Tuesday, January 31

Nosferatu


90 years ago in 1922 NOSFERATU, the unauthorized version of Dracula was released. It is still the scariest vampire to ever appear in films - more monster than man, this vampire wouldn't charm the blood from your veins, he'd rip them open and leave your rotting, empty corpse behind.

Tuesday, January 24

ALPHAVILLE (1965)



This 1965 film by director Jean-Luc Godard is equal parts Science-Fiction and Film Noir, with large doses of Orwell’s 1984 thrown in. Shot in black and white the film takes place in a futuristic city called Alphaville, a dystopian society run by a computer overlord called Alpha 60. In this society emotions are outlawed, and in fact the very words describing them are removed completely from the language. The citizens of Alphaville are issued bibles, which are in fact dictionaries, updated regularly to inform people which words are banned. If a citizen shows emotion they are executed in a bizarre public ceremony. While standing on diving boards they are machine gunned down, their floating bodies retrieved by female swimmers armed with daggers to finish them off, to the applause of the spectators.



Secret agent/detective Lemmy Caution, played by Eddie Constatine, arrives in Alphaville from the outlands on a dual secret mission: to find missing secret agent Henri Dickson (played by Akim Tamiroff) and kill Alpha 60’s creator Professor Von Braun (real name Professor Nosferatu, although he now goes by Von Braun). Along the way he meets Von Braun’s daughter, Natacha, played by Anna Karina, who becomes his guide to the city of Alphaville. He begins to develop feelings for her and slowly teaches her the meaning of emotion, and love. Lemmy’s demeanor and thought processes run contrary to Alphaville’s regimented, logical rules. He is brought in for questioning by Alpha 60, which speaks in a gravelly, distorted voice. During this interrogation Eddie slips in a question that confuses Alpha 60. This question is actually a few lines of poetry - to decipher it the purely logical computer must utilize emotion, which is contrary to the very rules of society and eventually throws Alphaville into a state of turmoil.

One interesting aspect of this film is its lack of science fiction visuals. The futuristic elements are all introduced through the script rather than special effects and elaborate sets as one would expect in a science-fiction film. It was shot on location in Paris, and the buildings, wardrobe, cars etc. are all presented as-is. It has a modern art feel to it, with art deco backgrounds and spiraling staircases, setting it very much visually in the sixties.




Just as the film is presented in black and white, and color minimized, the science-fiction props and effects are similarly minimized. Director Jean-Luc Godard seems less interested in making a traditional film than a work of art, a statement about the dangers of totalitarian society and the irrepressible nature of man. Individuality is everything and creativity and emotion win out over logic. Alphaville is an interesting exploration of these themes, and Godard has made a film that is unlikely to be appreciated or understood by the majority of today’s movie watchers who are used to being hand fed everything. However, for those adventurous folks who accept the challenge of thinking outside the box (or the Bay, as the case may be – is there a worse director than Michael Bay? Yuch. I really don’t get the whole fascination with those big budget wastes of time. Transformers – yawn), Alphaville is available through Netflix Streaming, and highly recommended.





        
It's Alive (Highly Recommended)



Monday, January 23

Murder Legendre

Here's a promotional shot of Lugosi as Murder Legendre from White Zombie, featuring makeup by Jack Pierce. Lugosi refused to let Pierce work on his makeup in Dracula, and clashed with him on the makeup for the Frankenstein Monster in the infamous test shoot for FRANKENSTEIN - but fate kept throwing the two together. In 1932 they worked together first on MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, then WHITE ZOMBIE, and would go on to work together on a total of 11 pictures!

Click photo to ENLARGE


List of films they worked together on:

Dracula 1931
Murders in the Rue Morgue 1932
White Zombie 1931
The Black Cat 1934
The Raven 1935
The Invisible Ray 1936
Son of Frankenstein 1939
Black Friday 1940
The Wolf Man 1941
The Ghost of Frankenstein 1942
Frankenstein 1943

Friday, January 20

NEVERMORE at the Nashville Public Library





Jeffrey Combs performed the one man play NEVERMORE to a packed house last night at the Nashville Public Library. The auditorium was completely filled and more than 200 folks were placed in a second overflow theater set up with screens and video projectors. Edgar Allen Poe lived and breathed again onstage as Combs ranted, raved, and recited for over 90 minutes in a performance that was simply amazing. The stage consisted of a minimalistic set design - simply a rocking chair, table, rug and musical stand. But that's all Combs needed as he mesmerized the crowd with his electric performance. And doubly special was the fact that last night was the actual birthday of Edgar Allen Poe.


I want to thank the Nashville Public Library for bringing this fantastic event to Nashville and offering it for free. It was a special night and I saw many friends at the event. Afterwards I went to the Tazza restaurant just down the street and hung out with Anita Pace and her two friends Anna and Brooke Perry who had driven up from Alabama to attend the show! Great times and a great evening.

Oh, and before I wrap this up, one last thing. When the theater asks that you turn off your cell phone TURN THE GODDAMN THING OFF!! Some asshole on the second row left his on and sure enough it went off loud and clear right in the middle of the performance. To Combs' credit, however, he got the better of the buffoon. He was talking about his physical ailments at that moment, and how bad they were when he, without missing a beat, looked right at the him and said - "Much like that strange device you're fiddling with, sir." The audience applauded and Poe pointed at the fool and said, "Your middle name, sir, is shame." Even louder applause accompanied with a hearty "Hear Hear!" from some unnamed 6'6" horror host in the middle section.

On a related note, tonight and tomorrow night at Midnight the Belcourt theater is showing  REANIMATOR! Yes!! One of my favorites that also stars Jeffrey Combs and is directed by the producer of Nevermore, Stuart Gordon. You don't want to miss this on the big screen!!

Thursday, January 19

Bela Lugosi's White Zombie Coat and vest

This coat and vest, worn by Bela Lugosi in the 1932 film White Zombie, sold at auction in June, 2010 for $100,000. They were found in a studio vault where they had been forgotten about for 80 years! They appear to be in pristine condition - Makes you wonder what other gems lay undiscovered, just waiting to be found...

Tuesday, January 17

Kerry Gammill Classic Horror Actors Illustrations

Below are illustrations of three of Universal's great monster actors, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. These were done by Kerry Gammill, one of the nicest guys in the business and a major Monster-kid. Kerry gave me these years ago, at either the Wonderfest or Monster Bash convention. I ran across them recently while going through some of my stuff and thought I'd share them here. Kerry really captured the likeness of each in a clean pen and ink style.



Kerry has had a long career in the comic book field, as well as done a ton of other great stuff. You can check out his work on his website at: http://gammillustrations.bizland.com/monsterart/

 He's also put out a couple of terrific books, one on comic book illustrating and the other on the art of Basil Gogos, a must-have for any monster fan. Pick them up directly from his website here:

http://gammillustrations.bizland.com/monsterart/book.htm

Monday, January 16

Cinephobia Best of 2010 Awards

Stuart Feedback Andrews recently posted his latest Cinephobia Radio podcast, THE 2010 GLAZBALL AWARDS. Now what is interesting about this is most sites are just now posting their picks for best and worst films of 2011 - but Stuart posted HIS picks for 2010, and this time he solicited listeners opinions for the award. Looking back at these films a year removed gives a whole different perspective on the films, and it's interesting to think back with a little time between viewing them. I was pleased to hear that several of my suggestions made it into the podcast, some he agreed with and some he disagreed with. It's a fun episode and one I suggest you check out here.

Saturday, January 14

Bela Lugosi 80 years ago

1932 was an interesting and busy year for Bela Lugosi. He had, of course, starred in the amazingly successful DRACULA the year before, then Universal passed on him in the role of the Monster in FRANKENSTEIN. He would go on to make five films in 1932, three of which are still highly regarded to this day.



MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE

Lugosi and director Robert Florey were reassigned to MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, a sort of consolation prize for missing out of FRANKENSTEIN. Filmed in late 1931 (the final scenes shot in December) the movie was released on February 21, 1932, a year and one week later than DRACULA.




WHITE ZOMBIE

In March of '32 Lugosi filmed WHITE ZOMBIE. What is interesting about this film is it's an independent production but was filmed on Universal lots. Director/Producers Victor and Edward Halperin leased space at Universal, and this movie reuses sets from several Universal pictures including DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN. It seems Bela's fate was hopelessly entwined with those two films, as he once again stalked the scenery of those two classic productions, one he knew well and the other he had just missed out on. The film wasn't well received with critics at the time, but is now recognized as one of Bela's great early performances.



CHANDU THE MAGICIAN

Lugosi continued to stay busy in '32, as cameras began rolling in July of that year on a big screen adaptation of a radio show called CHANDU THE MAGICIAN. Lugosi plays the villain Roxor, and this film was released in October of 1932.



ISLAND OF LOST SOULS

In October of 1932 Lugosi was on the set of ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, shot partly on location on Catalina Island just off the coast of California. Shooting ran through November and the film was released in January of '33 (although IMDB and other sources list it as premiering in December '32). It is, of course, based on the H.G. Wells novel THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. Lugosi plays a manimal, one of the half man-half creatures roaming this island of misfits created by Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton). This one was just finally released on DVD last year, and I truly believe this is in part because it was voted several times as "classic most in need of a release" in the Rondo Awards.




THE DEATH KISS

November was a busy month for Lugosi that year as he began shooting the independent film THE DEATH KISS later that month. Based on a novel of the same name it is a murder mystery about an actor killed while filming the final scene of a movie also called 'The Death Kiss.' This movie is interesting in that it reunites three of the stars from DRACULA - Lugosi, David Manners, and good old dependable Edward Van Sloan. Dracula and Lugosi were forever joined... this movie was released early the following year.

Friday, January 6

The Crimson Cult – Review


 I totally forgot that I had planned to implement a new rating system here on the blog! I was looking for an old post last week and ran across this rating system. I used it once then promptly forgot about it! Absent minded professor’s got nothing on me! Looking at it again a year later I think it’s a pretty cool system, so I am announcing once again the following Rating Scale:



(NO SKULLS) Abomination



Freak of Nature - (Avoid)




        Medical Mishap (Close but not quite there yet)




       Successful Transplant (Recommended)




        It's Alive (Highly Recommended)




        Monsterpiece (True Classic)




The first movie I want to review with this scale is one I just watched this week on Netflix streaming. Man I love Netflix. Despite its contribution to the demise of local video stores (which I still miss terribly, but it was inevitable) I love the convenience of watching movies at home with the click of a button. While it is frustrating that not everything is available streaming, there are still a lot of interesting and quirky films, and a lot of movies I’ve always wanted to see. Such as today’s movie:



THE CRIMSON CULT



Known better under the UK name Curse of the Crimson Alter, it was shot in 1968 and stars Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Mark Eden, Barbara Steele, Michael Gough, Virginia Wetherell, and Rupert Davies. Talk about a terrific cast! This was the last film Boris made in the UK, and was in fact the final film he shot before the trio of cheap Mexican films made just before he passed away in 1969. It was released in theaters in 1970.

Mark Eden stars as Robert Manning, an antiques dealer investigating his brother’s disappearance. His brother’s trail leads to the village of Greymarsh and an out of the way country estate called Craxted Lodge . The owner, Mr. Morley (Christopher Lee) invites him to stay the night as the town lodgings are all booked up. You see, the history of this village is steeped in witchcraft, and they hold an annual celebration of the burning of a witch named Lavania Morley (who is actually Lee’s ancestor). Manning has arrived the very weekend the celebration is taking place, and it is slowly revealed that he is the last living survivor of the villagers who executed Lavania. Ah, the plot thickens! Karloff plays Professor Marshe, an expert of witchcraft and close personal friend of Morley’s. His character is wheelchair bound, (as he himself basically was by this point of his career), and has a mute assistant named Basil who pushes him around in his wheelchair. Michael Gough is the strange, stuttering, dim-witted servant of the house. Add to this eclectic mix Morley’s attractive niece, Eve, (Virginia Wetherell) who is throwing a groovy swinging sixties bash at the house when Manning arrives.

Once at the estate Manning begins having vivid dreams of bizarre sorcery rituals with a strange green-skinned witch (Barbara Steele) leading the procession. Together with Eve’s help Manning begins to unravel the secret of his brother’s disappearance and its ties to the legend of the Morley family and their background.



The story structure of this movie reminds me of another film starring Christopher Lee called Horror Hotel (a.k.a. City of the Dead), in which a girl heads to a small town to investigate her sister’s disappearance. Both films deal with witchcraft and Lee actually plays a somewhat similar role in each. Despite some story flaws the one thing this movie has going for it is the cast – seeing these genre icons together in one film is really fun, and I especially enjoyed the scenes with Lee and Karloff interacting together. Barbara Steele is given little to do in this movie, however; she basically sits and looks pretty as the leader of the dream cult, spouting some mystic gibberish in an echoey voice – but her scenes are atmospheric and exotic looking nonetheless.


The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, and at one point as Manning, talking about the creepiness of the old house, says, “It's like Boris Karloff is going to pop up at any moment.” You kind of have to love that bit of self-referential schlockiness, and the hippie party at the beginning of the film is a riot. Definitely dated but still fun. The American version of this movie is 2 minutes shorter with scenes of nudity excised, unfortunately. You still get a couple of nip slips and a butt shot but the UK version is complete at 89minutes.


Overall I rate this film 3 out of 5 skulls, mainly for the cast and fun atmosphere of this film. I really enjoyed watching it.



Successful Transplant (Recommended)





Thursday, January 5

Reflecting back on 2011



As we move into the New Year I thought I’d take a moment to reflect back upon 2011. It was a real year of ups and downs for me. Professionally it was one of my most successful seasons to date, with some of my biggest achievements realized this year;
 2011 saw the DVD release of THE DREADFUL HALLOWGREEN SPECIAL through Alpha Video. This was collaboration with fellow horror host Penny Dreadful and her werewolf cohost/hubby Garou. It was a really neat project that began as a simple email question to Penny one day - “How would you feel about doing some kind of joint venture, a co-hosting project of some sort?” She liked the idea, we bounced ideas back and forth and took turns writing the script – I would write a segment, then send it to her, she’d write a segment then send it back, etc., until we had it finished. The finished project turned out to be something really special, and is available through ALPHA VIDEO here: http://www.oldies.com/product-view/1067D.html

We also had another successful Wonderfest appearance and screened The Dreadful Hallowgreen Special live Saturday night there. It was really neat seeing it in a group setting and the crowd really seemed to like it and “got” all the jokes. Cameron McCasland (my director and partner on the show) and I headed to Louisville and had a blast. Especially cool was the fact that we were able to incorporate my good friend Bob Burns into the live show once again, thanks in large part to my buddy J. Sorrels, who built the amazing Bob-Bot, a robot sidekick with a front plate on it that looked suspiciously like an ipad skyping Bob from his house in Los Angeles!  We’ve been doing these live shows since 2004 and it just wouldn’t be the same without Bob, so I was thrilled to include him and the crowd loved it.


We filmed another batch of PSAs this season, which turned out great. This year’s batch included one with the Wolf man talking about pet leash safety, one with the Frankenstein monster talking about recycling plastic bottles, and one with the Frankenstein monster and the Creature from the Nashville Lagoon talking about littering and proper trash disposal. They’ve gotten a lot of airplay on Nashville’s CW58 and best of all they were nominated for TWO Emmy’s – one in the PSA category and one for Cameron in  the writing category! AND speaking of Emmys, we were also nominated for a third Emmy for the Dreadful Hallowgreen Special in the entertainment category! We will find out in March if we win, so we’re all keeping our fingers crossed.


One of the most unique and amazing things that has happened since I started this horror host adventure occurred in 2011 when Dr. Gangrene appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strip (as Dr. Mean Green – name changed slightly for copyright reasons)! This was something I definitely never foresaw when I started this venture and it’s a real bucket-list type event for sure. I still kind of can’t believe it happened and thank writer Mike Curtis for including me in this historic strip!
Dr. Gangrene became a cover-boy this year when the Nashville Scene put me on the front of their magazine for their Halloween issue! I have wanted to get on the cover of that paper for years, and it was a real surprise when they asked me to do it. This was one of my goals I wanted to achieve but was never able to until now – Sir Cecil Creape, the Nashville host from the 70s, was on the cover of the SHOWCASE, a section of the Tennessean newspaper that was formatted similarly (square-bound with a color photo on the front). That section of the paper has been retired, and the closest thing that exists in Nashville nowadays is the Scene. PLUS the Scene is the hip Nashville paper that all the cool kids read, and they cover all the cool events in town, so any chance for some coverage there is always welcome. It was an honor to be featured on the cover and the shot they chose – me eating the pumpkin guts – definitely wasn’t the one I thought they’d choose from that photo shoot. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least!



In conjunction with the Nashville Scene appearance I hosted a 12-hour film festival at the historic Belcourt Theater called 12 Hours of Terror featuring Night of the Creeps, Abby, Squirm, Lady Terminator, Zombie, and Return of the Living Dead. Definitely one of the coolest lineups of films ever assembled, and I was there the whole day hosting the event. Good times!!  (Zombie on the big screen was a religious experience).


I also hosted the movie THE BURBS at the Nashville library this Halloween season. It was a great time and a good turnout. I also made appearances at the Nashville Zoo at Halloween to kick off their Ghouls at Grassmere event and the Nashville Horror and Comics Convention earlier in the month, too.


 This was by far my most prolific blogging year ever. I wrote 239 blog posts last year, including 100 posts on Vincent Price in celebration of the Vincentennial (Vincent’s 100th birthday).

I also wrote a regular column for Scary Monsters Magazine, and this year I ran articles/interviews on:
·       Interview with Vincent Price collector Robert Taylor - issue #81
·       Hammer Films and Frankenstein - issue #80
·       Interview with the Count of Five (former Nashville horror host) - issue #79
·       Interview with Arch Hall Jr. talking about THE SADIST - issue #78
·       Interview with Count Basil (former Memphis horror host) - issue #77
  
(technically Winter 2010 but it came out in 2011)
·       Interview with Dr. Creep – Scary Monsters Yearbook 2011
This year’s Horror Hootenanny was one of the best yet. We went back to a zombie theme this year and worked in conjunction with the Nashville zombie walk. We had a terrific turnout and great music all night from The Coffin Bangers, Alucard, Spookhand, The Creeping Cruds and my new favorites, Dead Dick Hammer and the TBA! We also had a ton of sponsors onboard this year who provided some fantastic giveaways – Unholy Apparel, Rue Morgue Magazine, Scary Monsters Magazine, Evil Pumpkins, Wicked Witch Productions, Terra Fossil Wines, Lone Wolf Body Art, the Coffee Pirate, and Unkle Pigors. Thanks to everyone who helped make this possible, as it takes a lot of work to pull it off - and special thanks to Jeano and Tanya Roid for everything they've done over the years to support Dr. Gangrene - the Horror Hootenanny was originally Jeano's idea, as a fundraiser for my show, and it's grown over the past 8 years to THE horror rock event in Nashville.
My band, Spookhand, also had a big year, and played quite a few shows including one in Dayton Oh with my good buddy A. Ghastlee Ghoul and
 his band SPLATTERTUDE. Thanks for all the hospitality, Ghastlee - that was some good chili! We also recorded a second EP this year (still gotta get that full length done some time) which we distributed at the Hootenanny. So it was a busy year for us! BTW - Special thanks to my good friend Mark Greenbaum for all his help throughout the year - he played along good-naturedly as the victim at the Spookhand shows, hopping onstage uninvited only to have a limb lopped off and spray the crowd with blood. Mark designed and built the fake hand/arm props, and also played a transvestite in The Dreadful Hallowgreen Special - now that's a multi-talented guy!!




I also did several interviews throughout the year including HORROR SOCIETYRESEARCH MY TRASH,  and the MONSTERS FROM THE BASEMENT podcast . I also appeared on Nashville’s local NPR radio talking about my predecessor Sir Cecil Creape, in a piece written by my good buddy and fellow Creape fanatic, Randy Fox.
Most importantly of all starting in September we got back on the Nashville scarewaves with a new weekly show called Dr. Gangrene Presents. It airs Saturday nights at 1am (Sun morning) - I’m really enjoying the new format (half-hour) and this has been the most fun I’ve had producing the show to date. I am fortunate to work with Cameron, and the shoots are effortless and fun. This is the closest to what I envisioned when I first started the show, and we’ve aired 14 shows to date. Sometime this month we plan to announce a new time change to a better slot – details TBA.
On the personal side things were a bit shakier last year. My favorite uncle passed away at age 54 from cancer. That is way too young. I also found out my father (biological father – I was raised by my stepdad but over the past couple of decades reconnected with my real father) has cancer and probably has less than a year to live, too. My wife had two family members pass away last year, too. Death visited way too often in 2011. I also saw several close friends who had marriages and relationships fall apart over the past year, which is always a sad event. And to top it all off my doctor informed me just before New Year that I have high cholesterol and he wants me to have a heart scan and I probably need to start watching my diet. Gotta love aging – but hey, it beats the alternative!
 So it was an up and down year for lots of reasons, as they all are – but this year the highs seemed just a bit higher and the lows a bit lower. Here’s hoping 2012 is a bit more even keeled, or at least has a few less lows and I don’t have to attend any funerals.

Sunday, January 1

New Creeping Cruds Video - Get Up and Kill

Great new video for the Creeping Cruds song, GET UP AND KILL - this is the extended version, with a funny drive-in ad at the beginning. Gotta love it! Man to have a drive-in that showed this kind of awesome fright fare. That would be the greatest thing ever!


related posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...