Horror On TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.6 “Firefall” (dir by Don Weis)


It appears that YouTube is finally back up (for the sake of future historians, YouTube was down for several hours on the night of Tuesday, October 16th, 2018, leading to great panic on twitter) so I can share tonight’s episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker!

In this episode, our favorite neurotic journalist investigates several cases of spontaneous human combustion.  It all appears to have something to do with the spirit of a dead gangster, one who is wandering around in the form of a famous (and still living) conductor.

I swear, Chicago was a crazy place to live in the 70s.

This episode originally aired on November 8th, 1974.

Enjoy!

Night Surf, Review By Case Wright


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Where do stories come from? Not important or interesting.  Why are some stories shot out like a cannonball from an artist’s brain in a matter of days like Kerouac’s “On The Road” and even written on a scroll; whereas, some stories take a decade or more of developing until they are born like Stephen King’s The Stand?  Very Important and Very Interesting!  I will not be discussing King’s opus The Stand, but rather how it evolved from Night Surf.

Night Surf was written for the University of Maine literary magazine in 1969 when King was twenty-two.   Night Surf introduces us to the plague that kills off mankind and how people can be pulled to darkness when no one is looking. The disease is even called “A6” just as it was called in The Stand, but The Stand didn’t get published until 1978.  Why did it take so long for The Stand to incubate and his other stories seem to shoot from him like they are on a sluice?

I see this dichotomy in my own writing.  For some stories, I’ll get pieces of dialogue and scenes in my head that kick around for years, but I don’t know how they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle with too many smooth edges.  I can’t speak for Stephen King, but for me the longer developing stories occur when I’m picking at something personal like an emotional wound that’s been puffed out by pus, but not yet ready to drain.  I guess I just want to hold onto the pain; maybe, King does too?

Night Surf takes place on the New England coastline when summer’s ending, but it’s not just the leaves dying on the trees; humanity is blowing out from a massive viral extinction event.  The disease is called A6- a superflu.  In The Stand, he refers to the virus also as Tube Neck and Captain Trips.  The world is not quite dead yet, but it’s getting there.  The story is narrated by Bernie who is spending humanity’s last days at a beach town.  At first, the group believes that they are immune from the disease and demonstrate their superior immunity with the most primitive act of all: Human Sacrifice.  A man who’s dying from the flu comes to their town and, instead of caring for him and helping him die, they burn him to death in a bonfire.

Why burn him?  They describe it almost like a sacrifice to the beach itself.  The act seemed to me to be more like a line in the stand between the dying world and themselves.  The mere mortals are simply cord wood and can be used for fuel.  Their perception as the kings of humanity is vindicated by their health because they are immune and the rest of humanity perished.  It harkens to the idea of the Puritans where the Select were touched by God and were guaranteed success in life and VIP treatment on the ethereal plane.  Of course, the Puritans would balk at using lesser people as a duraflame.

Soon after burning the flu victim alive, Bernie realizes that one of his comrades has A6 symptoms and will soon die, indicating all of them might expire soon.  The story forces us to look at what allows us to be moral.  Are we only good because society will punish us if we are bad?  It could be argued that they looked at the immolation as a last hurrah, but I think that is wrong because at the time in the story, they believed they were immune.  If their friend had developed symptoms before the unlucky traveler arrived, would they see him as their brother or would they have burned them both to adamantly declare their superiority?

The theme of people being seduced to darkness is throughout The Stand, but in this story, they don’t get the devil made me do it excuse; the group murdered because they could and felt like doing it.  After the immolation, we return to Bernie’s backstory, humanizing him even more.  It seems King is saying that this horrendous act was just another act in a number of countless acts that Bernie did from birth to his upcoming demise.  Maybe doing evil is just as common as getting the paper? I hope not, but as the great philosopher Bobby Dylan said, It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

This story is more relevant to me today than when I first read it years ago.  What makes it more difficult for me is that the people in the story are just so normal.  I hope none of my readers will ever have to do this, but I’ve looked right into the face of evil once and the man looked like he could have been a cousin.  When I remember the encounter, it still chills me to the bone.  I met a Bernie once; maybe, you have too, but you didn’t know it.

Dream On: After Midnight (1989, directed by Jim and Ken Wheat)


Prof. Edward Derek (Ramy Zada) teaches a class called The Psychology Of Fear.  He claims that the things that most scare us are the things that we can believe in.  (To quote the observers from the peanut gallery, “No shit, Sherlock.”)  After Prof. Derek demonstrates fear by pulling out a fake gun and pretending to kill himself, a jock ends up pissing himself and the class is suspended.  Fortunately, Prof. Derek has a backup plan.  He invites his students to his house, where he tells them three horror stories that are all designed to prove that the scariest things are the things that could actually happen in real life.

What does Prof. Derek believe to be scary?

In the first story, it’s scary when your wife decides that the perfect way to throw a surprise party would be to trick you into thinking that you’re trapped in a haunted house and you’re going to die if you don’t start chopping off some heads.

In the second story, it’s scary when a group of girls take a wrong turn, piss off the wrong gas station attendant, and end up getting chased by pack of killer dogs.

In the third story, it’s scary with an answering service operator (played by a pre-CSI Marg Helgenberger) starts getting calls from a psycho.

None of the three stories are really that scary but the first story does have a twist ending that would have made EC Comics proud.  The third story is the best, if just because it focuses on one character and that character is played by Marg Helgenberger.  There’s also the wrap-around story involving the professor and his students.  Just when that story’s getting good, it cops out with an ending that you’ll see coming from a mile away.

With the exception of Marg Helgenberger’s segment, After Midnight is a largely forgettable horror anthology film that will be best appreciated by viewers who are nostalgic for 80s fashion and cheap special effects.

Halloween Havoc!: INVISIBLE AGENT (Universal 1942)


cracked rear viewer

INVISIBLE AGENT could very well have been subtitled “The Invisible Man vs The Nazis”! This is the only Universal Horror that addresses the topic of the war in Europe (despite the fact most of them take place in Europe!), and though there aren’t many scares going on, Curt Siodmak’s sci-fi flavored screenplay, John P. Fulton’s fantastic special effects, and a cast featuring Peter Lorre in his only Universal Horror appearance make this one of the most enjoyable movies of the whole bunch!

Frank Griffin, grandson of the original Invisible Man, is living in London under the assumed name Frank Raymond and running a small printing shop. A gang of Axis creeps led by Gestapo spymaster Stauffer and Japanese Baron Ikito pay him a call, demanding his grandfather’s secret of invisibility, which of course they want to use for their own nefarious purposes. Frank manages to escape their clutches, and goes…

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The Lawnmower Man, Review by Case Wright


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The “Lawnmower Man” by Stephen King really makes me understand the power of peyote.  Stephen King has is very open about his drug and alcohol addiction and in the 1970s even regular folks were dabbling in the Yayo.  In fact, he has said that he doesn’t remember writing The Shining.  In those days, he would use cotton balls up his nose from the constant nose bleeds from his cocaine use.  The Lawnmower Man  has to be seen in this context.

Harold Parkette is a typical suburban man.  He’s lawn obsessed and needs to make it purdy.

Sidenote: This story takes me back to me youth.  In my football and track days, I would mow lawns and split wood to make extra cash.  I would never wear a shirt because I would get hot.  I never understood until later why only the wives would call me to do the yard work, would make really odd excuses to give me extra lemonade, and cash. A lot of times they’d just sit on their porch, watch, and occasionally wave. 

The Lawnmower Man is not that kind of story.  Harold gets an odd landscaper who starts working and then Harold takes a nap.  When Harold wakes, he sees that the lawnmower is moving on its own and the lawnmower man is eating the clippings.  The image that stuck with me the most is that grass was growing on the lawnmower man’s teeth- yuck. The Lawnmower Man reveals himself to be the Greek God Pan and proceeds to eat Harold.

This story is just plain weird.  Pan was into wine and sex, not landscaping.  Also, I get the economy can be tough, but if you’re a god wouldn’t you do better than a solo landscaping biz? All around, I’m very confused.

Horror Scene That I Love: The Monster Reveals Itself In The Curse of Frankenstein


Today’s horror scene that I love comes from the 1957 classic, The Curse of Frankenstein!

In this scene, the Monster (Christopher Lee) reveals himself and then promptly attack his maker (Peter Cushing).  My favorite thing about this scene is that zoom shot of the Monster’s face after the bandages have been removed.  The look he’s giving Frankenstein leaves no doubt about how the Monster feels about being reanimated.

Knowing that Lee and Cushing were close friend in real life makes this scene all that more enjoyable.

4 Shots From 4 Films: The Plague of the Zombies, Frankenstein Created Woman, The Mummy’s Shroud, The Satanic Rites of Dracula


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 pay tribute to the TSL’s favorite British studio with….

4 Shots From 4 Hammer Films

The Plague of the Zombies (1966, dir by John Gilling)

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967, dir by Terence Fisher)

The Mummy’s Shroud (1967, dir by John Gilling)

The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973, dir by Alan Gibson)