Ah! Come in, come in... the chatter and the good company continue!
Of late the patrons of this place have been privy to some interesting storytelling and a bit of philosophizing, and I thought I would recount some of this and add my own thoughts (what is it with these annoying, attention-grabbing pubkeeps?).
Again, these comments can be read directly at the bottom of each post but I'd just like to give some attention to them up front, in their own post.
"I spent a lot of my childhood in that pose. I especially remember ducking down to the empty cup and wrapper level when the movie house ran a scary preview..."
Boy, I never did that, Fester. Ever. *ahem!*
Smartly ignoring my lame interruption, Fes continues : "On TV, the horror movies and previews were a little easier to watch. Although my mother likes to tell the story about me at six, watching the afternoon kid show (Kimbo the Clown?) and the TV station ran a Godzilla ad. She was in the kitchen and heard Godzilla roar and me scream. She ran into the living room and found me wedged between the sofa and the wall..."
I have no idea what you looked like as a child, but I can easily see a child doing that... again, not that I ever did such things myself... except for this time when I was 7 or 8 and was home from school because I (seriously!) had a lousy cold, and in the middle of KHJ 9's mid-morning Laurel & Hardy shorts an ad for The Exorcist came flashing, roaring out of the TV set. They didn't even show her face, just stills of Ellen Burstyn's horrified face and the growling, demonic voice...
No sofas or walls for me -- I ran screaming down the hallway into my room and jumped into my bed with the sheets up to my face, staring at the door to the hallway and waiting for that hideous demon girl to come get me.
Nothing like that ever happened to me again, though. I mean, not any time that I feel like admitting right now.
Then, Fester makes such a sad statement (sad to me anyway!):
"Yet somehow, I managed to grow up a sort of normal person. Not sure what the turning point was."
Sad, but true -- most of us Hallowe'en and Monster Lovin' Kids manage, in spite of the seeming odds, to grow up sort of a normal person.
In truth, I know it's a darn good thing to grow up and out of your fears, a happy thing. But sometimes we can still lament the lost thrill of those more innocent days. Max, that drunken severed head I mentioned last time, addresses this very issue:
"Hang onto your memories, folks, 'cause you can't capture again all of the magic from (when) you were a tadpole and you watched monsters on the little and big screens.
Just watched KING KONG ESCAPES for the first time since I saw it at the Razorback Drive-In with my mother, shortly before she passed on. It was fun, but it wasn't the wonderfully overstimulating, baffling, wizardry-laden buzz trip that it had been when I was 5 or 6. (Yeah, I know, KKE's a lousy example, but the point remains.)"
Well, no one's going to argue about that movie's lousiness, as an example or otherwise, I agree. But yes, the point remains and is well taken.
Like Fester, Max mentions leaving childhood:
"I grew up, mostly, but I miss that kinda full-throttle openness to the fantastic. 'Course, I'm smarter than I was then, and I've gained new levels of appreciation, but there is a part of one that can never go back to The October Country."
I know the feeling, and see what you're getting at, Max. Being the romantic sentimentalist I've always been, I prefer to think that we can return to that far, Fall country in one piece -- we just can't fit into all the corners there, hide in all the shadows, as we once did. Those places mean something different now because of those 'turning points' Fester mentioned (though they are different for everybody), and you're right, we are smarter (mostly) and appreciate things on other levels.
Maybe it's all just semantics and wistful (and wishful) thinking, but I think The October Country grows as I get older, even as I outgrow my clothes -- I mean, outgrow my childhood thrills and chills...
(Hhhmmm... a little too Grither-ish for comfort...)
I really enjoy reading your thoughts and stories, everyone.
I hope everyone else enjoys my posting them.
More books, knick-knacks, and even an interview or two are on their way in the coming days and weeks...
I seem to recall receivingone of these on at least two different birthdays and one Christmas.
I know, best Christmas present ever, right? Well, close, but no. I believe I mentioned the Greatest Christmas Ever gifts in this post. However, this is right up there. I mean, c'mon. Ya got scars, green monster fangs and those too-awesome-for-kid-words bloodshot eyes!
Everything Imagineering Inc. ever made seemed to become a playtime constant in my young life.
By the by, I have forgotten who sent me this image, forgive me! If you're reading this, please remind me so I can credit you!
And of course, if someone out there has one of these kits they're not using at the moment... well, I've talked too long for this post to be all that 'random'.
Released in 1999 and retired (makes it sound so important) in 2002, Treats For The Kids was gifted to me years ago, and I've loved it ever since.
Ostensibly, this is supposed to be a normal, human Dad and Mom dressed as our favorite classic monster couple, ready to go treating with their costumed kids, according to Dept. 56's official line for this set (#55016).
But I think this is wrong. I mean, look at them. If they're human, they've done an awfully thorough job of their make-up and she still had time to make caramel apples... plus, unless that's a mask, he's an ugly man. Ugly in a Moose Mason from Riverdale High kinda way. Can we seriously be expected to believe the obviously cute and sexy Bride next to him would have ever married such a man on purpose?
Besides, who'd be holding and eating a caramel apple if they were wearing a mask?
No, no... this is actually the real Frankenstein's Monster and his 'made-for-him' Bride giving treats to three neighborhood children. This I can accept.
The lucky trick-or-treaters are pret-ty darned cool, too:
I really love this pair. The robot is just awesome, with his little metal wire antennae and his very cool, shiny little jack o'lantern treat bucket. His eyes are a little far apart and flat under that robot box mask, though -- hhmmm, maybe he is the guy's son and they're human after all, just not very handsome -- no, no, I stick to my hypothesis. Robot Boy (Roboy?) is very cool.
His sister (I just know it is, somehow) is very fetching in her cat costume. Well, 'fetching' would be better suited to a dog costume (ba-dump-bump!) but she is very, very cute. If she wants to put her treats in a litter box it's her business. I won't harass her about it.
Their little friend, the youngest treater, seems a bit intimidated by the 'Steins, as he won't meet their gaze:
However, don't let his seeming insecurity fool you. Notice that he's the only one who thought to bring two candy conveyances, a pillowcase and a little black cauldron.
Yeah, Junior's the one to hang with, no question. He'll have double the treats and all the cavities; both make for good kid discussion.
In fact, regarding this kid's Hallowe'en partying instincts, his pillowcase says it all: I want my Mummy!
And everyone knows, the Mummy is the ultimate Hallowe'en partier! Yessir, this set is a fun and valued, if tiny, part of the menagerie of miniature monstrosities on display here.
I'll have more to say about other curiosities in the future.
I'm really enjoying the pub chatter over the "scariest version of a given monster" topic of our last post.
Discussing over a few pints our childhood (and in some cases, lingering) fears, detailing that which we viewed through our fingers, from behind sofas, in our bad dreams... this is excellent stuff.
I know you can follow the Recent Pub Talk sidebar languishing over there to your right, or even just head down to the comments section below the post, but I really want to highlight some great commentary and input on this fun topic.
Hallowe'en Spirit admitted that for her, it was "Vampires. Always vampires. Modern incarnations of Dracula in particular. Even Universal's Dracula scared me a little..."
Jules offered, "I also was terrified of both Nosferatu and the scary Frankenstein child with the weird heart thing (yeah, I kinda understand it now, but as a kid it was beyond comprehension). But, if we're talking about "Monster Movies"- then I have to say that the Peanut Twins from "Mothra" have given me more nightmares, shudders, and sleepless nights than any other. And they weren't even the bad guys."
Rest assured Jules, you'll never have to face them here at the ol' S&P.
Fester, always an intelligent, humored and valuable patron of this little place, waxed insightfully about his childhood relationships with our beloved monsters. I hope you don't mind my bringing it from the commentary to the forefront, Fes... what can I say? You put it so perfectly:
"I know what you mean about Frankenstein's creation being family, as it were. I always looked on him as my bigger and somewhat slow brother. Being the oldest brother in the real world, it was nice to have a bigger sibling in my fantasy life. The closest analog to my friend Frankie appeared when Fred Gwynne's Herman hit the TV screen.
"Of the classic Universal Monsters, most were my friends--I was a somewhat strange kid. And for some odd reason, I could see some of my real family in my cinematic kin. Dracula (Lugosi) bore a remarkable resemblance to my grandfather on my mom's side. My paternal grandfather could have been Lawrence Talbot, and my grandma resembled the bride of Frankenstein--in a nice way!- she had dark hair with gray streaks. My dad taught shop in school and he was always wearing a shop coat like Dr Frankenstein. The metal shop was in the basement of the school, and resembled a dungeon like no other classroom. And when he was welding, sometimes the mad labs illusion was complete.
"As far as the scary monsters are concerned, they were all post- Universal critters. I agree that the Frankenstein monsters became really creepy and weird in post World War II. The Frankenstein Conquers the World-era monsters were just too creepy, and few had any shred of humanity. However, for my money one of the creepiest man made monsters was Whit Bissell’s creation “Bob” in I was a Teenage Frankenstein. Man! The first time his face was revealed, I about lost it. Talk about acne from hell!
"Wolf men were a bit more sympathetic. Most of them could not control their urges. And even Michael Landon’s version was just a guy with raging hormones--albeit his raged more than those of most guys!The totally creepy Eddie Quits was frightening before he started getting hairy. He was only augmenting his own sadistic self.
I’ve rambled on enough for one sitting. I’ll turn the time back to you!"
Hell, Fester, that's not rambling -- around here, that's just an avid Hallowe'en & Monster Lovin' Kid's two cents! Amen to all of it, and keep it coming!
Finally (for now), Max (a drunken, severed head) had this to say about the monsters that chilled and thrilled him when he was just un cabeza pequeña:
"The only classic monster to frighten me as a child was the Karloff and Strange versions of the Frankenstein Monster, as seen in photos of the mag FAMOUS MONSTERS. Both men had unusual features that were perfect for putting the monster makeup on, and I was haunted by them. Yet at the same time THE MUNSTERS and MILTON THE MONSTER were my favorite shows on tv! I was enthralled and fascinated with the Universal incarnation of Shelley's immortal creature, seeing it as both a suffering, friendly but unpredictably dangerous being. From those early years to today, this version is to me "The King of All Monsters..."
This is the stuff for which the Skull & Pumpkin was made, the stuff on which it thrives -- friends talking horror, Hallowe'en, and all the other monstery goodness we hold as requirements for a meaningful life...
Thank you Max, Fester, Jules, Hallowe'en Spirit, each and every Autumn Person who comes to talk, listen, and celebrate the darkness by bringing their own special kind of light.
I was asked the following by a certain four-and-a-half-year-old girl recently in my care:
It's good to step back in and rest a bit, bend an elbow and an ear or two (if you have more than two ears it's your own business, but you're certainly in the right place).
While I was away, I had occasion to involve myself in a discussion about scary monsters -- yeah, I know, so surprising -- but the jist was so fun and the moment so brief that I felt like carrying it with me into the ol' S&P, to express my own thoughts and solicit yours on the topic.
Which, to you, is the scariest version of a given monster archetype? In other words, of the many interpretations of the iconic monsters, which actually scared you, or scares you still?
Not necessarily the entire film or TV program or book, etc., but the being, the character, of the given monster?
Now, I must admit that having been an avowed friend of the classic monsters since early in my childhood, I was very rarely, if ever, 'scared' by any of the famous Universal Monsters; they were my buddies, my playmates, and sometimes my confidants and comrades in adventure and fantasy.
You can't really be afraid of the Frankenstein Monster coming to 'get you' when you can see Karloff or Strange's smile underneath that heavy brow, you know? You wanted them to come 'get you' so you could go play together in the castle laboratory.
(Right? All kids wanted that, right? Right).
However, I was plenty creeped out by some non-Universal versions of the classic monsters, so here then are a few of my answers to the aforementioned question...
Now, when I was a little guy, this version of the Frankenstein Monster used to scare the yell out of me:
It is the creature as portrayed by one Charles Ogle for Thomas Edison's 1910 silent film Frankenstein. When I look at it now I see Gilda Radner or Phyllis Diller, but when I was 4 and 5, it creeped me out.
Other than that, I was never frightened of ol' Franky... until sometime in the mid '70s when KTLA 5 (bless 'em) ran the ridiculous, baffling and laughable Frankenstein Conquers The World (1966). This thing 'coming to get me' gave me nightmares!
You'd have to see the film to know what makes this so damned creepy but I really don't want to do that to you. Let me just say that this is a kind of hybrid of the original Frankenstein Monster's heart, a Nazi scientist, radiation from Hiroshima (not kidding) and the apparent immortal-regeneration powers of the original Frankenstein Monster.
Seriously, this is a giant bio-regen offshoot of The Monster, growing bigger every day because of his intake of protein (they say it a trillion times so it must be so), lingering Hiroshima radiation and his Franken-heart.
It still makes no sense to me, but just try to look at this freak through the eyes of a suburban American child in the '70s:
He's a deformed, retarded Japanese 'boy-made-huge' with horrible teeth who looks like a Pakuni from Land of the Lost and can't speak but for the occasional grunt and roar. Not a terribly PC reason for being scared but a child's fear-trigger is rarely polite -- this utterly foreign (in concept and location) 'Frankenstein' scared me to pieces as a kid. So, personal answer #1, Chaka here is the scariest Frankenstein ever.
Now, this next part is a tiny bit dark, but needed in order to answer the question at hand. I will not be swearing or showing violent gore but little kids and sensitive grown-ups need not continue.
Next, personal answer #2: the scariest werewolf of all time is Eddie Quist (played by Rob Picardo) in The Howling (1981).
Anyone visiting the Skull & Pumpkin who is over the age of 30 has seen this film, and can't really argue. Pound for pound, human form to wolf form, there is no more perfectly evil, filthy, ravenous werewolf than Eddie Quist.
To begin, the sick freak could not be a lycanthrope at all and still be one of the sickest freaks ever -- he's a serial killer with a psycho-sexual bent and a penchant for stalking his prey in sex houses and the like... I mean, just look at 'im: Looks like a totally messed up David Cross, doesn't he? He's drug-addled, rabid, smelly, and about to dig into his own temple with his cruddy fingers to remove a piece of his own brain (to give to Dee Wallace while delivering a most memorable bit of classic early '80s horror film dialogue)!
All before turning into... this: Loooooook at that snarling, salivating, psychotic beast. Matted, filth-caked, wiry-haired, mangy, stinking, sweaty, bloody, beady-eyed evil that also happens to be like 12 feet tall, I swear. Okay, maybe more like 7 or 8. Point is, standing below it, you won't care about the exact height. Not for very long, at any rate.
I don't know how to put it any better -- the irredeemably evil Hell beast you see above? In his OFF TIME he's a serial rapist-killer-self-mutilator.
Can't tell me any other werewolf even comes close in pure terror. Oh, the beast from An American Werewolf In London could shred him to ribbons in short order, but for pure scariness, look no further than Eddie.
Vampires have never scared me. I take that back -- suave, intelligent, dashing Count Dracula-type vampires have never scared me.
But their less civilized, more barbaric, animalistic brethren have always been frightening to me, and even now, the idea of some lumbering, groping night thing casting about for warm blood (human or otherwise) in the dark forests of eastern Europe is unsettling... especially this late at night.
Vampires, Zombies & Monster Men (1975) was a book my cousins had when we were young. In it resides a painting whose subject is, to my way of thinking, a nigh-perfect example of the latter type of vampire. I give you personal answer #3, my scariest Vampire, The Phantom of Croglin Grange: Now, this is a UK legend, not eastern European, but still... to a kid it all wraps into one. Besides, the bald, pocked, pointy-eared thing reminded me so immediately of another terrifying vampire: Yes, Nosferatu (1922)'s Count Orlock might have been a 'Count' but he was no Lugosi lover man; Orlock was an animal, a fiendish plague rat on two legs, whose infectious bite destroyed not just your life but your soul.
This look was borrowed (some would say simply ripped off) and enhanced for the classic teleplay of Stephen King's Salem's Lot (1979)...
Here, Reggie Nalder plays the big-fanged, balding, berobed bastard bloodsucker Barlow. His demonic eyes and craggy, ancient features are nearly as terrifying as Orlock's.
So, what say you? Which versions of classic monster archetypes have ever scared you?
I've been so busy picking up some much-needed Winter work that I've been unable to put together any decently Hallowe'en-ish posts this week.
I hate that.
Turns out it may be another few days before I can get to it, which bugs me because I love hanging out here.
With the beautiful opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, I thought a brief but fun post would be this glimpse of an old, obscure set of ooky spooky trading cards:
Monster Olympics, UK, circa early '80s
It is a relatively rare and odd set... this first set only had 18 cards, and a second reportedly had some 50 cards, but neither set was officially released in the U.S. and not being a big card expert, I can't say much more than "COOL!" and "I would love to see a real Monster Olympics!"
I wonder what a battle between the Slimeball and the Creature From The Pit would be like...
Images and information were culled from the remarkable (and remarkably organized)Monster Waxsite. Please go there, dig through memories upon memories.
At any rate, just a little Olympic sumthin' to tide you over.
Enjoy your Valenti -- actually, it's Chinese New Year.
Once again, it's time to get a gander at some spooky sketches!
Do you all recall the popular series of posts about creepy artwork we loved as kids (and still do)?
Well, I was going through some old books (moving them from one shelf to another, actually) and noticed a title I'd entirely neglected which unquestionably deserves a place of honor on the list of spooky illustrations that shaped my little mind.
Originally published by Random House in 1963, Ghosts and More Ghosts is a superb collection of Robert Arthur's creepy, funny short stories. It seems to have been geared toward the juvenile market, but there are some real gems in here. The above is my own copy from many, many years ago, the first paperback Windward Books edition from 1972.
The cover and the illustrations that grace the title page of each story were the work of one of the 20th Century's most prolific and unique artists -- Irv Docktor (1918-2008).
Docktor created numerous album covers, playbills and advertising images for theatrical productions, and thousands of illo's for hundreds of books... and I happen to find particular delight in the little vignettes he created for Ghosts and More Ghosts.
Just take a look:
Mr. Milton's Gift
The Rose Crystal Bell
The Marvelous Stamps From El Dorado
The Wonderful Day
Don't Be A Goose
Do You Believe In Ghosts?
Obstinate Uncle Otis
Mr. Dexter's Dragon
Hank Garvey's Daytime Ghost
I think Do You Believe In Ghosts? is the truly scary story in this collection. The others have their own levels of creepiness, and some are very funny fantasies, but Do You Believe...? is just as effective to me today as it was 30-odd years ago.
So much to see in Docktor's work here. So many things loaded into each scene, yet there's never a feeling of clutter or chaos... just right.
By the way, I apologize for any blurriness -- most of these books are old enough that I really don't want to smash them into a flatbed scanner, so I just open them and snap the pictures. Most of the time it works pretty darn well, but even when it doesn't quite work, at least the book is still in good shape. There's nothing worse than having a brittle yellowed paperback cover snap off in your hands!
Irv Docktor was a really fascinating fellow, and clicking his name back at the beginning of this post will take you to the tribute website his daughter created for him when he passed away in 2008. It's very worth gawking at (there's some good English for you!). You'll recognize many of his works, trust me. I'm glad I saw this book and remembered to add its imagery to the walls of our humble public house.
So sorry to have been away these past four days, but some good mid-Winter work came my way. You know how it goes in the lean months.
But now I have some time to relax for a bit, and while perusing the ol' place I realized I needed to update our jukebox to some February tunes...
Of course, the playlist will always begin with the official theme song of the Skull & Pumpkin, Vince Guaraldi'sThe Great Pumpkin Waltz.
And as mentioned some months ago,Guaraldi's Heartburn Waltz is going to remain in rotation through February.
Then, we have what might seem like an odd choice for February (or as we used to call it, the Valen-time).
You can certainly just believe that it's the classic motif from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, but really it's the theme from Dracula, which debuted at New York's Roxy Theatre on Friday, February 13th, 1931 (yes, Friday the 13th!). Its Valentine's weekend release prompted Universal to present it as 'the strangest love story ever told', 'the story of the strangest passion ever known', and so on. Universal would use the same music to open The Mummy (another strange love tale of a bond across time and distance) in 1932.
I decided another classic Universal horror theme was in order, but one which would lend itself to Lovey Dovey Month. The opening theme from The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is one of the most memorable pieces in brilliant film composer Franz Waxman's long and prolific career. That unforgettable three note motif signals to all Monster Kids that a girl has entered the clubhouse; a pretty girl with stitches, Frankie's girlfriend, and a welcome, refreshing addition to the Monster Club.
And then come two unabashedly passionate love songs with a slightly monsterish edge.
As Long As You're Mine is the very passionate duet from the record-breaking Broadway hit musical Wicked. This love song from the 2003 original cast recording is sung by Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West (Idina Menzel), and her unlikely lover Fiyero (Norbert Leo Butz. Yes, that's his name).
There Never Was A Love Like Mine, Francesca's love song to Felix Flanken in Mad Monster Party (1967) has been heard on the S&P's jukebox before, and disappeared for a time. I thought it would be nice to bring it back for this month; Maury Laws' great composition, Gale Garnett's memorable voice, and like the previous song, it ends in Mine. I like saying 'mine'.
The next piece is another that might seem odd at first glance, but I think Nino Rota's The Immigrant, from The Godfather II (1974), is not only a beautiful work on its own, but given that it deals with the arrival of a future mob boss to America, it puts me in the mind of mobsters, Capone, and a certain Massacre on a certain February holiday.
I know. How romantical, capiche?
Last comes the other 'always in rotation' piece of music, Pumpkintime, the Angor-Higbie Quintet's 1986 anthem for Autumn.
A relatively brief personal aside for those of you hanging out tonight...
In cleaning up a few things in the basement Laboratory, I discovered a cache of artwork from my earlier years.
Well, rediscovered, really -- I knew I had them, and remember creating each of them -- I just sorta forgot that I had put them where I found them... and hadn't looked at them in a good, looong while.
I won't bother posting all of them; a lot of it is really personal (art, personal? go on) and not necessarily interesting to anyone else.
But there are some I find very impressive for the 12, 14, 16 year old I was when I set down to scribbling them.
Certainly my personal tastes and influences will shine through...
Aslan,from the Chronicles of Narnia,1982.
What good is drawing monsters if you can't do it in school wasting valuable educational time? A 'study' for a werewolf costume, sometime in Autumn of 1980. I was 12.
Five years later, a Junior in high school, and I'm still scribbling instead oftaking notes. This Sasquatch was done during Mr. Merritt's Business Law class one sweaty afternoon in the Spring.
Some time in 1986 I inked what I intended to look like a mad doctor'sjournal/sketchbook. I made this monster not long after, and it found itsway into Hallowe'en at Grandma's house.
A distinctly Bradbury-esque Martian, created during a memorable three week stay in Reno, August 1983.
The following Winter, and aliens are still on my mind. Apparentlyat 15 and 16 I thought aliens were required to have one shoulder up high, and be all windswept and sad when observing us. Like if Iron Eyes Cody were from Gleep Glorp.
A monsterbot from 1982. Can't explain the fangs, sorry.
1983 saw me in a rather post-apocalyptic mood. A Mad-Max-Meets Middle Earth attempt called Survival of the Fittest; it seems the least fit was the most worth coloring.
Uncle Creepy, 1984. Watercolors rock.
Some kind of wolf creature, crouched and waiting for someone or something at the end of an alley or someplace... Summer 1985.
Pretty much my 16 year old take on the famed cover art from Uriah Heep's 1982 album Abominog.Blood spattering is so effective for a horror kid. Again, watercolors rock.
My favorite drawing from my '80s days. A Poe-ish revenant, Bosch influenced, pure classic terror.1984.
Love the look -- the blurry, sketchy 'you can't win' insistence/near-smile of Death.
Such a curious thing, looking at handmade snapshots of a certain time in your life. Impressed with your past self, wondering why you were incapable of recognizing that you didn't stink at it, that you only thought that way because any time you did something no one else could or hadn't tried, you got teased.
It happens like that sometimes... for everybody, at some point.
Thank God I had parents who always talked me through such times, and encouraged uniqueness and expressing myself through my scribblings.
I think these ought to hang here at the ol' S&P. They were good, are good.
They fit the decor, that's for certain!
Anyone have any of their own they'd like to share?