Horror on TV: The Veil 1.2 “Girl on the Road” (dir by George Waggner)

From 1958, it’s The Veil!

The Veil was a horror anthology series that, because of financial difficulties at Hal Roach Studios, were never actually aired on television.  10 episodes were filmed before production was abruptly canceled.  Each episode was hosted by (and often starred) Boris Karloff.  Karloff later stated that he was never actually paid for his work on the show but his work as the host did eventually lead to him being hired to host Thriller, a horror anthology series that eventually did air.

As for The Veil, the ten episodes that were produced were never actually sold to a network but, in the 60s, several episodes were edited together to create films that aired on late night television.  It wasn’t until the 90s that the episodes were actually released on video.  For that, we largely have Something Weird Video to thank.

Each episode of The Veil opened with Karloff promising the lift the veil on a strange, perhaps supernatural, event.  (Most of the stories were supposedly based on true stories.)  Karloff would also play a role in each episode.  For instance, in tonight’s episode, he plays Morgan Debs.

Tonight’s episode is called Girl on the Road.  It’s a nicely atmospheric tale about a man (Tod Andrews) who picks up a mysterious woman (Eve Brent) who is stranded on the side of the road.  What is the woman’s secret and why is she terrified of Morgan Debs?  Why does everyone in the town refuse to talk about her?  Watch to find out!

This episode was directed by George Waggner, who is perhaps best known for directing the original Wolf Man.


Gary Loggins, Rest In Peace

We have some sad news to report.  Gary Loggins, who shared his film reviews here and over on his own page, passed away this weekend.  He was 61 years old.

It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to Gary.  He was a good man.  He was active and respected in the recovery community and a tireless advocate for those trying to turn their lives around.  He was a good writer.  He loved Boston and he loved movies.  Oh my God, did he ever love movies!

Most of Gary’s reviews were of classic films and his knowledge indeed was encyclopedic.  He also reviewed more recent films as well.  He reviewed classic television shows and he enjoyed looking at the history of one-hit wonders.  His writing was full of warmth and joy.  I mean, this was a man who truly loved cinema and reading his reviews, it was impossible not share that love.  He brought so much to the online film community and he will be missed.

Gary first contacted me in 2015, asking me if I was looking for another reviewer for Through the Shattered Lens.  I asked him if I could see a sample of his work.  He sent me a review of Monster Zero.  I read it and I said, “Hell yeah, you can write for the Shattered Lens!”  For the past four years, Gary was a regular contributor here and on his own site, Cracked Rearviewer.  He introduced me to a lot of older films that I probably wouldn’t have seen if not for his recommendation.  As I said, he really loved movies and he shared that love with not only those of us here at the Shattered Lens but with everyone who read one of his reviews.  And for that, we will be forever thankful.

I’m going to miss my friend.

Rest in peace, Gary.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Yesterday Machine (dir by Russ Marker)

The 1965 film The Yesterday Machine opens with dancing!

Well, okay, actually, it opens with two college students out in the middle of nowhere, listening to an old radio.  Howie Ellison (Jay Ramsey) is working on his car, trying to get the engine to work again.  Margie de Mar (Linda Jenkins) is working on her baton twirling, as one tends to due when stuck out in the middle of nowhere.

As soon as the film started and I got one look at the barren landscape, I knew that it had to have been filmed in my part of the world.  The whole thing just screamed Texas/Oklahoma border.  Then I saw Margie’s boots and then I heard Howie and Margie’s accents and I yelled, “OH MY GOD, THEY FILMED THIS IN TEXAS!”

And, indeed, they did.  The Yesterday Machine is a regional production, through and through.  Nearly everyone in the film has a strong accent and the North Texas landscape is notably flat.  (The film’s harsh black-and-white cinematography actually gives it something of a apocalyptic feel.)  After I watched this film, I did some research and I discovered that this film was shot in Dallas.  Director Russ Marker was a Texas filmmaker and actor.  He apparently directed two films over the course of his short career, this and The Demon From Devil’s Lake.  He also had an uncredited role as a bank guard in Bonnie and Clyde.

(There were actually quite a few low-budget filmmakers working in Texas in the 60s.  The best-known, of course, would probably be Larry Buchanan.  But, at the same time that Russ Marker was shooting this film, Hal Warren was filming Manos: The Hands of Fear.)

Anyway, Howie and Margie are supposed to be heading to a college football game but it turns out that Howie is totally useless when it comes to fixing cars.  So, instead, they leave the car and go looking for help.  After wandering around for a bit, they run into some soldiers who are dressed in Confederate army uniforms.

“Those are some crazy threads, Dad!” Howie says.

Having no respect for Howie’s beatnik ways, the soldiers shoot him and then kidnap Margie.

What’s going on, you may ask.  Well, fear not!  Lt. Partane (Tim Holt) is on the case!  And yes, classic film fans, you read that actor’s name correctly.  Tim Holt, star of both The Magnificent Ambersons and Treasure of the Sierra Madre, lends his gravitas to The Yesterday Machine!  According to the imdb, Holt grew disillusioned with Hollywood in the 50s and gave up the movies, retiring to his ranch in Oklahoma.  He only came out of retirement to play Lt. Partane in this film and Agent Clark in Herschell Gordon Lewis’s moonshiner epic, This Stuff’ll Kill You.  According to imdb, Holt only came out of retirement as a “favor for his friends.”  So, in other words, Tim Holt probably did this movie to be nice.

Helping out Lt. Partane is a reporter named Jim Crandall (James Britton) and Margie’s sister, a singer named Sandy (Ann Pelligrino).  Working together, they investigate why Confederate soldiers are wandering around North Texas and what they discover is that it’s because a fugitive Nazi scientist, Dr. Blake (Charles Young), has built a time machine!  He’s planning on using it to go to the past and help Hitler win World War II!

However, before he does that, he wants to make sure that everyone knows how time travel works.  This leads to a — I kid you not, dear readers — TEN MINUTE LECTURE IN FRONT OF A BLACKBOARD, during which Dr. Blake goes into meticulous detail about how he can travel in time!  It’s interesting because you can tell that the filmmakers actually did go to the trouble of researching all of the theories about how time works and how man might be able to travel into the past and it’s also obvious that they really wanted to show off what they had learned.

But, here’s the thing.  It’s totally unnecessary.  We’ve already seen the Confederate soldiers.  If we’re still watching the film by the time that Dr. Blake shows up then it’s safe to assume that we’ve suspended our disbelief enough to accept that time travel is possible.  There’s no need to convince us.  And, since Young wasn’t exactly the best actor in Texas, having him spend ten minutes madly lecturing the audience wasn’t exactly going to convince anyone that time travel was a plausible reality.  Instead, it just brings the entire film to a halt and kills the small amount of narrative momentum that it had going for it.

Anyway, once Dr. Blake finally shuts up, it’s time to stop his nefarious plans and hopefully make the world safe for college football games.

The Yesterday Machine is a really bad movie but I have to admit that I always kind of enjoy watching these regional oddities.  There’s something touching about everyone’s attempt to turn The Yesterday Machine into a “real” movie and, at its best, the film features the type of enthusiasm that you can only get from a low-budget amateur production.  If nothing else, this movie about time travel is a real time capsule.  Movies like this are about as close to real time machine as we’ll ever get.

Robot Without A Cause: Class of 1999 II: The Substitute (1994, directed by Spiro Razatos)

There’s a new substitute teacher at a local high school in Oregon and he’s not going to put up with any disrespectful punks.  John Bolen (Sasha Mitchell) can educate minds and change lives but only when he’s not busy killing any student with a bad attitude and trying to protect his fellow teacher, Jenna McKenzie (Caitlin Dulany).  Jenna is scheduled to testify against the local gang leader so every punk at school is trying to intimidate her and her boyfriend, Emmett (Nick Cassavetes!).  It takes Jenna and Emmett a while to realize that John is killing all of their students but soon, a mysterious man named G.D. Ash (Rick Hill) shows up and insinuates that John might be connected to the robot teachers that, two years earlier, terrorized a high school in Seattle.

This sequel to The Class of 1999 is mostly more of the same, with the main difference being that the focus is not on the students being hunted but instead on the teachers being “protected.”  If the first Class of 1999 was about the dangers of a no tolerance discipline policy, the sequel is all for it and suggests that maybe the world really would be better off if teachers could just kill some of their more disruptive students.  The first film’s director, Mark L. Lester, did not return for the sequel and directing duties were given to stunt coordinator to Spiro Razatos who, not surprisingly, emphasized action and stunts over characterization.  Fortunately, Sasha Mitchell was a champion kickboxer so he’s believable in the action scenes and he’s such a stiff actor that you could believe that he might be an android.  There’s a good and unexpected twist towards the end of the movie but, ultimately, the victims are too interchangeable and the direction is too flat for this sequel to duplicate the demented pleasures of either Class of 1999 or Class of 1984.

Game Review: Mystery House Possessed (2005, Emily Short)

Mystery House Possessed is an Interactive Fiction game by Emily Short.  It was one of the first IF games to be developed with Inform 7 and it is a classic of its kind.

Your friend Eulalie has died.  As per her instructions, her greedy heirs will be allowed to enter her house and spend the day searching for where she has hidden her diamond necklace.  However, she has also hidden something in the study and, in her final letter to you, she asked you to retrieve it.  She didn’t specify what it was, only that you would know it when you saw it.  And, Eulalie writes, if you happen to find the necklace, that’s cool too!

When you arrive at Eulalie’s house, her six heirs are already present and preparing to tear up the house in their search for her necklace’s hiding place.  It turns out that one of the heirs is a murderer and, unless you can figure out the killer’s identity, everyone in the house is going to die.  Including you!

What sets Mystery House Possessed apart from other interactive fiction games is the amount of randomization involved.  At the start of every new game, not only is a new killer selected but the location of the necklace changes as well.  The movements of the 6 NPCs also change from game to game and you’ll have to keep track of who has picked up each of the potential weapons that have been left around the house.  You might even have to pick up one of those weapons yourself so that you can be ready if the killer comes after you.

It’s a short game, with a clear goal and time limit.  Because of the heavy randomization, it’s also a game that can played over and over again.  Like almost all of Emily Short’s games, Mystery House Possessed is well-written with a careful attention to detail and challenging without being impossible to win.  If you’ve never played an interactive fiction game before, Mystery House Possessed is a good place to start.


Horror Scenes That I Love: After The Changeling’s seance….

So, last night, at the TSL offices, Jeff, Leonard, Case, and I watched Insidious!  It was an enjoyable experience.  I think we were all surprised to discover just how well Insidious holds up.  When the film reached the seance scene, in which the ghosts were asked questions and a possessed Lin Shaye would write out their answers, I said, “This scene reminds me of the seance scene from The Changeling!

And then I thought to myself, “That should be our next horror scene that I love!”

So, I went to YouTube and I searched for the classic (and really scary) seance scene from Peter Medak’s great 1980 ghost story, The Changeling.  And guess what?  I couldn’t find it!  I found a lot of scenes from The Changeling and I found a lot of people talking about how much they love the seance scene but I couldn’t find the scene itself!

So, here’s the best I could do.  This scene that I love takes place immediately after the seance and features George C. Scott listening and re-listening to a tape of the seance until he can finally hear the voice of the child who, years before, was murdered in his house.

Even if it’s not the seance scene, it’s still pretty good.  I personally consider this to be one of George C. Scott’s best performances.  And the sound of the little boy’s voice on the tape is chilling.

The Changeling is really good, by the way.  You should watch it, if you haven’t already!

Book Review: Haunted Heartland by Beth Scott and Michael Norman

Today’s review comes straight from my Aunt Kate’s paperback book collection.  It’s Haunted Heartland by Beth Scott and Michael Norman!

First published in 1985, Haunted Heartland is a collection of supposedly true stories about ghosts and other supernatural things.  The catch is that all of the stories take place in “American’s heartland.”

Where is the heartland?  Well, according to this book, the heartland is made up of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  So, sorry, Arkansas!  Too bad, Oklahoma!  Your ghosts do not qualify for inclusion in this book that’s a shame because both Arkansas and Oklahoma are home to some pretty interesting ghosts.  That said, the ten states that are profiled in Haunted Heartland are apparently home to some fascinating stories of their own.

For instance, did you know that Egypt, Illinois is nearly as haunted as Chicago?  Of course, I guess when you’re the home state of Al Capone and the Chicago Outfit, you’ll end up collecting a number of restless spirits.  Since President Lincoln was from Illinois, the authors also take the time to recount Lincoln’s numerous supernatural encounters.  The ghosts and the dream weavers loved Abe Lincoln.

Did you know that La Llorona has actually been spotted in Gary, Indiana?

Did you know about the poltergeist of Gutenberg, Iowa?

Or how about the mad woman of Topeka, Kansas?

Did you know that Michigan is haunted by phantom ships?

Ever heard of the phantom miner of Minnesota?

Did you know that Missouri’s own Mark Twain was psychic?

Have you ever been curious about the grinning skeletons of Nebraska?

Have you ever searched for the headless biker of Ohio?

Could you survive meeting the wandering dead of Wisconsin?

All these stories and more are detailed in Haunted Heartland!  It’s a pretty enjoyable book.  Norman and Scott narrate their tales of the paranormal in a breezy and fun manner, with the stated goal being more to entertain as opposed to terrify.  Even with that in mind, though, Haunted Heartland is a treasure trove from aspiring horror writers searching for inspiration.