The Quiet Ruminations Of “A Lone Deer At The End Of The World” Ring Loud And Clear


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Here’s the thing : if I were an editor or publisher, and cartoonist D. Bradford Gambles submitted his new mini, A Lone Deer At The End Of The World, to me — I confess that I’d probably be tempted to reject it. The book’s just too obvious, I’d  tell myself (and him). Too unsubtle. Too upfront with its message, perhaps to the detriment of its threadbare narrative. And you know what? I’d be right — but that doesn’t mean my choice to pass on it would be right.

Fortunately, J.T. Yost at Birdcage Bottom Books is a lot smarter than I am, he recognizes sheer artistry when he sees it, and he knows that no matter how overly-earnest the delivery, a message worth conveying is still worth conveying, and that when it’s rendered this beautifully — well, there is that old saying about the iron fist inside a velvet…

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Going With The Flow Of Tara Booth’s “Nocturne”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

At this point in the history of the comics medium — hell, at this point in the history of art in general — irony, particularly humorous irony, by all rights really shouldn’t work anymore. It certainly doesn’t deserve to, the vast majority of the time it doesn’t, and I’m generally of a mind that the more sequential narratives stay the fuck away from it, the better. It takes an extraordinary talent to pull off what’s been done literally thousands of times before, to find something new in such thoroughly-mined territory, but it probably takes something more than that, too — it takes a supreme amount of entirely-earned confidence, as opposed to mere empty bravado. It takes vision, not just an idea. And it takes top-level ability to execute, which goes well above and beyond simple competence.

In other words, it takes Tara Booth.

If How To…

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Horror On TV: Thriller 1.28 — Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper (dir by Ray Milland)


Since I reviewed Robert Bloch’s novel, The Night of the Ripper, earlier today, it seems only appropriate that tonight’s excursion into televised horror should be based on another Robert Bloch story about Jack the Ripper!

Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper is a classic episode of the 60s anthology series, Thiller.  This episode aired on April 11th, 1961 and it was directed by the Oscar-winning actor, Ray Milland!

Enjoy!

 

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Bits and Pieces (dir by Leland Thomas)


You’re sitting down and you’re watching the 1985 slasher film Bits and Pieces on YouTube.

“The Bits and Pieces Murderer has struck again!” a television news reporter solemnly intones after a homeless woman finds a dismembered body in a trash bag.

Meanwhile, in a dark bedroom, a phone rings and wakes up Lt. Carter (Brian Burt), a balding man with a mustache.  He answers it and is told that the murderer has struck again.  “SHIT!” he yells….

A few blocks away, a sweaty man named Arthur (S.E. Zygmont) sits in a filthy basement, surrounded by plastic mannequin heads, half-eaten breakfasts, and flies.  He hears a voice telling him to kill and he says, “Yes, mommy…”

Down the street, in a club that appears to be populated largely by elderly woman, the world’s greasiest male strippers perform while a deathless song plays in the background.  Do you want/want my body/do you like it like that....

The next morning, college student Rosie Talbot (Suzanne Snyder) tells her mother about the strip club.  “I was surprised by the wide variety of the routines,” she says as her mom nods along.  Rosie says she never would have had the courage to go to the club if not for her best friend, Tanya (Sheila Lussier).  However, for some reason, Tanya is not answering her phone….

That night, Arthur has flashbacks to being abused by his mother so he kills again.  When the latest body is found, Lt. Carter receives that call.  “SHIT!” Lt. Carter yells….

The next morning, Rosie looks at the newspaper and sees a drawing of the girl who was found in the trash bag and she immediately screams because it looks just like Tanya!  She meets Lt. Carter who asks her if Tanya had any strange sexual proclivities.  “What type of sexist question is that!?” Rosie shouts….

Later, Rosie walks through a strip mall and runs into her friend Jennifer (Tally Chanel).  Rosie tells Jennifer about Tanya but then mentions that she did meet a really handsome policeman and that’s been the only good thing about her day.  “That sounds promising!” Jennifer says….

Meanwhile, Arthur lurks behind them, unnoticed despite his unwashed hair, his skinny black tie, and the look on his face that practically screams, “I am a psychopathic murderer and I’m stalking you.”  A random man bumps into Arthur and Arthur falls to the ground.  “Watch it, apple ass,” the man snaps….

A few hours later and Lt. Carter calls Rosie at home.  Carter tells her that this is a social call.  Would she like to spend the day at the beach with him?  That seems like a great way to forget about all the dead people who are piling up around the city.  “I’m really looking forward to it!” Rosie says….

Meanwhile, Arthur flashes back to his mother’s boyfriend forcing him to put on lipstick….

And so it goes.

There’s actually a pretty charming little story about this film.  It was told by a student who had just completed a film class.  On the last day of class, the professor announced that he was going to show the class an example of how “not to make a good movie.”  The movie that he showed was Bits and Pieces and the professor was the also the film’s director.  (For the record, the director also appears in the film, as the guy who calls Arthur an apple ass.)

Bits and Pieces may be a bad movie but it’s so amazingly inept that it becomes oddly fascinating.  The night scenes were clearly filmed at night, meaning that it’s often next to impossible to see what anyone’s actually doing for at least 10% of the movie.  In the role of Arthur, S.E. Zygmont gives a performance that’s so over-the-top that it bring to mind the “Egyptian feast” scene in Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast.  (“You waaaaaaant to plaaaaaay….” Arthur hisses, at one point.)  As well, I don’t know if there’s many other movies out there that mix scenes of brutal murder with scenes of a middle-aged police detective and a young college student happily frolicking on the beach.  I guess brutal murder and intense emotional pain brings out the romantic side in some people.  The fact that the blood and gore looks real while everything else feels fake gives the film a strangely surreal feel.

Bits and Pieces is currently on YouTube, proving that even inept movies will live forever.

Corey Feldman Goes To College: Voodoo (1995, directed by Rene Eram)


Andy Chadway (Corey Feldman) is an aspiring writer who is attending college in the UK.  When he meets Rebecca (Diane Nadeau), he is so smitten with her that he transfers to a school back in the States so that he can be near her.  Of course, Andy doesn’t bother to tell her ahead of time so, when he arrives at his new school, he’s shocked to discover that Rebecca doesn’t seem to be happy to see him and that, since she lives in a sorority house, he can’t stay with her.

Desperately needing a place to live, Andy checks out the local fraternities but he discovers that there’s only one frat that is willing to take him.  It’s the worst frat on campus, a collection of weirdos led by Cassian Marsh (Joel J. Edwards).  Andy joins anyway but soon discovers that the frat is actually a voodoo cult that is more interested in human sacrifice than raging keggers.

Corey Feldman made a huge number of strange movies in the 90s.  They were all released straight-to-video and almost all of them featured Feldman trying to get away from his teen idol image.  In Voodoo, Feldman battles zombies and voodoo priests and Corey Haim is nowhere to be seen.  Feldman is actually not bad in Voodoo.  He’s always been a better actor than he’s given credit for but he also brings so much personal baggage to every role that it’s impossible to see him as being anyone other than Corey Feldman.  That is definitely the case with Voodoo.

The premise of Voodoo is an interesting one and it had a lot of potential.  The film deserves credit for taking its plot seriously and there is one good sequence where Marsh uses mind control to destroy a rival fraternity.  However, Voodoo has too many scenes that seem like filler and it never fully explores its premise.

Keep an eye out, however, for Jack Nance.  One of the original members of David Lynch’s stock company, Nance played the title role in Eraserhead and also played Pete Martell on Twin Peaks.  Nance plays the father of a former member of the fraternity and he’s the one who warns Andy to be weary of Marsh.  Nance and Feldman previously co-starred in Meatballs 4 and Nance’s eccentric presence livens up their scenes in Voodoo.  This was one of Nance’s final roles before his untimely death in 1996.

Halloween Havoc!: BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (Universal 1935)


cracked rear viewer

James Whale’s brilliant BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is one of those rare occasions where the sequel is better than the original… and since the original 1931 FRANKENSTEIN is one of the horror genre’s greatest films, that’s saying a lot! Whale’s trademark blend of horror and black humor reached their zenith in BRIDE, and though Whale would make ten more films before retiring from Hollywood moviemaking in 1941, this was his last in the realm of the macabre. It turned out to be his best.

Mary Shelley’s got a story to tell…

William Hurlbut’s screenplay start with a prologue set during the proverbial dark and stormy night, with Mary Shelly (Elsa Lanchester ), Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Walton), and Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon ) discussing Mary’s shocking novel “Frankenstein” as clips from the 1931 film are shown. Then Mary tells them there’s more to the story, and we pick up…

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Horror Scenes That I Love: The Jack The Ripper Scene From Pandora’s Box


Since I reviewed Robert Bloch’s Night of the Ripper earlier today, it only seems appropriate that Jack the Ripper should play a role in today’s horror scene that I love.

In the 1929 silent German film, Pandora’s Box, Louise Brooks plays Lulu who, through a series of misfortunes, goes from being the mistress of an upper middle class newspaper publisher to living in squalor in London.  Reduced to working as a prostitute, Lulu picks up her first client on Christmas Eve.  Little does she know that her client is actually the infamous murderer known as Jack the Ripper.  At first, Jack attempts to resist his urges by throwing away his knife but once they reach Lulu’s apartment, he discovers another.

This scene, which served as the film’s finale, was considered to be so controversial in 1929 that it was edited out of some prints, which had the effect of turning a tragic story about a woman forced into prostitution into a story about a woman who, following some bad luck, moves to London and is redeemed by volunteering for the Salvation Army.

Here is the original conclusion of Pandora’s Box:

 

 

 

Book Review: Night of the Ripper by Robert Bloch


As you might guess from the title, Night of the Ripper is set in London in 1888.  A shadowy figure is haunting the foggy alleyways of Whitechapel, savagely murdering prostitutes, terrifying the public, and leaving the police baffled.  In the taunting letters that he writes to the authorities, he says that his name is Jack.

Jack the Ripper, to be exact.

With both high and low society demanding an end to the murders, can the respected and determined Inspector Abberline discover the true identity of Jack the Ripper and bring his reign of terror to an end?  Helping him out will be an American doctor named Mark Robinson.  Robinson is an expert in a developing science called psychology but will that be enough?

*sigh*

This 1984 novel from Robert Bloch is an unfortunate misfire.  I say that as someone who has spent a countless amount of time reading about the murders and all of the identified suspects.  (Back in March, when Jeff and I were in London, we went on one of those Jack the Ripper walking tours.  It was wonderfully creepy!)  A century after his crimes, Jack the Ripper continues to fascinate us because, not only was he the first widely identified serial killer, but it also appears that he got away with it.  The police may have speculated that Jack was a disgraced lawyer who committed suicide after the murder of Mary Kelly but they never actually presented any evidence to back that up.  Over the last 130 years, countless people have been accused of being Jack the Ripper, everyone from an anonymous Russian doctor to Lewis Carroll to the son of Queen Victoria.  Solely based on the fact that she didn’t care much for his paintings, Patricia Cornwell wrote an entire book arguing that the artist Walter Sickert was the murderer.  In all probability, Jack the Ripper was an anonymous nobody but he’s become such a huge figure in the popular imagination that it’s difficult for many to accept that he was probably just a sexually dysfunctional loser who hated women.  Instead, elaborate conspiracy theories are pursued and films like Murder by Decree and From Hell are produced.

Bloch’s novel features plenty of prominent Victorians, though none of them are identified as suspects.  Oscar Wilde, Joseph Merrick, Conan Doyle, and Robert Lees all show up and then quickly disappear from the story.  When Bloch does eventually reveal the identity of Jack the Ripper, he turns out to be a minor character who was first introduced just a few chapters previously.  It’s a bit of a letdown.

Actually, the whole book is a letdown.  It comes across as if it was written in haste and Bloch’s attempt to give the story some gravitas by opening the final few chapters be describing ancient torture methods doesn’t really have the effect that I presume he was going for.  It’s a disappointment because, after all, this is Robert Bloch that we’re talking about.  Bloch not only wrote Psycho but he also wrote Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper, one of the best short stories ever written about Jack.

Read the short story but avoid the novel.  And if you ever get a chance to take a Jack the Ripper walking tour, do it!

Italian Horror Showcase: Who Saw Her Die (dir by Aldo Lado)


Did you know that today is World James Bond Day?

It certainly is!  Today is the 55th anniversary of Dr. No and therefore, it’s the day when we celebrate all things Bond!

Now, it may seem strange to start a review of a classic giallo like 1972’s Who Saw Her Die? by talking about the James Bond franchise but the two do have something in common.

George Lazenby.

George Lazenby was the Australian model who was selected to replace Sean Connery in the role of 007.  It was Lazenby’s first big break and it also nearly destroyed his career.  Lazenby played the role only once, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  Though many modern critics have come to recognize that film as one of the best installments in the franchise, contemporary critics were far less impressed.  After the disappointing reception of OHMSS, it was announced that Lazenby would be leaving the role and, in Diamonds Are Forever, Connery returned to the role.

What happened?  Why did George Lazenby exit one of the biggest film franchises in the world?  In my research, I’ve come across several different theories.  Some say that Lazenby voluntarily quit because he either wasn’t happy with the direction of the franchise or he didn’t get want to get typecast.  Others say that Lazenby was fired from the role because he was difficult to work with and was viewed as being a diva.  Others have said that Lazenby was viewed as being too stiff of an actor to continue in the role of James Bond.

Obviously, I can’t say whether Lazaneby was difficult to work with or not.  Nor can I even begin to speculate on what he thought of the franchise’s direction.  But, as far as this idea that Lazenby wasn’t a good actor goes … well, all I can say is have you even seen Who Saw Her Die?

As you can probably tell from the trailer, Who Saw Her Die? might as well take place on a totally different planet from the Bond films.  Who Saw Her Die? is an atmospheric and, at times, nightmarish giallo.  A murderer of children — complete with black gloves and a black veil, because this is a giallo film, after all — is stalking Venice.  When the daughter of architect Franco Serpieri (George Lazenby) is murdered, Franco and his ex-wife (Anita Strinberg) search for the murderer and discover a connection to a previous murder that occurred, years before, at a French ski resort.

It’s a dark and disturbing film, perhaps the most emotionally intense giallo film that I’ve ever seen.  A year before Nicolas Roeg did the same thing with Don’t Look Now, director Aldo Lado captures Venice as a city of both great beauty and great decay.  Every scene features the ominous shadow of death hanging over it and, after the murder of Roberta Serpieri (Nicolette Elmi), the viewer is painfully aware that everyone that we see is a potential child murderer.  Is it the artist?  Is it the priest?  Or is it some random passerby?  This film keeps you guessing.

And holding the entire film together is George Lazenby.  At the time, I’m sure that some said it was a step down to go from playing James Bond to appearing in a low-budget Italian thriller but Lazenby gives such an emotional and empathetic performance that it should silence anyone who has ever said that Lazenby was a stiff actor.  It’s not just that Franco wants justice for his daughter.  It’s also that he’s haunted by his own guilt.  Franco abandoned his daughter, leaving her on the streets of Venice, so that he could get laid.  If he had been with there, the killer never would have targeted her.  As played by Lazenby, Franco is motivated not just by rage but also by a need to redeem himself.  He is equally matched by Anita Strindberg, who perfectly captures the raw pain and rage of a mother who has lost her child.  Perhaps the film’s strongest moment features Franco and his ex-wife making love after their daughter’s funeral.  The scenes of their love-making  are intercut with scenes of them crying in bed afterwards, a technique that, a year later, Nicolas Roeg would also use for Don’t Look Now‘s famous sex scene.  Together, Stindberg and Lazenby make Who Saw Her Die? into the rare whodunit where you care as much about the future of the characters as you do the solution to the mystery.

Who Saw Her Die? is an excellent and powerful giallo and proof that George Lazenby was more than just someone who once played James Bond.

George Lazenby (center) in Who Saw Her Die?

4 Shots From 4 Films About The London Fog: The Lodger, A Study In Terror, Murder by Decree


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, we celebrate the horrors of the London Fog!

4 Shots From 4 Films About The London Fog

The Lodger (1927, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

The Lodger (1944, dir by John Brahm)

A Study in Terror (1965, dir by James Hill)

Murder By Decree (1979, dir by Bob Clark)