Horror on TV: Friday the 13th: The Series 2.20 “Mesmer’s Bauble” (dir byArmand Mastroianni)

Tonight, for our horror on the lens, we have the twentieth episode of the 2nd season of Friday the 13th: The Series!

In tonight’s episode, an obsessive weirdo named Howard (well-played by Martin Neufeld) uses a curse antique to try to get close to a rock star named Angelica (played by real-life rock star, Vanity).

This episode originally aired on May 1st, 1989. Happy May Day, I guess.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Terrifier (dir by Damien Leone)

Are you scared of clowns?

I’ve never really had much of a problem with clowns, beyond the fact that some of them really do need to learn how apply lipstick without getting it all over their face. That said, two years ago, I watched the 2016 horror film, Terrifier, on Netflix and I now totally understand why some of my friends are totally terrified of the grinning men in the white makeup. I mean, I will send a Pennywise GIF to my clownphobic friends without even worrying about what damage I may or may not be doing to their mental well-being but I can guarantee you right now that I will never send any of them a picture of Art the Clown.

Art the Clown

Art (who is played by David Howard Thornton) is the clown at the center of Terrifier and, as you can tell from looking at the picture above, he’s not exactly a clown that you want to meet in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, over the course of the film, several innocent people do just that. There’s the homeless woman who meets him in an abandoned building. There’s the two drunk girls who, after leaving a Halloween party, make the mistake of laughing at Art. There’s the owner of the pizzeria who makes the mistake of kicking Art out of his establishment. Art, it turns out, doesn’t deal well with rejection. It also turns out that Art can turn just about anything into a deadly weapon. (We also later learn that Art just happens to have a chainsaw. Agck!)

Art doesn’t speak. We never learn where Art came from and why he insists on killing everyone that he meets. This lack of motivation makes Art a very scary clown indeed. We can only assume that he kills because he’s evil and, being a creature of pure evil, there’s really no way to reason with him or to rationalize his actions. Art is pure chaos released into the world and, as a result, he’s terrifying. If nothing else, Terrifier is a film that lives up to its name.

Director Damien Leone made Terrifier with a budget of a $100,000 and he uses that low budget to his advantage. The deserted building where Art stalks the majority of his victims is a genuinely atmospheric location and, even if they were done cheaply, the gore effects are disturbingly nightmarish. Fortunately, Leone gets some good performances from his cast, which makes the film all the more frightening. David Howard Thornton has enough presence to make Art the Clown intimidating, even when he’s just standing still and staring at nothing. As the film’s “final girl,” Samantha Scaffidi gives a likable and relatable performance. Wisely, the film neither turns her into a super warrior nor a simpering fool. Instead, she’s just a normal person trying to survive the night, much like those of us watching the film in what we hope is the safety of our own home.

Terrifier is an effectively scary little slasher film. It’s not for everyone, of course. It’s a film for horror fans and it has little interest in reaching out to people who don’t normally enjoy the genre. The violence is brutal and the film doesn’t shy away from gore. Those of you who easily fall prey to nightmares may want to stay away. As for those of you who are scared of clowns …. well, Terrifier will prove the correctness of your phobia. Seriously, if clowns scare you, don’t watch this movie. It’ll be safer for you just to watch It again….

Book Review: Night of the Living Dead by John A. Russo

A few years ago, I found a slightly beat-up copy of John Russo’s novelization of Night of the Living Dead at Half-Price Books. Of course, I immediately purchased it. From my own knowledge of the making of George Romero’s classic horror movie, I knew that John Russo was the one who came up with an idea involving zombies which led to Romero writing a story outline for Night of the Living Dead which Russo then turned into the film’s screenplay.

I also knew that Romero and Russo had a falling out of sorts after the success of Night of the Living Dead. With the film in the public domain as the result of a screw-up on the part of the movie’s distributor, there was some controversy over who had the rights to the original’s story. That’s one reason why the titles of Romero’s subsequent zombie films (i.e., Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, and the rest) were all about “the Dead” as opposed to “the Living Dead.” Russo’s subsequent zombie-themed work (i.e. Return of the Living Dead) featured the term “Living Dead” and was also sold as a sequel to the original Night of the Living Dead.

With all that in mind, I was curious to see what Russo’s novelization would be like. What extra information would the book contain about the characters? Would there be any extra details that were cut from the film? How about an alternate ending? It’s been known to happen. (Check out the novelization for Halloween if you want to see how much a novelization can differ from the film that inspired it.)

Well, it turns out that novelization of Night of the Living Dead is pretty much a straight recreation of the film. We do learn a bit more about just how bad a relationship Barbara has with her brother Johnny. And it’s firmly established that Ben was a truck driver before the dead came back to life. Otherwise, it’s pretty much just the movie in novel form. We don’t learn much about the characters that we didn’t already know. Harry is still stubborn and cowardly. Ben is still the designated hero who manages to get everyone killed through his own stubbornness. Barbara is still catatonic for most of the book. (I know some would complain about Barbara being so passive but her stunned disbelief is perhaps the most realistic part of the film and the novel. That’s how most of us would react to going through what she’s just been through.) Russo is a good writer and he does a good job capturing the tension in that little house. The final few chapters — which recreate the film’s downbeat ending — are particularly well-done. But there’s not much in the book that isn’t also in the movie.

One interesting thing about the novelization is that it was originally published in 1974, six years after the release of Night of the Living Dead. Was it written in an attempt to help establish that Russo and/or Romero owned the rights to the film? Or did it just take the publisher that long to realize that they’re might be a market for a novel based on the film? Who knows?

The book doesn’t add much to the overall story but I’m still glad I’ve got a copy, You can never have enough Night of the Living Dead memorabilia.

Book Review: The Rocklopedia Fakebandica by T. Mike Childs

Have you ever asked yourself, “Who was the imaginary band that sang that song that doesn’t actually exist in that fictional movie that I watched back in 2004?”

Well, fear not! The Rocklopedia Fakebandica can answer all of your fake band questions. This is a reference books that is solely devoted to fictional bands from the movies and from television. It may not be complete (because it was published 2004 and I don’t there’s ever been an updated edition) but it’s still pretty damn entertaining. California Dreams? They’re in here. Zack Attack? They get an entry. Of course, Rex Manning gets a mention but so does Berko, the musician who encouraged Gina to sing her heart out on the roof of Empire Records! Stillwater, the band from Almost Famous and not the recent Matt Damon film, is represented, along with a listing of the bands that the members were in before coming together. Spinal Tap gets an entry, of course. So does 4Skore, the boy band that Hank Hill thought was “kind of like Doo Wop” on King of the Hill.

It’s a fun book, written in an enjoyably sarcastic manner. Most fake bands aren’t that good and T. Mike Childs has no fear of calling them out. Take that, Zack Attack!

Incidentally, this one of the many books in my collection that I originally found at Recycled Books of Denton, Texas. Be sure to support your used bookstores. This not a book that I would have found if I was just searching on Amazon. This is a book that I found because I went down to a used bookstore and I walked up and down the aisles, seeing what they had available. I saw it, I was intrigued by the title, I pulled it off shelf, I smiled as I skimmed through it, and I bought it and, in the years since, it’s provided me with a lot of entertainment. Support physical media. Support book stores. You’ll miss them if you don’t.

Great Moments In Television History: Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Story

Forty-three years ago, on October 28th, 1978, the first episode of the 100th story of Doctor Who was broadcast in the UK.

The Stones of Blood, as the story was named, was a part of the season-long quest for the separate pieces of the Key to Time. The Doctor (played, in his fourth television incarnation, by Tom Baker) and his companions, Romana (Mary Tamm) and K-9 (voiced by John Leeson) traveled across time and space, searching for the pieces. The catch was that each piece was disguised as something that didn’t look like it would be a part of a key. So, the Doctor would have to fight space pirates, space androids, and even space prisoners before managing to figure out what each piece was disguised as.

The Stones of Blood was a four-part story. The first two parts find the Doctor and his companions on Earth, investigating a set of standing stones in Cornwall and fighting a group of modern-day druids. The second half of the story moves the action to a prison ship, where the Doctor pursues an intergalactic thief who has stolen one of the stones. In fact, the thief has stolen the most important of the stones because it’s actually a piece of the Key of Time.

The Stones of Blood is middle-of-the-road Doctor Who. It starts out strong. My favorite episodes of the original Doctor Who are almost always the ones that bring the Doctor back to the UK. The earthbound episodes usually have more humor and they don’t suffer from the handicap of having to create an alien world out of cardboard and papier-mâché. The use of the standing stones especially gives this episode an even more British feel than usual. Once the action moves to the prison ship, things get much less interesting. Tom Baker is an acquired taste for some but he’s always been one of my favorite Doctors and whenever I see any of the Key of Time episodes, I always think it’s unfortunate that Baker and Mary Tamm apparently didn’t enjoy working together. She’s been overshadowed by Lalla Ward’s interpretation of the character but Mary Tamm’s Romana was intriguing as well. It was always interesting to see the Doctor have to work with someone who took the rules of time and space seriously.

It may be hard to believe now but, when Doctor Who began in 1963, it’s doubtful anyone expected that it would be still going strong in 1978. Certainly, no one would have expected it to still be as popular as it is in 2021. Much like the Doctor, Doctor Who has proven to be indestructible.

Previous Great Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK

Here’s The Trailer for A Hero

A Hero, which is the latest film from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, was one of the most acclaimed films to play at Cannes this year and its release has definitely been highly anticipated here in the States. The film deals with a man who has been imprisoned for being unable to pay a debt. When he gets a two-day leave, he tries to convince the man to whom he owes money to forgive the debt. Apparently, things do not go as planned.

A Hero is Iran’s official entry for this year’s Best International Film Oscar. It will be released in the U.S. in early January of 2022.

Here’s the trailer:

The Martian Chronicles: Episode 1: The Expeditions (1980, directed by Michael Anderson)

In 1980, NBC adapted the Ray Bradbury short story collection, The Martian Chronicles, into a three-part miniseries.  Though Bradbury’s original book featured short stories that were only loosely connected by two shared locations (Earth and Mars), the miniseries connected most of the stories through the character of Colonel John Wilder (Rock Hudson), the NASA project director who headed up the project to colonize Mars and who later regretted his decision after it became clear that humanity was going to treat Mars just as badly as they treated their previous home.  The miniseries was adapted by Richard Matheson and directed by Michael Anderson.

Unfortunately, the miniseries itself was not a hit with critics, who complained that the story moved too slowly.  Audiences, having just experienced Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, were not impressed with the special effects, in which miniatures were used to simulate spacecraft flying through space.  Despite all of that, though, The Martian Chronicles has built up a cult following.  I can remember first catching the miniseries playing late at night on one of the local station in Baltimore.  I’ve always liked it.  It’s not as good as Bradbury’s original collection, of course.  But the miniseries still has its strengths, despite the miniatures.

The first and best episode of the miniseries was The Expeditions.  Starting with a recreation of Viking 1 landing on Mars in 1976, the episode jumps forward to the far future of 1999!  The first manned spacecraft lands on Mars and the two astronauts aboard are promptly killed by the first Martian that they meet, an angry husband who thinks that one of the astronauts is going to have an affair with his wife.

The second expedition is led by Captain Arthur Black (Nicholas Hammond, best-know for playing Spider-Man in the late 70s TV series).  When they land on Mars, they discover that the formerly Red Planet now looks like Black’s childhood home of Green Bluff, Illinois.  All of their relatives are waiting for them!  Falling into the belief that they’ve returned to the past, the astronauts are killed by their “families” that night.  It turns out that the Martians were using Black’s memories to set a trap for them.  As the Martian who disguises himself as Black’s brother explains it, they’ve seen, in the minds of the astronauts, what the humans are doing to their own planet and they can’t allow that to happen to Mars.  “Forgive us,” the Martians says, “we were once an honorable race.”  In one of the best scenes in both the book and the miniseries, the Martians still have an Earth-style funeral for the men that they’ve killed because they too got sucked into the world that they created and came to care about the men they felt they had to kill.

Years later, a third expedition arrives.  This one takes up the majority of the episode.  It’s led by Colonel Wilder himself and includes Sam Parkhill (Darren McGavin), Jeff Spender (Bernie Casey), Briggs (John Cassady), and McClure (Peter Marinker).  Almost all of the Martians have apparently died, the victims of the Earth germs that were brought to the planet by the second expedition.  While Parkhill plots to open a barbecue joint and Briggs gets drunk and tosses his empty beer cans into a waterway that he christens, “Biggs Canal,” Spender investigates a deserted Martian city.  Unlike the others, Spender is in awe of the Martian civilization and angry that it’s been so casually destroyed.  When Spender returns, he declares himself to be “the last Martian” and tries to kill the members of the expedition.

Of the three episodes, The Expeditions is the one that sticks closest to the stories on which it was based, in both content and theme.  Not surprisingly, it’s also the best of the miniseries, with each vignette working as both a separate story and a part of a larger whole.  It’s the episode that sticks closest to what Bradbuy himself was going for in his original collection.  While the miniature spaceships are a distraction, the desolate Martian landscape is sharply realized and the first episode is full of striking shots, from the Martian husband walking through the red desert to “greet” the first expedition to the funeral for the second expedition to the final battle between Spender and the survivors of the third expedition.  Among the members of the cast, Nicholas Hammond and Bernie Casey are the stand-outs but everyone plays their part well.  Darren McGavin is always a welcome presece in any miniseries and John Cassady is so obnoxious as Briggs that it’s impossible not to see where Spender is coming from.  (Back when the IMDb still has message boards, every message on Cassady’s board was someone posting about Briggs Canal.)  Rock Hudson is as stiff as ever but it’s appropriate for his character.  The scene where he and Bernie Casey debate whether humanity is worthy of a planet like Mars is well-acted by both actors, with the different opinions of their characters reflected in the different performing styles of the two actors.  Though the miniseries never explicitly states it, it is perhaps not a coincidence that Spender, as the only black character in the miniseries, is the only one to truly understand what humans colonizing Mars could lead to.

The Expeditions ends with Spender warning that humans will destroy Mars if they’re allowed to colonize it.  The next episode would explore whether he was correct.  We’ll take a look at The Settlers tomorrow.

Here’s The 2nd Trailer For House of Gucci!

At this point, it seems pretty clear that Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci is either going to be:

  1. A complete mess


2. A whole lot of sordid fun.

My personal hope is that it will be both.  With The Last Duel struggling at the box office, it’s also probably that House of Gucci is going to be Scott’s main Oscar contender this year.  It certainly seems likely to pick up a hair and makeup nomination, if just for making Jared Leto look like Jeffrey Tambor.

The 2nd trailer for House of Gucci dropped today.  And here it is!

Great Moments In Comic Book History: The First Appearance of Werewolf By Night

From 1954 to 1971, comic book readers across America were safe from werewolves. The Comics Code Authority, that set of rules instituted to get Dr. Frederic Wertham to stop declaring comic books to be the greatest menace to the American way of life since the horseless carriage, forbade any supernatural characters. Werewolves were not allowed to fight alongside or against any of the super heroes published by D.C., Marvel, or any of the other comic books companies governed by the CCA.

The CCA started to relax their rules in 1971, especially after Marvel published an issue of Spider-Man that did not get the CCA’s seal of approval because it featured a friend of Peter Parker’s getting hooked on drugs. When the issue not only sold well but also generated a lot of negative publicity about how out-of-touch the CCA was with what comic book readers were actually having to deal with, the CCA started to relax their rules.

Marvel reacted by introducing a whole host of supernatural characters who had previously been banned under the CCA. Throughout the 70s, Captain America, Spider-Man, and others often shared their pages with the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and sometimes even Satan himself.

Werewolf by Night was Marvel’s first werewolf. (The title had previously been used before the CCA went into effect, back when Marvel was still known as Atlas.) He made his first appearance in the 2nd issue of Marvel Spotlight. By day, he was Jack Russell. He was also Jack Russell by night, unless there was a full moon. Then, he was Werewolf by Night! He was different from most Marvel characters in that he lived in Los Angeles instead of Manhattan. However, one thing that he did have in common with a surprisingly large amount of comic book heroes is that his story started with a mugging.

At first, Jack thinks this was just a dream. It’s only later in the issue that his mother confesses that Jack’s father was a werewolf and apparently, the curse has been passed down. Jack is not happy to hear that and after promising to never attack his stepfather, Jack runs off into the night. Later, when Jack nearly breaks his promise, he realizes that a werewolf cannot have a family. A werewolf must always be alone.

From such simple beginnings, one of Marvel’s most venerable characters was born. Many of the Marvel horror characters disappeared after a few issues but Werewolf by Night has remained an active member of the Marvel Universe. Though my favorite Marvel werewolf remains Man-Wolf, Werewolf By Night has had his moments. My personal favorite was when he, Spider-Man, and Franenstein’s Monster teamed up to take down the Monster Maker. It’s not easy being a werewolf but Jack Russell (and, when the series was recently rebooted, Jake Gomez) has always done his best.

Marvel Spotlight Vol.1 #2 (February 1972) — “Night of Full Moon — Night of Fear

Writers — Roy Thomas, Dean Thomas, Gerry Conway

Penciler and Inker — Mike Ploog

Letterer — John Costanza

Editor — Stan Lee

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
  6. Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
  7. Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
  8. Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
  9. The Death of Dr. Druid
  10. To All A Good Night
  11. Zombie!
  12. The First Appearance of Ghost Rider