Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Post of Christmas Passed.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas.

To all of you, from the ol' Skull & Pumpkin pub.

Cheers...

... and
DUMDUMSHREKPOP!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You'd better watch out, infinity.

I hope you are all enjoying your week leading up to That Other Holiday.

For me, it means a nice long visit to the old family home in Southern California, where I've been since the 13th.

Not my Grandmother's house, but the house where my immediate family grew up, in the San Fernando Valley.

It's been wondrous. My sister and her husband and children still make the old house their home; being Hallowe'en people, they have plenty of year-round spookiness on display, even during Christmas.

I thought I'd just show a few examples of how Hallowe'en lives there all the year long. I took these pictures just yesterday... it really is like this in my family.

I'm not about to show off the whole house -- this one bedroom should give you an idea:












Talk about a little Hallowe'en in Christmas.

So cool.


Enjoy your Other Holiday, all of you. Feel free to stop by the ol' S&P all along. I may still be posting little things here and there, but of course, family beckons.

DDSP!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

You'd better watch out, the part after that.

We've been discussing Hallowe'en in Christmas; that is, Christmas movies which intentionally feature overtly scary images or actual Hallowe'en rituals. In other words, they did it on purpose.

But there is another category of 'scary in the merry', and that would have to be the Inadvertently Terrifying Christmas Film... perhaps best exemplified in the ridiculously-loaded-with-terror Santa Claus (1959).

Originally made in Mexico by Rene Cardona, Santa Claus was brought to the English-speaking world by K. Gordon Murray (for which he should be rotting in Hell). Dubbed and gussied up, it has become a favorite among Junk Cinema afficionados for its bizarre, rambling narrative, insane visuals and outright creepiness.

You can read reviews and synopses for this movie all over the 'Net; it's that popular.

Basically Santa ends up battling Ol' Pitch for the sake of the kiddies' happiness and goodness on Christmas.

Looking like an Hispanic Jamie Farr, prancing and posing his way through Hell, Pitch mugs and whimpers, points and chuckles, and generally annoys and creeps you out.

At one point he even implores his infernal Boss to not feed him ice cream, as it's bad for his digestion... yeah, just what we need to picture on Christmas -- a gay Mexican devil with diarrhea.

I flashed on this devil some years later when I first viewed Captain de Zita as the Devil in Eddie Wood's Glen or Glenda (1954):Both very Farr-esque.

At any rate, the scariest thing in this whole scary movie is an incredible dream-dance sequence with these hideous, ugly dolls.

The little girl is dreaming of the dolls, because she wants a doll so badly, but she doesn't want to steal to get one (Pitch is in her ear as she sleeps, making the dream a nightmare)... she's a cute little kid, too. But those DOLLS!!! Holy God... the only way to really know how hideous they are is to see them move, and hear their creaking, croaking mewlings:


I am sure Cardona (and Murray after him) wanted the movie to make kids laugh and think and be entertained, but I am fairly sure they had no idea how terrifying this movie was to kids.

And for that, they have incurred from me a curious blend of gratitude and wrath.

I first saw this film late one Christmas week night when I was in my early teens, and it's been a stomach-turning favorite ever since.

Oh, those dolls...

Monday, December 21, 2009

And a little Christmas in Hallowe'en.

A brief note:

I have added my a cappella version of Winter Wonderland to the Jukebox.

Just me and 6 vocal tracks, guessing at arrangement as I went. Laughed at the result, and love it still.

Enjoy.

Now back to our regularly scheduled Hallowe'en in Christmas series of posts.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

You'd better watch out, the next part.

So we were discussing a bit of Hallowe'en in Christmas movies...

Of course the most obvious creepy Christmas tale is Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol, and all of the myriad films, plays, 'toons and other media it has inspired since its publication in 1843 (on December 19th, by the way; I was only a day off!).

All manner of adaptations of A Christmas Carol can be seen online, and most are available on video. I'm quite sure you have at least two or three in your own library.

Each version of the tale has its spooky images, some scarier than others. For example, this version of The Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come is from the Albert Finney musical Scrooge (1970):

Pretty creepy, but not necessarily any more imposing or dreadful than most other variations... until this happens:

Yeah, it's a bit of a shocker when you're a kid... but for real terror, real creep-out giddiness, one needed only to view Richard Williams' incredible animated version from 1971, wherein we are treated to the hideous, pathetic figures of Ignorance and Want:



Scared the Xmas out of me every time it was shown on TV when I was a little guy, and still manages to chill even now.

Actually, this version was pretty brave to show them (not all versions have), but I wish they'd found the extra ten seconds to have the Ghost of Christmas Present speak the full dialogue from the book:

'They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon
them. 'And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.
This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both,
and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy,
for on his brow I see that written which is Doom,
unless the
writing be erased. Deny it.' cried the Spirit, stretching out
its hand towards the city. 'Slander those who tell it ye.
Admit it for your factious purposes and make it worse!
And abide the end.'

Amen, Brother Dickens.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

You'd better watch out, the first part.

I believe there should always be a bit of Scary in the Merry.

Of course, I am not the only one who thinks so. Dickens, Clarke, Burton, King, Bradbury... happily, the Yuletide is often the Ghoultide.

I thought I'd post a few examples.

Now, some don't consider Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) a Christmas movie, but don't tell me that. Premiering in St. Louis the day before Thanksgiving 1944 and nationally released the following week, it features Judy Garland's introduction of the now-classic Christmas song Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, it runs on cable all the time during December, and was packaged with Bing Crosby's White Christmas on DVD just this year... it's a Christmas movie.

But when Tootie (Margaret O'Brien) decides to 'kill' Mr. Brockoff by flinging flour in his face on Hallowe'en night in 1903, it briefly becomes one hell of a Hallowe'en film.

"I AM the most horrible! I AM!"


This scene makes me yearn for Hallowe'en something terrible.

Now, I know I declared the Skull & Pumpkin a Post-Hallowe'en Blues Free Zone. It's still true; besides, I think 'Post-Hallowe'en' probably ends before Thanksgiving. At this point, it's more like Pre-Hallowe'en Blues (a less egregious, more correct use of 'pre', Mandy and Jules!)... and as such, it's not blues, but something different.

Longing. That's it.

And I never declared this pub a PRE-Hallowe'en Longing Free Zone. If anything, the whole place is one big Hallowe'en Longing Zone.

Long away, long away, long away all!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I was a spoiled, spoiled, spoiled bastard.

Ah, well. Been away for a bit, sorry about that.

I hope you've come by the ol' S&P anyway, and made yourselves comfortable. There may not always be new tales to tell, but the door's always open here. You all know that.

The ridiculous length of this post should make up for it.

As 'That Other Holiday' rapidly approaches, most of us have all kinds of things to do.

Planning, traveling, guessing, stressing, and the shopping, my God yes, the shopping.

No one gripes more about the stress of the Season than those who celebrate it most maniacally (and people think I'm nuts for liking Hallowe'en more).

Still, Christmas was always so much fun, and goodness knows that with my parents and my 1,217 siblings living in a box made for a deck of Bicycle Playing Cards, a fun Christmas was a near-miracle.

And somehow they pulled it off each and every year... with serious, serious success.

I look back on the things I received from my parents, much of which I still have but most of which went the way of old clothes and young waistlines, and I realize that I was a lucky, undeserving, spoiled, spoiled bastard.

OH, Mom will say 'What do you mean undeserving?' and I'll say 'I'm just being dramatic', and in her happiness she'll run off and get me something else totally awesome and completely undeserved and the cycle starts all over again.

I did do a Thankfulness post on my folks, right?

At any rate, I received or enjoyed others' receiving a lot of really, really cool stuff for That Other Holiday when I was young, and I thought I'd indulge myself (this is a 'blog and a pub after all; indulgence is required) and show you some of that really really cool stuff.

First up, a few things I never received personally but my 4,367 siblings always let me enjoy, and the very look and feel of them bring back Christmas very vividly.

Oh yes, the Space Fidgit. Swirling, finger-driven joy.
I can feel that
thin, little plastic octagon even now.

More swirling joy, this time from the hypnotizing Magic Window. I still have no idea what
'Microdium' is, or how they made crystals from it,
or even if it would kill you to eat it.
A really marvelous product.


Being the monster kid I surely was, I mostly got horror, sci-fi and fantasy-related gifts from a very early age. Mostly...

In no particular order, I give you a few.
The infamous and desirable Kenner ALIEN 18" figure from 1979. Coolest not-from-this-world creature design ever (don't argue). I still have mine (from Christmas of '79!) proudly displayed.

An odd bit of ALIEN merchandise from that same year; a jigsaw puzzle of the
Alien xenomorph inside a sickly green alien egg. LOVED it!


Sci-Fi things have always been fascinating to me, and even though I'm a Hallowe'en, Monster and Horror lover at heart, the space toys and games were always a delight and a launch pad for creative adventures with my 17,003 brothers.
On what we still recall as the Greatest Christmas Ever, Joe and I received the Star
Trek Communicator walkie-talkies AND Phasers!

The Entex/Actronics Space Invader handheld LED game. The mere look of this is Christmas to me. I spent a million hours with this prehistoric and awesome 'video' game.

My brother Joe (#24,547) got this very popular Epoch Galaxy II tabletop game when it first came out in 1981. We played it incessantly. I can still hear the beeps, music and click-clacking of the 'Fire' button. And just look at the vivid and colorful display:
Just heaven.

And then there were Micronauts... oh yes.

Micronauts need a place to live. We built a hundred different futuristic cities for them with this 1980 kit. Later, we'd find pieces strewn among rooms and sometimes awake with pieces stuck to our cheeks or backs.

Ah... BARON KARZA!. A magnetic ball-socket jointed master of Space Evil.


Antron. An evil Alien Micronaut. Half Ant, half... um, Ron, I suppose. Had a glow-in-the-dark brain on the back of his head. I could never tell if he was a pirate, a fisherman, a plumber or a chimney sweep, but with all those arms, I suppose he could've been all at once.

And now...
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Hornetroid... the absolute coolest vehicle accessory ever made for any toy line in the history of toy lines that had cool vehicle accessories. A tool of Evil Aliens (so why wouldn't I like it best?), the Hornetroid flew around my house powered by my little hands and would rain his orange plastic wrath on Micronauts, Strawberry Shortcake, Weebles and even my Dad's H-O trains.

Monsters, though, were always the main focus of my life, and my folks never forgot it. True, I never let them forget it... but when I consider that there was no Internet, were no specialty Monster shops that I knew anything about, and no real way for them to know what was available and what I'd enjoy, I am astounded that they were able to consistently surprise and overwhelm me with things I didn't even know existed!

I think perfect gifting for kids is an art and skill that not many people have. My parents sure did, though.

How else to explain their unerring Monster sense to find things like:

The incredible Monster Gallery Coloring Book (Troubadour Press, 1974). A very special memory for me, this book and its sibling Science Fiction Anthology were pure treasure, only to be colored with parental guidance, using markers like these:
... to give life to pictures like these beauties:
I think we had three or four copies of Monster Gallery in our home, and at least a few of the Sci-Fi version. I know every detail, I pored over them that often.

Of course, sometimes it's fun to make the coloring pages yourself, then color them in:
The Mighty Men & Monster Maker (Tomy, 1978) let us do just that, for hours on end. Mix n' match heads, torsos, legs and feet, rub the black outline crayon over the paper atop the plates ('just like a grave rubbing', my Dad was quick to inform me), and start coloring. Magic.

Of course there are other ways to make Monsters. In the 70's, the Glow-in-the-Dark Aurora Monster Model Kits were my preferred method of Creature Creatin':I had most of these at one time or other, and figured this nice shot
of all of them would be best. Wolfy was my favorite.

And what about Monsters that had already been made?

Mego's Mad Monsters (introduced in 1974) remain one of the neatest gifts I ever received. I didn't get them all at once, of course. My 342,015 brothers had the others, I had the Horrible Mummy. Time and trade got the rest to me at some point.


Whether for Christmas, birthdays or any other celebratory-gift-giving occasion, these classic Imagineering make up items were staples. Scar Stuff, the waxy, fibrous pink clay of horror, and my favorite tube of colored gel, Vampire Blood! I'd kill to have these again... oh! the memories.

Speaking of vampires, blood and colored goo... Gre-Gory The Big Bad Vampire Bat (Mattel, 1979) was one of the weirdest, coolest things my mom ever found for me. I had no idea such a thing was around, but somehow she found it. There's something so cool about opening this kind of hideous thing on Christmas morning!

You pressed/pumped a rectangular section of rubber on his back, and fake blood would course through the clear guts-n-ribs torso. Dubiously disgusting fun, thy name is Gre-Gory.


But you know, the single most pervasive and wistful little stocking stuffer memory has to be this odd little guy, sometime in the early 70's... I don't know why, to this day, the cute little fella below has just been Christmas to me ever since.
FunStuffs produced the Pet Ghost in the 70's, and for some silly reason I recall
the one and only time I ever received one from Santa in my
stocking as being some monumental gifting miracle. I don't know why the
little ghost-on-a-thread made such an impact, but there it is; this very picture
puts me right back there in .000004 seconds.


Well, as this very LONG post has been exclusively about getting, and not giving, material goods, I would not blame the visitor for going away from this post thinking I was a selfish, shallow, materialistic kid.

But it's entirely untrue.

The reason for this post, the point of this endeavor, is this: These gifts are only symbols of the attention and interest your family paid to your passions; that my family found such treasures for me so often and so consistently demonstrates not that I love gifts but that they love me enough to pay attention to my passions.
Face it -- you'd love the ones you love no more or less if you'd never received a gift from any of them in your entire life.

It's not the gift. It's the gifting.

And when it comes to being loved, I will reiterate... I was (and remain) a spoiled, spoiled, spoiled bastard.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Beasts of winter.

Winter.

No, it's not quite here yet; we have to wait another ten days or so for officialitititities.

But don't tell that to the upper 2/3 of the US this week.

Yyyyeeeaaahhh... uh... Winter's arrived.

In my neck o' the woods, we've been spared the ice and snow of the last storm, but if 16 years of Ozarks living has taught me anything (besides how much bacon one can feature on a single menu), it is that between November and April, ice and snow are only a matter of time.

We didn't avoid the biting cold, though. Bbbrrrrrrr! 18F with a windchill down to 9. Fun.

Now don't mistake me, I actually love snow, especially when I've got good food, drink and diversions at the ready and roads are going to be relatively safe within 24 hours or so.

Ice, however, can bite my Hallowe'en-loving behind. Ice deserves naught but our wrath and blowtorches.

But I like Winter, honestly. The darker, chillier wintry days remind me of some of my favorite creepy things... the Beasts of Winter.


The Wampa creature from the ice planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) made such an impact on my 12-year-old brain that I spent months thinking of nothing but stories of white fur and bloody snow drifts, and drawing dark, gaping ice caves hiding glowing eyes. A great monster treat of my youth!

I used to watch The Outer Limits when I was brave enough; back then, even in the sunny afternoon that intro spooked me silly. But I remember one icy being that I could only endure for a moment before turning the channel... as luck would have it, a picture of this same frozen nightmare found its way into my hard drive recently. Still chilling.


Of course, I cannot think of ice, snow and monsters without thinking immediately of that veggie-being from the depths of the cosmos, The Thing From Another Planet (1951)!

James Arness' alien 'thing' thrilled me as a kid, and still does.

I do love the bizarre, unique and truly memorable forms that same alien 'thing' took on in John Carpenter's groundbreaking remake of The Thing in 1982.

'Spiderhead' was just amazing, as was the disgusting and delightful slimy Dog-topus creature... yuck!


Now, when you grow up in southern California, you don't really have a lot of experience with ice and snow. Really, you don't have much Winter at all. So you make due with what Winter can be manufactured... and if that fake freeziness comes with a big, hairy, roaring snowbeast in his ice caves, so so so much the better!

I was ten in 1978 when Disneyland opened a newly restored, redesigned and re-themed Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction -- this time featuring the loudest, coolest damned beast the Park had ever boasted. I loved it, and rode it as often as I could whenever we'd visit the Park.

Yeah. Come around a track going a billion miles an hour and have this thing roar at you, swiping and barely missing your head. Awesome.

If that Matterhorn Monster could walk in the snow for real, I wonder if it would leave a track like this:

Yeah, yeah, this is from a 'real' snow monster. Allegedly. Who knows?
When I was little, my Dad had a book (maybe it was Mom's, but I always recall seeing it among Dad's things) by famed cryptozoologist/explorer Ivan Sanderson, all about the Abominable Snowman. I never read it, but the painted cover of the yellowed paperback always filled me with real dread, and fixed in my mind's eye the accepted look of a real snowbeast:

(This is not the full cover; it's the picture I recall from the original cover, but someone added
this silly cave motif to frame it... the original was the beast you see here trudging among the peaks
of the Himalayas... windswept and desolate and terrifyingly cool to my little mind!)


Then again, some snowmen are more abominable than others.

Some are just plain stupid. Take this little snowhead, Jack Frost:
NOT the cute, loveable Michael Keaton Jack Frost (1998) but the very bad serial killer slasher film Jack Frost from 1996. So terrible it got a sequel. So terrible it was worth mentioning.

I can't really leave out another monstrous beast named Jack chasing down his prey in icy climes...


He gets his in the end... but he must have known it was only fair. I mean, Jack Torrance had to know, even in the depths of his alcoholic, evil spirit-driven rage of madness, that he would never match up to the greatest, most memorable Snow Monster of all time...

Oh yeah! That's right! Raise the aurora-laden roof!


How can you beat the Bumble? Claws down winner!



As I wrote earlier, I love snow and hate ice, but generally enjoy Winter. It can be dreadfully cold, but with monsters added, Winter can also be very, very cool.


By the way... Bumbles bounce.