crais reads from The Forgotten Man at Rakestraw (Fri., 7 p.m.). ... His book 9 of 1 was a winningly drawn, soul-searching response to the 9/11 attacks through the eyes of East Bay teens. In a workshop at San Pablo Library, local guy and ex-Harvard Crimson cartoonist Oliver Chin teaches young artists to create their own graphic novels (Mon., 3 p.m.). ... The protest rallies, the suicidal urges, the back pain, the prospect of terrorism, turning fifty: It all comes together in Anne Lamott's latest work of self-revelation, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. Sponsored by Cody's, she's at Berkeley's First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way; $10 suggested donation (Fri., 7:30 p.m.). ... Lakota Sioux chick Karen Coyote Song sates her S/M appetites online until she meets a leather-clad lesbian biker who takes the grateful Karen as her new slave. Novelist Sage reads from her bondage-and-discipline romp Harley: Story of a Leather Dyke and Her Clan at Change Makers (Mon., 7 p.m.). ... Neither bruins nor romantic breakups could stop him. Wildlife biologist Karsten Hueur recounts his long journey in Walking the Big Wild: From Yellowstone to the Yukon on the Grizzly Bears' Trail. Hit the road with Hueur at Cody's Telegraph (Tue., 7:30 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus

Fri 3/18

Know Your Rights

"All American citizens are political equals, giving the poor citizen officially the same political and social status as the rich," Joel Olson writes in the Bring the Ruckus political blog. "Yet American citizenship has also been a form of privilege that distinguishes full citizens from those who are not, such as slaves, black people, undocumented immigrants, and queer couples. This simultaneous sense of equality and privilege is the most significant contradiction of American citizenship." But, continues the author and professor of political science at Northern Arizona University, the greatest opportunity for revolution lies within the tension between equality and entitlement, because of the anti-elitist sentiments it fosters; the task at hand for the radical nation is to redefine the concept of "elite" for those in the middle. Learn more about it when Olson visits AK Press (674-A 23rd St., Oakland) Friday at 7 p.m. to discuss his new book, The Abolition of White Democracy. Free., 510-208-1700. -- Stefanie Kalem

Thu 3/17

Soft Machine

Bringing something extra to the table

In the year since Oneida's last full-length came out, the rarely touring collective hasn't just been writing the follow-up -- it's been reinventing the wheel. In the band's Brooklyn warehouse home, the members have constructed a sonic Rube Goldberg, an enormous, industrial-strength music box made by hammering nails and spikes into cylindrical pilings at specific intervals; the pilings are then rotated through saw blades of varying tensions. The sounds made by this monster form the heart of The Wedding, which, when it comes out on Jagjaguwar in early May, will surely secure Oneida's place as one of the bravest rock acts out there: downtown noise, Krautrock repetition, modal drones, string arrangements, and surprisingly delicate melodies conspire to create sometimes elfin, sometimes ferocious psychedelia well-suited for the age of machines. It's perfectly suited to LoBot (1800 Campbell St., Oakland) Thursday night with Canadian heavies Black Mountain, P.A.F. , and the Dirty Projectors. Doors at 9 p.m., $5-$10. Stefanie Kalem



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