Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Have a safe & Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

M. R. James' tale Casting the Runes

I have been a huge fan of British author M. R. James for years. His ghost stories are generally considered some of the greatest ever written and I think it’s very easy to fall under their spell. They are often referred to as ‘Antiquarian Ghost Stories’ because they are generally set in the past and although they might be set in contemporary times they are wrapped in a fascination with the history of a myth, object or place. James had a brilliant ability to craft a story that scares the reader by careful seduction. They get under your skin gradually and are marvelously capable of sending genuine chills up your spine as the creeping dread of the events gather force.

There are been some great British television adaptations of his stories including Whistle and I’ll Come to You, A Warning to the Curious, The Stalls of Barchester, Lost Hearts, The Treasure of Abbot Thomas and The Ash Tree but the only feature film so far is an adaptation of the story ‘Casting the Runes’ from 1958 called NIGHT OF THE DEMON. Released in the US as CURSE OF THE DEMON this was my introduction to M. R. James’ tales and brother- it’s a doozy! If you have never seen this movie let me highly recommend checking it out. Its one of the best films to watch at this time of year as it lays out all the intellectual arguments against accepting the existence of the supernatural and then systematically destroys them as terrifying evidence piles up that can’t be denied.

There have also been some great radio adaptations of James’ work and as far as I can tell the first was done for the show Escape in 1947. A version of Casting the Runes it manages to tell the story very well and ably demonstrates how these tales could terrify without some of the standard ‘jump out at you’ trappings of horror. The sense of impending terror is wonderful! I’ve embedded the Escape story below for your listening pleasure or it can be downloaded HERE as an MP3 to take with you and scare others. Just be sure the lights are low and everyone pays attention. You wouldn’t want something like this to happen to you- would you?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween images from my 2009 trip to Disney World

I had an amazing time and I hope to be able to go back one October very soon. Man, it was fun!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1971) poster art and images

I realized the other night that I haven't watched this film in several years. Time to pop it in the DVD player. Miss Valerie Leon is astounding even with a severed hand on her stomach!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Naschy trailers!

THE MARK OF THE WOLFMAN a.k.a. FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR (1968) This one is on German but that just adds to the odd feel.

The American title for WEREWOLF SHADOW (1971). This trailer damned near gives away all the surprises of the film!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dead of Night cover art

I remember having the Scarecrow issue but I can't remember a thing about it. Gotta hunt down a copy soon!

Monday, October 25, 2010

FRIDAY THE 13TH? Or How I stopped worrying and learned to love the Jason

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Friday the 13th film series for a long time. As someone who actually lived through the 1980s (barely) I harbored a strong dislike of the films because they were the epitome of dumb/stupid horror. Cheap, obvious, sloppy and pandering to the lowest common denominator in an effort to simply provide graphic violence with as little skill or art as can be applied these movies insulted me. Where was the character? Where was the atmosphere? Where was the craft that makes a good screen boogeyman the thing of nightmares? To me at the time Friday the 13th films were everything pointless in horror. Anyone can barrel onto screen and sling blood & guts enough to make an audience wince and gasp- that takes no skill and got no respect from me. So I spent the 1980s and early 1990s with my nose in the air, sniffing pompously at the lowbrow heathens that ran off to pay good money to see a mute, moronic killer machete another group of slutty teen campers into compost material. But then came 1993 and New Line’s JASON GOES TO HELL.

Paramount had finally run the Friday series into the ground with the 8th installment and was willing to sell off its dried up cash cow. With its Elm Street series in similar disrepair New Line saw this as the perfect way to keep big bucks flowing into the company’s coffers with cheap horror productions. Now- it must be said that most fans of the Friday series hate the New Line films with a passion best reserved for a mortal enemy. The fact that I love them and that their fun nature opened my eyes to the joys of the dumb/stupid horror of the first eight movies reflects more on my own prejudices as a film fan then on anything else. After all- I get a major kick out of badly produced horror films from the 1940s through the 1970s so maybe it was just a matter of time before I learned to love the 1980s version of poorly thought out scare-fests. Maybe I just needed enough time to pass to look back the 80s with some nostalgia to enjoy the bad hair, dumb clothes and obnoxious personalities typical of the times. Or maybe I’ve just developed a taste for watching crappy actors get an edged weapon shoved through their skulls. The fact that 'real' fans of the films hate the New Line movies has always struck me as stupid beyond belief but that's an essay for another time.

At any rate, I loved watching JASON GOES TO HELL in 1993 but it was not because of the film itself- it was because of the circumstances. I was living a desultory post college life in middle Tennessee and one of the few perks of my rather destitute existence was a great group of friends that included some folks who worked in a local movie theater. On occasion (in other words- as often as possible) they would invite us in for an after hour screening of a film and we always brought along liquid refreshments to add to the fun. So it was with several friends and several gallons of beer we settled in to watch a free midnight showing of JGTH. We had a blast! Not because the film was great but because we had great fun with it. My late friend Jack kept up a steady commentary bits of which I still to this day can hear when rewatching the movie. I nearly shot beer out of my nose when, after the second or third kill scene, Jack exclaimed “Why have they cut out all the gore? That’s the only reason anybody goes to see these damned things in the first place. It’s like porn without sex!” Good times. It was on that night that the seed of my eventual acceptance of the Friday films was planted. I learned to have fun with the ideas even if the ideas were often moronic.

The good news is that now I enjoy most of the film series as a kind of slasher film time capsule of a decade of sloppy excesses. They are dumb/stupid for the most part - although I would say that JASON X is actually smart/stupid – but that can just add to the fun. And who wasn’t making bad or stupid choices in the 1980s? Whew! Look at the hairstyles and clothing for God’s sake! Excess and dumb/stupid was everywhere.

Oh! And the good thing is that the uncut version of JASON GOES TO HELL is now readily available on the same DVD along side the theatrical version. If Jack were alive today I’d try to get him to watch the bloodier cut just so we could see what we missed in 1993. And to see if he could get me to sneeze beer this time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Poster art for October

I haven't watched this film yet but its higher than average rating on IMDb bodes well for it. I've enjoyed every film I've seen so far directed by John Gilling so I might have to bump this one up to the top of the 'to watch' pile and try to get it in by Halloween. Scriptwriter George Baxt had a hand in a few good movies as well- HORROR HOTEL, THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN, BURN WITCH BURN, VAMPIRE CIRCUS and HORROR ON SNAPE ISLAND. Yeah- I gotta catch this soon.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bela Lugosi as DRACULA (1931)

I completely missed Bela Lugosi's birthday on October 20th! I feel like a pretty stupid horror movie fan. Well- even though I prefer him in THE RAVEN, THE BLACK CAT and THE DEVIL BAT his best known role is still one for the ages.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Marvel's Frankenstein Monster

In the 1970s Marvel Comics expanded their line to include several horror characters. Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf By Night, Son of Satan, Ghost Rider were all good sellers (for a while) and at some point it must have seemed natural to add Mary Shelley's creature to the mix. I've just started a read of the entire run of these books and I'm happy to say that so far they are great. Marvel's version of the story is a combination of the original novel and the classic Universal movie tale. I love that the look they adopted for the character is the Karloff outfit from SON OF FRANKENSTEIN with the furry vest- I've always liked that look. Picking up years after the monster has been lost in the arctic wastes his body is found and chipped out of the ice to be returned to civilization. Of course, bad weather and a mutinous ship's crew conspire to make this much more difficult than it needs to be and soon enough the monster is awake and walking again. I'm enjoying these so far as a great alternative version of the monster but I'm surprised at how often Marvel tried to place the poor creature in its super hero continuity. Indeed, I think the first of these tales I ever read was my childhood best friend's copy of his appearance in Iron Man. Good times!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A PSA from Elvira

Elvira speaks out.... and shills her show, of course! She sure LOOKS like a witch. Maybe we should build a bridge out her? I'd love to see her reactions to the movie she's talking about in this clip. I was flabbergasted by it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

THE MUMMY'S CURSE (1944) trailer

Yes, I've begun my annual trip through the Universal Mummy movies.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Universal Monster novels

I love the Universal Monster films of the 1930s and 40s and revisit a number of them not just in October but throughout the year. Like most fans of these films I wish that there more of them and to this end I have been thrilled when occasionally a new tale with the old Universal characters turns up. Every few years Universal offers up some new bit of merchandising for them and, as much as I love Frankenstein toys or Mummy t-shirts, the best of these in my opinion has been the on again off again series of horror novels that get released. I’ve read a number of them and enjoyed each one with Jeff Rovin’s RETURN OF THE WOLFMAN and Paul Di Filippo’s Creature novel TIME’S BLACK LAGOON being the best so far. In 2001 a series of Young Adult Universal Monster novels were issued and I’ve decided to give them a try this October. I’ve just started the first of the run entitled ‘Return of Evil’ which focuses on Dracula showing up on the Florida coast in 2001 and it may be YA but the violence is pretty harsh. Exciting stuff!

I’ve got another Wolfman book and a Mummy tale as well so the ‘to read’ stack is looking pretty cool. When will I find time to dive into that collection of 1970s Marvel Frankenstein comics? Not enough time in the month.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

ALIEN 2 coming to Blu-Ray?

I would not be surprised if you read the above title for this post and said to yourself "What the Hell is ALIEN 2? Is he talking about ALIENS?" To which I would have to say 'No! I'm talking about ALIEN 2 also known as ALIEN ON EARTH directed by Ciro Ippolito and released in 1980. That's right! Its an Italian produced ALIEN rip-off that got made and pushed into theaters less than a year after Ridley Scott's movie premiered. You just gotta love the Italians! I've had a bootleg of this film for more than 10 years and I love it. Its just as low budget and sloppily made as you would expect but it has ..... something. I've never been able to put my finger on exactly why I like it but I've watched this sucker about 5 or 6 times and enjoyed it every time. It's got some strange appeal for me and I guess I must not be the only one. A new video company called Midnight Legacy have announced as their first disc the release of this film on Blu-Ray in 2011 and they seem to be going to great lengths to do things well. They claim it will be pulled from the 35mm negative and is a longer version than has ever been seen before. I will put aside my thoughts on the wisdom of starting a new cult film DVD company in the current economic times long enough to pump my fist in the air with delight that this is happening. More power to Midnight Legacy and they can count on my pre-order just as soon as it appears online for sale.

I can only wonder what they will announce for their second release.