Monday, January 8, 2018

Were There Seven Headstones... or Eight?


Well, we end up with eight in The House of Seven Corpses (no, not gables). But that's one of the questions John Carradine's character, Edgar Price kinda sorta answers. He's the caretaker of the Beal house, and he knows there are eight graves, seven headstones, but he doesn't know who the heck is in the eighth grave. Ah, well, we lose count, anyway, in this updated (1974 updated, that is) old dark house fright flick.

First, a couple of items out of the way first. It's a bit draggy at times, even a tad inconsistent occasionally (was that a daylight shot or a nighttime?), and a fight scene looks a bit amateurish. But the film has heart. And it's an interesting idea.

A movie within a movie, Eric Hartman (John Ireland) is a driven director who is gonna have a conniption fit if his movie isn't made on time and within budget. He's filming a horror flick containing some o' that old black magic in a house that has a murderous past. It's rumored that the previous residents even dabbled in the black arts.

Naturally, one of the crew discovers a leather-bound book, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, that has some spells they can lift for their witchly filming sequences. 'Course, you know what happens. Yep. They start reading the spells, and the occupants in the graves in the backyard get a little active. Now, we're not talking fast zombies here. These guys take forever just to make it across the yard. They do, however, want to do a little housekeeping.

Quick point here. The Tibetan Book of the Dead in reality has nothing to do with black magic.

There are some good, suspenseful moments, and it's fun to see and hear some real movie-making talk. And the makeup on the slow-walking dead is good. All in all, a fun fright flick. Worth a watch.

You also get to see Faith Domergue as the lead actor. I remember her from This Island Earth.

Keep writing, and keep watching horror.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Ray Bradbury, Poet of the Fantastic


Found this little gem a while back at the ReStore, our local branch of Habitat for Humanity. We've discovered some great books there, just rummaging around.

Ah, Mr. Bradbury, you've done it again. The Autumn People is a Ballantine Books paperback collection of Ray's work, all illustrated, published in October of 1965. They originally appeared in EC Comics. I always knew Ray had the darkness within him that he's share with us, and here's proof. And the illustrations by artists like Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, George Evans, Graham Ingels, Jack Kamen, and Joe Orlando blend perfectly with his stories.

As Ray has said, "Beware the autumn people." And here we have eight wonderfully macabre stories proving that point. We have killer babies, women screaming from six feet under, and do-it-yourself funerals. There are people who deserve what they get, and others that don't. So, if it's good wintertime (or any other season) shivers you want, I hope you track this book down.

Keep writing, friends. And happy nightmares.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Quest. Jonny Quest.


And continuing with the new, improved horror theme my blog will take, Wendy and I watched tonight one of my favorite cartoon shows from the 60s, Jonny Quest. In particular, one of my favorite episodes, "The Curse of Anubis".

I loved most every Hanna-Barbera cartoon back then, but Jonny was exceptional, with great stories, and equally great artistry. Drawn in a realistic style, I wanted to be Jonny. Imagine hanging out with Race Bannon and his friend Hadji, learning Judo, and studying science and math in a classroom without walls. Then, all of a sudden, finding you're jetting to Egypt.

Mixing adventure with science, science fiction, and even the supernatural, the show was a winner. But, for whatever reason, it only lasted 26 episodes, from 1964 to 1965.

Tonight we had a little bit of horror as one of Dr. Benton Quest's former colleagues went a bit power-mad and stole the head of Anubis. Well, as happens, we had a giant, walking mummy wandering about trying to return the head to its place in one of the Egyptian tombs.

Faster than you can say tana leaves, Dr. Quest, Race, Hadji, Jonny, and Bandit are up to their shrouds in poisonous adders and a menacing mummy. Do they make it out alive? Well, come on, folks. It's Jonny we're talkin' about here.

This was perhaps my first introduction to rampaging mummies and other things fantastical. I love this episode and love the show.

Keep writing, friends. And keep watching and reading horror.

The Horror!


As the old globe begins its newest revolution around Sol, I will transition my blog to a more horrorly direction. Many of the movies I watch lean that way, and my writing heads horrorward, too. So, let's begin the horrifying fun.

And remember, horror can be fun. Comical, at times. As one of the members of our Tates Creek Library Classic Horror Film Club (TCLCHFC) reminded all of us seated at the after-movie gathering last night, horror and comedy both have rhythm and timing. Also, there are comedic aspects to horror occasionally.

And with that, we'll begin with last night's flick from Bruce Campbell, Man with the Screaming Brain.

This is either my third or fourth time to watch it, and I love it more with each viewing. Written, directed, and starred in by Bruce, we get it all. In this tightly-packed movie, we get the three M's: murder, mayhem, and a mad scientist. Part action, part comedy, part science fiction, it keeps moving.

Okay, so what's it about? We have Bruce playing a wealthy businessman William Cole, and Antoinette Byron as his wife, Jackie. They're traveling in an eastern European country (it's filmed in Sofia, Bulgaria, but I don't know if that's the name of the country in the movie). Cutting to the chase here, Bill and Jackie are having some marital issues, there's some playing around, and deadness among several of the parties ensues.

On to Plot 2. Stacy Keach (yep, as in Mike Hammer) plays Russian scientist Ivan Ivanovich Ivanoff (at least that's the name I remember). Doc Ivanoff has been working on some brain transplant stuff (ah, good B-movie brain swapping approaching), aided by his wacky assistant, Pavel (Ted Raimi -- yep, brother Sam and he did the Evil Dead series many moons ago, along with Bruce). And so, right there, we have a terrific sci-fi soup: dead people, brain transplants, and, oh, yes, nearly forgot. A break-dancing, yellow jumpsuit-sporting robot.

We get to see Bruce really enjoying himself here, as he does some of his physical comedy from the Evil Dead days. Stacy Keach is wonderful as the scientist, and Ted Raimi is a terrific Igor-like assistant. He's intelligent, but hysterically goofy, with plastic-like facial expressions.

While not a horror movie, it has some of the stock horror movie concepts, with brain swapping, a runaway robot, and a mad scientist. Although the mad scientist really isn't mad. He really wants to do some good in the world, but you get the idea. All in all, this is a hoot of a movie.

A tip of the cranium to Bruce Campbell, and everyone else involved. This is the way to do a B-movie.

Keep writing, friends. And keep watching horror.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

So, Just Who's the Monster Here?


The Alligator People. Wendy and I watched it last night. Yes, it’s a ridiculous title, but it’s a good film, a well done film. They’re playing it straight. And with superb direction by Roy Del Ruth (The Maltese Falcon, Ziegfield Follies), it shows.

Seems I’ve seen it before, or at least something like it. One of those people-turning-into-animal films. And, spoiler alert here. Yes, our hero/victim/monster turns into a sort of alligator near the end of the film. Betcha couldn’t see that one coming, could you? But that’s not the important thing. As with many of these films, the monster isn’t the real monster. Fact is, he doesn’t kill anyone. He avoids people best he can in the swamps of Georgia. At least I remember them saying it was Georgia in the movie, although one of the filming locations was Louisiana.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself. It’s a backstory movie, beginning with Beverly Garland’s character, Joyce Webster, undergoing hypnosis and relating an impossible tale to her employer, a doctor. She’s a nurse at his clinic, and the doctor and another doctor are debating on whether to reveal to her everything she’s told them while hypnotized. She’s blanked everything out, can’t remember a thing, but otherwise seems perfectly adjusted. Right now, I don’t remember why she was hypnotized in the first place.

As one of the minor sub-plots, this does bring up a good question. If someone has no dysfunction, and their doctor discovers something horrific in their past they can’t (or don’t want to) remember, should the doctor tell the patient?

So, on to Joyce’s story. She’s just married Paul Webster, and they’re on a train, heading to their honeymoon destination. They’re happy, in love, and suddenly Paul receives a telegram that upsets him. At the next stop, he gets off the train to make a phone call. Of course, misses boarding the train, and Joyce travels on down the line minus her husband. The only thing she knows about his past is that his home in Georgia (Louisiana) was something called The Cypresses. Oh, she also knows he had been a pilot (can’t remember if he had been in the service, but I’m guessing so—movie was released in 1959), his plane cracked up, and he had been more alive than dead, and miraculously restored to perfect health. Hmm… starting to see a good scientific-breakthrough type of cure here.

One plot hole here. How come Joyce knows so little about her husband? Ah, but we’ll let that slide.

So, Joyce is on the trail of her absentee husband, finally finding The Cypresses Plantation, and makes a trip there. Not like these days of the Internet, where she can just Google Map it.
At the train station, kind of a desolate place, she gets her first sampling of bayou wildness when she meets Manon (Lon Chaney Jr.), handyman at the Cypresses. Lon gives a wonderfully gritty and wild performance as the drunken caretaker. He comes complete (incomplete?) with a hook in place of his right hand. Bayou, alligator country, hook-for-a-hand… I’ll just leave that right there for now.

Anyway, I need to work on some editing right now, so I’ll return to bayou country later.

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Quest that Began a Long Time Ago in a Village Far, Far Away


Am I referring to Star Wars? Well, yes, but also the other classic hero myths from which it arose. The one I'm thinking of currently is considered the earliest recorded work of Western literature, "The Epic of Gilgamesh". Considering that, I'm both surprised and relieved that Hollywood or whosoever wishes to tackle it, hasn't done so.

I've been obsessed (don't know if that's a good or a bad thing) with the hero quest ever since I first saw Star Wars in a theater in Evansville, Indiana, many years ago. Actually, my fascination goes back further, to movies like Ulysses, Jason and the Argonauts, and some of my favorite superhero comic books such as "Batman" and "Superman". During my unsettled, questioning times, they motivated me, inspired me. I remember leaving the theater after watching Star Wars for that first time, driving back to my apartment in my 1973 Chevy Nova, firing my blasters at the cars in the oncoming lane. It had been a bad day at work. Fortunately, I had no blasters.

Reading about Gilgamesh, I want to know more. This book I just finished, "Gilgamesh", by David Ferry, has only raised more questions. While not a direct translation, it gives the feel of this hero quest. And what intrigues me as much as the story itself, is the journey of discovery of the retelling. Because, like the King Arthur tales, it evolves.

Gilgamesh was, apparently, a real Sumerian king, tales of which were told long after he shuffled off. Pieces and parts were written on clay tablets, and they have crawled their way out of the twenty-seventh century B.C.E. weaving a trail, to today. The myths, naturally, grew. Of this wild man/king/demigod, who ruled over his city of Uruk. Who, because he was so uncontrollable, the gods created a brother for him, the equally untamed Enkidu, the idea being that Gilgamesh would have someone to fight with to dispel his fierce energies.

Together, these warrior brothers fought monsters, eventually learning of their mortality. After Enkidu's death, Gilgamesh traveled far, seeking immortality.

I shall write more of this later. This is just a small part of how these stories interrelate.

Keep writing, friends. And seek out your own hero quests.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Redundants


It was another of those mornings when I woke up with odd ideas bouncing around my noggin. Nothing unusual there, but I figured I'd inflict it on my readers.

I had the idea of superheroes who are no longer necessary or useful. I mentioned the idea to Wendy and she came up with The Redundants for their League of Futility. Sort of a useless Justice League. Anyway, my main superhero is The Appendix. His super power? No one knows for certain, but if he disappears, we're in trouble. So, he's a bargaining chip. In dire situations, we threaten the bad guys by saying, "If you continue being bad, we'll remove The Appendix."

Actually, he does have another ability. If other superheroes need to know about the various powers and weaknesses of super-villains, they can refer to The Appendix.

Which brings me to another question. The word 'vestigial'. I looked it up online on the good ol' Merriam-Webster site, and it says: "remaining in a form that is small or imperfectly developed and not able to function." It's been said the appendix is a vestigial organ. So, perhaps The Appendix's sidekick could be Vestigial, the Redundant Wonder.

And here's another concern I have. If there's a vestigial organ, well, then, you just kick it out of the band and replace it with a piano. Something like that.

Oh, yeah, some of the other members of The Redundants are Captain Corvair, Lady 8 Track, and The Weed. The Weed isn't redundant, but the other members are always trying to get rid of him.

Keep writing, friends.