Horror on TV: One Step Beyond 3.6 “Moment of Hate” (dir by John Newland)

On tonight’s episode of One Step Beyond, fashion designer Karen Wadsworth (Joanne Linville) believes that she has the power to cause people to die just by wishing death upon them.  Her psychiatrist tells her that this simply isn’t possible and then dares her to try one little test of her supposed powers.

This episode features a good performance by Joanne Linville and, if nothing else, it perhaps makes the case that we should be a little bit less quick to wish the worst upon other people.  Just imagine all of the damage that Karen could have caused if she had ever set up a twitter account.

This episode originally aired on October 25th, 1960.

Dagon- by HP Lovecraft, Story Review, By Case Wright


Dagon by HP Lovecraft is a brief story that strives to set up his “mythos”. HP Lovecraft made Stephen King’s work possible and his first name HP makes me think of my favorite tangy steak sauce. I doubt there is a a connection to Lovecraft and steak sauce, but who knows?  Maybe they’ll be some discovered works where the Old Ones try to consume humanity and the world, but are placated with deliciousness of HP?



Dagon is short; it clocks in at 5 pages, but that was interesting enough to inspire the film Dagon- Lisa’s Dagon Review.   The story is written by as a memoir of man who is strung out on steak sauce for days…I mean heroin…no….wait…morphine- that’s it.  His name is never mentioned; so, I’m calling him Doug.  You heard it first – his name was Doug.

Doug was a naval officer … somehow.  I mean really the only thing this guy seemed to know how to do correctly was morphine.  His ship is attacked and captured by the Germans without any description of a fight.  Was he in the French Navy? He and his crew are captured and the only people more incompetent than he is are the Germans who easily let him escape.  Also, he has no concept of navigation.  Are we sure he was attacked by the Germans or were they on a mercy rescue mission?

His wee row boat runs aground on a murky grossness that smells of rotting dead fish.  So, he’s in Maine?  HIYO!!!!  He discovers that there is a temple of sorts worshiped by Fish-men … really.  This is a recurring theme in Lovecraft’s books: incompetent sailors and archaeologists uncover interdenominational cities with monsters. Doug even sees one of these walking fish sticks and it freaks him out so much that he goes and insane and swears off Red Lobster forever.  Somehow, he manages to get back out to sea and gets rescued, but seeing the monster and their weird island makes him really need morphine.

The story was quick paced and you can see how his “mythos” would evolve. It is also clear that “Incompetent weirdos find slime monsters” was likely the working title of most of Lovecraft’s works.  He also uses the word Bas-Relief a lot, which makes me think of a fish in sunglasses hanging out on a lounge chair rather than stone carvings of soldiers doing things.  The big lesson from his work is that if you’re doofus, you’ve probably already met Dagon or Cthulhu.

You be the judge. What do you think of when you read Bas-Relief:

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Banana Splits Movie (dir by Danishka Esterhazy)

The Banana Splits Movie takes viewers behind the scenes of a children’s television show and shows us the sordid world that nobody knows about.

The stage manager is overworked.  The new head of the network is a jerk.  The star of the show is a drunk.  The lovable Banana Splits, who play silly games and all play music instruments, are all actually robots who are looked down upon by their human coworkers.  When Stevie (Richard White), the star of the show, learns that the show is being canceled, he makes the mistake of telling the robots and, before you know it, all Hell is breaking lose.  People are getting stabbed to death with lollipops.  Network executives are getting dismembered.  One unfortunate person gets slammed in the head with a giant hammer.  You gotta be careful who you piss off, folks.  Robots are ruthless.

To me, the most shocking thing about The Banana Splits Movie was the discovery that it was based on an actual show.  Apparently, the Banana Splits were real and they had their own show in the late 60s and early 70s.  I’m going to guess that the Banana Splits were played by people in costumes as opposed to just being big robots.  At least, I hope that’s the case because, after watching The Banana Splits Movie, I’m kind of over wanting anything to do with robots.

I will say this.  If I imagine the characters from this movie not killing people, I can kinda understand why they would have their own TV show.  I mean, they’re all really cute, except for when they’re covered in blood and brain matter.  My personal favorite was Snorky, who was a big elephant and was a bit less murderous than the other three members of the Banana Splits.  In fact, I have to admit that the film kind of left me feeling a little bit depressed because all of the robots are so cute that you really don’t want to see them murder people or get damaged themselves.  The film actually does a pretty good job of contrasting the adorableness of the Banana Splits with the pain and carnage that they caused.

And make no doubt about it.  There’s a lot of blood spilled in this movie.  The Banana Splits are ruthless murderers and they don’t care how nice you are or if you paid money to see the show or if you’re just trying to make your daughter into a big star.  If they see you, they’ll kill you.  In fact, I have to admit that it sometimes got to be a bit too much for me.  I got a little bit tired of all the violence but, at the same time, I also appreciated the film’s satiric intent.  In a world gone mad, why wouldn’t the stars of a children’s TV show turn out to be a bunch of killer robots?  When you think about all of the once beloved celebrities that have fallen from grace over the past 10 years, it makes an odd sort of sense.

Anyway, The Banana Splits Movie is well made splatter film with a satiric vein running through all blood and guts.  It was a bit much for me but I respected it for sticking to its subversive premise and I do think it will be appreciated by a lot of other horror fans and pop culture fanatics.

I’m just hoping that the sequel features more Snorky.

It’s No Westworld: Futureworld (1976, directed by Richard T. Heffron)

Two years after the Westworld “incident,” (in which a group of robots malfunctioned and murdered hundreds of humans), Delos Amusement Park has reopened and is accepting guests.  Westworld has been permanently shut down but guests can still go to Romanworld and Medeivalworld (despite the fact that it was in Medievalworld that the whole robot rebellion started in the first place).  Delos has added two new worlds: Spaworld and Futureworld.  Spaworld is a spa for people who want to think young and Futureworld is the world of the future, which looks much like 1976, the year that this film was made.

Two reporters, Chuck Browning (Peter Fonda) and Tracy Ballard (Blythe Danner), have been invited to cover the grand reopening of Delos and to hopefully generate some good publicity.  Chuck, however, has reason to believe that there’s something sinister happening at Delos.  While Tracy is busy fantasizing about Yul Brynner, Chuck discovers that Delos is using Futureworld to clone diplomats.

At the end of Futureworld, Peter Fonda gives everyone the finger and that’s really cool but otherwise, this is a forgettable sequel to Westworld.  The whole point of the original Westworld was that the robots didn’t know they were robots but, in Futureworld, the robots not only know what they are but they’re also superfluous to the plot.  There’s no robot revolution in Futureworld nor is there any of Crichton’s concerns about technology run amok.  Instead, it’s all about clones and a predictable political conspiracy.

The main issue facing the makers of this film was how could they do a sequel to Michael Crichton’s unexpected hit when Westworld‘s main attraction, Yul Brynner’s robot gunslinger, was thoroughly destroyed at the end of the first film.  It would not make any sense for anyone to have reactivated the robot.  Their solution was to bring Brynner in for a cameo in which he appeared in one of Tracy’s dreams.  Sadly, why they thought it was a good idea to have Tracy develop an erotic fixation on a killer robot and then, just as abruptly, abandon the idea is not for us to know.  They would have been better off leaving Brynner out of the film entirely because his presence just reminds us that Futureworld is no Westworld.

Game Review: Suspended: A Cryogenic Nightmare (1983, Infocom)

Welcome to the future.  On the planet of Contra, an Earth colony is run by a self-maintaining system that is housed in a gigantic facility.  The system is responsible for everything from transportation to keeping the weather hospitable for the colonists.  You are at the center of the system.  You have been placed in suspended animation so that your mind can serve as the Central Mentality that keeps the entire system from falling apart.  It’s a job that’s meant to last for 500 years but the rewards are great.

Unfortunately, there’s been an earthquake and the complex has been damaged.  Though you are still in suspended animation, you know that you have to repair the complex before the angry colonists shut you down.  Since you’re in stasis, you have to direct five robots to do all the work.  Each robot has its own “personality” and unique way of describing each room in the complex.  You’ll have to figure out how to get the robots to work together before all of you get shut down permanently.

Suspended is one of the most difficult text adventures that I’ve ever played.  Since each robot can only tell you certain things about each room in the facility, the game often depends on getting the right robots in the right room at the right time.  If you can pull that off, the damage itself is often easy to fix but it’s not always easy to guess which robot will be useful in which situation.  In typical Infocom fashion, there’s also a time limit to the game and making too many mistakes can make it impossible to get things done before time expires.  For most players, winning this game will come down to trial-and-error and frequent saving.  The game is so complex, though, that you feel really damn good when you actually manage to figure it all out.

Suspended can be found at various archival and abandonware sites online, including here.

Horror Scenes I Love: The Cemetery Scene From Plague of the Zombies

Since I reviewed the film earlier today, I guess it makes sense that today’s horror scene that I love should be the cemetery scene from Hammer’s The Plague of the Zombies!

Enjoy and watch your step!

Book Review: David Warbeck: The Man and His Movies by Raymond J. Slater and Harvey Fenton

David Warbeck

Anyone who is a fan of Italian exploitation films will knows the name and the face of actor David Warbeck.  Warbeck was the handsome, rugged, and surprisingly likable New Zealand-born actor who went from studying at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts to appearing in films that were directed by everyone from Russ Meyer to Antonio Margheritti to Lucio Fulci.  He played a small but pivotal roles in Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dynamite and then went on to star in The Beyond, The Black Cat, The Last Hunter, Rat Man, and so many others.  While his films may never have been critical favorites at the time of their release (though several have been positively reevaluated), Warbeck’s movie did well enough at the box office that he was even considered for the role of James Bond,  Warbeck was one of those actors who was consistently good, regardless of the quality of the film in which he was appearing.

Sadly, Warbeck passed away in 1997, before many of his films were rediscovered.  It’s a shame because — as the commentary track that he and Catriona MacColl recorded for The Beyond shows — he was a charming raconteur who had a way with a story.  Fortunately, in 1996, Warbeck did sit down and gave a lengthy interview to Jason J. Slater, in which he discussed his career and shared many anecdotes about his life as an international exploitation superstar.  That interview is at the center of a short but interesting book called David Warbeck: The Man And His Movies.

The book not only features the interview with Warbeck but it also takes a detailed look at his filmography, reviewing some of his more interesting (and, in some cases, infamous) films.  The reviews are well-written by people who obviously love these often underappreciated films.

If you’re a fan of Italian exploitation, this book is simply a must-have.  Admittedly, it’s not an easy book to find.  I ordered a copy off of Amazon and it wasn’t cheap.  But it was worth it!

International Horror Film Review: The Iron Rose (dir by Jean Rollin)

“Let’s go to the cemetery.”

That line is actually from another Jean Rollin film, Requiem for Vampire, but it also perfectly sums up the plot of his 1973 masterpiece, The Iron Rose.

A man (Hugues Quester) meets a woman (Francoise Pascal) at a wedding party.  They agree to go on a date, one which includes a railway station, a picnic, bicycling, and finally a walk that leads to a seemingly deserted cemetery.  On what seems to be a whim, the two of them enter the cemetery.  The woman seems to be fascinated with the place.  The man is dismissive, saying that funerals are an expensive, waste of time.  The woman believes that there is something after death.  The man is cynical, saying that once you’re dead, you’re dead.  As any couple would do after having a theological conversation, the two of them enter a crypt and make love.

While they’re busy making love, we discover that there actually are others in the cemetery.  There’s a clown that places flowers on a grave.  There’s a mysterious man who has been watching the couple as they walk among the graves.  (In the credits the man is called “Le vampire,” though he never actually does anything in the film that would indicate that he’s a bloodsucker.)  And then there’s the old woman who, as night falls, promptly closes the cemetery gates.

When the man and the woman emerge from the crypt, they discover that they are trapped.  There’s no way to open the gate and there’s no way to get out of the cemetery.  The two of them start to walk around, searching for either an exit or, at the very least, some sort of shelter for the night.  As they walk, strange things start to happen and we’re forced to reconsider our previous assumptions about not only the man and the woman but also the cemetery itself.  Did they enter the cemetery on a whim or did one of them specifically lead in the other?  As the night progresses, the feeling of impending doom only grows.  It all leads to a rather macabre fate for one of our lovers and a dance among the tombstones for another.

The Iron Rose is one of Jean Rollin’s best films and, sadly, it’s also one of his most unjustly obscure.  Even by the standards of Rollin’s early vampire films, The Iron Rose is a surreal film, one that is far more interested in creating a haunting atmosphere than in telling a traditional story.  What is the real reason that leads to the man and the woman entering the cemetery?  The Iron Rose is full of hints but, for most part, it’s left to the audience to answer that question for themselves.  The film’s haunting final scenes force us to reconsider everything that we previously assumed by the characters and their actions.  Are they obsessed with love or are they just in love with death?  There are no easy answers.

Obviously, a 90-minute film about two people walking around a cemetery is going to have some slow spots but, in this case, those occasional moments just add to the film’s ennui-drenched atmosphere.  As filmed by Rollin, the cemetery becomes as important a character as both the man and the woman and a reminder that the present is always going to be tied to the past.  The Iron Rose is Rollin at his dream-like best.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Blade, The Faculty, The Phantom of the Opera, Vampires

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!

This October, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!

4 Shots From 4 1998 Horror Films

Blade (1998, dir by Stephen Norrington)

The Faculty (1998, dir by Robert Rodriguez)

The Phantom of the Opera (1998, dir by Dario Argento)

Vampires (1998, dir by John Carpenter)

Horror Film Review: The Plague of the Zombies (dir by John Gilling)

One of the best (and scariest) zombie films of all time came to us from Hammer Studios.

The 1966 film, The Plague of the Zombies, takes place in a small, fog-filled English village.  The village has been hit by a plague, one that is wiping out all of the inhabitants.  Unable to combat or even diagnose the mysterious illness, Dr. Peter Tomlinson (Brook Williams) calls in his friend, Sir James Forbes (Andre Morrill) for help.  Sir James arrives with his daughter, Sylvia (Diane Clare) and suggests that the graves of the recently deceased should be dug up so that he can examine the bodies himself.

Sounds like a reasonable idea, right?  There’s only one problem.  ALL OF THE COFFINS ARE EMPTY!  Now, before anyone asks, they weren’t empty when they went into the ground.  There were dead bodies in them when they were originally buried.  But now the coffins are empty, the bodies are missing, and that can mean only one thing — ZOMBIES!

And since this is a Hammer film, that also means that a squire is to blame!  Seriously, if there’s anything that I’ve learned from watching British horror films, it is to never trust a squire.  Squires always seem to end up practicing some sort of black magic.  In this case, Squire Clive Hamilton (Jack Carson) has just returned from Haiti, where he apparently spent some time researching the art of zombie creation.  Squire Hamilton has a tin mine to manage and undead workers are apparently far less demanding than living workers.

(Of course, today, Squire Hamilton could have just automated the mine and brought in robot workers, who would probably be even less demanding than zombie workers.  In fact, with the march of progress, there may soon be no need for zombie workers at all.)

This is a Hammer film so, needless to say, Sylvia eventually gets kidnapped and it’s up to Dr. Tomlinson and Sir James to put an end to the Squire’s evil plans before Sylvia is transformed into a zombie herself.  That’s not going to be as easy as it seems, because there’s zombies everywhere!

The Plague of the Zombies is one of Hammer’s best films and it’s also one of the few that, even to a modern viewer, remains frightening.  The village is a wonderfully atmospheric location, mixing all of the usual gothic tropes that we’ve come to expect with Hammer films with a very real feeling of decay.  Even before the whole zombie plague started, one gets the feeling that the village was already dying a slow, economic death.  The tin mine may be the only way to keep the village alive but, at the same time, killing the village is also the only way to keep the tin mine open.  The Plague of the Zombies is a moody and rather sad film, one that has a bit more on its mind than just supplying the usual Hammer combination of cleavage and blood.

Speaking of blood, Plague of the Zombies has one of the scariest zombie scenes of all time, in which one of our heroes finds himself wandering through a mist-covered cemetery while the dead rise around him.  At one point, he literally steps over a pool of blood.  Of course, the scene itself turns out to be a dream but it’s still effectively frightening.  Also frightening are the zombies themselves, with their pasty, decaying flesh and their blankly hostile faces.  It has been suggested that Plague of the Zombies was an influence on Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and you can definitely see that in its portrayal of the zombies as being a threat not because they’re fast but because they’re so relentless and pitiless.

The Plague of the Zombies is one of the best Hammer films out there so watch it this Halloween!