Thursday, September 27

Universal Classic Monsters Essential Collection Blu Ray review

Got a copy of the new Blu Ray box Set, The Universal Monsters Essential Collection tonight, and shot a quick video reviewing the set, packaging and content. I watched the Wolf Man and it looked beautiful, especially on some of the little fine detail. Great looking set that you guys are going to love - can't wait to really dig into these!!


Wednesday, September 26

They’re Still Alive – The Universal Classic Monsters

Today's post is a guest-post from my good friend Scott Essman at Universal Studios. Scott has been carrying the classic monster torch for years, fighting the good fight to keep these ghouls alive for the next generation of monster kids. His passion for these films is evident in his writing - check it out, and remember - the Universal Monsters will be released on Blu-ray on Oct. 2, 2012!!


They’re Still Alive – The Universal Classic Monsters


By Scott Essman

It’s a quiet dusty morning in the summer of 1916 and all but a small eastern region of the San Fernando Valley is largely undeveloped, to say nothing of unpopulated. For the past year, inside of an unassuming front gate just over the hill from Los Angeles proper, two men are trying to forge their path in the fledgling motion picture business: Lon Chaney and Jack Pierce. Nascent actors Chaney, 33, and Pierce, 27, were completely unknown, but each had an angle; they could both work magic out of a simple makeup case, fully transforming their faces and even parts of their bodies to put themselves into a better position to be cast in a role. They often worked out of Universal’s “bullpen,” getting chosen to play Indians, cowboys, pirates, or virtually any part called for in the roundup of silent shorts at the time. Little did these men know that, less than a decade later, they would initiate a cinematic movement that would change history.

Of course, the place was Universal Pictures, which had been founded by Carl Laemmle, a former midwestern haberdasher who consolidated several distribution enterprises into one operation in 1912, then claimed the named land, opening Universal City in 1915. Surely, Chaney and Pierce engaged in very different career trajectories, but both became key players in the boom of both Universal and the American monster movie. With Universal now celebrating its 100th anniversary, those early years are an essential chapter in the studio’s history, the days when the brand surged to new heights at the box office by taking giddy moviegoers into the dungeon depths of their collective imagination. The magic of those characters, films, actors and filmmakers has never really left us, ever since Dr. Frankenstein famously bellowed, "It's alive!"

Even after leaving Universal to become a freelance actor in 1918, Chaney returned to make the smash hit “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at Universal in 1923. Although the grotesque titular character was a makeup landmark, “Hunchback” was never considered a horror film and Quasimodo not a horror character, that honor not bestowed upon Chaney until his next Universal film, made as a loaner from the newly formed MGM Studios. “The Phantom of the Opera” in 1925 was another unbridled hit, with Chaney’s unmasking as the named Phantom resonating as an all-time classic moment in cinema.

Taylor White, publisher of “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” a book of Bill Nelson’s illustrations of Chaney’s vast and varied characters, noted why the Phantom has resonated among Universal’s greatest characters. “Chaney's Phantom continues to be an indelible character for two reasons,” White said. “On the exterior, Chaney's unforgettable makeup is still terrifying and obviously set the standard long before any other classic monster. And second, Chaney's skills as an actor managed to convey both the physical pain and emotional wrenching of a shattered heart in losing his beloved Christine.”

Thus was set in motion the trademark for a studio which was nonetheless long regarded a second-tier operation. Speculation that Chaney would have returned to Universal for additional horror films in the sound era has been widely disputed. His death in 1930 ended any such possibilities, but by then, new faces in the Universal upper echelons set the studio on a new course within horror. Carl Laemmle Jr. had been promoted to the head of production by his father as a 21st birthday present in 1927, which left him running Universal City’s operations and personally selecting such projects as “The Man Who Laughs,” a late silent hit, and two early 1930s films which to this day define the studio.

“Dracula” and “Frankenstein” were both released in 1931, only nine months apart, and set new standards in many moviemaking categories. “Dracula” is often criticized for its slow pacing and stagy underpinnings, but Lugosi’s performance, perfected on Broadway in the late 1920s, remains indelible and haunting to this day. Surely, Jack Pierce’s work as makeup department head of Universal at the time cannot be understated, though he did not have the chance to create anything elaborate for Béla Lugosi as Count Dracula, the actor putting the kibosh on Chaney-esque makeup concepts. Pierce reserved the complete makeover for Boris Karloff on “Frankenstein,” planned just a few months after “Dracula’s” success mandated that the studio follow it up as soon as possible. When director James Whale was brought onto the former picture, Pierce had the license to test different makeups which ultimately required both Laemmle Jr. and Whale’s approval. As Alec Gillis, a makeup and creature master for over 25 years stated, “‘Frankenstein’ was the perfect storm of Jack Pierce at the top of his game, with makeup techniques refined enough but not too much, and Boris Karloff at his most cadaverous and brilliant.”

Surely, Karloff’s metamorphosis from barely regarded character actor to international superstar in “Frankenstein” is due in large part to Pierce’s techniques and Whale’s direction, as director John Landis (“An American Werewolf in London”) explained. “Jack Pierce's makeup combined with Boris Karloff's remarkable performance make the Frankenstein Monster in James Whale's “Frankenstein” the most memorable and iconic of the Universal monsters,” Landis said. “Karloff makes the Monster both vulnerable and sympathetic and yet powerful and terrifying when the moment calls for it.”

But just as compelling as Whale’s direction and Pierce’s makeup magic on “Frankenstein” are less heralded elements, such as costume design, art direction and cinematography. Vera West was Pierce’s counterpart as Universal’s longtime head of costume design and contributed the gothic period designs in the film while Charles D. Hall, the studio’s head art director, built the timeless sets for the film, including the castle-bound laboratory set for the opening half, most vividly seen during the climactic “creation” sequence. Director of photography Arthur Edeson undershoots Karloff’s creature in nearly every moment, an approach that has influenced legions of films, both within the horror genre and otherwise. In one more obscure example, witness how Edeson shoots Karloff’s first entry as the Monster as he turns around in the doorway to the castle interior. Edeson frames the creature in three progressively closer shots, a series mirrored in James Cameron’s “The Terminator.” Watch as the Terminator endoskeleton emerges from the fiery truck explosion at the end of the film; Cameron and cinematographer Adam Greenberg more than quote Edeson’s shots – they are nearly identical.

During the Laemmle era, Universal capitalized on their triumphant year by following 1931 with an active horror output in 1932-1936 before the founding family had to sell the studio due to mid-Great Depression financial crises. From 1932’s “The Mummy,” another masterpiece of slow-building terror with an unprecedented Pierce makeup and Karloff characterization, to Whale’s “The Invisible Man” introducing the striking persona of Claude Rains, to several Karloff-Lugosi pairings, the studio produced many unforgettable films at the time. Arguably the crown jewel of the mid-1930s Universal output is 1935’s “The Bride of Frankenstein,” which many consider the finest of the films in many respects. Elsa Lanchester as the named Bride created a remarkable vision of ghoulish beauty, even more impressive when considering she is only onscreen as the wordless creation a few scant minutes at the end of the film. Karloff, given the chance to speak as the Monster, offers one of his best screen performances in “Bride,” and in tandem with the first “Frankenstein” film, makes the character recognizable to most any age audience member of any era. Karloff historian Ron MacCloskey elaborated on the timeless nature of Karloff’s appearance. “The look of the Monster, with the flat head, scars and electrodes on the neck, is seen every Halloween,” said MacCloskey. “Even the movements of the Monster—stiff legs, arms outstretched—are all immediately identifiable.”


Alas, with the Laemmles out, regime change dictated a shift in philosophy at the studio in the late 1930s, and for a time, it seemed that the Universal monster film had indeed died. But audience demand necessitated a quickly-arranged sequel, and at the end of the decade, “Son of Frankenstein” debuted. Featuring Karloff in his final turn as the Monster and Lugosi, in one of his best performances as the wretch, Ygor, the third “Frankenstein” film might not have had the facility for fascinating audiences as the first two films, but it ushered in a slew of additional Universal genre films – albeit many sequels – in the early-to-mid 1940s.

Among the horde of genre films at Universal during a time of rotating studio heads, only 1941’s “The Wolf Man” featured a monster that resonated as strongly for as long a period of time as the characters in the films of the 1930s. Played to perfection by Lon Chaney Jr., the Wolf Man character was not the first lycanthrope on screen and might not have amazed audiences as significantly as the many elaborate werewolves to come, but the film and character continue to fascinate genre fans. Creature creator John Rosengrant (“Jurassic Park”) explained the longevity of the singular project. “The basic story is timeless as it parallels the storylines of the Greek tragedies,” he said. “A person is suffering by the whim of the Gods through no fault of his own.”

When Universal merged with International Pictures just after World War II ended, directions were again altered, seemingly for good, which might have relegated “House of Frankenstein” and “House of Dracula,” the two so-called “monster rallies,” as the final Universal horrors in 1944 and 1945, respectively. Yet, there was life still twitching as several characters were brought back – without Jack Pierce, Vera West, or special visual effects expert John P. Fulton – for “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” in 1948. Though that monster-comedy film was an unqualified hit, it did not spurn a return to heavy genre output at Universal-International.

Instead, the 1950s ushered in a slate of science-fiction-based films, with one last monster picture coming to fruition when it debuted in 1954. “The Creature From the Black Lagoon” was considered in as high regard as its big brothers and sisters from some 20+ years beforehand though decidedly in a modernized technological vein. However, the amphibious Gill-Man shared the tragic path of the earlier Universal monsters, and represented yet another instantly iconic visage as denoted by veteran creature designer and performer Tom Woodruff, Jr.. “There is a blankness to its expression, fitting for its primeval aquatic origins,” he said. “And there is a simplicity to the execution of the build of the suit that resonates the ‘less is more’ school of design.” When the third “Creature” film unspooled in 1958, it was widely accepted as the last breath of the Universal cycle.

Magazines such as Famous Monsters of Filmland helped keep the Universal monsters alive for new generations in the 1960s and 1970s through publishing detailed accounts of making of the films and rarely seen photographs. The films also lived on through broadcasts on syndicated television stations nationwide in a time before home video, which has now obviously brought the films and characters to a new level for contemporary fans. Veteran actor and monster collector Daniel Roebuck connected such new fans to the ones who first viewed the films in a theatrical setting. “Although not scary to the modern audiences, the pathos and tragic suffering of so many of these characters can't help but touch the viewer,” he observed.

Certainly, the Universal monsters have never truly dipped in their popularity and are still foremost among genre fans despite their notable age in a time of erstwhile short attention spans. Oscar-winning makeup artist William Corso (“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”) summarized the effect that the films have had on numerous filmmakers working today, including not only makeup people, but visual effects artists, writers, and directors. “Universal’s stable of monsters inspired me and countless generations to enter the fields of art and film,” he said. “Not only can they be counted as some of the most iconic characters in film history, but also as significant works in the history of art, as much as any of the old masters gave us.”


In the end, audiences continually return to the Universal monsters for reasons that cannot often be easily explained. Without question, Hollywood has churned out more visceral, explicit, and even frightening films in most every decade since the originals. So why are the classic monsters a constant presence in merchandise collections, video libraries, and televised and theatrical revivals, both during Halloween season and otherwise? Fred Dekker, co-writer and director of “The Monster Squad,” the 1987 homage to the original characters, offered one provocative answer. “What's timeless to me about the Universal monsters is that on one level, they're not really monsters at all; they're outcasts,” Dekker said, “and in most cases, not by choice. Dracula has a disease, the Wolf Man an affliction. The Mummy was killed and resurrected against his will, and Frankenstein's Monster never asked to be born. The Gill-Man is out of his time. So on one level, they're these iconic boogey men who scare us—but at the same time, they appeal to that part of us that feels like an outsider, a weirdo, like someone who doesn't quite fit in. I think we relate to them on that level, even if it's subconsciously.”


Scott Essman has written extensively about Jack Pierce and the Universal Classic Monsters since 1996. He can be reached at scottessman@yahoo.com.

Happy Birthday Zacherley!



Today is the 94th birthday of the one and only Zacherley, the great horror host of all time. I was fortunate to meet Zacherley at Wonderfest a few years back, where he was a guest, and he is one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. So friendly, energetic, and fun loving. I hope to make it to 94 and be as youthful as he is when I get there. This photo was taken by Eileen Colton and actually ran in USA Today, in an article about horror hosts.

Here's to you Zach - hope you have an awesome day!!

Tuesday, September 25

Belcourt October Horrors

WOW! Just check out all the awesome goodies Belcourt is showing in October! These Universal showings in particular have me excited!! AND best yet, there's more announcements of October goodness to come ! Stay tuned, Nashville!!

Monday, September 24

Thank you Joel Schumacher


In classic art every art movement is a reaction to the previous one. Each is influenced by and in many cases a rejection of the movement preceding it. For instance, Impressionism was a move away from traditional European techniques toward an impression of the artist's perception of the subject matter. The artist was not concerned with creating an exact reproduction of the subject so much as presenting his own interpretation of that subject.




The Expressionists, on the other hand, were interested in distortion and exaggeration for emotional effect.  Rather than painting their interpretation of the world like those who preceded them, they exaggerated their subjects for emotional impact. Expressionism was both evolved from and a movement away from Impressionism.






With that thought in mind I turn your attention to the much-maligned Joel Schumacher Batman films. Schumacher was moving away from the dark-toned comic book feel of the Burton films towards… well, something else entirely. His films channeled the 1960s Batman TV series as much as anything else, but the problem was he was 30 years too late. People change, sensibilities change, society changes - and what worked then certainly didn't translate very well to the 1990s. His movement was a bouncy, neon splattered, nipple laden movement that confounded both fans of the 60s series and the Burton films.



The best thing that ever came out of the Schumacher films was the NEXT movement, the Christopher Nolan films. Nolan's films are the polar opposite of Schumacher's - where Schumacher was gaudy and neon lit Nolan was gritty and shadow laden. Where Schumacher was campy and humorous, Nolan was serious and humorless. Schumacher's Batmobile looked like a cheap matchbox car (complete with floppy fins), Nolan's looked like a militaristic war machine. Schumacher's Batman outfits look like bad broadway costumes, Nolan's looks like functional body armor.





 

So thank you, Joel Schumacher. Thank you for giving us Batman films that sucked so much. Without your laughable interpretation we never would have gotten the fantastic Christopher Nolan trilogy. Thank you for influencing those who followed you to drastically improve upon the shit you spewed. Your movement was a very loose one indeed.

Sunday, September 23

Here there be Zombies!



I re-watched Fulci's ZOMBIE last night from the Blue Underground bluray and man that thing looks and sounds great! One of my favorite horror scores - I need to track down a copy of that soundtrack.

This was, of course, shot after Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD and is not connected to it. DAWN OF THE DEAD was released in Italy under the title ZOMBI, so they released Fulci's film in Italy as ZOMBI 2 to cash in on Romero's success. I have always thought of it, however, as taking place in the same universe as Romero's films.

This scene is reminiscent to me of the flesh eating scene in Night of the Living Dead

This film to me is actually closer to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD than DAWN. There isn't that comic book sensibility to it that DAWN OF THE DEAD has - the biker gang comes to mind, Savini and company campily loping off zombie heads with machetes, hooting and hollering and having a blast. There is never any humor injected into this film. It stays deadpan serious throughout, much like Night. The tone is dark throughout the film, and both it and Night end on down notes, whereas Dawn has an upbeat ending.

 The final shot of zombies slowly marching into New York City made me think - what if this is a prequel to Romero's films? In Night it is never explained exactly where the plague came from. What if this is how the plague arrived in America, first infecting NYC then swiftly moving across the states? Interesting to consider...!






Tuesday, September 18

THE DEAD ARE AMONG US!




I’ve been on a huge Fulci kick lately, and have really been enjoying re-watching his films. Last Halloween I hosted the 12 HOURS OF TERROR marathon at the Belcourt theater and Fulci’s ZOMBIE was one of the films shown. It was an actual 35mm print, as were all the movies that day, and let me tell you, Fulci on the big screen is like a religious experience. ZOMBIE, or ZOMBI 2, is a movie that really benefits from both a large screen projection and a packed theater - a packed theater of reverent movie watchers, I must say – there was nary a cell phone opened or chatty teen in the audience. I can’t wait for this year’s marathon.



All that said, Blue Underground released Zombie on Blu-ray last year and it is supposed to be absolutely beautiful. This 1979 loose follow up to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead has finally been given the attention it deserves. An uncut, high-def blu-ray transfer packed with extras, so many that it comes packaged with a second disc comprised entirely of extras. Just look at what all comes on this Blu-ray:

DISC 1 EXTRAS:

Audio Commentary with Star Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater

Theatrical Trailers

TV Spots

Radio Spots

Poster & Still Gallery

Guillermo del Toro Intro

DISC 2 EXTRAS:

"Zombie Wasteland" - Interviews with Stars Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson & Al Cliver, and Actor/Stuntman Ottaviano Dell'Acqua

"Flesh Eaters on Film" - Interview with Co-Producer Fabrizio De Angelis

"Deadtime Stories" - Interviews with Co-Writers Elisa Briganti and (Uncredited) Dardano Sacchetti

"World of the Dead" - Interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati and Production & Costume Designer Walter Patriarca

"Zombi Italiano" - Interviews with Special Make-Up Effects Artists Gianetto De Rossi & Maurizio Trani and Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi

"Notes on a Headstone" - Interview with Composer Fabio Frizzi

"All in the Family" - Interview with Antonella Fulci

"Zombie Lover" - Award-Winning Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro talks about one of his favorite films



Amazing! Now this disc was released in October of 2011, almost a year ago, so why am I just now writing about it? Well, until now I haven’t broken down and bought a copy. But thanks to Brother D over at MAIL ORDER ZOMBIE (thanks for the present, Derek) I finally ordered my copy today and am jazzed about checking out all the crystal clear carnage in high def!



There is just something about Fulci’s work that seems to resonate more with me as I get older. I first saw Zombie sometime in the late 80s when I was in college. I of course loved the gore scenes but my appreciation probably ended there – well, there and with the multiple nude scenes throughout the film. Perhaps my sensibilities have changed as I’ve gotten older, or maybe I’m just a more sophisticated movie watcher. But regardless, suffice it to say there is so much more to appreciate in his work.

Zombie in particular has a sense of dread throughout the entire movie. It reeks of atmosphere. It is unrelenting. This was considered an unofficial sequel to DAWN OF THE DEAD (called ZOMBI in Italy), thus the confusing title ZOMBI 2. But unlike DAWN, there are never any humorous moments, never a respite from the onslaught of terror. In that sense it is closer to the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD than DAWN. The undead in ZOMBIE, however, are scarier than anything Romero presented onscreen, particularly in his latest couple of films where they’ve become mere punch lines to a lame joke. Fulci’s zombies are the things of nightmares. Maggots, worms, rot, decay – rancid creatures that that were buried and forgotten and have come back to destroy mankind. Romero’s zombies are us. There is no humanity in Fulci’s zombies. And unlike Romero’s films there is no social commentary in ZOMBIE. Which is fitting as that would have made it more… human. The action is presented straightforward without interpretation, which serves to intensify the onscreen violence and terror.


Fulci’s movies are more about the emotional and visceral impact than the storylines. They have a dream-like quality about them. In fact, the word I used earlier, nightmare, is apt in the description of his work. Fulci wasn’t concerned so much with linear storytelling as he was with delivering nightmarish scenes. He never blinks or diverts his gaze - instead he focuses his lens firmly on scenes of unbelievably gruesome violence and forces the viewer to stare at it as if their eyes were propped open. I can’t wait to stare at these scenes again through the clarified vision of Blu-ray. It is as if a celluloid cataract has been removed and I’ll be seeing his work for the first time in crystal clarity.

Sunday, September 16

BELOW ZERO - interview with writer/producers Signe Olynyk and Bob Schultz


 It was my pleasure to speak recently to Signe Olynyk and Bob Schultz, writer and producer of the 2011 horror film Below Zero starring Michael Berryman and Eddie Furlong. Signe approached writing this film in an interesting way - she locked herself in a meat locker for 5 days with no internet or phone service, staying in until she was finished writing. This is especially appropriate as her film is about a writer who is suffering writer's block and locks himself in a met locker to get inspiration for his script. Thus it sort of becomes a movie within a movie, and reality and fiction become blurred along the way. Check it out, I think you folks will really enjoy this!




Friday, September 14

HALLOWEEN returns to the big screen this Halloween


 Now we're talking! The 1978 John Carpenter classic HALLOWEEN is getting a theatrical re-release this Halloween weekend. The Night HE came home indeed! But it's for one night only - Saturday, October 25th. Check THIS WEBSITE for a theater near you. Unfortunately Nashville isn't listed yet, but have no fear. They're still adding locations, and I'm sure Music City will be included in the murderous mayhem.

Hollywood is catching on! Re-releases are the way to go! As I wrote in a blog post recently, re-releasing the original films in theaters is cheaper, easier, and far preferable to the endless string of inferior remakes, especially with a film like Halloween, arguably Carpenter's best work.

So here's what we've got on tap this Halloween season in the way of re-releases:

The Birds – Wednesday, September 19th
Frankenstein/The Bride of Frankenstein (Double Feature) – Wednesday, October 24th
Halloween - Thursday, October 25th
To Kill A Mockingbird – Thursday, November 15th

And don't forget about Raiders of the Lost Ark in theaters now, extended for another week due to wildly successful screenings!  I only wish Halloween would screen for an entire week, like Raiders, or at least a weekend. But beggars can't be choosers, and I'll take what I can get. The Shining is getting re-released in the UK as well this year. It's a good time to be a horror fan!!

September Flicks at the Black Raven

There's some fine fright flicks screening at Logue's Black Raven Emporium this month - here's a look at the rest of the September Cult Underground schedule... See you there!!






Wednesday, September 12

What are zombies? They're us.

One of the members of the League of Tana Tea Drinkers (a group of horror bloggers) asked the question recently, "What is the de facto horror movie monster/villain/film for the new millennium?" Well, I rattled off a quick answer to that question on Facebook, and afterwards got to thinking about it more and decided it deserved flushing out a bit more here on the blog.


The single greatest trend in movies nowadays seems to be zombies. They've been on a steady increase ever since Romero introduced the new breed of flesh eating zombies in the 1968 classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Now they've invaded television, with the third season of THE WALKING DEAD about to kick off next month. They've became part of mass culture and are as integrated into the horror subconscious as Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolf Man. Every kid knows zombies shamble around and say, "braaaiinnns."


 But there's more to this mass-market zombie epidemic than simply walking dead people. Zombies have been around in cinema since 1932 when Bela Lugosi controlled them in WHITE ZOMBIE. THAT particular variety of zombie was taken straight from voodoo legend and refers to a dead person brought back to life by a zombie master, or bokor. Sometimes the person isn't dead but merely mind-controlled by this zombie master. Either way they are completely subservient and under the bokor's control.


Romero took this one step further by having his zombies eat the flesh of the living. This put them in direct conflict with humans and in fact they are attacking mankind. A new movie monster was born and it has gained in popularity throughout the years. Why does this particular monster resonate so well with today's society and why the sudden popularity with zombies? They're everywhere - zombie walks, zombie proms, zombie music - Lucio Fulci's famous shark vs. zombie scene from his groundbreaking 1979 film ZOMBIE was even used in a commercial for Microsoft Windows. What is it about zombies?


I think the key element here isn't the fact they're dead so much as the fact that they eat flesh. They're cannibals. They eat people. And this plays perfectly into our fear of losing our identity. This has never been more relevant than in recent times with the incidents of face eating attacks in Florida and other states. People high on "bath salt" drugs have attacked and physically eaten other people, consuming their face, taking away their identity.


Today's society is a society screaming for identity. People create multiple identities online - Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, email, texting - we're all searching for an identity or creating a new one online. Look at me, like my page, be my friend, check out my Klout rating. We present our best face forward and show people what we want them to see, even creating totally new personas online. We protect these identities closely and guard them with passwords. The worst thing that can happen is to lose our identity, to have our accounts hacked, our systems infiltrated, our identities stolen. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States with over 15 million people having their identities stolen every year.



Even in death, the zombie continues to live - the individual continues, albeit changed. How do you destroy a zombie? we learned in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD that destroy the brain, destroy the ghoul. The French philosopher René Descartes coined the phrase "I think, therefore I am." Romero's method of dealing with his ghouls eradicates the individual completely. Zombies are people too, right? At least that is what Romero seems to be getting at in his most recent sequels, where his zombies are becoming self-aware.

Romero's zombies are a natural extension of the voodoo zombie, even if he didn't realize it at the time. The bokor steals his victim's identity, reducing them to a mindless, soulless being, slave to his bidding. Romero's zombies steal their victims identity by physically consuming them, reducing them to a pile of shapeless flesh. Either way the individual is gone.


Zombies are also, of course, tapping into our fear of viral plague. Romero had the foresight to have his zombies spread an infection through biting another person, consuming a part of them. You get bitten you become one of them. AIDS, Ebola, SARS, Anthrax - the list goes on and on. Viral epidemics are today's equivalent of the atomic bomb in the 50s, and just as the fifties reflected this fear in cinema with an endless parade of atomically mutated creatures so today's movies reflect current fears through zombie cinema.


What are zombies? To quote a line from DAWN OF THE DEAD - They're us. That's all. So to get back to the main question, what is the de facto horror movie monster/villain/film for the new millennium? I'd have to say it's zombies, i.e. cannibals, i.e. us.

Universal Studios Art Contest

 All you artists out there who are classic monster fans, here's your chance to prove your stuff and win great Universal prizes in the process.


Read the rules carefully before entering, especially paying attention to medium, size, and subject matter. Good luck!!!




ILLUSTRATE YOUR OWN VERSION OF A UNIVERSAL STUDIOS CLASSIC MONSTER

Contest Rules

1. One artistic entry per person is allowed.

2. Participants: All amateur artists welcome. Open to U.S., Mexican, Canadian and British citizens only.  Two age groups will be considered – up to 14 years of age, and 15 years of age and up.

3. Size Requirements: All submitted Artwork entries must be created on a maximum size of 8 1/2” X 11” and must be created on a flat paper material – no three-dimensional sculptures are allowed for this contest..

4. Medium: All artwork must be created entirely by the submitting artist. All two-dimensional hand-manipulated forms for art medium are acceptable. Oils, Acrylics, Pastels, Charcoal, Water Colors, Pencils, and Crayons are acceptable.  We will not accept any Computer Design, Computer Illustration, or digitally manipulated designs. No Commercial Photo Lab work will be accepted. All Artwork must be original – but must be photographed and e-mailed per number five below.

4. Subject Matter:  An original artistic rendering of ONE of Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera, The Wolf Man, or The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  This should be the artist’s completely original conception of the character, and not based on any previous versions that have appeared in film, TV, comics, or any other artistic medium.

5. Label all artwork with your name, medium used, age, and complete address, phone number, and e-mail address and e-mail it to: universalmonsterclub2012@yahoo.com.

6. Judging:  Will be done by a jury of prominent local Hollywood makeup artists and will be held prior to the October 2, 2012 release date of the Universal Classic Monsters – The Essential Collection set.

7. Dates:  All submissions MUST be received by September 30, 2012.

8. Prizes: One Grand Prize will be awarded for each age group— each Grand Prize winner will win the complete Essential Collection set plus the Jack Pierce – Universal Monsters Bust created by Art of Clay plus a person-to-person phone call with a Hollywood monster maker.  Five runners-up for each age group for each character included will win an Essential Collection Set.

9. Display: The top entries will have their collective artwork reproduced in high quality, full-color resolution and will be available for display on the Universal Monster Club website.

10. Note: All entries together with all of the entrant’s right, title and interest in the copyright for the work, shall become the sole property of Visionary Cinema upon submission. The entrant represents that each entry is the exclusive and original work of the entrant.  Universal Studios Home Entertainment will not be responsible for displaying any artwork that does not win a prize nor be responsible for offering feedback about any and all artwork.

More than just Books - The Nashville Public Library


I've recently spotlighted some can’t miss Nashville treasures here on the blog – the Belcourt Theater and Cult Fiction Underground at Logue’s Black Raven Emporium - both places you’ll want to frequent often if you’re a film fan in Nashville, TN. I want to continue that series of Nashville treasures today with a look at the NASHVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY.
The library is one of those places that everyone is familiar with but never thinks of when it comes to entertainment. Oh, yeah, that place with the books. Well, yes, technically it IS that place with the books, a tremendous collection of books, to be exact, but the Nashville library is so much more than just that. It also offers an amazing assortment of magazines, newspapers, music, movies, audiobooks and more that you can check out if you’re a resident of Davidson County.



But if you’re not a resident of Davidson County (and I’m not) you should still be keeping an eye on the Nashville Public Library for the great events happening there.


For instance, there are THE COURTYARD CONCERTS, a series of FREE concerts on Tuesdays featuring musicians and bands of all musical genres. Just check out this list of artists that have performed so far this year: The WannaBeatles, Nick Nixon, Gypsy Hombres, Radio Daze, and Riders in the Sky.

Remaining acts scheduled this year are:

Sara Sant'Ambrogio, September 18, 2012 11:45am - 1:00pm

The Steel Drivers, September 25, 2012 11:45am - 1:00pm

Rachel Rodriguez, October 2, 2012 11:45am - 1:00pm

Jason D. Williams, October 9, 2012 11:45am - 1:00pm

Check out this link for details.



Then there is the SALON @615 series of writers who appear at the library to speak about their new work, and once again, this is FREE. Next up, on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 is Actress/author Molly Ringwald speaking about her fiction debut "When It Happens To You." Molly Ringwald is also the author of the bestseller “Getting the Pretty Back: Friendship, Family and Finding the Perfect Lipstick.” Book signing will follow talk.


Molly Ringwald - Tuesday, September 18, 2012 6:15 PM

Cost: Free. Tickets will be available on TicketsNashville beginning two weeks prior to the event, for a convenience fee of $2.50

See link for details
Ticket distribution begins at 5:45 p.m.

How’s that for a cool free event? The library does this regularly - Just take a look at the upcoming authors they’re bringing in to speak and meet the public:

Irene Goldman-Price (My Dear Governess) and Jennie Fields (The Age of Desire) -A Talk on Edith Wharton - September 20, 2012 6:15 PM

Michael Chabon - Pulitzer Prize Winner Michael Chabon discusses his latest novel - Telegraph Avenue. Talk begins at 6:15 p.m., with signing to follow. - October 2, 2012 6:15 PM

Caroline Kennedy - author/editor of eight bestselling books on constitutional law, American history, politics, and poetry. She will be signing her latest work, Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of JFK - October 9, 2012 1:00 PM

Louise Erdrich - author of thirteen novels as well as volumes of poetry, short stories, children's books, and a memoir of early motherhood. She will be discussing her latest novel, The Round House - October 9, 2012 6:15 PM

Dennis Lehane - author of Shutter Island and Mystic River, discusses his latest novel, Live by Night. The novel is set in the Prohibition-era, told through the eyes of a charismatic young gangster who is on the rise - October 23, 2012 6:15 PM

Mem Fox - Australia's best loved picture-book author. Her first book, Possum Magic, has sold over four million copies and is still the bestselling children's book in Australia, 29 years after its publication - November 5, 2012 6:15 PM

Emma Donoghue - bestselling author of Room, discusses her latest collection of short stories. Astray contains fourteen fact-inspired stories about travels to, in and from North America - November 13, 2012 6:15 PM

Barbara Kingsolver - author of fourteen books (including include short stories, essay collections, poetry, and seven novels), discusses her latest novel, Flight Behavior. The novel takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time: climate change. With a deft and versatile empathy she dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world - November 27, 2012 6:15 PM

Jon Meacham - Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham will discuss his latest work Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power - December 13, 2012 6:15 PM

And the list goes on and on. Visit this link regularly for details and a list of upcoming guests. Last year they brought actor Jeffrey Combs in to perform his one man play Nevermore. It was an amazing performance and a HUGE crowd showed up, so much so they filled a second overflow room. I got there early and got into the main theater, however!


Speaking of the theater, the library screens feature films regularly there which are, again, FREE. Coming up this October are some movies that horror fans out there will enjoy:


Saturday, October 6, 2012


2:00 PM The Car (1977) - Movies @ Main Gets ScaryAuditorium - Main Library



Saturday, October 20, 2012


2:00 PM Island of Lost Souls (1932) - - Movies @ Main Gets ScaryAuditorium - Main Library

Check out this link for schedule/details


Also returning this October is something that I look forward to EVERY Halloween – the LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW shadow puppet play. I‘ve been telling my good friend John Davis, the most ardent Halloween enthusiast I know, about this for years, and he has yet to take me up on it. This year, John! Trust me, this is something very cool and even though it’s a kids’ play it has an ending that must be seen to be believed. Creepy, spooky Halloween fun. What could be better this time of year? It takes place 4pm on the last two weekends of the month, the 19th, 20th, 26th, and 27th. Mad Science approved! Highly Recommended!!

Finally there is the Nashville Library podcast, the LEGENDS OF FILM PODCAST. Hosted by Bill Chamberlain, this is a series of in-depth conversations with award winning directors, producers, screenwriters, actors and others in the film industry that you monster-kids will love. Bill really knows his stuff and has interviewed a variety of guests including Walter Hill, Stuart Gordon, Philip Kaufman, Sara Karloff, Larry Cohen, Joe Dante and many more. This podcast is available through itunes and you can find them on the library webpage here. In addition there is also a second podcast from the library called the Popmatic Podcast, and links to it are on that page as well.




 Visit the library webpage to find out about all of these and even more cool events happening at the Nashville Library. You won’t regret it and if you make it out for any events tell them Dr. Gangrene sent you! The Nashville Public Library is located at 615 Church Street, Nashville, Tennessee 37219. There is a parking garage that offers free parking for the first hour and tickets can be validated at the desk for special events.








Tuesday, September 11

The Abominable Dr. Preston

Check out this incredible cover for upcoming issue #29 of LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS. This wonderful illustration of Vincent Price as The Abominable Dr. Phibes was done by my pal Jeff Preston. Now here's the thing about Jeff that makes this even more impressive... He works in MARKERS! Yes, markers. Ink. Like you use on school projects. And this is what he achieves.

Now this particular piece was a mixed media piece, illustrated in markers and finished digitally. Look at that use of color, the shadow play on his face,  subtle shadings. Color me impressed!

To find out more about Jeff or to hire him for your next project, check out his website at: http://jeffpreston.net/


Cult Fiction Underground!! and the Black Raven Emporium


A couple of days ago I posted about the Belcourt Theater in Nashville. Well, today I want to tell you guys about another of Nashville's treasures, Logue's Black Raven Emporium, home of Cult Fiction Underground. Run by owner Robert Logue and his wife Cemile, the Black Raven Emporium is a wonderfully quirky shop offering a unique assortment of goodies ranging from vintage clothing and custom t-shirts to used books, DVDs and more. As my friend Randy Fox wrote  in a 2011 article about the Black Raven in the Nashville Scene newspaper -  Think classic department store filtered through 30 years of goth-punk-retro culture. 



The store is located at the corner of Trinity Lane and Gallatin Rd. in East Nashville. On the other side of the building is our favorite tattoo shop, LONE WOLF Body Art. A terrific article about both businesses ran in the March-April issue of the East Nashvillian magazine. (Ben, by the way, is the guy who did my first and only tattoo. I wouldn't have trusted it to anyone else. He is an amazing artist as are all the artists at Lone Wolf. Highly recommended).

But as if that wasn't enough, below the Black Raven lurk even more delights. That's where monster kids in the Nashville area thrill weekly to a creepy and kooky blend of movies in the Cult Fiction Underground! Robert Logue and Bob Slendorn are partners in this subterranean cinematic adventure which consists of a small cozy theater and well stocked bar. It is a truly cool place to hang out and they are showing some fantastic features - everything from classics like Phantasm and Lemora to not-so-classics such as Gorgo and Wild Zero. They also hold special events like the H.P.Lovecraft art show, which featured matching Lovecraft short films shown throughout the evening. 
Check out this interview with Cult Fiction partners Logue and Slendorn at the Monsters from the Basement page here 



Any place that hangs a Barnabas portrait on the wall is ok by me!!

So definitely swing by the Black Raven Emporium for the Cult Fiction Underground some Friday or Saturday night. It is a guaranteed good time with good people. 

Mad Science approved - upcoming films are:
Brain Damage - Sept 21-22, 2012
Basket Case - 28-29, 2012




Basket Case! Yes!! I will definitely be there!!

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