Linda Miller R.I.P.

•October 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Linda Miller, a frequent participant over at the Universal Monster Army forum where people gather to discuss classic monster films and related subjects, recently passed away due to heart failure. I did not know Linda, but the various memorials left by her friends and fellow fans describe a wonderfully generous person. She was apparently yet another example of the Karloff Syndrome – that is, Forry Ackerman’s observation that monster fans have a tendency to be kind and gentle by nature. At least, that seems to hold true regarding the classic, spookier sort of monsters portrayed by Lugosi and Karloff and Chaney, rather than more recent creatures. At any rate, reading about Linda Miller introduced me to the fact that Linda Miller was quite a good artist, particularly regarding monsteriffic subjects. She worked in black and white acrylic washes. A gallery of her work can be found here. Linda Miller, rest in peace.

Scar Stuff

•September 30, 2008 • 1 Comment

The generosity of bloggers never fails to amaze me. We all wanted to pour out our thoughts to each other about our own array of rabid interests — we only needed a cheap, easy way to get the word out! Scar Stuff is a great blog for finding old monsteriffic items once advertized in comics during the Seventies (perhaps late Sixties). One of those items holds a special place of honor in my own imagination. It seems to occupy a special glassed-in case surrounded by fancy museum roping, a single track light shining down upon it. And that something is:

The Blood Banshee Record

aka The Haunting, aka Gayle House

An incredibly creaky door takes an incredibly long time to open. Shuffling feet that suggest long toed clown shoes or something. Then a cold, unflinching voice proclaims, “I have come from the world of the unliving to warn you: this PLACE is HAUNTED by a BLOOD BANSHEE! And if you do not leave at once, each of you will die… ONE…. by… ONE…” Then a strange howl. Not a wolf. More gutteral and low. But long and sustained, as though it doesn’t care who it might be warning — it’ll get you anyhow. The voice again, barks out, “IT IS TOO LATE! THE BANSHEE IS ALREADY HERE! YOU ARE DOOMED! I must go now… I must go… I must go…”

What follows sounds like the Little Rascals being eaten alive by a werewolf. “It’s not gonna get me! I’m gettin’ outta here!” Followed by “No! No! Let go of my arm! Please! Please!” A horrible struggle. Breaking glass. Shattered furniture. Then a pause. And then a slow, deliberate slurping sound.

Yikes!

Many people have tales of disappointment regarding the sorts of toys one could mail order from comic book ads. I had no such complaints about this record. It went way, way beyond all expectations. I listened to it probably once a week for quite a while. And now, you can hear it, too! The fine folks over at the Scar Stuff blog have provided a recording of this piece of prime Halloween real estate. I’ve got a copy in my Dropbox public folder and here is the link.

Thank you, Scar Stuff!

(Don’t forget to visit the mothership site www.ChristianHalloweenFan.com. Also, my book, The Magic Eightball Test: A Christian Defense of Halloween and All Things Spooky is out there at various online bookstores, including Amazon. Personally, I would by direct from the publisher, Lulu.com.)

Comics and Monsters

•March 18, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Hey Folks!

I’m guest blogging for Lint (with his permission! =:). Just thought I would pass along few interesting articles I saw over on slashdot. For those of you who don’t know, slashdot.org is, as their tagline says, “News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters”.

The first one is a review of Douglas Wolk’s book “Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean“. Looks interesting…

The second is “What’s Your Favorite Monster?” Make sure you follow their link to the Live Science article!!!

Later!

ptb

Whimsy Be Thy Name!

•December 4, 2007 • 1 Comment

ghidorahlogo0.jpgPODCAST NEWS: ChristianHalloweenFan.com has an official podcast. Accept no substitutes! Not from JehovahsWitnessHalloweenFan.com, nor from KnowItAllAgnosticHalloweenFan.com. No, not even from UnitarianUniversalistHalloweenFan.com.

The name of our podcast is excuse me, ghidorah?. Which is about as confusing a podcast title as exists anywhere east of the Mississippi. Basically, the title is a tongue-in-cheek modern translation of a quote from Saint Cyril of Jerusalem: “The dragon sits by the side of the road watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.”

Flannery O’Connor was fond of this quote. She had this to say: “No matter what form the dragon may take, it is of this mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell, and this being the case, it requires considerable courage at any time, in any country, not to turn away from the storyteller.”

When dragons are mentioned, I always think of King Ghidorah, Godzilla’s most powerful enemy. So, as I take care to avoid the fangs and theflame of mankind’s ancient enemy, “Excuse me, Ghidorah…” comes to mind.

excuse me, ghidorah? espouses my view that there is much in pop-culture which can help one sneak past the dragon, much that can keep wonder alive when cynicism threatens to devour it, much that can encourage faith when evil times come round. A bit of capital “G” Good peeks thru even in the kitschiest of kitsch from time to time and so we may actually find ourselves fending off the dragon with an old Aurora monster model of the Mummy or an old issue of Superman comics in which Jimmy Olsen is transformed into a Human Porcupine. Or, perhaps more often, a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

dino08.jpgAbout this episode: After a long hiatus, part the third of our three part look at Kitsch has arrived. This time you will find yourself amazed at how drastic a change can occur in a person’s speaking voice if he begins recording a podcast in prime condition while travelling at 60 miles per hour in a car full of people, finds the computer has gone wacky thanks to a large bump in the road, ceases production so that Thanksgiving may be enjoyed at yon Momma’s house, contracts a sort of uber-flu during Thanksgiving, undergoes, therefore, a sort of binge and purge experience, and then attempts to pick up production where he left off.

Actually, I like the gravelly voice this produced. It lends a sonorous gravitas to the proceedings as I describe a visit to Dinosaur Land in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley. In this dinosaur dotted roadside attraction, expert attention to scientific detail has not precluded the inclusion of the Frankenstein Monster or King Kong or a gigantic landlocked purple Octopus — which means I felt right at home. I hope you will, too, and that you will segue without too much discomfort into my impassioned speechifying about the hidden power of Whimsy. Pope John Paul II said, “Beauty will save the world.” I think Whimsy will save the world — or Whimsy at least will serve as Beauty’s wisecracking sidekick.

excuse me, ghidorah? is available on iTunes or you can hit that RSS button over to the right there.

Merry Christmas!

A Geek Thanksgiving

•November 23, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Let us now give thanks within the cultural context of Geekdom — in other words, the persistant pop-culture referencing system and pseudo-mythology that occupies my attention for most of the day and night. Of course, I am grateful for family and friends. But let’s push the envelope a little further.

We only live for a few decades at best and so the tiny section of human history of which we are part (and of which we partake) is quite providential and significant. Especially in terms of popular culture. I am thankful to have shared this particular period of human history with:

Flannery O’Connor
Walker Percy
The Three Investigators
Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Lupin, Tonks, Serius, Albus, Colin, Neville, Luna, Minerva, Fred and George, and Severus
J. K. Rowling
Star Wars
The Boxcar Children (at least those first 14 or so books in the series)
Joseph Ratzinger
Karol Wojtyla
Batman and Robin
Alan Moore
Mike Mignola
H. P. Lovecraft (I am living, at least, while his legacy is perculating)
The Groovy Ghoulies
G. K. Chesterton (legacy again)
C. S. Lewis & Narnia
J. R. R. Tolkien
William Browning Spencer
Reed Crandall
designer toys
“Incident at Loch Ness”
zombie culture (it kind of fascinates me)
“Planet of the Apes”
“Orpheus” (the movie)
The Simpsons
that funky song they play during the Wii commercials
The Metal Men
The Atomic Knights
Metamorpho
Kurt Schaffenberger
Superman (well, duh)
The Late Sixties / Early Seventies Classic Universal Studios Monsters Boom
“Famous Monsters” magazine and Forry Ackerman
Basil Gogos
Ray Bradbury
Harlan Ellison
Jorge Borges
“The Prisoner” TV series and Patrick McGoohan
Don Post monster masks down at the Coin Collector/Tobacco Shop at the Macon Mall (I have no idea why they were there)
the 2000 Presidential Election (it just fascinates me)
Monster Squad
Fright Night
Pan’s Labyrinth
The first new worldwide Catholic Catechism in 500 years
Father Richard Neuhaus
Lee Brown Coye
Virgil Finlay (legacy again)
Adam Hughes (that recent Supergirl painting blows me away)
Michael Polanyi
Vincent Miller
Jack Kirby
Curt Swan
Neal Adams
Val Lewton (legacy)
Bava’s gothic films
Hammer’s Quatermass films
Peter Cushing
Christopher Lee
Cornerstone Festival
UFOs
The B-52s
The Talking Heads
Roger Miller
Johnny Cash
some surviving googie here and there
theme parks and mini golf
what may have been the golden age of Halloween trick-or-treating

Of course, more will occur to me later — probably more respectable entries. But that’s enough for now.

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I Reckon You Zombies Think You Been Redeemed

•November 20, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Well, I thought it couldn’t be done. To my mind, the whole zombie apocalypse genre is nihilism incarnate: we’re all just meat. No soul. No ultimate purpose. Just meat. So how could someone produce a zombie film or novel that explored a different perspective: one of hope, for example, or even of faith?

As I say, I thought it couldn’t be done, but I have been proven wrong. Kim Paffenroth’s novel, Dying to Live, draws upon influences as diverse as Augustine, Dante and George Romero. Paffenroth contrasts the living and the dead and finds insistent proof that the spirit exists. The flesh-eating dead are simply you and me and our neighbors minus the supernatural benefits of a rational soul. They are all appetite. Without reason or restraint, they “wander the earth to and fro seeking whom they may devour.”

But it isn’t as pat as all that. The strength of Paffenroth’s novel is that he is plainly eager to push the zombie apocalypse gauntlet. His imagination does not shrink from the question “How bad can it get?” The dead are willing and the living are weak. As with Romero’s several films, the living are often their own worst enemies, failing to unite against a common threat, fighting over the charred remains of civilization. But a few may actually rise to the challenge to survive.

Paffenroth’s method is similar to that of Flannery O’Connor. Much is made of O’Connor’s use of grotesque characters and violent scenarios in her short stories and two novels. Her explanation was that it is not easy to shock the existentially numb reader into sudden clarity. To the deaf, you must shout and to the blind you must draw large and startling pictures — to paraphrase Flannery. O’Connor also uses the grotesque to explore the question “How bad can it get?” In her deadpan, blackly humorous way, she is unflinching in her reply: “Very, very bad indeed.” However, she does this only in order to see how the grace of God will intervene. Since she is operating from a Catholic Christian perspective, O’Connor knows the central redemptive act of God in human history sent a man to be beaten within an inch of his life, nailed to a cross and left to die. If the essential act of grace looks like that—well, how might God “use” the perverse clarity of a killer called The Misfit who happens across a stranded family on a forlorn country road (see O’Connor’s story A Good Man Is Hard to Find)?

Paffenroth is attracted to the zombie apocalypse scenario for reasons that echo O’Connor. The protagonist of the novel, Jonah Caine, often wrestles with the question of whether one could still believe in God now that a kind of anti-resurrection has spread living death over the planet. Cities burn. Governments collapse. People scavenge for Twinkies at abandoned 7-Elevens. This “survival horror” appeals to some, including myself, as an exploration of what is left when everything is shaken until only what is unshakable remains.

It is also an opportunity to tap obtusely via the imagination what our upfront intellect cannot bear to contemplate. Millions of innocent lives perish mindlessly, needlessly, in horrible pain as they are torn limb from limb. It could be a zombie apocalypse. Or it could be abortion. Upwards of ten million abortions have taken place since Roe v. Wade kicked into gear and despite all the reassurances of those first few years the reach of this killing machine has extended into the second trimester, the third trimester, even to the very moment of birth itself. Skulls are punctured and brains are sucked out through a tube. A collapsed skull makes for easier removal of the big ones. Bodies are sliced apart with scalpels or burned alive in a saline solution. Imagine breathing in saline. Who says the zombie apocalypse — in all its savage horror — is not possible? It’s here. Every child born since 1973 is a survivor.

New Episode Dissemble! (And The Black Scorpion dvd)

•November 19, 2007 • Leave a Comment

The third and last installment of our podcast survey of kitsch is nearly ready. I started to record it this Sunday, but began making revisions. They’re worthwhile revisions, not spurious, so you, the patient listener, will benefit in the end. (Howz that for use of commas. Impressive, no?) This is perhaps the most important of the three. It delves into my half-formed convictions regarding whimsy and its role in saving the world from the devil and his wise-cracking minions. Pope John Paul II once said “Beauty will save the world.” I think it’s more likely that whimsy will do the honors — or at least that whimsy will serve as beauty’s faithful sidekick.

The odd little image is taken from the extras to be found on The Black Scorpion dvd. Pete Peterson, who assisted Willis O’Brien in the animating of The Black Scorpion, did a little experimenting on his own and these “beetle people” are among the results. Another is a giant mutated orangutan. The homespun reels of animation were found in a trunk out in a barn or somesuch after Peterson’s death and salvaged for future generations by, for one thing, putting them on The Black Scorpion dvd’s extras. The dvd has been out for a while and may be a little difficult to track down on foot. Not so difficult online, of course. The Black Scorpion is an overlooked gem, in my opinion, and definitely a film which friends of ChristianHalloweenFan.com and the excuse me, ghidorah? podcast would enjoy. There is an uncanny quality to the animated proceedings. I won’t ruin it for you, but the scorpion(s) in question are mean and hungry and you see a lot more of their feeding frenzy than you every expect in a Harryhausen-style feature. Also, when attempts are made to find their underground lair… well, words fail me. I’m always tossing around the word Lovecraftian, but the feeling I get is rather cosmic — awe and terror mixed together. Also, I really do enjoy the sort of lighting O’Brien and Peterson used in this film (and in The Giant Behemoth). Lots of moody shadows. One doesn’t expect a noir sort of feeling in an animated film, but that’s what you get in The Black Scorpion.

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