Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Anniversary - 50 Years of The Addams Family television show!

They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky... Man! I love that Vic Mizzy theme song! Originally a syndicated cartoon strip created and drawn by artist Charles Addams, The Addams Family is probably best known for their much beloved B&W television series which ran from 1964 to 1966. Because the channels in Chattanooga didn't broadcast reruns of this show in the 1970's I only rarely got to see The Addams Family as a kid, but every time I caught an episode I was thrilled. Here was a funny and weird group of misfits and freaks living happily together as the outside world stared in stunned, uncomprehending disgust. The family consists of the wily patriarch, Gomez Addams, his darkly beautiful wife Mortica, their mischievous children Pugsley and Wednesday, the slightly insane Uncle Fester, the roving-hand and all around helper Thing, the giant & much put upon butler Lurch, wild-haired Grandmama, and world travelling Cousin Itt. I loved the matter of fact way Gomez and Morticia handled problems and there were never cooler parents on any television show.

The Addams Family is a complete joy and still holds up to this day as a fun and funny slice of off-kilter, macabre sensibilities placed within the framework of 'normal' America. I love the set-up of the show wherein The Addams' are so puzzled by the often evil intentions of the people who visit them in their creepy home. They can't understand these bad intentions as what they appear to be, so they have no idea why these people are acting so irrationally. Sounds like a perfect show to go watch right now! 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

NaschyCast #47 - THE KILLER IS AMONG THE 13 (1976)

Thirteen suspects trapped in an isolated country house over a long weekend! One of them committed murder! Can you figure out whodunit?

Probably not, but that really is beside the point. This month’s film has a very tiny sprinkling of Naschy but a heaping helping of old style murder mystery a la Agatha Christie and just a soupçon of giallo for flavor.  That’s right- there IS a black-glover killer but don’t expect the typical Euro-Trash blood soaked tale or there will be some sad Pandas out there. The story takes place in the English countryside (don’t let the Spanish speaking cast fool ya!) with all the trappings you would expect from a classic mystery film of the type that used to star William Powell. One can merely wish that Naschy had a larger role in the proceedings but he only interacts with three of the cast which means this is one of the least Naschy NaschyCasts we’ve ever done. Still, there is fun to be had as veteran director Javier Aguirre runs his eclectic group of victims … errr….suspects through their paces. Secrets are revealed, love affairs are uncovered, maids are seduced, jealousies kindled and heads are bashed as we narrow down the character list to discover the identity of the perpetrator. Also, there are many familiar faces onscreen including Patty Shepard, Eduardo Calvo and Dyanik Zurakowska to make the 'Spot the Actor' game interesting.

This month's mailbag was overflowing and we even throw in a bonus bit of praise for the Bloody Pit episode covering NIGHTMARE CITY so things get entertaining as we stumble through the letters we received in July. If you would like to tell us what you think please write us at or join us over on the Book of Faces NaschyCast page. Thanks for downloading and listening. Oh- and I end the show with a an old HooDoo Guru's tune inspired by a chance comment during the podcast. Enjoy! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Batman Covers by Jim Aparo!

My favorite Batman artist! Happy 75th birthday to the Dark Knight Detective. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dean Koontz's ODD THOMAS (2013)

If it is a given fact (and boy, is it) that Stephen King has had a woeful history with film adaptations of his horror novels, what do we make of the film fate of less famous contemporary horror authors? Have they faired better or worse than the ‘King’ of horror. Pretty much everyone knows King’s name but few members of the general public are aware of his bookstore shelf-mate Dean Koontz. Among horror readers he is well known if not particularly well admired as someone who has been incredibly prolific over the years but has never really been a great writer. Not that King is a ‘great’ writer either but he is reliable as a genre storyteller and one who almost always delivers the goods in a way that satisfies. I may bitch for the rest of my life about how many of his novels seem to choke in the final third, but overall he has given me enough thrills and excitement to coast on goodwill for decades.

Now, for Dean Koontz, I have to admit to having read only one of his novels years ago. It was during a period in which I wanted to branch out in the horror field sampling a number of writers and I met with a very hit and miss result. I was not impressed by Koontz or John Saul or Bently Little and so never read another of their books. On the other hand Robert McCammon, Ronald Kelly and John Farris drew me in and I have pursued their work ever since. This means I am certainly no expert on Mr. Koontz work but that shouldn't stop me from enjoying a good movie made from his stories, right?

But what is Koontz's track record with films made from his work? From what I can find he has had twelve of his books adapted and while I've not seen all of them the few I have viewed have been less than stellar. I liked DEMON SEED (1977) which had the distinction of being both insane and oddly compelling but WATCHERS (1988) I remember as being pretty damned awful- what little of it I can still dredge up from my VHS memory bank. And I never saw the sequels but just the knowledge of their existence means I will one day wonder about them. (Damn my desire to see crap!) I never saw WHISPERS (1990) or SERVANTS OF TWILIGHT (1991) but I did see HIDEAWAY (1995) and it was..... a movie. My memories are that it was OK but nothing too great. Maybe a revisit is in order? Oh! And I saw PHANTOMS (1998) because it starred Peter O'Toole and I figured it had be interesting if he was in it. Clearly I had forgotten that O'Toole was in SUPERGIRL (1984). Whew!

Skipping over the various TV movies of his books (because who cares) we come to 2013's Koontz adaptation ODD THOMAS. If I had known before pushing play on NetFlix that this sucker was directed by Stephen Sommers I would have skipped it completely. This is the same hack that farted out VAN HELSING (2004) and THE MUMMY (1999) so expecting quality filmmaking was off the table. And within the first few minutes my darkest fears were realized as I watched supposedly normal people engage in a running fistfight that would have killed any ten human beings. They tumble through outdoor parties, they run through houses and they break effortlessly through door after door as if they were made of notepaper. I was waiting for the super powers to be revealed but there are none! But that idiocy could have been winked at, I suppose, until the general plot becomes clear. It seems that the main character can see and communicate with dead people so he spends his off time tracking down killers. That would be fine except that he only does this in his small southwestern American town - but he speaks in the film's incessant voiceover about the dozens of killers he has helped the local police catch.  All of which means this place has more murderers per capita than any place on earth! What the hell? Plus, the film's tone is jokey and overly cute in a way that immediately puts me off so I was unimpressed from the start. Did I mention the annoying voiceover that is supposed to make us care about what is happening but only served to make me say "I get it" about fifteen times as the film unspooled. Ugh!

So, Stephen King has had by my count about a 40% good to 60% bad ratio in his adaptations but Dean Koontz has had one good one? Maybe one and a half depending on how you count HIDEAWAY? Am I being too harsh? Are there more good Koontz films I just haven't seen?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Diana Rigg - Avenger of My Dreams!

I have been finally watching the third season of Game of Thrones (Yeah- I know I'm still a season behind) and found that somehow no one had told me the Dame Diana Rigg appears in the show. What the Hell? I should be alerted when a lady so much a part of my youthful coming of age is about to pop up on my screen. Even at her age I still find her alluring and as Olenna Tyrell she gets to chew bloody chunks of scenery while wielding a sharp tongue. The scripts (and indeed the books) gift her character with dialog built to razor through flesh as her victim is still returning her sly smile. It is such a joy to see Miss Rigg again sinking her teeth into a good role!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Euro-Spy viewing- AGENT 003:OPERATION ATLANTIS (1965)

Given all the time in the world I would make a project out of running through every James Bond inspired Euro-Spy film that exists as quickly as possible. Visions of a book few people would buy dance through my head -'My Journey with Rip-Off Secret Agents' might be the title. Or not. As it stands, I get to see about two a year so I have to be happy with that. The other night I watched AGENT 003: OPERATION ATLANTIS which has to be one of the wackiest entries in the genre. Playing out like a particularly nonsensical Republic serial the story has our American spy George Steele in route to Japan for a vacation but stopping off in Italy just long enough to be asked to help out with a mission. It appears that uranium has been found in North Africa but it is under the hidden city of the survivors of ancient Atlantis. I'll stop there and let that sink in.

No one bats an eye at the idea that a) Atlantis existed, b) there were survivors that settled near Egypt, c) there is a hidden city that can't be accessed but we know there is uranium underneath it and d) that the best idea to obtain this valuable substance is to send in a guy who has no experience with any of this stuff. Do I need to say anything more to explain why I want to watch ALL of this mad genre? The plot is threadbare to the point of being impossible to follow and the budget is marginal at best but I loved ever minute of this little lost effort. Recommended to anyone who read this description and smiled. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Random Behind the Scenes Images



One of the Lon Chaney 1940's era Mummy films from Universal - not sure which one. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Brief Thoughts - THE COUNSELOR (2013)

Holy crap! How do you have so many good elements in place and still make such a terrible film? This sucker has Ridley Scott behind the camera and a cast that I would have thought could elevate anything but this is a dud. This might be a future touchstone for film nuts to judge against when projects go awry. Everyone certainly gives it their all and I never thought I'd see Cameron Diaz hump a car windshield or Javier Bardem get shot in the ass or that much arterial spray outside of a samurai film but....... what the hell were they thinking? I suspect the fact that legendary author Cormac McCarthy penned the script may have blinded the filmmakers to the ludicrousness of the entire thing. How can something be both half-baked and overcooked? Here's an example sure to curl your toes.

Anyone else see this crazy thing?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What I Watched in June

As was true of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS two years ago, the new X-Men film is the best of the summer season - so far. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST had a lot to live up to as it was attempting to adapt one of the greatest storylines of the best creative run the characters have ever had. The filmmakers set themselves up with several problems by not really being able to tell the tale as originally written, but they cleverly found ways to make one of the best superhero movies of recent memory without crapping on the comic book source.

This is one of the most satisfying comic book movies of the past ten years and even manages the trick of fixing the problems left over from the miserable, muddled last half of X-MEN: THE LAST STAND from several years ago. Of course, the usual things one looks for in one of these action adventure tales is here and done brilliantly- the adrenaline pumped battles; the amazing special effects; the big villainous plots; the dangerous characters and the great eye candy of all kinds. But the best thing this film has going for it (other than a great time travel idea) is that nearly all of the characters are allowed time to shine. These X-Men films have always been well cast and this one is no exception with great turns from a dozen actors who have to carefully balance their personas against a huge story. I loved this movie and its the first of the these superhero films to make me cry in the theater - and I cried tears of both sadness and joy which is even more impressive.

I have to admit that Tom Cruise has been on a roll for the last few years. JACK REACHER, OBLIVION and now this Summer's EDGE OF TOMORROW have been excellent entertainments that I know I will return to again in the near future. EOT (which could have used a better title) is a smart, exciting science fiction variation on GROUNDHOG DAY that is unrelenting in its desire to put Mr. Cruise through dozens of hellish situations. I knew the film had a good chance of being worth seeing when I learned Doug (THE BOURNE IDENTITY) Liman was behind the camera and he didn't let me down. This is a very good Summer movie and has the added benefit of being more clever than it has to be to make the story work. It's not as interesting as OBLIVION but it is pretty close and that is very cool.

I got the rare chance to see a small release film last month and I was pleased to catch the Australian made THE ROVER. The film is set in a post apocalyptic world just ten years after a never detailed disaster and stars the always excellent Guy Pearce as a very tightlipped man attempting to catch up with the trio of men who stole his car. If this sounds like a version of THE ROAD WARRIOR you would be far off the mark. This film goes out of its way to paint Pearce's character in harsh shades of gray as he uses anything and anyone he can find to help him get what he wants. He is never presented in a flattering light and even when he is dishing out violence it is hard to get behind his actions because the violence is so rough and almost random. This is an impressive movie and I liked it very much but I will have to be careful when I recommend it - not everyone will enjoy this bleak tale. 

MARY, MARY, BLOODY MARY (1975)- 6 (not bad thriller)
DR. JEKYLL AND THE WOLFMAN (1972) - 8 (rewatch)
THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK (1976)- 8 (rewatch)
PACIFIC RIM (2013)- 9 (rewatch)
THE 3 WORLDS OF GULLIVER (1960)- 6 (Harreyhausen effects add spice)
I, FRANKENSTEIN (2014)- 2 (CGI mess of poor....everything)
SPIES (1928)- 8 (Fritz Lang thriller)
JOHNNY HANDSOME (1989)- 7 (rewatch)
AVENGERS CONFIDENTIAL: Black Widow-Punisher (2014)- 7 (well done animated addition to the Marvel world)
KILMA, QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE (1975)- 6 (rewatch)
THE BATWOMAN (1968)- 4 (Mexican wrestling silliness- fun but often slow)
THE ROVER (2014)- 8 (Australian post-apocalyptic tale- downbeat to say the least)
YOU'RE NEXT (2011)- 8 (excellent variation on the slasher film)
THE LAST EXORCISM PART 2 (2013)- 5 (mediocre follow up)
INSIDE OUT (1975)- 6 (caper tale about a hunt for Nazi gold- good cast)
FACE OF FIRE (1959)- 7 (interesting period drama) 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Jess Franco poster art - Part 32!

I cannot find an English language release title for this one but it looks quite interesting. IMDb has it listed as Une Cage Doree from 1976 this is one I'll have to see with fan made subtitles if i want to understand what the Hell is going on! Here's a viewer's synopsis from the inter-web--
"Mr. Winter (Roger Darton) sees his Hong Kong prostitution ring threatened by the police and a rival gang. Consequently, he decides to move his organization to Paris, where he specializes himself in satisfying the requests of clients with very peculiar types of perversions, punishing the prostitutes who dare to rebel against him shutting them up in a cage with golden bars." 

Sounds interesting to me! 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Bloody Pit # 16 - NIGHTMARE CITY (1980)

Umberto Lenzi's mad horror film NIGHTMARE  CITY can be accused of many crimes but it will never bore you. The movie has the forward momentum of a runaway freight train (which makes it a blast to watch) and it also has the brains of a decapitated chicken (making it maddeningly idiotic). But it presents such a spectacle that all critical faculties just seem to melt away in the warm glow of watching a piece of junk cinema just drop all pretense and go for the jugular every few minutes. As a matter of fact, it would seem that the idea in the editing room may have been "Never let more than five minutes go by without something outrageous or violent occurring". If you asked Lenzi in his later years about this movie he would often try to claim that the story had an anti-military or anti-nuclear energy message but we all know that the real thing to be learned here is that murderous, rage-driven, radiation infected killers can only be put down with a bullet to the head! And they are clearly not aliens. And they get you when you sleep. Wait! Wrong movie.

Anyway- I am joined this time by returning podcast partners Troy Guinn and Jeff Nelson. This is the first time the three of us have recorded together since our epic Yor, The Hunter From The Future episode and I think this one is more entertaining. We have a great time talking about our favorite moments in the film and somehow find more than one way to relate NIGHTMARE CITY to the classic TV series All In The Family. I am not kidding. We discuss the finer points of running zombies; the question of infected vs undead; the problem of emoting when Hugo; and whether this film is more of a rip-off than other Italian horror movies of the same era. Also, Jeff has once again provided a nice piece of artwork to grace the show for which I am eternally grateful. He always goes out of his way to help us out over on the NaschyCast and his addition to this show only improves the entire affair.

If you wish to comment the email address is so feel free to let us know your thoughts on the episode. Thanks for downloading and listening. 

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Suicide Squad covers

I've been reading some old issues of the late 80's version of the Suicide Squad and loving ever minute of it. John Ostrander had a strong handle on every character and the stories were always engrossing- even when partially derailed by the annual pointless crossover events that plagued the late 1980's and 1990's. I need  to lay hands on the entire 66 issue run. Here's the Wikipedia info -

The modern Suicide Squad (created by John Ostrander in the aforementioned Legends #3) is an antihero team of incarcerated supervillains who act as deniable assets for the United States government, undertaking high-risk black ops missions in exchange for commuted prison sentences. The group operates out of Belle Reve Penitentiary, under the directorship of Dr. Amanda Waller. Thus, the Suicide Squad's existence helps to explain why many convicted villains in the D.C. Universe roam free without having heroes tracking them down—until they, inevitably, attempt or commit another crime.

Saturday, July 05, 2014


Lee Van Cleef is one of the most recognizable actors in the spaghetti western genre. If he'd done nothing more than turn in his fantastic performances in For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad & the Ugly he would have cemented his place in fans' hearts. But those two genre-defining films were just the beginning for Lee Van Cleef. A bit player in Hollywood for years, he had never been able to land any really big starring roles but a movie fan with sharp eyes can spot him in dozens of films starting in 1952's High Noon. He was the man tasked with shooting a radioactive bullet into The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, a gangster in several 1950s Noirs and seems to have appeared in at least one episode of every western television series produced in the '50s and '60s. His one starring role in 'Hollywood' was as the deluded scientist who helps an alien from Venus attack our planet in Roger Corman's It Conquered the World in 1956. I'd love to know what he thought his chances for career enhancement were when he signed on to make westerns with crazy Italians but I bet Clint Eastwood's sudden rise to stardom caused him to think big things were possible. It certainly turned out well for him! After the huge success of the Leone films worldwide LVC went on to star in at least a dozen more westerns including two Sabata films, the brilliant Death Rides a Horse, the western/mystery hybrid The Grand Duel and even a Magnificent Seven sequel. With Take a Hard Ride Van Cleef entered into another sub-genre, the western/blaxploitation combination - a bizarre amalgam that deserves a book written about it though it was woefully short-lived. This was also his second collaboration with veteran Italian director Antonio Margheriti with whom he'd made The Stranger and the Gunfighter just the year before and would work with again in 1983 for Codename: Wild Geese. While Take a Hard Ride wouldn't rank near the top of either man's resume it is a solid movie even if its flaws are all too apparent and, all too often, silly.

Since they get the lion's share of screen time one could argue effectively that the real stars of this film are Jim Brown (Black Gunn) and Fred Williamson (The Inglorious Bastards). Indeed, after a brief sequence at the very start of the film to set up Van Cleef as cold-hearted bounty hunter Kiefer, it becomes clear that the focus of the tale will be Brown's character, Pike. Pike is the trusted right-hand man of rancher Morgan (Dana Andrews), who has just gotten a herd of cattle to market. The herd was a communal project for the small Mexican town Morgan is hoping to help become a stable ranching community. Sadly, the night after the sale the old man dies of a heart attack and with his final breath asks Pike to make sure the $86,000 gets back to the town. Pike takes this responsibility seriously and sets out to keep his pledge even as every criminally minded scumbag within 100 miles starts making plans to rob him. Among these dastardly folks is professional gambler and card cheat Tyree (Williamson). Being smarter than the average crook he meets up with Pike and first helps him fight off a group of bandits before informing him he wants the money just as much as anyone else. But having formed a mutual respect the two men decide to work together until they get to Mexico when all bets will be off.

Bounty hunter Kiefer decides to make a grab for the money but after witnessing the gunplay skills Pike and Tyree possess he opts to pull most of the criminals hunting for them into a group to have a better chance. Offing the few that don't want to join up or running them off the trail he follows along while the two black men trade verbal quips and sniff after the other's possible breaking points. In their trek across the desert landscape the two partners come across a stage under attack by some bandits. Killing the bad guys they rescue ex-prostitute Catherine (Catherine Spaak) but are too late to save her good hearted husband. She elects to travel with them until a town can be reached and in tow is her servant/bodyguard Kashtok (Jim Kelly), a half-Indian mute who appears to have studied under Bruce Lee. Will this group of four be able reach civilization alive and with the money or any combination of the two?

At one point Fred Williamson's character Tryee says, "Everybody has a sad story in their past." As Take a Hard Ride goes on we learn some of these sad stories and how they made the people we are traveling with tick. Pike is a formerly bad man trying to maintain his dignity even as Tyree asks him repeatedly why he would want to keep his word to a white man. Tyree is a man all too aware of the restrictions his black skin places on him and while keeping a smile on his face plots to get what he wants. Catherine is a sad lady unsure of her future and afraid she'll not be able to leave her past behind. Kashtok is a man of two different cultures who doesn't fit into either. And Kiefer is a black-hearted, intelligent and rational man pursuing money with little thought as to why. Placed into this scenario all the flaws and strengths of these people come out leading to some surprising actions. Even if certain sacrifices are never going to be understood by the survivors the influence these people have on each other will last a long time.

But I'm making this out to be a glum tale and its not. Besides the banter between Brown and Williamson there are some great chases, fantastic gun battles and some well choreographed fights. Hollywood legend Hal Needham was the stunt coordinator for the film and it shows in the exciting and believable actions scenes. Director Margheriti has all the elements in place to make a good western and does a damned good job with the material. Margheriti's westerns never reach the mindbending highs of Leone or Corbucci but he also never seems to be aiming for those highs. His westerns are more low-key, less arch with their pleasures usually more subtle in their effect. I almost always enjoy a Margheriti western more the second and third time I watch it. I fear this is because I'm so used to Spaghettis being such 'big' entertainments that, when I see one that aims at a different target, I have to adjust my expectations to notice what's in front of me. That's not to say Margheriti's films aren't entertaining — they're just not entertaining in the same way that the often tongue-in-cheek spaghettis sometimes are. I think this stylistic difference accounts for the general low regard fans of the genre have for his westerns, which is a shame. Watching this film more than once shows an intelligence behind the camera that is easily missed on first impression. Nearly every shot is framed with a skilled eye to position each character in relation to the others for an effect. Someone will be foregrounded at the beginning of a scene as the character tries to argue against something and then advance into frame becoming smaller as they lose the argument until they are smallest object in the scene. This kind of thing occurs repeatedly in Take a Hard Ride, and even if you don't notice it these techniques have their intended effect. That's just excellent filmmaking and it's rarely talked about in this genre with its focus on action and violence. Westerns can be artistic even if most hardcore aficionados would sneer at the idea.

Another great thing about this film is the beautiful location work. Filmed in the Canary Islands off Morocco's coast, the movie looks fantastic and forbidding at the same time. Being an Italian/American co-production, there are more Hollywood players in the cast and crew than most spaghettis usually sport. Besides the short performance from Dana Andrews (Curse/Night of the Demon), there's a small part for the great Barry Sullivan and juicy bad guy roles for recognizable character actors Harry Carey, Jr. and Robert Donner. The score is by the brilliant Jerry Goldsmith (Planet of the Apes), who turns in a damned good suite of music that I think I'll have to obtain on CD eventually.

Not that the film is without problems. Most viewers will enjoy the rousing, explosive final battle but will be unsatisfied with the fate of Lee Van Cleef's Kiefer. I loved this odd, poetic turn but its 'scorpion-stinging-itself' aspect will turn off those looking for a more conventional ending for such a bad guy. Another troubling element is Kashtok the mute halfbreed played by athlete Jim Kelly (Enter the Dragon). Kelly does what he can with the role but the inclusion of a martial arts bad ass makes it hard to take some scenes seriously. High kicking like a Navajo Jackie Chan, it becomes silly and throws off the tone of a few of the fight scenes. The truth is that the film would have been just as good and maybe better without this character at all. A simple rewrite of a few scenes could have eliminated him altogether and made Catherine's predicament in the desert even more troubling.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Jack Kirby draws Captain America

Happy 4th of July!