Monday, October 31, 2011

THE HORRIFYING HALLOWEEN BOOKSHELF. As Halloween (and October) rockets towards its big finish, I thought I'd mention a couple books I'm currently devouring that lend themselves to the season. Both books are about horror films naturally; one is a sedate hardcover and the other is a glossy photo-packed riot of colour. The first book was actually recommended by John Rozum on his blog; actually he recommended a few books and I promptly bought them all! The one I'm currently reading first is Jason Zinoman's SHOCK VALUE and you can read John's recommendations here. SHOCK VALUE is subtitled "How a few eccentric outsiders gave us nightmares, conquered Hollywood, and invented modern horror" and the book concerns the major maverick horror filmmakers of the 70's & 80's such as Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Dan O'Bannon, Brian DePalma, William Friedkin and others who were inspired by three influential 60's horror flicks: Peter Bogdanovich's TARGETS, George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and Roman Polanski's ROSEMARY'S BABY. This is an area of horror which has been relatively written little about in book form which makes this tome a welcome addition to horror film scholarship. Zinoman puts seemingly unrelated 70's films like TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, ALIEN, HALLOWEEN, DARK STAR, THE EXORCIST and CARRIE in their proper context as a dawning of a "new horror" radically different from the previous generation of Roger Corman and William Castle. The book is also a fluid read and never becomes dry or academic. There are one or two nagging errors which annoyed me; one of which is when Zinoman refers to the character of Norman Bates in Robert Bloch's original novel as "skinny" making Anthony Perkins good casting. In fact, Norman Bates in the novel is overweight; there has been compelling speculation which I believe to be true that Bloch actually based the character of Norman Bates' physical appearance on "CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN" publisher Calvin T. Beck. But one or two factual errors do not spoil what is a fascinating read.
The second book is Gary Gerani's "TOP 100 HORROR MOVIES"; a big colour-splashed book with white printing on black glossy paper which is built more for fun than scholarship. Gerani, of course, is the author of that seminal early reference work "FANTASTIC TELEVISION" which examined in detail (probably for the first time) genre TV from STAR TREK, TWILIGHT ZONE, and THRILLER to KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS and SPACE: 1999. Here Gerani indulges in that wonderful list-making we boys find so much fun. Brief film synopses and credit lists accompany entries as to why each film is important and deserves to be on Gerani's "top 100" list. Here too we have one or two nagging errors; paramount of which is Gerani's constant reference to child actor Martin Stephens (of THE INNOCENTS and VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED) as Martin Phillips for some reason. But here too such details don't spoil the fun. While "TOP 100 HORROR MOVIES" doesn't really offer anything new under the sun, it is always enjoyable to see somebody's list of top 100 horror movies and this is no exception. And don't worry, Gerani has also provided a companion volume of "TOP 100 SCI-FI MOVIES" which I'll get to later. So there you have it: a couple really good reads for these dark autumn nights. Light a candle and read 'em aloud to a restless spirit near you!
Today's 31st and final Halloween Comic Book Cover of the Day is NIGHTMARES #1 from 1985.
THE DECADE DOZENS: MY FAVOURITE HALLOWEEN MOVIES FOR EACH DECADE FROM THE TWENTIES TO THE NOUGHTIES. An exercise suggested to me was to list my 12 favourite scary movies from each decade starting with the silent 1920s. Some decades were MUCH harder than others (and not the ones you might expect) but I've managed to do it. I've winnowed them down to the 12 I'd most prefer watching for some tasty Halloween viewing. I only really fudged on one movie; the TV movie THE DARK ANGEL was actually made in 1987 but it wasn't shown in this country until 1991 so I placed it in the 90s. So there. Nuffin' you can do about it! So let's get down to it.
  1. THE GOLEM (1920)
  2. DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE (1920)
  5. NOSFERATU (1922)
  6. WAXWORKS (1924)
  8. THE MONSTER (1925)
  9. THE BAT (1926)
  10. THE MAGICIAN (1926)
  12. WEST OF ZANZIBAR (1928)
  1. THE BAT WHISPERS (1930)
  2. DRACULA (1931)
  3. FRANKENSTEIN (1931)
  4. SVENGALI (1931)
  5. DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE (1931)
  6. THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932)
  7. THE MUMMY (1932)
  8. KING KONG (1933)
  10. THE BLACK CAT (1934)
  1. THE WOLF MAN (1941)
  2. CAT PEOPLE (1942)
  4. THE LEOPARD MAN (1943)
  6. SON OF DRACULA (1943)
  8. THE UNINVITED (1944)
  10. FOG ISLAND (1945)
  11. DEAD OF NIGHT (1945)
  2. WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953)
  4. THEM! (1954)
  6. THE MOLE PEOPLE (1956)
  7. NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1957)
  10. THE BLOB (1958)
  1. PSYCHO (1960)
  2. HOUSE OF USHER (1960)
  3. CITY OF THE DEAD (1960)
  4. THE INNOCENTS (1961)
  5. THE HAUNTING (1963)
  7. CASTLE OF BLOOD (1964)
  8. THE GORGON (1964)
  11. ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968)
  4. DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972)
  6. THE EXORCIST (1973)
  8. DEEP RED (1975)
  9. HALLOWEEN (1978)
  10. DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
  11. ALIEN (1979)
  12. SALEM'S LOT (1979)
  1. THE FOG (1980)
  2. THE SHINING (1980)
  4. THE EVIL DEAD (1981)
  5. THE THING (1982)
  7. THE RE-ANIMATOR (1985)
  9. THE LOST BOYS (1987)
  1. THE DARK ANGEL (1991 US Release)
  3. GHOSTWATCH (1992)
  5. ED WOOD (1994)
  7. CEMETERY MAN (1994)
  8. RINGU (1998)
  10. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)
  12. THE NINTH GATE (1999)
  1. WILD ZERO (2000)
  2. JU-ON (2000)
  4. DAGON (2001)
  5. 28 DAYS LATER (2002)
  6. SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004)
  7. SLITHER (2006)
  8. THE MIST (2007)
  9. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008)
  10. DORIAN GRAY (2009)
  11. ZOMBIELAND (2009)
  12. DEAD SNOW (2009)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

ISLAND OF LOST SOULS IS HERE! One of the most long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated DVD releases has finally arrived -- just in time for Halloween. The 1932 classic film based on H.G. Wells' anti-vivisection novel has at long last been released on DVD . . . and from none other than Criterion, yet! The Paramount film directed (astonishingly) by Erle C. Kenton and starring Charles Laughton was very strong meat indeed; coming as it did from pre-Code Hollywood. Banned in England and hated by H.G. Wells, the film has since become an acknowledged classic of the first Golden Age of sound horror initiated by Universal's DRACULA in 1931. That film's success, along with its follow-up FRANKENSTEIN, caused every studio in Hollywood to mount a horror production and Paramount's ISLAND OF LOST SOULS was a corker! Charles Laughton as the icy Dr. Moreau, decked out in his tropical white suit and (according to David J. Skal) channeling the ghost of Oscar Wilde in his performance, has set himself up on a deserted island in order to continue his sadistic experiments changing animals into humans; he does this by mysterious means involving vivisection in his aptly-named "House of Pain" laboratory. A shipwrecked Richard Arlen slowly begins to realize what his laconic host has been up to -- but has no idea the plans Dr. Moreau has for him and his genetically-engineered panther woman Lota (played by the winner of a nationwide actress search Kathleen Burke). The film is filled with queasy and uncomfortable images and implications: the white-clad Moreau cracking his whip as the bestial "Sayer of the Law" (Bela Lugosi) repeats to him the law like a catechism. "What is the Law?" bellows Laughton. "Not to run on all fours," Lugosi responds, "That is the Law. Are we not men?" "What is the Law?" "Not to eat meat. That is the Law. Are we not men?" "What is the Law?" "Not to spill blood. That is the Law. Are we not men?" Devo aside, this is a classic exchange in classic horror filmdom. Laughton coolly prods and examines a wailing beast man strapped to an operating table in the House of Pain completely oblivious to his suffering; showing the poor creature off to Arlen as if he is a model car he's just finished building. When Arlen's fiancee Leila Hyams shows up on the island to rescue him, Laughton whispers a command to one of his beast men ordering him to rape her. This will fit in with his experiments trying to mate Arlen with Lota the Panther Woman. Why did Moreau have to wait for Arlen to land on the island to try this out? Why didn't he just have sex with Lota himself? Laughton's performance (which is not suggested in the script or stage directions) makes it obvious that he's incapable; he's channelling Oscar Wilde, remember. Homey don't play that.
The new Criterion DVD features a new digital restoration of the uncut original release as well as a nice group of special features: audio commentary by horror film historian Greg Mank, short interviews with John Landis, Rick Baker, Bob Burns, David J. Skal, Richard Stanley (director of the 1996 remake), and Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo. There is also a short 1976 film by Devo, the theatrical trailer and a booklet written by Christine Smallwood. As always, the Criterion disc is of the highest quality and horror fans everywhere will be leaping for their whips to corral the DVD into their collection.
Today's Halloween Comic Book Cover of the Day is BLACK CAT #48.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

WHILE DIGGING THROUGH OLD VHS TAPES, I CAME ACROSS MY THREE RECORDINGS OF THE HORROR HALL OF FAME. Hosted by Robert Englund on a succession of UHF (remember that) channels, the "award show" was shown starting in 1990 through 1992. It was an Oscar-type program with presenters and filmed segments which inducted horror stars and films into the Horror Hall of Fame. Inductees would be awarded a statuette of a "Grim Reaper" which Forrest J. Ackerman dubbed a "Grimmy" at his induction the first year. The first and second year shows were quite excellent while the third year featured almost entirely segments rerun from the first two shows. Is it any wonder that the fourth Horror Hall of Fame promised by Robert Englund never aired. Way to take a great concept and sabotage it, guys! Such films as THE EXORCIST, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, PSYCHO, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, ALIEN and THE BIRDS were inducted as well as horror icons like Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Roger Corman, Forrest J. Ackerman and others. Fun special effects and makeup segments by Steve Johnson and his wife scream queen Linnea Quigley were a hoot and one of the few bright spots on the third broadcast was a new live performance of MONSTER MASH by Bobby "Boris" Pickett -- and he wasn't lip syncing, folks! THE HORROR HALL OF FAME II probably featured one of the last television appearances by Vincent Price (escorted on stage by Elvira) as he announced the winner of the best horror film of the year 1991. Not surprisingly it was SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. All three shows were co-hosted by The Crypt Keeper from HBO's then smash hit TALES FROM THE CRYPT. It's fun (and more than a little sad) to see so many great stars who have since died; Sam Kinison even appears on the first two shows as do Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Forrest J. Ackerman, William M. Gaines, and many more. It's shocking to re-watch these shows I taped off the television and realize they're 21 years old! Thankfully we zombies don't age. ++
Halloween Comic Book Cover of the Day #29: UNEXPECTED #144 (1973).

Friday, October 28, 2011


SOFTLY as brown-eyed Angels rove I will return to thy alcove, And glide upon the night to thee, Treading the shadows silently. And I will give to thee, my own, Kisses as icy as the moon, And the caresses of a snake Cold gliding in the thorny brake. And when returns the livid morn Thou shalt find all my place forlorn And chilly, till the falling night. Others would rule by tenderness Over thy life and youthfulness, But I would conquer thee by fright!

-- Charles Baudelaire

+++ Halloween Comic Book Cover of the Day #28 is

DRACULA LIVES # 2 (1973).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

PSYCHOVILLE HALLOWEEN! The 2010 Halloween special occurs neatly between the end of the first series and the beginning of the second. However, the episode can be enjoyed even if you've never seen the programme with only a brief coda tying into the ongoing storyline to bewilder PSYCHOVILLE tyros. As always, the partial "LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN" who created PSYCHOVILLE show their great love for and influence by those wonderful Amicus horror films of the 60's and 70's which so informed THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. In fact, on that DVD there is even an interview with the "League" discussing Amicus horror as well as a brief Amicus documentary. In case you were in any doubt. However, just watching the PSYCHOVILLE HALLOWEEN programme cannot help but bring to mind those Amicus omnibus or portmanteau films of multiple horror stories from the classic DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS to the early 70's E.C. Comics adaptations headlined by TALES FROM THE CRYPT. These Amicus films always had a great sense of fun and, of course, PSYCHOVILLE takes that to the Nth degree. The wraparound story concerns (for those not familiar with the series) a scary nurse who tells scary stories to a young boy. The stories concern characters in the show but do not really fit in with the show's continuity (and in fact directly contradict them which is fun). Surly clown Mr. Jelly encounters a pair of ghostly trick-or-treaters, Joy has fun with a jack o'lantern and David and Maureen encounter a possible serial killer; all done with great affection according to the old E.C. horror comics method. It's indeed a treat to see how Mr. Jelly spends his Halloween nights (TV, junk food and ladies of the evening). . .or at least how he PLANNED to spend the evening until the fickle finger of fate intervened. Joy's story is such a perfect homage to E.C. Comics that one thinks it could've been taken from an issue of TALES FROM THE CRYPT. The inspired choice of having David and Maureen dress up as the Frankenstein Monster and his Bride is hilarious but also plays up the whole incest subtext. Even the wicked nurse is having fun; she's obviously making up a pack of lies as far as these stories are concerned to scare the boy and she even takes time out to insert thumbtacks into Halloween muffins distributed at the door to trick-or-treaters. It's all splendiferous Halloween fun with that patented warped angle PSYCHOVILLE is so good at. Though, to be truthful, the entire PSYCHOILLE series is great Halloween viewing with creepiness aplenty, so the PSYCHOVILLE HALLOWEEN episode is a definite viewing must. Viewers round my neck of the woods can catch the complete two series on demand -- but not for long so be quick!
The Halloween Comic Book Cover of the Day #27 is A CORBEN SPECIAL #1 from 1984. And the deep, dank tarn at my feet closes over today's post.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mischief, sure, is in the air!
Flitting forms are everywhere;
Over the cornfields, through the trees
Eerie wailings are on the breeze,
And mingling high 'twixt sky and earth
Wild shrieks of wild, unholy mirth;
What do these strange forebodings mean?
Listen, -- and hist! -- 'tis Hallowe'en.
-- M.E.A.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

AN AFTERNOON OF RIPPING YARNS! This fine autumnal afternoon while I was roasting some acorn squash and butternut squash in the oven as the orange and yellow leaves were tumbling down, I thought I'd rustle myself up a little Jack the Ripper marathon for Halloween.
I kicked things off with the second season STAR TREK episode "WOLF IN THE FOLD" written by Robert Bloch himself. Leave it to the man himself to feature the "psycho-tricorder" prominently in the episode! Kirk, Bones and Scotty are on shore leave on a peaceful planet when suddenly a woman is discovered murdered in the fog -- with Scotty found over her holding a bloody knife! As everybody surely knows, our delightful (faux)Scottish engineer is not responsible, but it's the evil entity we know as Jack the Ripper. It's been a long time since I watched me some STAR TREK and this episode seemed to fit perfectly into the Halloween season AND my topic of the day nicely. This one also features one of my favourite character actors of yesteryear: the diminutive little mouse called John Fiedler.
I next programmed yet another tale by Robert Bloch entitled "YOURS TRULY, JACK THE RIPPER" adapted from his classic short story for the THRILLER series hosted by Boris Karloff. One tends to forget how once closely associated with Jack the Ripper was Robert Bloch. Hitchcock favourite John Williams (DIAL M FOR MURDER) and the annoying Donald Woods (13 GHOSTS) star as well as stripper Miss Beverly Hills (of THE COMEDY OF TERRORS and BRIDES OF BLOOD) as it seems that Saucy Jack has survived up until the present day (read: 1961 anyway). It seems the noik we know as Saucy Jack has stayed alive all these years because his murders are actually blood sacrifices to infernal gods which keep him immortal. This episode of the series is directed by Ray Milland in rather a sedate, dignified manner but its still diverting as such.
It's off to the sensational seventies with KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER! Who doesn't love Kolchak and Darren McGavin. If you don't, I break with thee I break with thee I break with thee and then throw dog poopee on your shoe! After the two monumentally successful TV movies (the first NIGHT STALKER film was the highest rated TV movie of all-time), the first episode of the ongoing (at least briefly) weekly series was entitled "THE RIPPER" and features the return of our malicious malcontent this time to early 70s Chicago. This Jack is almost super-powered; leaping off a four storey building, tossing police around like rag dolls, busting down maximum security prison doors with his bare hands and taking bullets to the chest without ill effect. Sadly for those of us who saw the original NIGHT STALKER movie, this episode is rather a note for note "rewrite" of it right down to Kolchak sneaking into the monster's creepy old house and hiding in the closet! Despite this, Darren McGavin's charm and watchability and the interesting cast surrounding him with interesting performances makes this still worth seeing.
Next up is the 1980 trashy-feeling tabloid documentary JACK THE RIPPER: THE FINAL SOLUTION. Host/narrator Ray McGregor (with the sleaziest voice) takes us through author Stephen Knight's book proposing to solve the Ripper case side by side with the author himself on camera. This is the famous "Royal conspiracy" theory involving Prince "Eddy" and Sir William Gull which was the basis not only for the comic book series "BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT" (people seem to forget that one in deference to), the FROM HELL comic book and subsequent Hollywood film. Not wanting to speak ill of the dead but Stephen Knight's theory is almost certainly dead wrong and it has unfortunately now firmly ensconced itself in mainstream thought. I still have rather a soft spot for this documentary though as well as a strong association with Halloween because of the first time I saw it. It was in the mid-1980s on my local PBS station during an evening of Halloween programming on October 31st. Among a great deal of other spooky programmes (culminating in an airing of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and FREAKS), this documentary was sandwiched in. I now can never watch it without thinking of Halloween or NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD! This documentary can actually be found as an Easter egg on the FROM HELL 2-disc DVD. Once you get to the menu which has "MORE" on it, press the right button on your remote, then the down button, then the right button again until a scalpel appears highlighted on the menu; then press OK/Enter to play the entire documentary.
Speaking of which, FROM HELL was my next watch -- my main feature presentation as it were --of my Jack the Ripper Halloween marathon. This Johnny Depp starrer isn't the best of movies and, as mentioned, suffers from the fact that the entire premise of the film based on Stephen Knight's theories, has been pretty much discredited. Be that as it may, the film looks quite nice and is fairly entertaining. One might ask why I chose to watch this one instead of the countless other Ripper movies available; the plain fact is that the others (including MURDER BY DECREE) I had already watched in the last couple years but FROM HELL I hadn't watched in close to a decade. So there you go.
As a sort of palette-cleanser and a winding down of the Jack the Ripper marathon, I next ended with two silly entries. The first being the FUTURAMA episode "KIF GETS KNOCKED UP A NOTCH" from the 4th season. In this one, Jack the Ripper appears rather briefly as a construct of the "holodeck" malfunctioning and creating real rogue versions of Saucy Jack, Attila the Hun and the Evil Lincoln! The rest of the show doesn't really concern Jack so there's not much to say about it other than Kif gets pregnant and gives squishy birth.
Following this and bringing the marathon to a close is the 1945 THREE STOOGES short "THREE PESTS IN A MESS" which concerns the boys being mistakenly thought to have inherited a vast sum of money. This plotline is quickly dropped by the second half of the film and we then find Moe, Larry & Curly hiding in a spooky pet cemetery trying to bury a mannikin (long story). The proprietor of the cemetery and two of his associates receive a call that somebody's up to something in the cemetery and go there to investigate; naturally, they are coming from a costume party in which they are dressed as the Devil, a skeleton and. . .wait for it . . . Jack the Ripper! The usual Stooges mayhem ensues. This is another of those Three Stooges shorts which have a nice Halloween theme (at least in the second half) and make for great October viewing.
So there you have it: The Halloween Jack the Ripper marathon. You'll pardon me now as the acorn squash and butternut squash are done and have been slathered with melted butter. What's that, Jack? Oh, yes. Of course you may have a slice!
Today's Halloween Comic Book Cover of the Day #25 is DEAD OF NIGHT #4 from 1974.

Monday, October 24, 2011

GASP FROM THE PAST!!! Halloween past, that is. Yes, that's right. This is me, yours grue-ly, from the early to mid-70s. . .say, about 1975. As always, my mother made the costume and did the make-up (we couldn't afford to buy actual costumes then, folks). I'm pretty sure that the make-up tips wuz gotten from my treasured book MOVIE MONSTERS by Alan Ormsby. Funnily enough, this is the same Alan Ormsby who did the hippirific zombie film CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

DR. SHOCK'S HORROR THEATER HALLOWEEN MOVIE OF THE DAY: DOCTOR WHO: THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG! Not a movie per se but back in the day when PBS used to run DOCTOR WHO on Saturday afternoons they would edit together the entire story into a "movie". Apparently DOCTOR WHO fans prefer the half-hour episode format on DVD (at least that's what BBC Home Video tells us) but I, for one, prefer the story edited into a movie; that way you don't have the constant fast-forwarding and skipping every twenty-some minutes. Be that as it may, the 1977 DOCTOR WHO adventure "THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG" is quite appropriate for Halloween viewing with its seemingly dozens of horror tropes; everything from Sherlock Holmes' "Giant Rat of Sumatra" to Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu to the 1945 classic DEAD OF NIGHT are referenced. This was the final series produced by Philip Hinchcliffe; perhaps best known for amping up the gothic horror element in DOCTOR WHO and he certainly went out with a bang (although he apparently didn't know he was going out at the time). The occasion for my rewatch of TALONS is the brand-new special edition DVD just released by BBC Video; it's a whopping 3 DVD package featuring 2 discs of special features and an updated remastering of the series. This special edition DVD might confuse those unaware that THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG was voted by Doctor Who fans in 2003 as the best story ever. I haven't compared the new DVD with the previous release but the print quality certainly looks the best I can remember seeing it.
THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG finds the Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companion Leela (Louise Jameson) travelling to Victorian London (circa the 1890s) to take in a music hall performance. A series of women have gone missing in the fog-bound streets (shades of Jack the Ripper -- Saucy Jack is actually mentioned on screen). Magician Li H'sen Chang (John Bennett) is performing nightly with his creepy ventriloquist dummy Mr. Sin (Deep Roy) which recalls the Michael Redgrave sequence of the animated doll in DEAD OF NIGHT (1945). There are Chinese tongs roaming London killing with their silver hatchets (evoking Sax Rohmer and countless "yellow peril" pulps). Down in the bowels of the theatre there are ghost sightings (actually holograms) and a mysterious masked figure (PHANTOM OF THE OPERA anyone???). There are also giant rats in the sewers (not necessarily from Sumatra) and bodies pulled from the Thames with grappling hooks. All this combined with the Doctor parading around in Sherlock Holmes deerstalker and you have a cracking Victorian yarn. And we haven't even mentioned the time machine disguised as a Chinese puzzle box bringing a 51st century war criminal named Magnus Greel (Michael Spice) back in time and a huge golden statue that shoots death from its eyes. TALONS has been accused in recent years by PC nitwits with nothing better to do of being "racist"; upon watching the programme these accusations quickly fall apart. The only Chinese character portrayed by an Anglo is Li H'sen Chang by John Bennett who turns in a superb villainous but understated performance as well as a very dignified one. All the other Chinese actors do not cavort about in stereotypical "no tickee no shirtee" portrayals but in fact play it straight as well. The English characters naturally do evince racist attitudes towards the Chinese deliberately because that's how it was back in the late 19th century. To suddenly have police inspectors NOT treat Chinese immigrants condescendingly would be innaccurate and bad storytelling. And even at that, the colonial attitude of the police shown in this serial is still quite mild; no racial epithets stronger than "Chinee" are used as I recall. The direction by David Mahoney of Robert Holmes' script rockets along with suspense and action aplenty. In fact, unlike most six-parters in DOCTOR WHO, TALONS does not suffer from the tradition midway slump found in almost all other DOCTOR WHO stories which last six episodes. The six episodes zip by and before you know it the show is over! Despite budget limitations, the sets and costumes look sumptuous and everything works spectacularly well (with the exception, of course, of the muppet-like giant rats). The cast is also top-notch with splendid performances by all from the biggest role to the smallest. It's hard to single out anyone from the cast because there are so many excellent performances. John Bennett, as stated, is wonderful as Li H'sen Chang with a sly wit and a threatening gravitas. Delightful performances by Christopher Benjamin (as theater boss Henry Gordon Jago) and Trevor Baxter (as Professor Litefoot) turned these two characters into a comedy/adventure team who have gone on to feature in several audio adventures. Deep Roy as the sinister Mr. Sin is wonderfully creepy with odd body movements and an evil voice. Even a one-scene performance by Patsy Smart as a comic crone rubbernecking as the police pull a body from the river is a wonderful performance; Smart actually took her false teeth out right before the cameras rolled and handed them to the director to hold for her. As to the fans who voted TALONS as the best DOCTOR WHO story ever . . . I wouldn't go that far. It's certainly in my top ten, probably, but I think my favourite of all would have to be THE SEEDS OF DOOM. Love me a good Krynoid! +++
The Halloween Comic Book Cover of the Day #23 is BUGS BUNNY'S TRICK 'N' TREAT HALLOWEEN FUN #3 from 1955.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

EVEN "WILL IT BLEND" IS IN THE HALLOWEEN SPIRIT!!! Today we present a new "Will It Blend" video which answers that age-old question: "Can I grind up bones in my blender for Grizelda's Ghastly Gourmet Gumbo???" The answer is in the video above.

Friday, October 21, 2011

HALLOWE'EN BY JOHN KENDRICK BANGS. The ghosts of all things past parade, Emerging from the mist and shade That hid them from our gaze, And, full of song and ringing mirth, In one glad moment of rebirth, And again they walk the ways of earth As in the ancient days. The beacon light shines on the hill, The will-o'-wisps the forests fill With flashes filched from noon; And witches on their broomsticks spry Speed here and yonder in the sky, And lift their strident voices high Unto the Hunter's Moon. The air resounds with tuneful notes From myriads of straining throats, All hailing Folly Queen; So join the swelling choral throng, Forget your sorrow and your wrong, In one glad hour of joyous song To honor Hallowe'en! -John Kendrick Bangs
The Halloween Comic Book Cover of the Day #21 is THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #38 from 1980.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

DR. SHOCK'S MAD THEATER HALLOWEEN MOVIE OF THE DAY: DEAD SNOW. Here we have a Norwegian film from 2009 (original title: Død snø) which is not only a zombie film in the snow (a first if memory serves) but also a film with Nazi zombies! Now its unusual enough to have a zombie film come out of Norway -- according to the producer Terje Stromstad, they had to get private funding (as well as selling waffles on the street to raise money!!!) because the Norwegian government wouldn't put up the money. Stromstad has also said that zombies are nasty but the only thing nastier is Nazi zombies -- so they ran with it. Now, of course, if you're like me the thought of Nazi zombies immediately brings to mind the 70s underwater Nazi zombie flick SHOCK WAVES featuring Peter Cushing and John Carradine; however that film was (to put it gently) not a howling success. DEAD SNOW is just different enough -- and in a snowy mountain location -- to make it quite an improvement on the earlier, rather minor, genre entry. Also, director Tommy Wirkola doesn't take himself or the film too seriously. While the film can probably be safely termed a horror/comedy, there is certainly enough real zombie action to keep straight horror fans satisfied. There are also more "film references" than you can shake a chainsaw at: everything from EVIL DEAD to PLATOON is referenced . . . which is rather appropriate since one of the characters is referred to as a "movie nerd". That character Erlend is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman . . .er, I'm sorry he just reminds me of Hoffman but is actually played by Jeppe Laursen . . . asks, in an early line in the film, "How many movies start with a group of friends on a trip to a cabin..." and starts naming off FRIDAY THE 13TH and EVIL DEAD. But enough of these preliminaries. What's the movie about?
Basically a group of young friends drive up to a remote mountain cabin for a skiing holiday around Easter. The cabin belongs to Sara, who is skiing cross-country instead of riding with the others. After the friends arrive at the cabin, a strange local wanders by and relates the history of the nearby town of Øksfjord. During the Nazi occupation of World War II, a force led by Standartenführer Herzog (Ørjan Gamst) tortured and terrorized the populace for three years. As the war drew to a close, the Nazis looted the town's valuables and killed those who resisted. The populace rose up and ambushed the Nazis but Herzog and the remainder of his force was chased into the mountains where they were thought to have frozen to death. The stranger advises the young people to tread lightly since there are evil forces in the area. The next morning Sara has not reached the cabin yet. Sara's boyfriend Vegard (Jason, I'm sorry he just reminds me of Jason Patric but is actually Lasse Valdal) decides to take off in the snowmobile to look for her. While Vegard is gone, the others find a box containing the looted valuables which reawakens the Nazi zombies. Vegard finds the stranger ripped apart in his tent; he later falls through the snow into an underground cavern filled with Nazi zombies. Meanwhile, the rest are attacked in their cabin by more zombies. While some distract the zombies away from the cabin, another group sneaks away to try to get help. All of our separated cast end up battling Nazi zombies simultaneously. While the film is actually quite good up to this point, things actually get much more interesting as each group separates to battle zombies and the film gets even better.
The action sequences (and, of course, the gore) are impressive and quite entertaining. The blood and gore is done in a light way (if that's possible) if not played for outright comedy; therefore it doesn't make you sick but might elicit an appreciative laugh. While there are a great deal of filmic references (which are also greatly appreciated by yours truly) and no new ground is broken with this film, DEAD SNOW does manage to do it all with style and freshness. The acting is actually very good and the effects are mostly excellent. The directing is crisp and well-paced with the accent on slam-bang Nazi zombie action. All in all, this one's a lot of fun.
Oh and today's (this post if for October 20th) Halloween Comic Book Cover of the Day is NIGHTMARE #11 from 1954.