Fringe Benefits Of Fatherhood

My seven year old son just headed out for trick or treating, but before that we watched El Vampiro and got about a third of the way into the sequel, The Vampire’s Coffin, before it was time to pull on costumes.

So when considering fatherhood, remember that. If you have a boy (and maybe even a girl), you’ll have someone to watch old Mexican vampire movies with.

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A Halloween Message From The Crimson Executioner

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A hearty “Happy Halloween!” to you all! As a dedicated villain, I have happily observed from my castle as the centuries have turned All Saints Day from an honoring of do-gooders and the dear departed into a celebration of monsters, candy, and general anarchy. Progress is a wonderful thing! And we’re not done progressing: in these environmentally conscious times, won’t you join me in eschewing the use of store-bought fake blood? Sure, the real stuff dries a little fast and a little darker than you might like, but the authenticity, man, the authenticity! Besides, every door opened as you trick or treat is another chance to grab fresh hemoglobin.

I don’t trick or treat myself, I prefer to celebrate quietly with my own black thoughts, and because I don’t trust the staff to distribute the candy to the kids correctly. This year I’m handing out Skittles.

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If I run out, I have a bag of mini Milky Ways, but I’m seriously hoping the Skittles get me through, because I really like Milky Ways and I never buy them but of course with it being Halloween and all you have to buy candy and so why not get something you like, and I’ve given myself the mental okay to have some so now there’s this expectation and why can’t I have some candy once a freaking year and…

Oh. TMI, I suppose. Alright, to sum up: I love Halloween! I love the costumes and creepy focus on blood and bats and death, I love scaring people, I love making them think I’m about to kill them, and then I love actually killing them. I understand most of you don’t go for more than about half of that list, but that’s fine – I wish you a great night all the same, and on this night above all, MY VENGEANCE NEEDS BLOOD!

And chocolate.

Editor’s Note: The wonderful folks at Eccentric Cinema have included this great audio clip of the Crimson Executioner as part of their review of Bloody Pit Of Horror. It’s the “listen” button above the stills. Enjoy! And remember, this day shall be written in blood!

Posters We Don’t Own #14

The Lodger (John Brahm, 1944)

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School Of Fear (Alfred Vohrer, 1969)

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Cannibal Girls (Ivan Reitman, 1973)

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Night of Bloody Horror (Joy N. Houck Jr., 1969)

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Revenge of Frankenstein (Terence Fisher, 1958)

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Euro Stairs Of Horror! #9

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The Girl Slaves Of Morgana Le Fay
(Bruno Gantillon, 1971)

Rummaging Through Life #5

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“Actor Boris Karloff pictured above birthday cake full of candles re the 150th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein.”

Date taken: 1968
Photographer: Dmitri Kessel

MIA On R1 DVD #9

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Herbert Ross, 1976)

An ugly fullscreen version of this, no doubt recycled from the similarly ugly laserdisc transer, was released about a decade ago by Image. It fairly quickly went out of print and has remained there these many years since. Used copies routinely go for at or near $100 (I think I got $80-something for mine). The British market came to the rescue about a year ago with a proper 1.85×1 ratio, much-improved transfer. Yet another reason to be multi-standard. It’s available now at Amazon UK, or any number of other international-shipping UK-based reatailers, and can be had for something like ten bucks.

The film itself is lots of fun for even a passing Sherlock fan, and rather star-studded once you get past Nicol Williamson in the lead. Laurence Olivier is his typical hammy self in the smallish part of Moriarty, Vanessa Redgrave is the distressed damsel whose red hair turns even Holmes’ head, and Alan Arkin makes an estimable showing as Sigmund Freud. Robert Duvall’s Watson is the memory most folks seem to walk away with – his strange accent is both annoying and unforgettable, sounding like a 45 RPM recording of someone with a head cold played at 33 1/3. Williamson’s drug-addled Holmes is convincing enough, but his post-withdrawal characterization isn’t as alarmingly sedate as in Nicholas Meyer’s original novel.

It’s also unique as a big-budget Holmes film that mostly eschews London and indeed England – most of the action takes place in Vienna. It makes a nice change seen at three decades removed, but I can’t help but wonder if the studio (Universal) fretted over that at the time. Several nice set-pieces – I’m especially fond of Freud’s tennis duel with the nasty anti-Semitic Baron. Recommended, Meyer’s novel even moreso.

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Ghost Of Dragstrip Hollow, Daddy-O!

Ghost Of Dragstrip Hollow (William J. Hole Jr., 1959)

If you’re one of those people who hates on Frankie and Annette beach movies, just remember they were actually an improvement on the teen comedies that came before:

Also, Boo.

The Bit I Like More Than Maybe I Should #5: Record, Meet Match

Strait-Jacket (William Castle, 1964)

The William Castle Collection has been recently released on DVD by Sony, reminding me of a bit in Strait-Jacket that I enjoy to an indefensible level.

Joan Crawford – our Joan, All-American Joan, self-debasing as a first instinct Joan – plays Lucy Harbin, a woman released from the nut house twenty years after chopping her philandering husband to death. The film chronicles Lucy’s perilous attempts to reintegrate with her family and reclaim a normal life, free of axe murders. She’s still at least a little nutters, chipper and zestful one moment, nervous and depressed the next.

Any resemblance between this film and Psycho 2 is completely predictable.

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Joan happily taps in time to a dance record.

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She sashays over for a cigarette, bopping to the beat.

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She manages to fumble out a cancer stick, but fails to get a match to light on the cup in front of her. No matter, she slides back over to the record player…

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…and strikes it on the spinning record, knocking the needle off and stopping the music. She scarcely notices.

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Sixty-something year old Joan flashes a lot of leg at her visitor.

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Why not some knitting? While holding the cigarette? What don’t I love about this?

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Records, matches, ciggies, knitting. Joan’s a national treasure, and I don’t want to hear any more about it.

Just Five Shots #7

Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971)

The efficacy of Willy Wonka as a Halloween movie is underrated. It fits nicely with the season.

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Mock With Me #3: A Computer? Seriously?

Horrors Of The Black Museum (Arthur Crabtree, 1959)

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For the most part, Horrors of the Black Museum is not so bad. It’s not so good, either. It mostly manages to be rather tamer than it promises, and not a little boring. I’ve heard it said that declaring a film “boring” says more about you than the film, but I’m going to risk it.

It takes only a few ventures outside of Tediousville, usually for a short jaunt over to Awfulburg. These bits invariably revolve around lead Michael Gough hamming it up like Dan Aykroyd playing a drunk Santa trying to eat salmon through his beard in Trading Places. Obscure reference? Maybe. Fine, then David Caruso in every single moment of CSI Miami.

But it doesn’t start in Tediousville, oh no! It starts foursquare in the High Street of Central Funopolis! In the first scene, a young woman receives a gift in the mail from a secret admirer. She opens it to find a pair of binoculars. She tries them out, and this happens:

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Great stuff!

Then Gough rears his head, and it’s all downhill from there.

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He plays Edmond Bancroft, a hugely successful writer of True Crime books, and owes many of his paydays to pointing out the failings of Scotland Yard. He also curates his own personal Black Museum in the cellar of his mansion, a collection of crime artifacts that puts the Yard’s own museum to shame.

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With his assistant Rick in tow, Bancroft descends into the Black Museum.

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The camera pans and drifts through the room, showing us an impressive (or maybe just weird) collection of waxworks, torture devices, and antique weapons.

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Okay…

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Okay…

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Well, good. I guess this really is a nice collection. Say, what’s that they’re coming to on the right side? Must be fuse boxes or part of the furnace for the house or something…

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Oh, it’s just a wall-length ENIAC-esque computer. What the what the WHAT THE???

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Bancroft: You know Rick, the Black Museum at Scotland Yard is not really selective. A great deal of clutter. A meager little collection of guns and knives. Trunks in which hacked-up bodies were shipped. Death masks, ropes and neckties in strangulations. All in all, a dead collection that belongs to the past. But mine is alive. It not only pays tribute to the past, but it’s part of the present. And with the new electronic equipment, the future too.

Rick: Yes, I know.

And that’s it. That’s all the explanation we get. Later on, Bancroft and Rick are seen staring at the machines, reading dials and oscilloscopes as if it means a good goddamn thing:

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This is a great example of 50s/60s film and television writers not having the slightest little clue what computers do or how they might work. I can only imagine the characters think the computer is inventing new ways to murder. It masquerades as science, but the understanding of the creators is so inadequate they are forced to treat it as magic. Rather than ouija boards and crystal balls, they consult meters and such. Either way, it’s visual gobbledegook.

As they stare seriously at their machinery (one can only boggle trying to guess what Gough thinks he’s portraying), they are interrupted by Bancroft’s M.D., who has figured out that he’s the murderer and is going to make a citizen’s arrest or some silly thing. Bancroft maneuvers him in between two banks of the equipment:

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Hooray, it electrocutes people! Now that’s the crime of the future!

Look, I stand second to no one in my appreciation of truly awful Michael Gough performances, and I say that almost totally irony-free. But it’s enough. We can get all the guilty pleasure we need from his almost Shatner-esque adventures in cadence and punctuation – adding this giant electronic prop that not one person involved in the production understands is just gilding the lily.

Let the artist work his bad acting magic. Don’t crowd him out with bad props!

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