Tuesday, June 30, 2015

DARK SHADOWS gets monster mashed


I thought it was interesting that Barnabas Collins made it to the cover of Mark Voger's new book, MONSTER MASH: THE CREEPY, KOOKY MONSTER CRAZE IN AMERICA. Sure, DARK SHADOWS was one of the major highlights of the "monster kid" era, but I've become accustomed of having writers overlook the show in favor of more mainstream fare.

As it happens, Jonathan Frid's mug on the book cover wasn't just a token gesture. TwoMorrow's Publishing has shared an except of MONSTER MASH, which reveals that "TV's Cool Ghoul" and his relatives are the subject of an extended chapter of the book! Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby and Lara Parker get their own chapters, as does the various merchandise and madness that surrounded the show.

Here's the boilerplate summary for MONSTER MASH:
Time-trip back to the frightening era of 1957-1972, when monsters infiltrated America in monster magazines, toys, games, trading cards, and comic books. This profusely illustrated full-color hardcover covers that creepy, kooky craze through features on Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, the #1 hit “Monster Mash,” Aurora’s model kits, TV shows (Shock Theatre, The Addams Family, The Munsters, and Dark Shadows), “Mars Attacks” trading cards, Eerie Publications, Planet of the Apes, and more! It features interviews with monster creators, publishers, and TV stars, with a Foreword by TV horror host Zacherley, the “Cool Ghoul.”
You can read a lengthy excerpt from MONSTER MASH below. The full book is available from Amazon HERE.

Still disgraceful after all these years


There's nothing quite as curious as a homophobic DARK SHADOWS fan.

In the past, it's probably been easy for these people to avoid the reality that their favorite television show has a huge homosexual following. It was even easy for them to ignore that a great many of the show's cast members were homosexual, thanks to the kind of compartmentalization required to be a functioning bigot. It doesn't really matter to them if Louis Edmonds was gay, because Roger Collins was straight; these people have more empathy for a fictional character than for the actor who played him.

This isn't a screed about who was or wasn't gay on DARK SHADOWS, because it's none of our business. I mention Edmonds only because he was fairly vocal about it in his later years. From a distance, Edmonds' revelation might seem inevitable. I used to think there was no closet big enough to hide Edmonds "secret," but that's not really true. Even if Helen Keller could spot Edmonds' sexual orientation from across the room, he was socially obliged to keep his most basic personal relationships to himself for most of his life. He could be fired, asked to leave places of business or even arrested for displaying the kinds of affection taken for granted in heterosexual relationships. (Actually, some of those responses are still legal in America.)

In January, 1971, Time Magazine published an article titled "The Homosexual in America." Here's a highlight:
"It is a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life. As such it deserves fairness, compassion, understanding and, when possible, treatment. But it deserves no encouragement, no glamorization, no rationalization, no fake status as minority martyrdom, no sophistry about simple differences in taste — and, above all, no pretense that it is anything but a pernicious sickness."
When DARK SHADOWS was on the air, this is how people spoke about LGBT people when they were being nice. If someone was feeling especially nasty, violence was also an acceptable tool.


Yesterday, I updated the cover of the CHS Facebook page with the image you see above. It was a busy weekend and my biggest concern was that I was a little late in celebrating the moment. Nobody seemed to mind that I was the last person on Facebook to add a bit of color to my Facebook layout ...  but there was a scattering of  "curious" comments about the decision. The most direct comment came from Mr. John Johnson, which you can see at the top of the page. It kickstarted a discussion about the phenomenon of the homophobic DARK SHADOWS fans, but was deleted sometime during the night. Consequently, the remaining elements of the discussion are pretty confusing.

Unfortunately for Mr. Johnson, I took a screenshot of his post. Welcome to the 21st Century, jerk. You don't get to walk into my house, throw brickbats and scurry away.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Monster Serial: MARTIN, 1977



By PHIL NOBILE JR

The mid 1970s. In an urban, blue collar neighborhood, a young man finds himself at odds with his Catholic family’s attempts to impose its rigid, oppressive lifestyle onto his own. Seeking escape, the youth goes out at night where he can act on his desires and truly be himself. Women are a complete mystery to him, and he goes through them as disposable pleasures. Eventually, he’s forced to re-evaluate his place in life when he falls for an older woman.

It’s an amusing set of similarities that exist between SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and George A Romero’s MARTIN, but the films also share a cynical, deeper probing of the constrictive nature of family and the poisonous core of empty faith.

But where SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER invites us to find the humanity in a racist, misogynist cheeseball, MARTIN asks us to empathize with a protagonist who, the film tells us, might be an 84 year-old vampire, but in all likelihood is a 19 year-old serial rapist and murderer. Troublesome waters, but well worth navigating.

We meet Martin (John Amplas) on a train bound for Pittsburgh. He eyes an attractive woman boarding the train during a stop in New York. Later, he picks the lock to her cabin and flings the door open. The film immediately transitions to black & white as we enter Martin’s fantasy world. The woman is waiting for him on the bed arms extended, as haunting, romantic music swells.



Of course, none of this is actually happening. Back in the real world the cabin seems empty, and the unceremonious flush of a toilet tells us Martin’s quarry is in the shitter. She opens the door as Martin crouches behind it. Her hair is in a towel and her face is covered in cold cream - hardly the idealized, willing victim of Martin’s fantasy. She sees him just before he pounces, hypodermic needle in hand. After injecting her, what ensues is still not Martin’s romantic fantasy, but rather a clumsy, messy struggle, punctuated by profanity and a discordant, jazzy score. Through the images, action and music, Romero telegraphs the collision course on which he’s set fantasy and reality in his film.

Once she’s subdued (but, interestingly and distressingly, still somewhat conscious), Martin quietly rapes the woman before opening her vein with a razor blade and drinking her blood. Her eyes, fluttering, watch the entire thing with a hazy confusion. He kisses her passionately, his bloody face smearing her own. He turns his attention back to the vein and in the next shot, she’s dead. There’s a casual, horrible banality to it. In its opening moments, Martin boldly announces itself as a very different kind of vampire film.

But Martin is less interested in digging into or deconstructing the vampire myth than it is in exploring the stagnant well of religion, and of Catholicism in particular. It stands next to the aforementioned SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, and to varying degrees films like THE EXORCIST and MEAN STREETS as part of an incidental movement in 70s cinema to question the hoary, empty and sometimes dangerous phenomenon of blind faith.


That loyalty to ritual and tradition is embodied in Tateh Cuda (Lincoln Maazel), Martin’s cousin who meets him at the train station. Dressed immaculately in white and speaking in a thick accent (Greek? Lithuanian? Cuda references “the old country” but is never specific), Cuda presents himself as a “good Catholic” who believes Martin to be his 84 year-old cousin cursed with vampirism, “the family shame.” Cuda escorts Martin to his home in the blighted city of Braddock, a former steel town seemingly sucked dry. Echoing the plague-ridden village of Nosferatu, our titular vampire arrives to find the shadow of death over the entire town and everyone in it. The shops, the streets, the church are all sparsely littered with sleepwalking bodies- truly the living dead. Even the zealot Cuda seems pretty resigned in his initial interactions with Martin. “First I will save your soul. Then I will destroy you. I will show you your room.” Cuda subscribes to a belief system that has preordained our lives from beginning to end, his words seem to be suggest. No sense getting worked up about it.

Again and again, the film ties vampirism to antiquated religion. And much like any other religion, even the believers can’t seem to agree on what exactly it is. Shortly after unpacking, Martin reacts angrily to Cuda’s addressing him as “nosferatu.” Martin chases him through the house, ripping a string of garlic from Cuda’s door. As Cuda retreats to his bedroom, he’s backed into a corner, and as a last resort reaches into a drawer and pulls out...a glow-in-the-dark plastic crucifix. Martin bites into the garlic and presses the cheap cross against his cheek. “You see? It isn’t magic.” Yet a few scenes later Martin tells his cousin he’s 84 years old. So Martin really believes he’s a vampire; he just doesn’t have the same beliefs about vampirism that Cuda does. We learn that like any other religious fanatic, Martin cherry picks his belief system to justify his own actions, but gets upset and emotional when other people’s interpretations intrude on his version.


Cuda puts on a normal face for the outside world, telling his customers that his young cousin (and new employee) is nineteen years old, and dismissing their clucked tongues when they suggest it’s inappropriate that a young man live in the same house as Cuda’s young daughter Christine (Christine Forrest). “My family knows how to behave.” Cuda only lets his crazy side out to a trusted few. Martin shows his true self to even fewer, and it tends to result in their death. So he reaches out to a late night radio call-in show and begins having long phone conversations with the DJ. The calls become a de facto voice over for the film, allowing us to hear Martin’s inner dialogue mixed with a fair amount of mythbusting. Martin’s life as a vampire, he tells the radio audience, involves no coffins, no fear of crosses or sunlight, and he doesn’t turn into a bat.  “Those movies are crazy!” His refutation of vampire lore takes on an odd tone- incredulousness mixed with betrayal. The movies don’t just lie to us about vampires; they lied to him. And the myth Martin is most distressed about is that you can’t make women do what you want in real life.

Martin’s workaround for this inconvenience involves a fair amount of leg work: reconnaissance, staking out a target’s home over a period of days, figuring out how to get inside the home, and waiting for the right moment to strike. Martin patiently waits for one victim’s husband to go away on business, but again messy reality gets in the way of his fantasy: when he flings open the woman’s bedroom door, syringe in hand, the sexually naive Martin is confused by the presence of the woman’s side piece. He improvises masterfully, though, his mind remembering (or fantasizing) a cat and mouse chase from his younger days.

As these brushes with capture - the woman’s home, wandering into a drug deal/police shootout after murdering a wino - fool us into thinking they’re the only real danger posed to Martin, Cuda and his religious fervor take on an air of buffoonery. Martin accompanies his cousin to church and the only thing that threatens to destroy him there is boredom. An attempted exorcism proves to be a rather limp exercise. When Cuda invites a young priest (Romero) over for dinner, the priest has to stifle a giggle when asked about demonic possession. When pressed on the issue, the priest nervously says “I don’t know what to believe about that.” It’s a damning moment in a throwaway line.


Martin’s antagonistic relationship with Cuda comes to be portrayed not so much as an epic battle of good vs evil, but as Martin straight trolling Cuda. He becomes an insolent punk, smirking at Cuda’s convictions and delighting in pissing him off. AfIn one scene Martin menaces Cuda in a mist-shrouded playground, dressed up in a dime-store vampire getup. When Cuda clutches his rosary for protection, Martin cackles at him. “It’s just a costume,” Martin says, spitting out a set of plastic fangs that might have come from the same factory as Cuda’s glow-in-the-dark crucifix. Cuda is reduced to a frightened old man, a misconception which primes us for the film’s bleak finale.

This essay is one of dozens featured in our new
book, "Taste the Blood of Monster Serial."
Martin’s relationship with a lonely housewife (Elyane Nadeau) is his first sexual interaction with a willing participant. Although it’s not exactly an ideal romance - she likes that he seldom speaks, he’s happy she’s not unconscious - it suggests that perhaps Martin can make progress toward a more human, normal life. Martin’s fate does end up intimately tied to this woman’s, but not in a way he (or we) could have seen coming. Martin’s undoing comes from trying to be like everyone else; O. Henry style irony, or maybe Romero is indicting conformity all the way to his last frame.

Is Martin a vampire? People like to say the film doesn’t tell us; Romero likes to say “it doesn’t matter,” but the clues are there and any other answer than the obvious one serves no end other than cheap storytelling gimmickry. Martin is a delusional maniac, from a family of delusional maniacs, and they’re all far too human. The smoking gun that Martin’s “memories” are all in his mind is given right up front: when he busts into that first victim’s cabin, the black-and-white fantasy sequence transports him (and us) not into a distant memory, but into a fantasy of what’s about to happen. It’s just wishful thinking. Martin imagines the woman wants him, just as he imagines he’s an 84 year-old vampire. But as Martin says early on, there is no real magic, ever. It’s just a sickness.

PHIL NOBILE JR is a writer/director of non-fiction television projects, including the feature-length A&E documentary HALLOWEEN: THE INSIDE STORY (2010.) He is a contributing writer for Birth.Movies.Death and its sister print publication.

DARK SHADOWS composer receives lifetime achievement award

Kathryn Leigh Scott, Bob Cobert and David Selby at last night's Saturn Awards. Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

DARK SHADOWS composer Bob Cobert was presented the Life Career Award during the 41st Annual Saturn Awards last night in Burbank, California. Cobert worked extensively with producer/director Dan Curtis, providing the music to such films and television series as DRACULA, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, THE WINDS OF WAR, THE NIGHT STALKER, TRILOGY OF TERROR, as well creating game show themes for shows like THE $25,000 PYRAMID and TIC TAC DOUGH.

Receiving the Dan Curtis Legacy Award during last night's event was writer/producer Carlton Cuse who wrote the screenplay for this year's film, SAN ANDREAS. He is the creator and executive producer of THE STRAIN and BATES MOTEL.

The video below includes a short clip of the arrival of Cobert, Scott and Selby at last night's ceremony. (Special thanks to twitter.com/davidselbycom for the video link.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

David Selby in INHERIT THE WIND, 1965

Michael Flanagan and David Selby in INHERIT THE WIND, 1965.
In his memoir "My Shadowed Past," David Selby doesn't have much to say about his performance in INHERIT THE WIND. Even as a student he was a busy stage actor, and his role as "Henry Drummond" in 1965 was just one of many that he accumulated before putting his skills to the test as a working professional a few years later.

At the time, INHERIT THE WIND was a mere ten years old: Paul Muni had played Drummond on Broadway a decade earlier, with Spencer Tracy stepping up in 1960 to star in the feature film adaption. In 1965, Selby was a student at Southern Illinois University when the school's drama department added INHERIT THE WIND to their schedule.

The play got a lot of press coverage in the region. Unfortunately, those photos and stories didn't fare well in the digital conversion. That photo at the top is the best of the bunch, and was published in the Aug. 12, 1965, issue of The Southern Illinoisan. I've posted a handful of related photos and newspaper clippings from the production at the CHS Tumblr feed, which you can find HERE.

Win a signed copy of AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE


I AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE.

Walter Collins as Zombie Jughead at HeroesCon 2015.
It's one of my favorite books on the market today, despite my increasing distaste for all things zombie. It's got a sharp script by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, wonderfully atmospheric art by Francesco Francavilla, and has managed to generate a new imprint: Archie Horror. It's a pretty special series.

If you haven't read it, here's your chance to get your hands on the first trade paperback in the series! Last weekend at the annual HeroesCon in Charlotte, N.C., I picked up two copies of the first collected edition, "Escape from Riverdale." At 160 pages long, it collects the first five issues of the series.

Even better, Francesco Francavilla happened to be a guest at the convention — and gratuitously signed them both!

I'm giving away the first copy this week on Twitter. From now until Monday, June 30, 2015, follow me on Twitter (HERE) and share the following tweet:

Friday, June 19, 2015

Monster Serial: GOKE, BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL, 1968


By DESMOND REDDICK

I’m not trying to sound like a hipster. Yes, I’m aware that I was asked to write about a vampire movie. And I’m also aware that my film choice is only a vampire story in the flimsiest sense. I will make a somewhat heroic effort to convince you that it is a vampire movie a little later on.

I’m also not going to be a hipster by claiming to have been into this film before it was cool. I’ve only been aware of it for a few months other than seeing one screen shot in a magazine or book I was too young to be reading as a child.

This film is actually impossible to consider in those terms. It has, in fact, always been cool. It is so cool that it was cool before it existed. It defies the laws of time and space that way. I’m sure that 80,000 or 90,000 years ago, when a caveman was hunting a wooly mammoth, he was thinking that he would rather be watching this movie that, at that point, was only floating around in Jung’s Collective Unconsciousness.

I am aware of the paradox. It’s mysteries like these that keep me up at night.

The films that seem to surprise us the most are the weird flukes, films where risks are taken. This is a case of one of those. Shochiku is a mainstay film studio in Japan. Established before the advent of film itself in 1895 as a kabuki theatre company, the studio still exists today and also acts as a distributor for anime films.


The studio made its name producing realist films and became huge during the Japanese New Wave. The production of genre film doesn’t seem to be viewed as “lesser” in Japan like it is in other places around the world, so I’m not sure why they never really dove in during the 1950s like a lot of other studios did in the wake of GODZILLA. When the 1960s came around, however, they made a few genre films, each of them unique in their own way. THE X FROM OUTER SPACE was a bonkers kaiju film; THE LIVING SKELETON was a gothic horror tale; GENOCIDE was an ecological insect apocalypse film.

And then came GOKE, BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL.

There’s something both beautifully bizarre and entirely unremarkable about the story of GOKE, BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL. At the same time it’s an exercise in fringe science fiction, it’s also a story that, with a few tweaks here and there, could be found in an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

The film begins on a commercial flight soaring through a sky so red it is referred to as a “sea of blood” by the pilot. On the flight is an astonishingly representative assortment of characters: a politician, a sycophantic arms dealer, his cuckolding wife, a radical student, a space biologist, a grieving American widow on her way to collect the body of her husband, a political assassin and a behavioural psychiatrist. The cast is rounded out by the crew which is quickly whittled down to co-pilot and stewardess after a bomb threat, a hijacking, suicidal crows and a UFO force the plane to crash in an unknown area. Yes, all of those things.


Tensions run high even before a character boards a landed UFO and meets a parasitic alien blob that turns him into a space vampire! See! I told you there was a vampire.

 The rest of the film combines the story elements of the television show “Lost” and John Carpenter’s THE THING. Stranded in an area of the world alien to them, the survivors of the crash must come to terms with an enemy that hunts them while having the ability to inhabit their bodies.

While this story could be viewed as somewhat ahead of its time in its original release, it is hardly rare in the sense of genre. There are many examples of this kind of story in sci-fi/horror films. It’s not unique.

 What does set the film apart is the style in which it is presented. The story elements of THE THING, one of my all-time favorite films, are combined with the tone and aesthetic quality of another one of my time favorites, Lucio Fulci’s THE BEYOND.

 The desolation and “Ten little Indians”-style thriller set-up combined with some vivid gore effects and vibrantly garish color makes for a truly unique and powerful cinematic experience. This bizarre melting pot comes together to create a nihilistic masterpiece. There is a sense of hopelessness pervading almost the entire film. Shortly after the crash, a scuffle onboard the plane leads to a radio falling and accidentally being turned on to announce the news that the the search party had been called off. Mind you, this is the SAME DAY as the crash. I guess people in the days before the 24 hour news cycle didn’t really give a shit about lost planes.


 Regardless of the nihilism, the film still keeps a bouncy pace and a vibrant tone in the midst of all the horrific shit the characters are going through. I love a good nihilistic film, but sometimes the darkness gets to be too much. Not here. Things are bleak enough to make you wonder if anybody is going to survive the film, but not so bleak that the movie isn’t fun. Which is not to say that GOKE, BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL is a perfect film.

As mentioned earlier, the story is simple, not bothering with nuance or subtlety. This extends, of course, to character, and, as a result, dialogue. Now, I’ll get to the worst delivery of dialogue in the film in a little while, but the most important examples come from the psychiatrist. For example, after terrifying every passenger on the plane by insisting there was a bomb on the plane, he says: “I’m a psychiatrist, my friend. I’m fascinated by how people react when pushed to the limit.”

Thanks, pal! Nothing like shouting “Fire!” in a theatre for shits and giggles. Never mind the fact that the co-pilot was looking for a bomb at the time, but the manipulative jerk couldn’t have possibly known that at the time anyway.

A little later, after the plane crash, the psychiatrist even pushes the ham-fisted themes further when he says:

“No food, no water, nowhere to run. At such times the survival instinct allows the ego to run wild.
 Then we’re no longer human. We become beasts!”

What an asshole!


However bad it is, the dialogue serves the function, seemingly, only to further narrate the nihilistic essay of the filmmaker. A party-pooper might call it pretentious. That’s only because they aren’t paying attention.

The absurdity of the dialogue is so overt that, in my mind, it cannot possibly be an example of losing something in translation. Sometimes in foreign film, two characters will be sitting in a restaurant having a profound conversation and the next line takes seventeen seconds of screen-time to deliver when the subtitles simply say “pass the horseradish.” Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s a sad fact of translation. However, there is honestly little here that I believe was muddled in the subtitling process. I don’t get the feeling that this is a film about character. This is a film about existential crises and how we deal with them. The psychiatrist acts as the Greek chorus, or the filmmaker himself. Remember how I said there isn’t a lot of subtlety?

The only dialogue that could be considered dubious is the American widow. Now, Kathy Horan doesn’t come across as the greatest of actresses – perhaps why she ended up in Japan instead of Hollywood or Broadway – but even she cannot be blamed for her horrendous dialogue. I mean, it was obviously written by someone with very little grasp of the English language. For example, Horan’s Mrs. Neal has her acting moment when war is brought up. As the newly widowed wife of an American soldier in Vietnam, one would think that she might have something profound to say about war. Her response? “I hate war! During war everyone is miserable!” Nope.

I’m sure the Japanese subtitles laid over her words are profound. In fact, when the co-pilot explains another line of dialogue she mentions to other Japanese survivors, it is far more descriptive and heavier on prose. I’m just happy that her character was somehow able to fluently understand Japanese so that none of the other characters have to waste time explaining things to her in broken English. There’s no room for shenanigans like that when you’re running from a dude with a vagina on his forehead.


Talk about burying the lead, right?

The special effects in this film are plentiful and varied. From bloody, twitching bird puppets smashed against windows; to a plane crash done in miniature; to a lo-fi, almost Kubrickian psychedelic light show aboard a UFO. The visuals in this film just keep amping up.

 But the pièce de résistance has to be the aforementioned forehead vagina. Explaining the method of “body snatching” won’t spoil the film simply because it has to be seen to be believed. I am certain that I have never seen anything in a 1960s film so obscene as an amorphous blob telekinetically splitting open a gash in a man’s forehead and oozing slowly into it. Later, it oozes out too. It is impossible not to think of less innocent activities than alien possession. Or maybe I just have a filthy mind. I guess you can place gonzo porn on the list of cinema influenced by this film.

This essay is one of dozens featured in our new
book, "Taste the Blood of Monster Serial."
Speaking of, GOKE, BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL is a favorite of Quentin Tarantino’s — it is clearly referenced in KILL BILL: VOLUME 1 — and it’s hard to imagine a young Takashi Miike wanting to become a filmmaker without seeing this gem first. And I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise having come from Hajime Sato, the director of other bizarre cult classics such as the weird superhero ripoff GOLDEN BAT and the Jules Verne on bad acid-induced TERROR BENEATH THE SEA.

From the moment I first saw this film only a few months ago, it quickly shot up into my all-time favorite film list, and having watched it three times since, I can say with absolute confidence that the shine has not come off in the slightest.

Whether you’ve always wanted your vampires to come complete with a gynaecological nightmare on their face or not, there are fewer films that come more highly recommended to fans of weird cult cinema.

You don’t have to be a hipster to enjoy it. You may, however, need to be a film snob with disposable income as — as far as I can tell — it is only available in a box set with the three other Shochiku horror/sci fi films mentioned earlier from Criterion. It is definitely worth it.

DESMOND REDDICK is a writer, teacher, podcaster and horror fan who lives on Vancouver Island with his tolerant wife, two savage sons, four vicious chickens and one neurotic female duck named Howard. Check out his podcast at www.dreadmedia.com where he offers his unsolicited opinion on all kinds of different genre movies weekly. Send more whiskey!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Amazing collection of vintage movie posters set for auction



I picked the wrong week to be a broke-ass journalist.

Invaluable has a huge assortment of vintage movie posters scheduled for auction in June, almost all of which are out of my price range. It's certainly amazing collection, though. It's an auction guaranteed to quicken the pulse of even the most hardened film buff.

It's all part of Morris Everett, Jr. The Auction Part I, which takes place June 29 and June 30, 2015. The auction is made up of more than 1,400 lots from the collection of Morris Everett Jr., who began selling his treasure trove of movie memorabilia late last year. The first phase of this auction features posters and lobby cards from such movies as THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, the John Barymore version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE and many, many more.

Below are a few highlights of the collection. You can browse the entire auction through these links: DAY 1 and DAY 2.


Lot 394: Dracula lobby card. Estimated Price: $8,000 - $12,000
Apart from nearly invisible pinhole repair at left corners, the card is entirely original and unrestored. In very fine condition.


Lot 416: Frankenstein lobby card. Estimated Price: $10,000 - $15,000
Boris Karloff lobby card for Frankenstein. (Universal, 1931) Color lobby card for Boris Karloff in Frankenstein. Professionally cleaned with marginal repairs. Now presents as fine condition.


Lot 464: A rare color lobby card for King Kong. Estimated Price: $6,000 - $8,000
King Kong Empire State Building lobby card. (RKO, 1933) Color lobby card for King Kong. In very fine unrestored condition.

Lot 425: The Bride of Frankestein lobby card. Estimated Price: $10,000 - $15,000
Color lobby card for Boris Karloff in The Bride of Frankenstein. Professionally cleaned with corner pinhole repair. Generally in fine condition.

THE SUPER COPS airs on TCM June 23


What if THE FRENCH CONNECTION had been written by one of the masterminds behind the '60s BATMAN television show? The result would look almost entirely like 1974's THE SUPER COPS, a crime film starring David Selby and Ron Liebman.

Lorenzo Semple Jr., who wrote more than 80 episodes of BATMAN, wrote the film's screenplay, which adapts the true-life-story of New York City detectives known on the streets as "Batman & Robin." Ironically, the film also features two actors that would go on to play "Commissioner Gordon" in future BATMAN films: Pat Hingle, who played Gordon in the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher movies; and Selby, who provided the voice of the character in the animated feature film, THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.

In the 2013 book "The Best Film You've Never Seen," filmmakers were asked to recommend obscure movies that they love. Director Edgar Wright (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD) chose THE SUPER COPS. Here's what he had to say:
"It has the same gritty edge as THE FRENCH CONNECTION and SERPICO, but there's a slightly more absurdist comedy element to it. It has a hint of Joseph Heller or even the Marx Brothers. There's something about the tone that is very appealing. It has one foot in the gritty '70s cop genre and another foot in that kind of absurdist comedy. It's very interesting to see a real-life story played with a raised eyebrow."
For much of its post-theatrical life, THE SUPER COPS has been a difficult movie to see. It had the obligatory VHS release in the early '80s, but mostly disappeared from home video until Warner Archives made the film available as a boutique item a few years ago. It's since been added to Amazon's inventory of available titles.

THE SUPER COPS airs Tuesday, June 23 at Midnight on Turner Classic Movies.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Christopher Lee takes over TCM on July 22



Turner Classic Movies is interrupting it's regular schedule on Monday, June 22, for a special marathon tribute to Christopher Lee. With almost 300 film and television credits going back to the 1940s, it's impossible to piece together an all-encompassing retrospective of Lee's career. Believe it or not, there's an entire generation of fans that only know him from the STAR WARS and LORD OF THE RINGS movies.

Still, TCM did a pretty good job of capturing the highlights of Lee's middle years. Hammer is well represented here, as is his transition into mainstream American movies with his turn as "Rochefort" in THE THREE MUSKETEERS and THE FOUR MUSKETEERS. The three DRACULA movies included in the marathon are possibly the best of the bunch that starred Lee, but the real gem here is HORROR EXPRESS. It's easily the best movie ever about a homicidal psychic caveman alien monster.

The new schedule for Monday, June 22 will be:



THE MUMMY  (1959)
6:15 AM
The TCM summary: "A resurrected mummy stalks the archaeologists who defiled his tomb."

Why you should watch it: "Lee, placed at what some would regard as a disadvantage, draws from his early training as a mime artist to evoke pathos in his role as the monster; with torment and anguish peering out from his bandaged visage." Diabolique Magazine



THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)
8:00 AM
The TCM summary: "A scientist's attempts to create life unleash a bloodthirsty monster."

Why you should watch it: "When I went along to the cinema as a teenager with groups of friends, if we saw the logo of Hammer Films we knew it would be a very special picture. I'll never forget going to a midnight screening at the New York Paramount of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN in 1957, the day before it opened. The audience loved it, and there was a graphic quality to it that was totally uncalled for and was extremely endearing to us at about the age of fifteen."  Martin Scorsese, SCORSESE ON SCORSESE


HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)
9:30 AM
The TCM summary: "The legendary count tries to turn his enemies' women into his bloodthirsty brides."

Why you should watch it: "Without being overtly Freudian, the film is certainly more obviously aware of the sexual undertones in Dracula’s attacks on helpless women, who seem to enjoy being ravished by the rapacious vampire. His approach to his female victims, who now consciously await his caresses (rather than sinking into a hypnotic stupor), emphasizes the erotic as never before. The fact that Dracula is less subtly seductive and more physically overpowering in these non-verbal attacks (we never see him talk to the women whose bedrooms he invades) lends an almost sado-masochistic air to his nighttime predations."  Cinefantastique Online



DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)
11:00 AM
The TCM summary: "Four travelers unwittingly revive the bloodsucking count."

Why you should watch it: "While it lacks the classic narrative structure and stunning art direction of Horror of Dracula, Lee's second vampire film conveys a genuine sense of unease that erupts into pure horror at the first appearance of the count; he descends on his victim hissing with teeth bared like some kind of wild, ravenous animal. His predatory behavior carries an overt sexual threat here and his presence is made all the more disturbing by the fact that he never speaks one word of dialogue the entire film." — Jeff Stafford, TCM



DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1969)
12:45 PM
The TCM summary: "Dracula goes after the niece of the monsignor who destroyed his castle."

Why you should watch it: "Dracula Has Risen from the Grave stands out from other vampire films because the role of religion—no, make that the role of faith—is made central to the proceedings." — DVD Verdict


HORROR EXPRESS (1972)
2:30 PM
The TCM summary: "An anthropologist discovers a frozen monster which he believes may be the Missing Link."

Why you should watch it: "The finished result is an atmospheric, original and very entertaining film, and one of Spanish horror cinema’s best works. Ironically enough, it’s also the kind of film that British studios were finding it increasingly difficult to produce." — Electric Sheep Magazine


THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973)
4:00 PM
The TCM summary: "A country boy joins the famed musketeers and fights to protect the queen's name."

Why you should watch it: "It's rewarding to see Charlton Heston back in period costume, effortlessly menacing as a behind-the-scenes villain, though still a fleshed-out character, Cardinal Richelieu. Note how aged he appears to be, knowing that this is inbetween his 'action man' roles of The Omega Man and Earthquake. His brief sparrings with Christopher Lee are electric. An important role for Lee, as he tried hard to escape his Dracula typecasting, demonstrating he can act with the best of them, swordfight like a pro, and effortlessly play a drole, romantic baddie with Faye Dunaway as his lover." — Black Hole Reviews


THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1975)
6:00 PM
The TCM summary: "To maintain control of the French monarchy, Cardinal Richelieu kidnaps D'Artagnan's true love."

Why you should watch it: "The same mixture of teenybopper naughtiness, acne spiciness, contrived tastelessness and derring don’t as found in the earlier film are laid on with the same deft trowel herein." — Variety

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

DARK SHADOWS updates from Big Finish


A few weeks ago I shared a collage of cover art from this year's DARK SHADOWS audiodramas. At the time, the artwork for "Tainted Love" wasn't available, so I used the sleeve for the old Soft Cell 12" record in its place. I thought it was funny ... most people were just confused.

Big Finish recently shared the official art for "Tainted Love," which you can see above. It's among the simplest designs of this year's installments, but it's also among my favorites. Kathy Cody front and center, looking sassy? Works for me.

Here's the official logline:
"I’ve seen this before - once the obsession takes control there’s no going back, there’s no way to save them." 
Collinsport is broken after recent events. David Collins is intent on rebuilding the town he almost helped to destroy, and enlists the help of his old friend Amy Cunningham. As these two childhood companions begin to reconnect and discover feelings they never knew existed, another woman from David’s past is about to make her own timely return.
"Tainted Love" is due in September, and is available for pre-order from Big Finish HERE.

But wait! There's more!

June's DARK SHADOWS installment, "The Curse of Shurafa," is now available for sale as well. The story reveals what the hell Barnabas Collins and Julia Hoffman were doing in Egypt in the years following the cancellation of the original television show. Get it HERE.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Monster Serial: FRIGHT NIGHT (2011)


By DANNY REID

So, I’m not sure if you remember this, but in 2008, the American economy ground to a halt. Things were crap, pretty much, with the bursting of the housing bubble sending shockwaves throughout the country, leading to foreclosures galore and the observation that, in its relentless drive to build more and more houses, the housing industry got down on all fours behind the average homeowner while the banking industry pushed them over. Then they walked away laughing like mad, because they’re both dicks.

That very brief social studies lesson in the middle of your vampire movie book helps set up FRIGHT NIGHT, a remake of a 1980’s movie that you can also read about in TASTE THE BLOOD OF MONSTER SERIAL, perhaps even before this one if the law of alphabetical order dares to exude its many charms.

The original FRIGHT NIGHT is about the encroaching horror of suburbia, that feeling of disconnect between neighbors who are strangers only a few feet away. From 1985 to 2011, however, suburbia had changed. Because of the housing crisis, acres of generic looking McMansions sprung up in around major cities, assembled quickly and cheaply in hopes of luring foolish homeowners into their maws.


But suburbia is a lie, an attempt to apply order to chaos. FRIGHT NIGHT, set on the outskirts of Las Vegas, one of the largest losers in the housing bubble, shows the houses for what they are. Layers of sod covering sand and gnarly rocks. Construction is poor. And with the economy rotting and the transient nature of work in Vegas, the only people there don’t seem to stick around very long.

Which, naturally, makes it a perfect place for a vampire to take root. That’d be Jerry, a muscular dude who wears a tanktop and claims to work construction at night. He lives next door to single mom Jane and teenager Charley. Charley’s life is full of its share of problems — after maturing into that ‘nerd chic’ we’ve all heard so much about, he lands beautiful girlfriend Amy and ends up estranging his old friends Adam and Ed.

Adam is killed by Jerry before the credits even get a chance to roll and Ed is next, but not before Ed tells Charley about what’s going on. Jerry is a vampire. Their empty neighborhood is only getting emptier.

In some ways, Jerry represents the inescapable history of mankind, the appealing bid to nihilism. But he’s another kind of threat to Charley —  Jerry’s nothing but pure masculinity, an angry force of violent, smug aggression that clearly threatens the women in Charley’s life. Colin Farrell’s twitchy, unhinged performance as a leering, arrogant bastard is phenomenal, and the actor’s ability to sneer like a champ has never been better utilized.


Charley’s own shaky grasp on sexuality is threatened by Jerry, with the homosexual vibes that Ed sends his way only making things more confusing. This is driven home when Jerry comes over to borrow a few beers and offers him some words of advice on women which can only be properly denoted as being ‘creepy as fuck’:

“Women who look a certain way, they... they need to be managed. It’s true. Your dad ducked out on you, huh? Your mom, she didn’t exactly say, but there’s a kind of ... neglect. Gives off a scent. You don’t mind my saying, you got a lot on your shoulders for a kid. The two of you, alone. And your girl ... Amy. She’s ripe. I bet there’s a line of guys dying to pluck that. Your mom, too. You don’t see it. Maybe you do, but she’s putting it out. It’s on you to look after them. You up for that, guy?”

My favorite part of that is his deliberate use of the word ‘pluck’ — the movie is rated R with blood spurts and swearing galore. But Jerry dropping the G-rated ‘pluck’ is playful, an insult directly acknowledging Charley’s youth and inexperience.


The movie has a lot of other nice touches like that, too. FRIGHT NIGHT can be quite fun, and, as is appropriate in a post-Scream world, it references a bevy of horror institutions, from Twilight to DARK SHADOWS. Jerry is even described, rightfully so, as, “the shark from Jaws.”

There’s also a lot more action than you’ll get in the older version of FRIGHT NIGHT, with a long sequence of Jerry chasing Charlie, Amy and Jane in a van contained in long tracking shots within the van to increase the tension. Director Craig Gillespie, otherwise best known for his offbeat indie comedy Lars and the Real Girl, frames much of the film in darkness. He also wisely frames the murders in front of video; in a world where stuff on television seems more real than reality, filming it this way is an excellent way to manipulate the audience’s connection to what’s happening on screen.

This essay is one of dozens featured in our new
book, "Taste the Blood of Monster Serial."
He also knows the right beats to get some laughs out of the movie, too. Many of the film’s funnier moments come from Peter Vincent, a performer on the Vegas strip who promises to be the world’s foremost expert on vampires while also often wearing leather pants and no shirt (let’s see Roddy McDowell do that). Beneath his bravado and excessive British vulgarity, he’s a coward, hiding in his panic room when vampirized Ed and Jerry come to call.

It’s not an easy journey to Charlie’s triumph, but the film’s ending has him finally plucking Amy. He’s gone from dweeb kid who’d lucked into a beautiful girl to a boy fully confident in his own manhood, slaying his own past and centuries of unyielding masculine domination to be able to finally be comfortable with who he is.

FRIGHT NIGHT takes the unapologetic bleakness of post-9/11 cinema and pokes it in the guts. In an era where grimness seemed to stretch from abroad to home, it takes an old story and updates it. It’s no longer just that the enemy is next door; he’s now the only other person left in the neighborhood.

DANNY REID lives outside Tokyo, Japan, with his lovely wife and two yappy dogs. He blogs bi-weekly at pre-code.com, a website dedicated to Hollywood films from 1930 to 1934.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sir Christopher Lee dies at 93


Christoper Lee had a way of making any movie more entertaining, at least for the moments when he was on screen.

Despite his towering, leading-man presence, Lee tended to play supporting characters. Even when his character's name was in the movie's title (I'm looking at you, Dracula), Lee was happy lurking around in the background as his increasingly younger co-stars tried to steal the spotlight. They almost never succeeded.

The older Lee got, the less reason directors needed to include him in their movies. Filmmakers were delighted to just put Lee in front of the camera and let him do his thing. There was absolutely no reason for him to have appeared in Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS, but nobody walked out of the theater complaining about his cameo. Count Dooku might be the most underwritten villain to ever have a speaking part in a movie, but nobody thought Lee's presence was one of the faults of the STAR WARS prequels. The guy was a dynamo: While most people tend to ease into retirement in their golden years, Christoper Lee was having sword fights with a Muppet and singing on heavy metal records.

Reports are circulating this morning that Lee has died, which just feels impossible.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Jack Hill's SPIDER BABY comes to Blu-ray

SPIDER BABY, Jack Hill's 1968 love letter to weirdos, got a monster-sized Blu-ray release from Arrow Video today. SPIDER BABY is graduate-level geekery, a genuine cult classic that dates back to the days before the term even existed. Our own Patrick McCray is one of the film's many admirers and staked an early claim to the film during our second round of MONSTER SERIAL essays. (You can read his thoughts on the film HERE.)

Arrow Video's edition of SPIDER BABY is accompanied by an embarrassment of riches. There's a commentary track with Hill and actor Sid Haig, an alternate opening, a short film titled THE HOST (featuring Haig in his first starring role!) and more. Head on over to Amazon and take a look at it for yourself.

LINK

Local newspaper addresses DARK SHADOWS timeslip, 1969



In my days as a newspaper jerk, I got a lot of strange telephone calls. Sometimes they were benign. Other times, not so much.

Exhibit A: While covering a misconduct trial about ten years ago, I returned to the office to find a voice mail waiting for me. The caller took me to task for my (accurate) depiction of testimony from one of the prosecution's witnesses. In this case, the witness was a troubled young woman who claimed she had sex with a deputy while in custody at the county jail.

Her accusations were nothing compared to the voice mail message, though, which told a story that involved more sex and drug abuse than a Russ Myers movie. The message was left by a "friend" of the witness who wanted to set the record straight. In this case, "set the record straight" translated into "throw her friend under the bus."

It wasn't all sex and violence, though. Sometimes people just called the newspaper to find out who won the previous night's election, hoping to save themselves a couple of quarters and a trip to the nearest paper box. We also received calls from people had just moved to town and wanted help locating their correct utility providers.

I mention all of this to provide context to the following: In 1968, a New York resident wrote a letter to The Bridgeport Post asking for some clarification on the current DARK SHADOWS storyline. The letter, which you can see to your right, was published June 9, 1969. The writer explains he'd been away from the show for a while, and returned to find the cast "running around in 18th century costumes" with "different names." This was clearly a matter that should be addressed by the local newspaper.

It's easy to forget that DARK SHADOWS was never intended to air in reruns. Daytime entertainment, whether it was a game show, soap opera of whatever the hell DARK SHADOWS was, aired once before receding into memory. The writer must have been away from the show for a while, because the day the letter was published, the 1897 storyline had been in full swing for four months. Episode 771 aired on June 9, 1969, which also saw the return of actor John Karlen to the series after a 47-episode break. It was only his fifth turn as the dapper buffoon Carl Collins, which probably threw the writer for the loop if he was expecting Willie Loomis.

This episode was also the first appearance of character Pansy Faye, possibly the most un-DARK SHADOWS character to ever appear on the show.

You can read more about the episode at the Dark Shadows Wikia.












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