Friday, April 30, 2010

New stuff on the way.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Bearth Day.

Today's a special day here at the Skull & Pumpkin.

Not because it's Earth Day, though we spent many wonderful hours in the yard yesterday, pulling, pruning and planting in anticipation of today's significance and some long-awaited rain.

No, today is special for two main reasons.

Firstly, my stepdaughter Rebecca is celebrating her birthday! Happy Birthday on Earth Day, Rebecca! Everyone raise a toast!

Secondly, another birthday for another beautiful woman...

In 1935, 75 years ago this very day, was released a film many consider to be the greatest of the entire era of the classic horror films.

She was the first crush of many a Monster Kid, not only because she was beautiful but because she was a monster that was a girl; she was 'one of us' who was decidedly not quite like us... like the first girl you all agreed to let enter the boys-only clubhouse, the secret hiding place, the first girl to whom you ever entrusted a real secret and let slip a kiss on the cheek.

She was a revelation.

The finest neck in horror history.

Now, I could launch into days' worth of plot synopses and analyzing of social subtext and the ever-discussed odd life of director James Whale, but those of you who are students of Classic Horror already know all of that jibber-jabber because you've seen it a dozen times or more, and have read the myriad words written about the significance of this one film to an entire genre (and modern popular culture).

For any of you who haven't seen it, I suggest you try to see it before the weekend's out... and let me add a little nudging elbow to that suggestion with a few words on this unique beauty here...

First... well, just look at her. Sure, she's not in very much of the film, but the fact that she immediately became (and remains) a truly legendary classic horror icon is a testament to her singular screen presence and beauty. For that we must thank make-up pioneer Jack Pierce, as well as director Whale's whimsical vision, and the subtle, unique charms of the delightful Elsa Lanchester.

Second, the film offers another unique, peculiar, dare I say queer experience in the form of one of the strangest, funniest, and outright swishiest villains the movie world is likely to see...

Dr. Septimus Pretorius, portrayed by the inimitable Ernest Thesiger, is a dandy, controlled and controlling, the real forerunner of the modern Mad Scientist in the truest sense -- using reason to corrupt reason, blackmail to force loyalty, death to create life, science to become God. All with a lisp, a sneer and a bit of gin -- it's his only weakness. You will never forget him or his incredible voice, or the way he says 'lever'...

There it is just above and behind his head, the dreaded 'lever' -- only Pretorius and Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive reprising his 1931 role) both pronounce it 'LEE-vuh!' enough times that now I call anything remotely resembling a lever a 'LEE-vuh!'

You don't get to see them all together for very long, but this dysfunctional family
is a treat to behold. Sadly, the seeming calm here only lasts mere minutes,
because the oblivious Bride finally gets a good long look at her Mate...

... and breaks our hearts right along with his!
Oh, that poor Monster, we poor Monster Kid boys -- our only chance of
Monster Love, of finding a girl who 'gets' our Monster geekitude,
has spurned us! Even as a kid I knew the heartache over this moment,
and entirely understood the Monster's need to find and pull that LEE-vuh.

Oh, this is a remarkably dark, funny, quirky film. There's so much stuffed into it, so much that James Whale was able to 'get away with' for 1935 and the Hays Code, so much to explore, that it's no wonder so much has been written about it over these 75 years.

If you have time and $15 or so this weekend, do yourself a massive favor and hit your favorite video store to get this historic and hysterical film. Just buy it, you will want to own it, trust me.

If you already have it, then do as I am about to do, and just run it all day long. That's what's on the screen here at the S&P all day and night.

From Karloff and Lanchester to Una O'Connor and Ernest Thesiger (and Valerie Hobson and Colin Clive and Dwight Frye and...) it will delight and delight and delight.

So, in honor of Her Brideship, I have added the brilliant Franz Waxman theme from The Bride of Frankenstein to the jukebox... give it a listen.

Happy Anniversary, Happy Birthday, Happy Earth Day.

(and don't touch that LEE-vuh!)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Show & Tell, part one.

Ah, come in!

Settle into your bar stool and behold the coolness...

As happened when we began our discussion in the Fear For Thought series, my mailbox has been filling up with comments, suggestions, stories, and in this case pictures.

Loyal patron and all-around fine Monster Kid Fester has brought some intriguing photos to share.

As you can see I have them spread out atop the bar (don't worry Fes, I wiped it down!) so we can all get a good look. Mind your elbows -- I don't want anyone spilling a drop on any of these.

First, a strange little image...

I know. 

I love that he sent this next picture...
This is Frankenstein, MO., about a 3 hour drive from our home in Branson.

Apparently it was not named for the Monster but for a Gottfried Franken who donated land for a church there in the 1890s. At least that's the story... but another reason I love this picture? The moment I saw it, I pulled a picture I'd just taken at the convention, from the photos and magazines on the floor in the musuem...
Yep. That's Forry himself in the '60s, back when the speed limit was 5 mph less, 
and before someone realized that green was a far more appropriate color
than white for a Frankenstein sign.

A Frankensign.

By the way, the current population of Frankenstein, MO is 32. 

And how's this for an odd image?
Is it a motorcycle with a hearse sidecar? Or a hearse with a sidemotorcycle?
In either case, it's cool and weird and perfect.
Death on wheels.

Speaking of...
This is just stunning. Fester, who composed this shot? Is it part of a 
photog collection I now need to see? I'm going to make a quick copy
and hang it here at the S&P... too beautiful.

Lastly, Fester sent along a neat mural which needs to be clicked
and enlarged to be fully appreciated:
In Fes's words:
"The mural was, if I recall, painted in the 1940s and was a prominent feature on the front of the 'Terroride' at Lagoon, an amusement park about 25 miles North of Salt Lake City, Utah where I was raised."
In the comments section, Fester adds:
"Apparently it was painted on plywood by a William M Tracy of New Jersey about 1940. He seems to have made a career of painting display murals like this. I am not sure if it was the real title, but it was known by some kids I knew as 'Monster Baseball'."

Just splendid. I might need to hang this one here for a while too. It's just bizarre!

EXCELLENT, excellent shares, my friend. Thank you so much for bringing them by.

Now let's get to that next round without spilling, please... no Fester, your coin is no good here, at least not today. You brought the chat this time.

I cannot wait to see what comes along next time!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Uncle Forry on the Wide Webbed World.

(Excellent, atmospheric picture by Caleb Oglesby.)

He used to call it the "Wide Webbed World".

It was the name he gave to his own website.

He can still be found all over that World, even after his passing -- numerous interviews in audio, video and text; tributes and stories from friends and fans from across the globe; remembrances of his Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine; pictures of his Ackermansion collection, his Mini-mansion final years...

... and now, of course, in animatronic form.

If you were to search your favorite engine for Monsterpalooza 2010, Monsterpalooza Museum, Uncle Forry animatronic and similar terms, you would find some of what I have had sent to me by various friends over the last few days.

At Dread Central, they've posted a loving and insightful review of the entire convention (which describes the feeling and impact of this unique convention in terms with which I wholeheartedly agree). The 'Museum' video at the bottom of the page shows a good bit of Uncle Forry doing his thing at around the :25 mark.

A YouTube entity I only know as 'channelbron' has created an odd little music video of Uncle Forry that runs a bit over a minute. It feels like an ultra-light version of an Aphex Twin/Chris Cunningham video. Very cool.

Another YouTube offering is from Erck712 and his collection of pics from the convention. I believe the music is from Rob Zombie. Uncle Forry can be seen for a few moments at around the 1:51 mark.

I suppose there is probably some mention or image of our dear animatronic Ackermonster in any video or photo set from Monsterpalooza 2010, so I should just say go looking and you'll find something.

I fear this all seems self-serving and conceited, especially after requesting your pictures, stories, and thoughts in the last entry. I have received some very neat stuff so far, and it will all be offered and discussed here soon. 

But I love that Uncle 4E is still making the fans smile, even in death. 

Your pics and stories to come.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Here's mud in yer eye-centennial.

I'm impressed with myself.

Honestly, that does not happen often. I am actually impressed with myself.


I don't always follow through with personal projects unless someone's standing over me with a deadline, a whip and a scowl -- I am far too distractable.

But in this case, I began our little online pub for fun in late June of last year and it turns out I am not only still keeping it running but I am at this very moment writing my 200th entry.



That's a two, a zero and then another zero.


1,000,000 minus 999,800.


It's really nothing, I guess. Lots of other Hallowe'en and Horror blogs have been around for years and have hundreds and hundreds more posts.

But for our quiet little Hallowe'en gathering spot, I think it's a pretty special moment. One that should send the regulars into night-long bouts of dancing and drinking.
So I am taking this chance to once again call upon every one of you...

If you have any pictures, stories, poetry, songs, personal artwork, comments, reviews or anything else related to Hallowe'en and Horror that you would care to share or wish to discuss here at the S&P, please send them along using the address you'll find after clicking View My Complete Profile (somewhere over there to the right). I want you to feel welcome and free in here.
Longtime friends and family, if you have pictures/stories of Hallowe'en's gone by, please don't hesitate to send them. There are a few costumes and Hallowe'en memories I can recall well but for which I have no pictures. How about it? The more embarrassing, the better!
And to our new friends, loyal pubgoers, please feel free to bring your memories and imagery to the bar as well... as I wrote last year, I want this to be a place for all of us to gather to enjoy a shot of Autumn, to chat about our common love for the October Country, to share the utter joy that is Hallowe'en.
Thank you for your patronage and your friendship.

Happy 200th Post, you ol' Skull & Pumpkin.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gifts and more gifts.

Well now, come in, come in...

Things seem to be getting back to normal here at the S&P. Yes, I wrote normal.

Normal for us. But I'm excited tonight...

I see you've been admiring our newest acquisition -- it's so cool I thought I'd keep it right here on the bar until the new wears off.

From loyal Skull & Pumpkin patron Shaun, via our mutual friend Darin comes this incredible gift:

This little guy right here is a loose reproduction in miniature of the weathervane high atop the cupola of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland!
No, they don't match exactly, but seriously -- free, surprise gift, and Haunted Mansion are words that dance so beautifully on the ghostly ballroom floor...

As for the story behind (and the rareness of) this piece, remember way back when I wrote of the 40th Anniversary of the Haunted Mansion?

The folks who wished (and could afford) to attend the big 40th celebration at the Park received various benefits from their ticket purchase -- the first shot at limited edition merchandise, a dinner, cake, a ride through the Mansion, and various souvenirs.

Thing is, this item was an extremely limited 'Event Exclusive', a gift to the paying attendees... and there was no other way to attain one.

Shaun, if you're reading this, I can't tell you how absolutely cool this is, and how kind of you. Your generous spirit and supremely Haunted Mansion-and-Hallowe'en-lovin' nature are responsible for a terrific addition to the spooky decor here at the ol' S&P.

From here on, Shaun's libation is always on the house.

Everyone, raise your glasses, and give a hearty cheer for Shaun!


And seriously, if you're ever headed out my way, you know the libation's on me.

Speaking of libations and celebrations, I don't want to let today go by without having us all wish a happy Birthday to my nephew Jack... a fellow Hallowe'en and Monster Lovin' Kid, an incredible singer, and an all-around terrific kid.
Here's a little gift from the S&P, Jack:


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The ghoul goes west, part 10, The Musical.

Okay, it's not the musical.

I am heading home tomorrow morning, and by tomorrow evening I should be performing at the Moon River Grill as I tend to do on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 5 to 7:30 PM during the season in Branson.

I should be (should be) awake enough and energetic enough to do it right.

No pressure, though. I mean, it's not like anyone's out there with charts of my arrangements waiting to catch me in some musical flub.

But it's kind of funny to think of going from some incredible, once-in-a-lifetime (-ish) weekend to an easy going evening of jazz standards and mellow dinner tunes. Not in a 'how're ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm?' kind of funny, just a different venue for a different set of creative and artistic skills -- I've been in Monster Mode so severely and enthusiastically for the last few weeks that I am wondering how easy it will be to jump from Monster Mt. Olympus to land on a piano bench ready to sing and swing.

Uncle Forry is packed up and ready to ship back to our little Ozarks homestead.
The ghoul goes east...
You can see the boxes as they left the convention to the lower left. 
Big Scary Demon Giant Thing is keeping a malevolent eye on them.

I wonder if that ol' skull is sitting in that dark box dreaming of thousands of smiling faces and teary eyes as he languishes among the packing foam and bubble wrap (do androids dream of electric sheep? Only Philip K. Dick knows for certain).

Of course, I will be home and back to living my normal (?) life long before those boxes come back.

But let's face facts, Hallowe'en lovers... I'll be thinking of servos, green LEDs and my monster heroes as I'm tickling the ivories this weekend. A Hallowe'en Kid can never truly keep separate all his passions...

See? There was a musical bent to this post.

I will have more tales of Monsterpalooza soon. I need to get home, settle in, take stock of pictures and stories, and wait for some of the more exciting and promising offers from this past glorious weekend to come to fruition... and there are some very cool things to come if even one of those cool people I met follow through with any of their ideas.

Did I mention I ran out of business cards on Saturday?

Waiting on mails and calls... please oh please oh please...

But until then, my music awaits.

Thank you for coming along with me on this rather remarkable journey, loyal pubgoers.

And thank you V, the Instigator, for summoning your unmatchable karmic magic to nudge the Universe into manifesting this entire adventure.

       Is it still April? Oh yeah...


Monday, April 12, 2010

The ghoul goes west, #9, #9, #9, #9, #9....

Two things.

-- My feet are destroyed.

-- MONSTERPALOOZA rocked... so hard!

Uncle Forry was a huge hit, and all of the business cards I left next to him were gone by Saturday night --  had to leave one taped to the frame for Sunday!

Of course, without Henchman Henner's audio gear, and his lurking about with flashlights and pliers (and a vehicle!) at the ready, it would have been very difficult to accomplish...

Had to toss in this one too... it encapsulates his personality very well:

I ran into so many great people, old friends and new...
The future of Classic Horror/Universal Monster art and fandom -- 
Adam 'KreatureKid' Doherty and Casey Wong.

Casey's great Forrest Ackerman bust made it to this year's 'Palooza as well:
 ... dressed up for a panel of Forry's closest friends regaling us with some of the lesser-known Forry Stories:
The panel was touching and funny, and most of the audience was made up of people who'd met him, and many who knew him well. It was a highlight of the weekend, and was put together by Forry's personal assistant for the last decade or so of his life, the inimitable Joe Moe.
Here's Joe to the right, Casey to the left, and Slimer from Ghostbusters making a 
non-green appearance in between them. 
The very cool John Gilbert, known as the Arizona Gillman for his encyclopaedic
knowledge of all things Black Lagoon. Oh and because he lives in AZ.

My friend (everyone's friend), actor Danny Roebuck (Lost, Rob Zombie's Halloween
 films, Matlock, a trillion other things). He led a hilarious and nostalgic presentation on 
the various goodies sold by the Captain Co. in the back of Warren Publishing's 
magazines (Eerie, Creepy, Famous Monsters of Filmland, etc.). 
Always a pleasure seeing him.

Author Lucy Chase Williams (The Complete Films of Vincent Price). I met her last year
and was very glad to see her again. A delightful and funny woman!

A last, long look...

The very fun and creative Bill Diamond of the Monster TV Network gave me a big laugh and a very fond final memory from this year's convention. He brought over one of his incredible handmade puppets, the chatty gargoyle Gorgo, to shoot an impromptu gab with Uncle Forry... and me!
Uncle Forry, yours truly, Gorgo, and Bill Diamond.
Here, Bill's cameraman John sets up the shot.

The moment I find the video (they shot it, I didn't) I'll let you know... it was short but funny.

But, as ever, all good things must come to the aid of their fellows, or something. 

This too shall pass. 

Everything has to end sometime...
Casey, how do you get into all these shots?

We broke down our little display, and packed up. It was nice to see family after a weekend of such great friendship and fun.

There are just a few more stories to relate, and I'll get to them this week (lots of family time and then a little travel and work come first)... but for now, random parting images: