Friday, May 28, 2010

Enjoy your weekend...

... and be glad that you can.

Happy Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Half man. Half ant.


On Monday, May 24th, was FINALLY (re)released on DVD one of the greatest films any horror, sci-fi or Hallowe'en lover could ever hope to own.


I don't really want to get into a very lengthy review because the Skull & Pumpkin is not a DVD review site, and I wish to avoid at all costs the silly debates found at such sites between dateless geeks living in their parents' basement (sorry, their 'cyber-lair') who argue endlessly over who made better zombie movies, who was the best Batman, what's the best theme park ride, and so on.

(For the record, it's Romero, West and The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Everyone knows that).

No, this won't be a review.

It's just a raving, blubbering anthem of praise, and a hymn of joy that it has finally seen a DVD release!

Made in 1993, it had been released on DVD in 1998, but apparently it had framing issues and was off the market in short order. Ever since, people have been buying copies of that first release for $40, $70, even over $100 in many cases, just to have this incredible film in their libraries.

If you haven't seen it, the premise is fairly simple:
It's October of 1962. Gene is a horror and sci-fi loving teen whose family is newly stationed at the naval base in Key West. They are trying to settle into their new surroundings when the Cuban Missile Crisis suddenly unfolds, and their father is sent out to blockade the Soviets.
As they await news of him and of the looming crisis, their little town is invaded by Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman), who has decided that in this mood of fear and panic it's the perfect time (and Key West, only 90 miles from the embattled Cuba the perfect place!) to open a new sci-horror picture-with-a-gimmick, MANT! In Atomo-Vision and Rumble-Rama!

The film has numerous interwoven plots involving Gene, Woolsey, their friends, teen and adult romance, teen and adult paranoia and fear, Cold War politics... and plenty of laughs.

Also, you'll notice as you are laughing that much of the scenery (Gene's school, the theatre, the grocery store, etc.) is bedecked (bespidered?) in skeletons, pumpkins, leaves, bats... this is October, after all!

If you know this film, I don't really need to say any more.


MANT!, the film-within-the-film, is one of the funniest things you'll ever see! Starring Cathy Moriarty (who is Goodman's love interest in the 'real' world) and B-movie stalwarts such as Robert Cornthwaite (The Thing From Another World, 1951 ), William Schallert (The Man From Planet X, 1951) and Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956), MANT! makes fun of itself and an entire era of American cinema with such obvious love and ridiculous laughs.

I got a picture of the Mant him itself strangling his dentist (William Schallert) signed by the very friendly and very kind Mr. Schallert at Monsterpalooza back in April:

He was the one who told me to be ready for the DVD release on May 24th, with that smile and inimitable voice (Milton the Toaster, anyone?). So glad I got to meet Patty Lane's dad (and Cathy Lane's uncle) that weekend.

Alright, so... point is, GO GET THIS DVD, would you please?

If you've seen it, you know why you should.

If you haven't... well, now you know why you should.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The 'She's there!' Witch Project.

Welcome, welcome.

I'm glad to see the usual suspects hanging around... and a few new faces! Suzie and John C., you two get drinks and snacks all night long.

I'll put it on Fester's tab.

In fact, let me get myself a glass... there.

So... how many of you have read Stephen King's IT? Not just seen the movie, but really read the book?

Oh, we're not about to discuss IT or King's other works all night long (though we certainly could!).

No, I was just recently reminded of a very cool, spooky part of that book -- the way Pennywise the Clown (when it's evil, you spell it with big uppercase C) kept showing up over the years at horrific events in Derry, and especially in those pictures Mike Hanlon's dad had collected in that dusty old photo album.

What reminded me?

Vintage Hallowe'en postcards.

I know, there's nothing as inherently evil and outright screw-you-up-for-life scary in vintage Hallowe'en postcards as Pennywise certainly is. I was just reminded of it (and IT).

Let me get them from the shelf... okay, see this postcard here?

By the way, that's NOT a one-eyed owl. He's just turned sideways. Creeped me out too.  

This witch, name unknown, keeps popping up in other postcards. The same black hat with red ribbon lacing, the combination black dress and red capelet (the colors alternate but they're ever present), the cat familiar, and so on.

I think, like Mikey Hanlon, I've figured out a bit of her history, or at least a kind of chronology of her witchy, witchy life, in these remarkable cards.

This seems to be the oldest image -- at any rate it's the earliest picture I can find. She seems like a happy child, actually. Having an enormous pumpkin and a very cute little black kitty would give any young witch that smile.

It does look, though, as if Kitty's life is starting out a little painfully.

Now, we have to jump forward a bit in her age, because I couldn't find any postcards of her at any intervening age; besides, no one knows how old witches really are anyway. 
Her hair is quite white but she's beginning to experiment and create her spells, so it must be earlier in her life than later. She's traded the long ribbon ends of the young witch's hat for a more grown up bow atop the cone.
Also, you'll notice her kitty, now a full-grown Familiar, likes candles. Apparently he used to have a girlfriend kitty... yet she doesn't show up in later images, just this one, and I think this may explain Black Kitty's progressively odd look and behaviour as time goes on.

Okay, a few years later (at most). She's old enough now to need spectacles, and this is causing her no end of age anxiety. To compensate, she returns to the youthful long ribbons on her hat, and adds ribbons to her shoes.
Black Kitty has been drowning his lamentation for Lost Grey Kitty in steroids and aggressive body building -- that he's carrying the broom shows his 'roid rage/need for control, and his eyes are just whacked. Even the Moon is like 'Dude, what is your deal?'
This image is the first I've found displaying her friendship with the feared Vegetable Man of the Forbidden Forest, known to the natives only as 'Sasquash'.
Regardless of what ritual dance or simple lark this image shows, they all seem happy.

Some years later still, and she's lost the long ribbons on her hat and shoes, and is no longer wearing her specs. Perhaps she only needs them for reading now.
Also, we see another Sasquash has become part of her circle. If this has caused any hard feelings for the first Veggie Man it does not show; they both seem pleased as punch here. 
Also, Black Kitty appears to have calmed down and stopped working out as much (though he apparently still pays inordinate attention to his glutes).

Now apparently living in Salem, Massachusetts, our nameless witch has cruelly ended whatever happiness her Veggie friends had enjoyed by turning one of them into her personal conveyance.
She appears stern-faced and bitter, and not ready for any more nonsense. The ribbons are back, but now seem merely like a desperate attempt to appear normal -- it only adds to the absurdity, like a tux on a monkey.
Or maybe her look is only because she's sitting on fresh watermelon and it's seeping into her skirt.
It is not clear if the driver is the first or second Sasquash, but the nervous 'what me worry?' look on his face tells us all we need to know about how things are now.
Black Kitty has returned to normal kitty-like shape, but his eyes are damaged, possibly permanently, by his emotional ennui.

A slightly damaged print, but it's clear that her days of Veggie love are long over.
The spectacles are back (though this might be just for safe flight), and there's a softer smile on her face, and whatever events ended her relationship with Sasquash, she's over it now.
Black Kitty is quite back to old Familiar status, but an injury to his spine seems to have caused an unnatural arcing.
The damage to the print around his face precludes any speculation about his mood here.

I was given this picture from the granddaughter of the youngest girl shown.
At first glance, it appears to be another view of the same midnight ride from the previous image, but the lunar cycle is not the same, though it's possible that the steeple below is the same church in both images.
From this distance, Black Kitty's feelings cannot be ascertained, though his spinal injury is just as apparent.

Another image from the same girl... though who 'took' this picture she could not recall. My guess is an adventurous brother.
It seems our witch has landed, and is checking in on the girls (and a friend?) as they bob for apples.

The Moon seems pleased enough that nothing terrible is happening.
Black Kitty, bad spine, so it goes.

A peaceful moment. Here, she's thinking about fixing a run in her support hose. Black Kitty seems to have gotten over his back injury, but only for a moment, because in the very next image from the same night:
... it is tragically clear that Black Kitty's finally lost it.
His broken back and wonky eyes are proof of his utter madness.
Also, it is not at all clear if our witch is happy or sad about it. Either way, she's completely absorbed, and seems totally oblivious to the spirit of her old Sasquash friend being chased by the freaking Devil in the smoke from her cauldron.

This is the last known (so far) image of our nameless witch.
It would seem that Black Kitty has either left the picture or aged dramatically -- a white kitty, with the same broken back and wonky eyes, has taken his place on the straws of her broom.
She seems happy at this point in her life, but I wonder if it's the smile of the lunatic -- does she know that she rides a broom bearing the head of the Easter Bunny?
Does she even care?

We may never have the answers.

Well, I told you.

It's a weird thing to see all these images of the same witch and think that they're not somehow related, the merits of my speculations notwithstanding.

I mean, it's not like there are more images of her flying about --

What? There are? You have?

Show me!



Sunday, May 23, 2010

Winter(s) in May?

Boy, the work load really gained some weight this past week!

I am very glad to be relaxing here a the ol' place on a late Saturday night... relaxing for what feels like the first time in a month.

Oh, a quick little picture, something I find amusing.

There's something about this ZOM-beeee! head (previously seen here and here) in the MP ballcap that reminds me of Shelley Winters as the Harris girls' grandmother on Roseanne. I've been seeing this every day since I last rearranged my room, and every time I do, I think of this:
Sorry, it was the only image I could find. But isn't there a resemblance?

Yes, folks, that's how busy I've been. I am reduced to referencing Roseanne.

Actually, Roseanne was one of the very few sitcoms that not only decorated for Hallowe'en but wallowed in it, going so far as to make one Hallowe'en episode a re-telling of A Christmas Carol -- Roseanne's atypical lack of enthusiasm for The Holiday results in her being visited by the Ghosts of Hallowe'en -- so I shouldn't really be insulting Roseanne.

Speaking of witches, the next entry will be lousy with them.

'Til then, thanks for hanging out and keeping the S&P warm and welcoming, even when I'm not around to make sure Max doesn't drink from the tap and Fester stays out of the private stock.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Miranda wins again.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Random picture #1,119

This has absolutely nothing to do with anything.

I just needed to show this.

In my cable market, channel 12 has been stuck on this static, soundless image for the last 5 days.


FIVE days. 

Isn't anyone watching their own feed? Including her?
At first glance, it would seem to have little to do with Hallowe'en horrors... except it's starting to really, really creep me out.

One hundred and twenty hours of this.

Just thought I'd mention it.

EDIT: This ordeal lasted nearly EIGHT DAYS, good people. It is finally back to moving pictures and sound, and this woman is nowhere to be seen.



Friday, May 14, 2010

"Girls, do NOT come alone..."

"... you will have nightmares for a week!"

It's good to see all of you again. I have been very busy with all kinds of silliness, and I've been missing my regular visits to the S&P.

I see you've been taking good care of the place, as ever. I appreciate it.

Most of you are aware that I am a working performer, musician, singer, yada-bada-dada. I have always been enamoured of the stage, and of theatres -- the older and darker and more haunted, the better!

Over this past week or so, I've had occasion to visit one of the older theatres in my hometown (which is full of them). This one had been around for decades, but had fallen into disuse for a number of years, and is now being fixed up for another run of shows.

No, it's not an opera house from the '20s or anything as exotic as that, but it's still been around a long time, and is plenty dark and dusty and full of black corners and catwalks and 'mind your step's and 'whatever you do, do not stand there's... and in one or two of the darkest, dustiest corners, a 2x4 being used as a shelf -- a long dead 9 volt battery, a piece of black trickline string, a pencil with a rubber band coiled around it, a receipt for something or other, a cigarette butt stuck in years-old coffee dregs like a broken brown crayon at the bottom of a styrofoam cup.


Now... it should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying even a little attention to the entries here that every time, I mean every time I'm in an empty theatre, my immediate thought is "Oh man! This would be the perfect place to put on a midnight spook show!"

Of course I do.

The midnight spook show. The ghost frolic. The mix of stage magic, monsters and blackouts. A once-beloved American theatrical tradition, now long dead...

One of the greatest inspirations in my desire to one day (well, one dark midnight, to be precise) put on a ghost frolic of my own was published in 1991 by magician, writer and tireless researcher/collector Mark Walker...

Ghostmasters is a remarkable book, full of rare images and fascinating stories about the performers, the shows, the theatres, and the incredible birth, life and death of the American movie house midnight spook show.

The book has been out of print for some time now, and prices (when you can find a copy) begin at around $40 (I've been seeing pristine hardcovers selling for over $100 recently!). I thought a glance at some of the contents might be a fun show and tell around the fireplace for those of you who aren't lucky enough to have this volume in your collection. It's always available for perusal in the Library here at the S&P.

Here are some of the numerous adverts on display throughout the book, posters full of colorful invective, incredible claims, and stunning imagery:
Most shows followed a simple formula: at midnight, the show begins with magic tricks, stage illusions, seances and sight gags, building up to the Big Blackout, then the movies start.

Some shows were more comedic than frightening, others went for the jugular trying to scare the audience witless.
The most talked about and important aspect of the ghost show was the Blackout, when for a very brief time (three minutes was a standard) all the lights in the theatre would be extinguished (even EXIT signs in the '30s and '40s!) and the audience would be treated to a menagerie of glow-in-the-dark madness in the form of flying ghosts, skeletons, giant spiders, worms (wet mop strings), bats, all kinds of creepy things dropping, flying, screaming all 'round them.
Using simple decorations and props like these:

... the performer and his assistants would delight and terrify their audiences into a frenzy:
This rare picture was snapped in mid-blackout by an assistant to the magician Philip Morris during one of his '50s spook shows. I love the kid with his fingers in his ears, and the guy sitting on his buddy's lap...

The midnight spook show was a financial powerhouse for many years, and a staple of American theatrical culture for nearly 40 years (though by the late '50s it was already a dying art, there were still touring spook shows well into the '70s). Many performers like Bill Neff, Philip Morris, Francisco, El-Wyn, Greystoke, and even the legendary Blackstone all spent years, some decades, bringing American moviegoers a bit of Hallowe'en when they came to town.

After WWII, the classic Monsters began to take their place in the festivities:
This backdrop for Dr. Silkini's Frankenstein set needs to be clicked and enlarged to be appreciated fully. Amazing.

In 1947, Bela Lugosi added his dark charms to a tour from master spook show magician Bill Neff.

Oh, the spook show was successful alright...
By the way, when was the last time you saw a billboard that large displaying mayonnaise?

I could go on and on. 

Wouldn't it be a swell thing to have a midnight spook show again?

Oh, I know there are magicians who do a one or two night special performance, usually around Hallowe'en, and that is always welcome and fun... but wouldn't it be something to have a real, honest-to-goodness American midnight spook frolic in a real, honest-to-goodness old dark theatre in the middle of Summer on Saturday nights? 

One of these days... one of these days...


Monday, May 10, 2010

Rest In Masterpiece.

Well, dear friends, I know it's a bit early in the day for a drink, but let's fill them to the brim and raise them high.

I just got an e-mail from a friend informing me with teary praise that the world has just lost one of its finest artists.

Frank Frazetta (1928 - 2010) was one of the most gifted, successful fantasy artists of all time.

I suggest you go here and read all about his life and his amazing career; so much has been written about the man, all of it better than I could ever attempt.

I don't want to go posting images of the million paintings and comic book covers and posters and paperback covers and record sleeves and... but I thought I might post a few of his more monstery, Hallowe'eny works from the '60s  (and a couple from the '70s) that shall adorn the walls of this place in tribute from now on.

His subjects seemed to walk (or fly, or battle, whatever they were doing) in a world made of fluid and smoke --  sharply contrasted figures floating amid a background of colored oils, dripping stone, blood, blurriness, potions of dark fantasy poured with love and great care.

From 1944 at the age of 16 he was creating art for the comics world; by the '60s, he was the Master, and held that position of influence and honor until this very day.

It is simply impossible to overstate his importance and his influence.

Again, I urge you to seek for yourself All Things Frazetta.

The man made art history.

The man was art history.

Sadly, now he is himself 'history'.

Raise a glass, and remember.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Things that ostensibly have nothing to do with Hallowe'en...

... but remind me of Hallowe'en when e'er I behold them.

Just because. 

Hey I just noticed that even with a pretty web, this entry is not truly