Saturday, October 30, 2010

one scary night

"My ass!"

I put together a little treat that I hoped would do the trick if you were looking to get into the Halloween spirit, but I couldn't get it to download onto this blog no matter what I tried. Please click to visit my YouTube channel and view One Dark Night. The above picture I meant to include in the collage but somehow overlooked!

I wonder if anyone (other than Brer) can identify the theme music?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Race With the Devil

Another bit of classic 70's horror, filmed on location in San Antonio, Castroville, Bandera, and Leakey, Texas, released in 1975. In the wake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Central Texas seemed to be the new Transylvania. For those of us from the area, it added another layer of fear, seeing such familiar terrain and people as the backdrop to a tale of terror, this being one of the worst kind: Satanic horror!

Folks from the San Antonio area might be amused to see the old Alamo Speedway at the beginning of the movie, along with a cameo by local legend/radio personality Ricci Ware as a racing official.

This is a genuinely scary and fun movie, with acting a cut above the usual of the genre, and a simple straightforward plot that keeps you hooked.


Friday, October 22, 2010


Mickey and the Haunted House. Another Halloween must. The whole cartoon is great by the way, but the music is really fun. In this 1929 short you can see a pretty rare example of Disney's recycling some animation cycles: some of the dancing skeleton scenes are taken from , logically enough, Skeleton Dance, a Silly Symphony from the year before. Even so, they have some fun with it by having the wind blow away all but the dancing legs!

By the way, I finished Blatty's sequel to The Exorcist, entitled Legion. This was the source to the movie Exorcist III. Oh, what an unholy mess, pun of course intended. It was not all bad, but it was so perfunctorily resolved after an immense build-up, it made me envision Blatty really working hard until the check from the publishers cleared, and then just sewing it up ASAP so he could hit the horse tracks.

Kinderman, the pre-Columbo Columboesque detective is the star of this one, and he is transformed into something of a Jewish mystic. In fact, the whole tale seems to have been written to support his philosophy that Lucifer was the big bang, an explosion of matter into a previously only spiritual universe, and that we are all part of him, trying to find our way back to God. Throw the oh-so-popular early 80's go-to topics of serial killers and televangelists, and you got yourself a sequel sir.

Even the book adds in the back of this 1983 paperback were a degradation from the awesome crap of the 70's. Here we have adds for V.C. Andrews "greatest" releases. I suppose I shouldn't mock, I have never read any V.C. Andrews. But still...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

'Magic' is Fun!

The year:1978.

The place: The Dixie Drive-in.

Ah, yes, good times. Mom loaded up the kids and took us to a double feature: The Phantom of the Paradise and Magic. Never mind that on the way to the theater a small pick-up swerved around us completely out of control , slamming into a telephone pole and vaporizing its unfortunate occupant before our eyes. Shaken and in shock we crept our way through the darkened traffic lights to the drive-in, glass from the wreck still glittering the hood of our car. We were not in too much shock to know Phantom kind of sucked and that Magic was pretty damn good.

Not so much a horror story as a psychological murder/romance, concerning Corky, a successful ventriloquist/magician/comedian, (played brilliantly by a young Anthony Hopkins), and his dissolution into madness as his Dummy alter-ego, Fats, starts calling the shots for the otherwise meek and sensitive entertainer.

Of course there is horror involved. Somehow things can never go well when you put a dummy in charge, (as all voters know) and people who stand in the way of Corky's re-connecting with his childhood dream girl (Ann Margaret) start finding themselves the victims of Dummicide.

The movie is based on a novel by William Goldman, and there was always some speculation on the side that Fats may not just be a fragment of Corky's psyche, but a malevolent force that sought to possess him, an idea that is fed primarily by a scene in the movie that shows Corky raging at the seated Dummy, whose eyes move around without Corky there to manipulate them!

I heard in the director's commentary on the DVD that it was an error that was left in just to bedevil viewers. Nice!

I have watched Magic several times over the years, and have a certain fondness for it. It has one of the most memorable previews ever, as shown above. "Magic is FUN...We're dead..."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Trick or Treat!

One of my "must see" viewings every Halloween is "Trick or Treat", a Donald Duck short featuring Donald, his nephews, and a friendly old hag named Witch Hazel. This song is fun and catchy. I can hardly ever say the phrase "trick or treat" without hearing this song in my head!

We had a great comic book story version of this for years before ever seeing the cartoon, and the phrase "Whiskers from ye billy goat!" was much quoted from it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Legend of Boggy Creek

This one haunted my childhood , seen by seemingly everyone but the members of my family. I remember camping out with some relatives who had seen the movie, and they chilled and regaled us with various scenes from the movie. (The guy being hassled by Bigfoot while sitting on the pot was a fave!) Years later I got the movie on DVD and finally got to see it. Whoo-ee, a bit of a stinker, but for all it's cheap glory it managed to weave a pretty effective atmosphere, and its' documentary style (aside from the weird musical interlude) really made it fun. When I got the DVD I was shocked to see it was rated 'G', so infamous a film of terror! Then I watched it...Is there anything milder than 'G'? Still it spooked my son and nephew when we watched it, especially when I slipped out of the room and then came back in in a gorilla mask!

I read The Exorcist this week, continuing my October habit of reading great works of horror, and really enjoyed it. I was impressed at how closely the movie stayed with the book, save for a few minor dead-end side plots. But what really gave me a blast of the nostalgia of growing up in the weirdness of the early 70's era that spawned both Boggy and Exorcist, was the Bantam book order form in the back of the old paperback copy that I read.
....In Search of...Extraterrestrials by Alan and Sally Landsburg
....The Devil's Triangle by Richard Winer
....In Search of Ancient Mysteries by Alan and Sally Landsburg
....Not of This World by Peter Kolosimo
....The Reincarnation of Peter Proud by Max Ehrlich
....Chariots of the Gods by Erich Von Daniken
....A Complete guide to the Tarot by Eden Gray
....Gods From Outer Space by Erich Von Daniken
....The Outer Space Connection by Alan and Sally Landsburg.

Kind of brings it all back, eh? (BTW, all were in the $1.25-$1.95 range...sigh...)

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Spirit is Willing

Do you remember this movie? It was in fairly heavy rotation on TV when I was growing up, but now seems to have slipped into the mists of time. The things that stood out in my memory were first the theme, which, as it turns out was written by the same guy that wrote the Addams family theme, and the ghost of the wacky lady in the red nightie. She always scared me, even though she was played for pretty broad laughs. Turns out this was produced by Master Schkockmeister William Castle! I saw the guy who plays the teenage son , Barry Gordon, on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm the other day playing an old Rabbi. I always think of him as that nebbishy kid from The Spirit is Willing!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

When Vampires Didn't Suck (as such)

Last evening I finished doing something that I have wanted to do for many years. Every October, I tell myself I really ought to re-read Dracula, seeing as I was a high school freshman the one and only time I read it. It affected me powerfully then, bringing vivid dreams and (I must confess) the very brief but memorable placing of garlic in my bedroom window.
It still packs quite the punch, though I haven't busted out with any garlic (yet!).
Stoker did an amazing job of weaving this complex tale through the first person point of view of numerous different people from different classes, sexes, and nationalities, in a very convincing way. I admired the novel from a technical as well as an entertainment standpoint, and though the Victorian prose sometimes got a bit thick, it was much more fast-paced and accessible than I remembered.
Movies have never gotten the Count just right, but for my money, the BBC's Count Dracula got the closest. My brother and I were such fans of this version we made an audio cassette recording of it when it re-played on PBS in the pre-VCR year (for us anyway) year of 1979. The cast was great, Louis Jourdan brought a suave yet decayed European elegance to the Count, and the true star of the show, Van Helsing, was played to absolute perfection by Frank Finlay. The haunting theme music performed the sublime miracle of capturing everything about Dracula: it was haunting, powerful, menacing, hypnotic, yearning, malevolent,...sad. Amazing.
I won't bore you with rants about how much vampire stuff mostly blows in this Twilight era. You know it and I know it. The modern twisting of the vampire myth to make the daemonic desirable is but one of the many illustrations existing in entertainment today that celebrates the spiritual degradation of the current zeitgeist. See The Monsters Among Us in my archive for more on that if you want.
If you haven't read Dracula, or read it a long time ago, do yourself a favor and enjoy it. If you have never seen The BBC's Count Dracula, track it down and see what I mean.
And keep the garlic handy!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Dark Secret of Harvest Home

1978. The Golden Age of "made for TV " movies!

I haven't seen this movie since then, but I remember it well. Bette Davis' performance as the Widow Fortune was powerful scary. (She reminded me of Mrs. Tennyson, my 7th grade Reading teacher at that time!) Later, when I was in 10th grade I read the Thomas Tryon novel Harvest Home on which this mini-series was based, and really enjoyed it as well. The great combination of Fall/Harvest imagery and ancient/pagan ritual made for a very evocative seasonal impression, that has stuck with me for all these years.

I have waited for years for this movie to be released, it is available on DVD only in bootlegs; some old VHS copies are still floating around for sale. It is available for viewing on YouTube and I think I shall watch it there. ( Might not be the best quality, but hey, after 32 years, who cares?)

Tryon also wrote another good book, The Other, which also had a memorable movie made from it, about a little boy on a New England farm, who is haunted by the spirit of his less than innocent dead twin . Reading Tryon, Stephen King, and H.P. Lovecraft at this time convinced me that it was a very good thing that New England was on the other end of the country from me!