Sunday, October 31, 2010

Super-Special Halloween Extravaganza: Crybaby Bridge

Creepy Corben Kid welcomes you to a special production of the Frazier's Brain Theater of the Ear. Tonight's tale of madness: Crybaby Bridge.

Many, many huge mega-thanks to sargon and naamah for agreeing to do voices (and following through even after reading the script). The story is an homge to the great radio horror shows of the past, Lights Out and Quiet Please. Lights Out took particular delight in having characters die in gruesome and graphic ways, while Quiet Please featured "the man who spoke to you" telling tales bookended by a mournful piano.

This story does both. Not particularly well, but...

It's not the best story I've written, but writing something like this as a radio script is difficult to master. I will say this: I put a hell of a lot of work into this, so I hope you enjoy it.

Runtime is approximately 18:30. File size is almost 18 Megs. Music is by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons “Attribution 3.0″”

"Crybaby Bridge" copyright 2010 Tony Frazier. Recording can be distributed under Creative Commons “Attribution 3.0″”

Now turn out your lights and enjoy the show. Dean Stockwell certainly plans to.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Out of the Vault- Voodoo

So here's our final Halloween edition of Out of the Vault for this year, on the fifth Saturday of the month (which is apparently very rare in October, so enjoy it). And appropriately, it's written by the guy who revolutionized horror comics with his reinvention of Swamp Thing at DC Comics in the early 80's.

The comic is Voodoo, a four-issue miniseries published by Image Comics in 1997, written by Alan Moore. And in keeping with our theme, it stars a stripper-witch.

It opens at the bus station in New Orleans, where two men--Attibon and Carrefour--have a civil, seemingly friendly discussion, though it seems apparent that they can't stand each other. And then a woman appears to ask directions, and goes on to offer, totally unprompted, "My name's Priscilla, or you can call me by my stage name if you want. That's Voodoo."

The dialogue is efficient, but clunky. In fact, it may be the clunkiest dialogue Moore's ever written, which says to me that he was phoning this one in (and if you need any evidence that I'm an expert in clunky dialogue and phoning it in, tune in tomorrow).

So Carrefour leaps to his feet, offering to help her find work, and Voodoo explains that she's an exotic dancer (because that stage name thing she said two seconds ago was obviously too subtle). Carrefour takes her to a club called the Midnight Lounge, run by a dude named Christian Charles.

Christian's being accosted by the boyfriend of one of the dancers, who has gone missing. So Christian sends the boyfriend up to his office to find out what happened to Angel, while Voodoo gets up on stage to audition.

Voodoo then meets one of the other dancers, a petite blonde named Purity, and learns that the club used to be a church that was built on the site of former slave shacks built over a burial ground, and holy shit, could you pick a more ominous location? Was the church also perhaps running a puppy mill out back, right next to the illegal abortion clinic/opium den? I mean, geez!

And just in case all that has been too subtle for you to realize the place is evil, we get this in the middle of issue two.

No, Voodoo doesn't realize anything's wrong. She's an idiot.

So Purity takes Voodoo to the boarding house that Christian runs for his girls. Now that Angel has gone missing, maybe Voodoo can crash in her room. Only the cops have found Angel's body and declared her room (covered with arcane symbols) to be a crime scene, so Voodoo's out on the streets again, in the rain, where she runs into Attibon from the bus station.

He takes her to another boarding house, run by a kindly old ex-hooker named Freda. Only it turns out that Attibon and Freda, along with Freda's other roomers--Saturday and Mr. D--are in fact manifestations of the loa Papa Legba, Erzulie, Baron Samedi and Dhamballa. Oh yeah, and of course, it's Christian who's killing his own dancers, as we see dancer Crystal being taken up to his office and locked in a hanging cage (shades of old Aurora Snap-Together model kits!) where her blood is then released to pour down over Christian.

The rest of the book goes pretty much as you'd expect (see "phoning it in" above). It involves Christian's ancestor, a preacher-turned-evil-voodoo-guy who was killed by an angry mob. The mob burned down his church (now the Midnight Lounge) and his home (an old gutted ruin which had been the boarding house where Voodoo stayed just the night before). Now Christian is performing blood sacrifices to gain enough power to bring back the Reverend's spirit, with the help of Carrefour, who is apparently a really super-bad powerful evil spirit when he's not trolling bus stations.

In the process, we get to see Voodoo possessed by Erzulie during her first official act on-stage...

It all leads up to a final confrontation in issue four with Voodoo, Purity, and a police detective facing off against Christian and Carrefour, where we learn this...

What the wha'? Apparently, Voodoo was character from WildC.A.T.S. by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi, an Image title I had never read, and this throwaway line in the final issue is the only acknowledgement of that (or so it seems--looking back through the earlier issues, we do see that Voodoo has an odd outfit that Purity describes as belonging at a Star Trek convention, which prompts Voodoo to mention a gig she used to have). Oh, and the book was printed in Canada, by the way.

But remember, Voodoo is not a superhero in this comic. She's a stripper-witch, which means she must defeat the villain using the power of sexydance. Seriously. After Christian has finally succeeded in summoning the spirit of Reverend Charles from beyond to possess his body, Erzulie rides Voodoo again, compelling her into a sensual dance which leads the Bad Reverend back to the gutted boarding house, where the scary-ass Damballa (pictured here on the awesome Adam Hughes cover of issue four) blows him up good.

So Voodoo, having been used as the unwitting tool of the loa to defeat the Christians, decides to study voodoo for real. And there are so many levels of muddled and conflicting symbolism in all this that I don't even want to start discussing them, because in the end, once again, Alan Moore + Voodoo = Phoning It In.

So that's that. The Cavalcade of Stripper-Witches is done, and now only one thing remains before Halloween is over and a new year begins (I'll explain that last bit in a couple of days). See you later.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Oh Yeah, Before I Forget

A final Halloween Extra has been posted on It's a special audio presentation of the first Digger story I wrote (though it was the third published). You can find it here.

In Too Deep

First off, I have a car, and a job interview scheduled for Monday morning, so things are looking up. But then there's this.

I am deep in the weeds of trying to get this special Halloween surprise ready, and it is seriously kicking my ass. I'm at that point where I'm completely losing confidence in it. My writing sucks and my execution of the concept sucks.

I'm not saying it will suck when I'm done, necessarily. It won't be great, but at least parts of it will probably work pretty well. But right now, I'm far from being finished, so all I see are the rough edges. It gets disheartening, especially considering how much work I still have to go on it.

Lots of creative people go through stages like this. What matters is how you learn to push through them, I guess. Sometimes it's hard to tell, though. Akiva Goldsman wrote the Academy Award-winning screenplay to "A Beautiful Mind." If he ever hit that point where he hated everything about his script, obviously he found the right solution to push through and trust his instincts. On the other hand, he also wrote the screenplay to the George Clooney/Arnold Schwarzenegger opus "Batman and Robin." And in that case, I really wish he would have listened to that inner voice telling him it sucked, because it was right.

And that's a real dilemma, to try to push through and persevere against that inner voice of self-doubt, knowing that it really could be right. But you might not know until you're finished, and the only way to finish is to assume the voice is wrong, even if it's not. So hard sometimes.

Nevertheless, I am not quitting. There will be a special Halloween surprise on Sunday. Absolutely. Even if it sucks. Just consider this an exercise in lowering expectations.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Universal Universe

One of the coolest Halloween surprises of the past few years was Lileks' special Halloween Diner episode in 2006, in which he paid his first visit to the Haunted Diner (you can download the mp3 here). It was an extravaganza of humor, haunted sound effects, and silly old monster novelty songs, and of course, it opens with a nightmarish dream sequence featuring Jack Webb and Speedy Alka-Seltzer.

He followed it up the next year with another big production that wasn't as new, but still fun, featuring alternate dimensions and a roomful of zombie Allen Ginsbergs. The next two years were kind of perfunctory, as Lileks professed to be tired of Halloween now that it had become a month-long extravaganza and had pretty much lost his zest for the Diner as well. He says he's working up a big one for this year. I guess we'll find out tomorrow.

But one thing that he repeats every Halloween is how ridiculous it is that all these novelty songs from the 60's seem to adopt the attitude that the Frankenstein monster, Dracula, the Wolfman, and all the other monsters know each other and hang out. How silly to take all these monsters from separate stories and assume they coexist!

Except that it's not. Of course, all these songs take their cue from the classic Universal monsters, which were being exposed to new audiences starting in the late 50's, thanks to a resurgence of interest in the classic monsters due to the stylish Hammer remakes and the older films being rerun on television.

And the thing about the Universal stable of monsters that people who haven't watched all the films might not realize is that Universal had basically created the movie version of the Marvel Universe, starting with "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" in 1943. The Frankenstein monster had by that time already been featured in four films, but the Universal Universe really got its start when the Wolf Man was brought into the storyline. The next film, "House of Frankenstein," brought Count Dracula into the mix as well.

One thing that's funny about the series is how much role-switching took place. Nowadays, we associate the Monster with Karloff, Dracula with Lugosi, and the Wolf Man with Lon Chaney, Jr.

But pretty much everybody got a turn playing the Monster. After Karloff took three turns in the role, it was passed on to Chaney, then Lugosi, and then taken over by Glenn Strange for the final two films, "Son of Dracula" and "Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein." It was apparently assumed that audiences wouldn't much care who was under the make-up. On the other hand, nobody other than Chaney ever played the Wolf Man. Dracula was stuck in the middle, with both Lugosi and John Carradine taking two turns each in the role.

The point is, after four films in which the major monsters were shown to exist in the same world and interact, it was only natural for the song writers to assume the same thing. And given that Universal had also made a series of five Mummy films and had given the Invisible Man a brief cameo at the end of "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," it wasn't a stretch to toss them in the mix as well, by which time, you've basically created a monster version of the DC/Marvel Universe, in which there is a huge parallel subculture of monsters who all seem to know each other.

Man, I wish those old movies weren't so boring, because I'd really like to rewatch them in order now. Maybe next Halloween, because every day between now and then is totally booked.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Monster Mags of My Youth

So one of the pleasant surprises of this Halloween season has been rediscovering some of the lost pleasures of my youth, or seeing those old items in a new context, whether it be old Dr. Demento songs about Martians or spooky magazine ads.

For instance, I've mentioned several times that I read Famous Monsters of Filmland as a kid. And as with any Warren magazine, you would always get several pages of ads in the back. And tucked in among the ads would occasionally be an offering of a collector's edition magazine featuring "Fantasy Fandom's Famous Femme" Heidi Saha, who was (according to the ad copy) well-known on the sci-fi convention circuit for her amazing costumes. Or you could buy a poster, if you were so inclined.

Now I'd never heard of Heidi Saha, but in the issue of Famous Monsters pictured above, there was this picture of Heidi in a really good Vampirella costume. I thought she was pretty hot, but I still didn't see any reason to order the magazine. What I didn't know at the time was that she was only 14 1/2 in the picture, that there had been a small controversy surrounding the costume, or that the Heidi Saha magazine was... disturbing. You can find more details here and here, if you care.

For all the issues of FM that I have, I wasn't the hugest fan of the magazine. Forry's tendency toward awful puns sometimes struck me as puerile, and while he would sometimes reprint some amazingly rare behind-the-scenes pics, often the articles were total fluff.

Better was Castle of Frankenstein, which would print some nicely detailed articles. Each issue also had a ton of capsule reviews covering an amazing range of movies. For instance, the issue pictured here, with the awesome "Golden Voyage of Sinbad" wraparound cover, featured capsule reviews of movies as widely varied as the hard-core porn classic "The Devil in Miss Jones" starring Georgina Spelvin and the Disney comedy "$1,000,000 Duck" starring Dean Jones and Sandy Duncan.

The two main problems with CoF were that it got poor distribution (at least in OKC--there was only one convenience store I could find it in) and that it often featured tits, in the same occasional and random manner that Time magazine also did at the time. As a Pentecostal teen, I often felt vaguely guilty reading it.

I much preferred Monsters of the Movies, published by Curtis Magazines, which was the magazine arm of Marvel Comics. Marvel writers and editors Marv Wolfman and Roy Thomas edited the mag, which unfortunately only ran 10 issues. It ran more in-depth articles thanFamous Monsters, but was more family-friendly than Castle of Frankenstein. I'm not sure why it didn't last.

One interesting artifact from the issue pictured here is this ad headline. Stephen King argued in Danse Macabre that horror is one way society has of working out the things it's really scared of. So for instance, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" in the 50's was an expression of Cold War paranoia, the giant bug movies of the same period were post-nuclear terror, and "The Amityville Horror" in the 70's was an expression of economic angst. And here, in a monster magazine from the mid-70's there's this ad, which is just as relevant today, although you'd need to jack up the numbers by a fuck-ton.

One other curiosity from the Vault is this obscure monster mag I picked up at a convention somewhere. Modern Monster was one of the flood of Famous Monsters imitators that sprung up in the mid-60's and disappeared quickly. It only lasted 4 issues (changing title to Modern Monsters with the second issue), but it was pretty well done. It featured the usual range of feature articles, but the first issue also had the first chapter of a haunted house fiction serial, as well as a color fold-out poster of King Kong in the center (my issue does not have the centerfold--I think I took it out myself--I have never been very good at the "preserve in mint condition" part of collecting).

One interesting thing that jumped out at me in this issue was the back cover...

I wonder what was happening in the business at the time that prompted such an impassioned defense of the "corner news dealer." I know that one of the things that prompted the infamous "DC Implosion" a decade later was major changes in the business of printing and distribution, but this one strikes me as strange. Especially given how many magazines try to get you to bypass the newsstand by buying subscriptions. I don't know how many magazines really make a lot of money from subscriptions, but it seems such a basic part of the business model that it really jumps out at me when it's not there.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Good News

So good news first. The awesome Alethea Kontis had an on-line contest for a signed ARC of Archvillain, by Barry Lyga. It's mainly for my daughter, but given my own superhero interests, I plan to read it as well. And also (in a classic case of burying the lede) Target called me back. So I probably have a good chance of working there again this Christmas season if I can get transportation again. So two good things in one day. Don't know how I'll handle that.

Make that three. A very special Hero Go Home extra has gone up over at, a comic strip with a pencilling assist from the very talented naamah-darling. The link goes to a page showing some of the incredible crafts she has up for sale on Etsy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Movie Monday - Van Helsing

So I was planning to recap another crappy public domain film, when I remembered that I had some screencaps sitting around from this crappy big-budget film, just waiting for Halloween. So here you go.

"Van Helsing" was one of those movies so bad that people groaned at its trailer. For an action movie, which usually hypes its best stuff in the trailer, it's the kiss of death when someone watches the trailer and says, "Ew."

And that was the reaction that most of my friends gave the "Van Helsing" trailer. But I was actually kind of excited by it, perhaps because when I saw its depiction of super-aggressive CG werewolf and vampire and Frankenstein's monster, I was thinking of this...

And this...

The top picture is a Ron Cobb painting of Frankenstein versus the Wolf Man, used as the cover of Famous Monsters of Filmland issue 42. The lower one is an awesome Frazetta cover for Creepy, issue 7. And see, when I was growing up, I would read about these great classic Universal monsters, and see back issue listings with dynamic, action-packed cover images like these, and then when I would see the actual movie, I would think, "What a disappointment."

And its obvious that Stephen Sommers was thinking the same thing, because "Van Helsing" is nothing so much as an attempt to bring images like these to life. Classic monsters reimagined as brawling comic-book heroes.

Unfortunately, though the monsters themselves are nicely imagined, the human protagonists (and Van Helsing, whatever he is) kill the movie with stupidity.

The story: Dracula has employed Dr. Frankenstein to build a monster from pieces of the dead. Unfortunately, Frankenstein discovers that Dracula actually has a nefarious hidden agenda, so he rebels after the creature is "born." Meanwhile, the townspeople forms a screaming mob that storms the castle and attacks. Both the monster and Frankenstein apparently die in a burning windmill, leaving Dracula and his three wives unable to complete their nefarious scheme.

Enter Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman), a monster-hunting secret agent for the Vatican. We see him battle Mister Hyde in the Notre Dame in Paris, after which he is sent to Transylvania with a gadget-obsessed monk (David Wenham) who acts as his own personal Q. Van Helsing has been sent to work with Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale), last descendant of a noble line which stands in opposition to Count Dracula.

Van Helsing battles Dracula's evil, yet beautiful wives...

and a rather energetic CG werewolf (who happens to be Anna's brother)...

to keep Dracula from laying hands on Frankenstein's monster (who survived the mill burning).

You see, Dracula's three wives want babies. Their un-biological clocks are ticking. Unfortunately, they can't have babies, since they're undead. Which is to say, they can lay millions of monster eggs, but the eggs can never hatch (a concept which makes no sense so many levels that it actually pushes below zero to become a kind of awesome anti-sense). So Dracula plans to use Frankenstein's monster to process the life-giving lightning energy so that the babies can live. He's like a monstrous Culligan filter or something (yes, it actually makes less sense as it goes along).

It's up to Van Helsing to stop Dracula from unleashing a plague of millions of bat-babies to overrun the world. Which he can do, because it's hinted that he's like the archangel Gabriel or something, except that he's human, but immortal, but can be killed, or something.

You know what, who cares? This is not a movie to be watched and enjoyed in the traditional sense, as a coherent story. This is pure eye-candy, noise and motion with plenty of cleavage...

which is perhaps the purpose of the anti-sense plot: to force you let go of your conscious self and just groove on the images, man. It helps if you drink.

A lot.

Because as you can see from the stills above, the effects and images, while obviously CG, are dynamic and exciting. I don't know that I've ever seen a movie that had so much tension between stupid and cool. That tension can tear you apart if you're not ready for it. Once again, drinking helps.

One weirdly brilliant bit is Kate Beckinsale's costume. She's wearing this white blouse with red embroidery in strategic places, which keep suggesting that you're seeing nipple when she's actually completely covered. It's an ingenious way to subliminally skirt the PG-13 rating.

Which just illustrates my point, that although this film is one of the stupidest big-budget productions ever made, it is also freaking brilliant on other levels.

Especially if you're drunk.*

[Please note that, although drinking may be necessary for a complete appreciation of "Van Helsing" (and "The Cannonball Run" while I'm at it, although it's not a Halloween film, so never mind), this is in no way a blanket endorsement of alcohol consumption. Also please don't operate a motor vehicle immediately after viewing "Van Helsing." Thank you]

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Monster Music

I grew up after the big faddish bubble of monster-surf music, which is to say, I may have been alive, but I was not aware. I didn't really start to pay attention to popular music until (what a coincidence) Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash" was rereleased in 1973. I can remember listening intently to the radio, hoping to hear "Monster Mash" played again, and having to sit through interminable repeats of Paul Simon's "Loves Me Like a Rock" while waiting.

I don't know if my birthday's timing had anything to do with it, but I always loved Halloween and was fascinated with monsters. But as I said, the big monster fad had passed me by. This October has been especially fascinating, because I've been discovering retro blogs which have allowed me to revisit stuff from my youth that I had forgotten, as well as discover a lot of stuff I missed.

For instance, Retrospace posted this album by a guy named Wade Denning. I had this album when I was a kid. It struck me as basically a ripoff of (in my mind at the time) the far superior Disney album, "Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House," with a crappy cover of "Monster Mash" stuck on as the first track. Listening to it now after all these years, it still sounds derivative, with its canned screams and hokey narration. But there's some disturbing stuff in there, and my older self is able to recognize it in ways my younger, more ignorant self just overlooked. It was real kick to hear this again.

Retrospace also posted a Halloween music mix, featuring a lot of monster music that I hadn't heard before (and some I had), which then led me to Rev. Frost, who puts together some really kick-ass mixes. He has 16 in all from the past several years. Here's the latest one, with links to the earlier ones as well. There are sound clips from movies and commercials mixed in with movie soundtrack music, surf music from the 60's and today, as well as other random bits. They're a lot of fun.

I love the internet.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Out of the Vault - Willow #0

So continuing our Halloween-themed cavalcade of stripper-witches, we come to Willow #0. Just to answer the question of what's more collectible than issue #1?

In this case, the zero designation was a little silly, though. Previously, the only times I had seen issues numbered zero was when a series had been going for a while, and they decided to put out some kind of promotional prequel. At that point, the zero designation made sense, because there was already an issue #1 that they couldn't duplicate, so the issue meant to come before had to be numbered zero.

In the case of Willow, though, the series hadn't come out yet. Willow #0 was in fact issue #1 with the number filed off.

But what about the comic itself? Well, first things first: this witch named Willow has nothing to do with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. In fact, it came out the year before Buffy's series debuted. This Willow also has nothing to do with the George Lucas-Ron Howard film.

It was published in 1996 by a company called Angel Entertainment (seriously, Willow and Angel? Was Joss a fan of this comic or what?) and was put together by Dave Campiti's Glass House Graphics. I've mentioned Campiti before; he's been involved with a bunch of different comics properties including Banzai Girl. The comic was written by Mary Ann Evans and pencilled by Michael Dutkiewicz. I've tried to find anything else that Mary Ann Evans has written, but all I find are references to George Eliot, the pen name of the woman who wrote Silas Marner (whose real name was Mary Ann Evans). Which leads me to wonder if perhaps this Mary Ann Evans is in fact the pen name of a male writer (maybe Campiti himself, who is credited with creating the character along with someone named Mark Jones).

Issue #0 opens with Willow doing some sort of magical ceremony involving her wearing a robe and kneeling on a pentagram, surrounded by cobra-shaped censers. She stands up and starts peeling the robe off, and it is revealed that she is actually on-stage in a strip club, performing. Meanwhile, the narration tells us about the power inherent in sexuality, and that unfulfilled sexual desire can be the most powerful of all.

It's the kind of masturbatory pretension you see all the time when a writer thinks they're better than the material. I mean, the reason Willow is a stripper is that the book is intended to sell to teenage boys. But Mary Ann Evans (or whoever) wants to make it seem like stripping is a much more significant and empowering act than it really is. I say this with no insult intended to strippers; I'm quite fond of the business in many ways. But it becomes pretty obvious that Evans has little actual knowledge of the way the business works.

Dutkiewicz does, though. For instance, he shows some pretty convincing pole work in this sequence (basic pole work, but still...).

Although this points up another curious fact about Willow. The nudity is kept strictly PG. Willow spends five pages topless with nary a nipple in sight. What's even weirder is that this issue was released with a variant cover that apparently does show Willow topless. I wonder if the interior art was also more explicit? I doubt it, but then, what's the point?

Once she has the crowd warmed up, Willow rubs herself with "special ointment" and then transforms into an owl on-stage and flies away. A patron in the crowd is so excited by this that he runs backstage to see the manager of the club, who is... Willow, in a sensible suit.

The patron, a Mister Pucci, says he's in show business and offers to manage Willow's career and turn her into a big star. He's a seedy character, so she refuses. He storms out angrily, promising that she'll be sorry.

Later, Willow dons a black velvet dress for a Sabbath celebration. She leaves the house with her familiar, a black cat named Eddie. Pucci follows them to a field where several other vehicles are parked, including a helicopter. Willow and Eddie meet several other women in a sacred grove, where Willow starts the ritual, which is fairly convincingly Wiccan (which is to say, it seemed to be based on real research to me, but I know little about Wicca, so I could be entirely wrong). And with each step of the ritual, Willow mentions that the Goddess will provide.

Meanwhile, Pucci is hiding in the shadows, snapping photos of the ritual. He intends to publicize the photos in order to ruin Willow's career, since she won't be able to perform anywhere once the public learns that she has performed a Satanic ritual. Putting aside the standard Wiccan objection that Wicca does not equal Satanism, his plan makes no sense, given that 1) we've already seen that Willow owns her own club, so it's not as if she'll be fired, and 2) we've already seen her do a ritual on stage as part of her act, so it's not as if it's a big secret.

Doesn't matter, anyway. Eddie the cat leaps on Pucci, flushing him into the clearing, where he is caught by the witches and dragged to the altar.

Poor Mister Pucci. He was a sleaze, but he didn't deserve to die.

A few days later, we see Willow in the club again, where she announces to all the girls in the dressing room that the club is making so much money that she's going to pay them each an extra $250 a week, which is stupid on so many levels, I can't even start to unpack it. And then she goes out on stage with a new "dance partner."

And on the one hand, yeah, ha-ha, he wasn't killed, just humiliated by being turned into a goat. Big twist.

But on the other hand, it's such a big misfire in so many ways. I mean, okay, it takes a special kind of audacity to take the Old Testament tale of Abraham and Isaac, about as representative of old-line patriarchy as you can get, and turn it into a tale of Wiccan woman-power.

But on the other hand, this raises so many disturbing questions. The ceremony clearly implied a human sacrifice was going to take place, but instead they turned Pucci into a goat? I mean, what's the point of that? Do they do that at every Sabbath, lure some loser to the grove and then turn him into a goat? Wouldn't that create a whole hell of a lot of goats? Are there actually any natural-born goats, or all they all the byproduct of Wiccan ceremonies around the world?

More to the point, are we supposed to admire Willow for this? She's still basically taken the guy's life away, not to mention the effect on any family or friends he may have, and for what? Because he was a sleaze?

And of course, most disturbing of all, what the hell kind of stripper act is she going to do with a goat?

Anyway, there's a brief epilogue where she gets some evil artifact in the mail that's supposed to carry us into the plot of issue #1, but who cares? I'm still mad about poor Mister Pucci. And apparently, the readers agreed with me, because Willow only lasted for two more issues.

Then again, we're still talking about mostly unknown (and perhaps pseudonymous) creators working for a tiny independent publisher. What happens when a powerhouse publisher like Image and a top-flight writer like Alan Moore decide to do a comic about a stripper-witch?

Find out next week.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Disastrous Day (Not Completely)

So my daughter's on fall break, and my wife asked me if I could take her down to OKC yesterday to spend the weekend with my mom. My dad's El Camino has been driving a little wonky and leaking a little oil, but but I figured I could make it.

I made it about 20 miles out of Tulsa, and then something blew. I looked in my rear view and just saw a solid pillar of white smoke. Luckily, I had already pulled off the turnpike because of acceleration problems, so I only had to limp back about a mile on Rt. 66. I pulled into a gas station and lifted the hood.

Oil had sprayed all over the engine compartment. It was coating everything except the dipstick. I called Mom to tell her I wasn't going to make it. Called Kim to tell her the same. Called Dad to tell him that I'd blown up his car.Kim got my mother-in-law to come pick us up, and literally as she sent me the text to confirm she was on her way, my airtime ran out. We were stranded.

The Girl was upset, but kept herself busy with her dragon stuff. "How to Train Your Dragon" has replaced Pokemon as her new obsession. She loves the movie, and also loves the books, even though the two are very different. She has apparently caught on very early that different media need to tell stories in different ways and doesn't mind as much when the adaptation is different from the original. I think that's pretty cool.

Anyway, spent much of the afternoon sitting around my wife's house, reading the new Naomi Novik which I haven't gotten around to buying yet, but she has. My dad and brother-in-law came out in the early evening to look at the car, so my wife (having just returned from a training seminar in OKC) took me out to meet them.

They brought a new oil cap, because Dad had said the old one seemed to be a little loose. And they brought a new PCV valve, because someone had suggested that it may have been the culprit. It wasn't. There was some sort of plastic cap on the valve cover back of the oil filler cap that had split. It seemed to be source of the oil leak. Brother-in-law taped it up, refilled the crankcase, and then we started it up to see. We couldn't see any oil leaking, but there was an ominous knocking from under the valve cover. They asked me if I wanted to make do with it for a while, but I said between the transmission and the knocking, I was afraid of making it worse.

So Brother-in-Law tried to limp it back to Muskogee. He made it about ten miles before admitting defeat. The clouds of smoke weren't so much what worried him; there was no way to tell if it was still leaking or if it was the old oil burning off. But the knocking, which had been occurring intermittently when he started, had gotten much worse and more continuous after ten miles. So he pulled it into another service station to come back maybe today with a tow truck. By this time, it was dark.

Bottom line: my daughter's bummed that she can't spend the weekend with her grandmother, my mom is freaking out that I lost my car, and I am now without a vehicle again. This blows.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Big Bleg Wednesday

Okay, so I'm putting out a general call for assistance. I've got a very special something planned for Halloween, and I need help. Here's what I need:

Voice actors: I need two male and one female. Details and script will be provided upon contact. Record your sides as audio files and email them to me. there shouldn't be more than four or five minutes of material, so the file size shouldn't be too large.

Music: I have two different ideas for theme music, but I have no way to play and record it. If you have a piano and a way to record it, I can put together sheet music. It's very simple--a slow somber tune.

If I can get the recording done by a week from Friday, I can do the editing on Saturday and get everything up on Halloween itself.

This will be fun, I hope.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Movie Monday - Revolt of the Zombies

Four years after "White Zombie," the Halperin brothers (producer Edward and director Victor) returned to the subject with "Revolt of the Zombies" in 1936. Unlike its creepier and better predecessor, "Revolt of the Zombies" is almost universally considered to be awful, and yet it is one of the most interesting bad films I've ever seen--a film that fails on almost every level, but shows the potential to have been not just good, but ahead of its time in a lot of ways.

It opens with a simple title card and inappropriately cheery music (the film is in the public domain, so if you're curious, you can jump to the Internet Archive here to watch the film, or at least the opening credits). Due to its low budget as an independent production, it does not appear to have had its own score, but used library music to its detriment. We then get a brief text description telling us that we are to learn one of the great untold stories of the Great War, and the strange and gruesome events that occurred after a group of French Cambodian soldiers joined the French lines on the Franco-Prussian border.

Immediately, we meet Armand Louque (Dean Jagger), a French soldier acting as interpreter for a Khmer priest named Thiang. The priest possesses the secret of zombies and is offering to use its power to help the French win the war. "Winning" being a foreign concept to the French army, General Duval refuses. He also claims that the entire idea is nonsense.

Armand then meets with an American friend, Cliff Grayson (Robert Noland, who has all the acting chops of a zombie himself), who encourages Armand to have the self-confidence to pursue what he wants and not let anything stand in his way. So Armand and Thiang (who tends to stare off into space as if he were a zombie himself) arrange for a demonstration.

Next thing you know, a group of zombie Cambodians attack the German lines, under the influence of... Hey!

Lugosi eyes! The same ones that appeared in "White Zombie..."

Yeah, that's right, this is sort of a sequel in spirit to "White Zombie," although the only on-screen nod to that fact is the use of Lugosi's eyes superimposed on top of all the zombie sequences. Anyway, the Allied generals are horrified at the fact that the zombies actually worked as advertised, ignoring the bullets riddling their bodies as they massacred the Huns. Only Louque and a certain Colonel Mazovia (who wears an odd black uniform and a sinister mustache, so you know he's evil, like a French Darth Vader) do not object to the use of the zombies.

One officer even goes on to state that if allowed to go unchecked, the zombies could spell the end of the white race. Priest Thiang is imprisoned, where he is promptly killed by Darth Frenchy for a scrap of tapestry revealing part of the zombie-making rite. Then the assembled officers--once again led by the allergic-to-winning French General Duval--resolve to travel to Cambodia to hunt down the ancient zombie secret so that they can destroy it.

Once in Angkor, along with a multinational archaeological expedition led by Duval, Louque is getting along well with Duval's daughter, the lovely Claire. He tells her the story of an ancient priest-king who gave up his power to prove his love to a woman. We can see that Louque is attracted to Claire. But as is immediately apparent, Claire only has eyes for Cliff Grayson. And so, we see that "Revolt of the Zombies" is not only related to "White Zombie" in terms of its title monster, but also thematically, in that it revolves around a love triangle, and the monsters are basically just tools of courting. This is odd, but also potentially powerful storytelling.

However, next thing we know, Claire is getting engaged to Louque. But at their engagement dinner (which features a really sloppy native dancer), Cliff appears to be none too happy about the situation, and Claire seems pleased at his discomfort. A while later, the rope holding a scaffold breaks and Claire dodges right into Cliff's arms, a fact which Cliff enjoys a little too much.

And just like that, Claire and Louque are no longer engaged. Turns out, Claire was just using Louque to make Cliff jealous, ruthlessly pursuing her objective to get what she wanted the way Cliff once advised Louque to do. Louque tries to play it off as if it doesn't matter. Cliff is his friend, and he still loves Claire and wants her to be happy. So he wishes her well. He is what the pick-up artist would call an AFC, your Average Fucking Chump, who lets a woman walk all over him in the pathetic hopes that she'll eventually come to realize just how much he cares (FYI: I've been trying that for over twenty years; it hasn't worked yet).

And this could be really powerful if we had a little bit more to go on, a few scenes to actually show the relationships building. As it is, watching this movie is like reading the outline of a novel--this happens, then that happens, then immediately this other thing happens. The emotions sort of make sense, but the pacing is too fast, the scenes barely sketched, the dialogue stiff and the acting inadequate.

There is an interesting scene coming up, though. The expedition has had to return to Phnom Penh because their native laborers refused to work another day in Angkor (work-stoppage arranged by Darth Frenchy, who wants the zombie recipe for himself). Louque watches Cliff and Claire bill and coo on the dance floor, then sees them walk outside to neck in the moonlight. He then goes back to his lab, where in his anguish, he goes through this really creepy bit of laughing while he cries (or vice-versa).

And though Dean Jagger is pretty stiff as Louque for most of the movie, this bit of madness works pretty well. And perhaps it's because of this temporary madness, as in so many horror stories, that he finally makes his breakthrough. He grabs a bit of text brought back from Angkor that makes reference to a strange ritual, and then he remembers a photo of a stone tablet. He looks at the photo, and the bas-relief on the tablet matches the bit of tapestry that Darth Frenchy liberated from Preist Thiang. He realizes this is the key to the secret, so he returns alone to Angkor that night (secretly followed by Darth).

He falls through a hole in the floor of a temple into a corridor when some priests wander by, conveniently stopping where he can see them to pose with the very tablet he seeks.

He follows the one priest down a secluded stream to another small temple, where the stone tablet is placed before a statue of Shiva. And in that temple, Louque discovers a secret panel which contains instructions for making zombie incense.

When he returns from Angkor, his furious boss fires him before he can announce his discovery. So he makes the zombie incense in secret. He tests it out on his manservant first (while rather idiotically narrating to the man exactly what he's doing--note to real evil sorcerers: don't tell your assistant you're using him for zombie experiments until after they've succeeded--this public service announcement brought to you by Frazier's Brain with the help of Evil Masterminds Like You).

And then it's off to the races. He has his manservant kill Darth Frenchy, who tries to take the zombie secret from him. He then mind-controls General Duval to send Cliff away so he can't marry Claire. Then he controls almost everyone in and around the expedition's compound--Brits, Frenchmen, and Cambodian soldiers alike, except for his Scottish friend MacDonald and Claire. Cliff returns (having been summoned by Claire in a dream, the same way Madeleine summoned Neil in "White Zombie," only without the cool visual effect), but he also falls under Louque's power, because Louque has taken to heart Cliff's admonition that he must pursue what he wants ruthlessly until he gets it, no matter who is hurt.

But Louque refuses to dominate Claire in the same way, and in a final desperate act of Average-Fucking-Chumpdom, he decides to re-enact the legend he described to Claire when they were first getting acquainted. He renounces his power to prove himself worthy of her love (at this point, if you were watching it in a theater, you would hear three hundred simultaneous demonstrations of the answer to an ancient Zen koan--Q: "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" A: facepalm). The zombies come to their senses, and the Cambodians immediately go on a rampage, led by his manservant. They break into the compound and murder Louque. Cliff and Claire end up in each other arms.

And this final bit of the story is as rushed and barely sketched-in as the earlier romantic part. I notice that the running time is only about an hour. I don't know if it was bad scripting, a lack of production funds, post-release editing, or maybe just bookers not allowing more than an hour for the B-picture, but an hour is just too short to do this story justice. With a few more scenes, some less cliched dialogue and slightly better acting, this could have been a classic, if not in the 30's then certainly later.

Because in a lot of ways, the plot feels really modern. The focus on the romantic relationship as the motivation for all the supernatural goings-on, the use of foreshadowing and the ways the themes are repeatedly pounded in dialogue, presented each time in a slightly different context--these feel more like Cronenberg's "The Fly" than James Whale's "Frankenstein," if you know what I mean.

My friend John Wooley once put out a comic book of Ed Wood's "Plan Nine From Outer Space," with the intention of showing how, stripped of the crappy production values, it was actually a pretty chilling story. Unfortunately, he used the same plot and dialogue as Wood, so the experiment ended up basically proving that Ed Wood was as bad a writer as he was a director.

But I think the idea would hold more true here. Rewritten slightly to give the story more room to breathe and update the dialogue (and maybe making the discovery of the secret a little less coincidental), this is a film that could be made today without the need for much in the way of replotting. Conceptually, I think the story would work as a modern film.

Which makes this one of the most fascinating failures I've ever watched. It's bad on almost every level: pacing, dialogue, music, acting. It doesn't even have the cool visual flourishes that "White Zombie" did. But it's a bad movie that has a good movie inside it, screaming to get out, which sets it apart from a lot of bad movies.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Out of the Vault - Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose #18

So after having written about Vampirella, the vampire-stripper, last week, I figured I'd just run out the string through Halloween with more cheesecake stripper-witches. First up: Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose #18. She's not technically a stripper, I guess--at least, no strip club appears in the two issues I own--but she spends most of every issue nude, so that's got to count for something.

Anyway, I saw the issue in my comics store several years ago, and I was bored with all my usual stuff and I thought the cover illustration looked hot, so why not give it a try? Right?

This issue is a fill-in between whatever plot point happened before and a four-issue story arc that would begin next issue, so nothing consequential happens. But the inconsequential stuff is crazy.

It opens with a bunch of fairies stealing the diaries of three of the series' characters--Tarot, Raven Hex, and Boo Cat--in hopes of reading titillating secrets, as revealed by clumsy, insufferably "cute" dialogue.

Tarot's diary excerpt is up first, where she tells us how she became a sword maiden of Wicca, a ritual that requires her to be nude except for a horned fetish mask. She goes forth to battle a familiar-looking enemy.

From the fiery eye comes forth a huge-breasted demonic enemy called, I shit you not, a "Gal-rog." And as Tarot fights, the captions go on and on about how this fetish fight is actually a symbolic struggle against prejudice or some such preachy bullshit.

Even the fairies are bored, so they switch to Raven Hex's diary, in which she describes the trials and travails of having big tits. Which sounds like a feminist cry for understanding and acceptance and a condemnation of artificial standards of beauty which damage girls' self-esteem, but is mainly an excuse for Jim Balent (the writer-artist) to draw several pages' worth of big tits--as if he needed one, since that's apparently what the entire series is about--which leads to this heart-warming self-affirmation.

"With these great breasts comes great power..."

It's high drama worthy of Flaxen. Anyway, the fairies are still bored, and so turn to the final diary, and at this point, I'm wondering what other tiresome, preachy feminist sentiment Balent can cheapen with gratuitous nudity.

But no, there's no preaching in this one. Instead, it's wacky hijinx as the flighty lesbian Boo Cat relates the tale of how she first met Tarot.

And this is really interesting, because it's a guy writing a female character indulging in the kind of drooling behavior that, if the character were a man, would be depicted as creepy or pathetic or simply gross. But since it's a female, the ogling and innuendo are supposed to be flirty and funny and fascinating.

That night, Boo Cat follows Tarot home and molests her in her sleep, even bringing her to a "full purr." And again, if the character were male, this would be rape...

And in the end, the fairies and I are disappointed with the stories. But I did buy another issue, just because I figured fill-ins are always a let-down, and maybe once the proper storyline got back on track, it'd be better.

It wasn't. It wasn't as bad as it would eventually get, but it wasn't good enough to bring me back for a third issue. Although unlike most of the comics I cover in Out of the Vault, this one is still going. And it would be bad form not to mention that Balent's art is decent, although I'm guessing that colorist Holly Golightly's digital painting is what makes this comic a continuing success. Her work is really quite nice. She's also hot, which never hurts.

Next week, the cavalcade of Stripper-Witches continues with Willow.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lovecraft Is Missing

A little over a month ago, I did a Vault about Betty Boop Funnies. And I mentioned there that writer/artist Larry Latham currently has a webcomic called Lovecraft is Missing. At the time, I hadn't read it, so I didn't offer any kind of qualitative judgment.

I have read through it now, and given that this is Halloween month, I feel I ought to let you know that Lovecraft is Missing is a tight little horror comic. The concept is not startlingly original--that concept being the things Lovecraft was writing about were really true--but the execution is very good. The story is unsettling, helped along by creepy art which is grounded in real-world detail and a moody color palette. The archives go back for about two years, so there's plenty to read. Latham also has occasional articles on other aspects of Lovecraftiana and occult detectives and the like. It's a great place to visit for Halloween and after.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Little Bit of Shakin' Goin' On

We had an earthquake today. It apparently centered near Norman, roughly 100 miles away, but I felt it shake my house quite firmly with one hard jerk, as if someone had dropped something immensely heavy right next to the house. One moment, everything's normal. The next moment, my stomach drops and the ground convulses. Another moment later, the ground is still, but there's stuff rattling on the shelves.

News reports put the quake between 4.3 and 4.5, although we apparently got less than that out here. But it reminded me of living in California, and even a little bit of living in Tennessee.

We didn't get quakes in Tennessee that I remember, but living near the back 40 of Fort Campbell, the walls of our trailer would shake when they did artillery exercises. You would hear a distant boom, then the pictures on the walls would rattle.

Kim was the first person I thought to call, of course, and she said it reminded her of when we lived in Monterey. I only vaguely remember a quake in Monterey, a minor rolling of the ground while I was walking somewhere.

I remember a couple of quakes in Los Angeles more clearly. The first was during the series finale of M.A.S.H. The people in the apartment above ours were having some sort of get-together, and every so often, a loud thump could be heard coming from the ceiling. It was annoying and distracting. And at some point, there was this big THUMP that felt almost as if the entire building had been lifted a few inches off the ground and then dropped. I cursed and said, "What the hell are they doing up there?"

And my roommate said, "That wasn't them. That was an earthquake."

And we looked out the windows, and sure enough, people all over the apartment complex were coming outside to natter about what had happened.

That was the first time I really felt one. The next time, I was in bed, coming out of a dream. The bed was jerking from side-to-side like one of those vibrating motel beds. And there was a rhythmic squeaking sound like someone was having sex on a noisy bed just off to my left. I opened my eyes and saw in the early morning light that the metal utility shelves I used to hold my paperbacks were doing the shimmy. I realized that this was an earthquake, but it wasn't violent like the last one. It was almost soothing, and I, not being really awake, felt no real fear at all. I stayed in bed, enjoying the ride, and when the squeaking stopped, I went back to sleep.

The Pause That Refreshes

Big Game Wednesday is on a brief hiatus until after Halloween. I had thought to fill the space with other things, but I'm not churning out content at the rate I thought I would. I'm still hung up on getting Friday's Hero Go Home chapter done and working on the Big Halloween Surprise. Maybe if I have time, I'll get something up later in the day.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Movie Monday - White Zombie

So let's get the Halloween horrors rolling. In 1932, a movie came out starring Bela Lugosi and a bunch of other people Vampira had never heard of that eventually inspired these guys to put a band together...

And also inspired the villain in the comic book, The Prowler.

The movie was, of course, "White Zombie," and the reaction to it has been as weird and varied as the movie itself. It apparently made a lot of money on its initial release, but the critics of the time hated it. Nowadays, though, it's considered one of the classics of early horror films. One thing immediately sets it apart from the other classic horror films of the 30's, though--it's an independent production, so the opening lacks the iconic Universal globe or the RKO radio tower that my youthful self found synonymous with 30's horror movies.

Also, the opening is fairly creepy, in that it lacks the standard opening theme music, and instead features bare drums and howling vocals over the chilling image of a group of Haitians burying a body in a dirt road. Soon enough, along comes a carriage bearing young lovers Neil and Madeleine, on their way to be married. But they are being watched by evil eyes...

And right in these opening moments, we see everything that's right and wrong with the movie. The acting and glacially slow timing of the opening, where the young lovers question their carriage driver about the burial, are amateurish (understandable given the relatively recent introduction of sound to movies--stars Madge Bellamy and Robert Frazer were actors who had done most of their work in silents). In fact, Madge Bellamy, with her heavy mascara, kewpie doll lips and flapper bob, seems to have stepped right out of a silent film and stumbled into a talkie by accident.

On the other hand, the tracking shot that superimposes the eyes on the figure of their owner, Murder Legendre (Bela Lugosi), is an inspired bit of creep that hearkens back to the best horror films of the silent era.

Murder is taken with Madeleine and snatches away her scarf as the carriage driver is fleeing from a group of zombies coming down a hill. I thought this guy was pretty funny.

He is described in a later scene as the witch doctor who taught Murder the secrets of zombie-making, but those Sorcerer's Apprentice robes are a little silly.

Soon the coach arrives at the mansion of Charles Beaumont, where the couple are to be married. A man emerges from the woods, pulls out a pipe and asks, "Have you got a match?" He is kindly Doctor Bruner, a missionary who is here to perform the ceremony. As the three wait for Beaumont to put in an appearance, Madeleine explains how she got to know Beaumont on the boat over from New York, how Beaumont insisted they get married at his mansion in the country, and how he had offered to send Neil to America as his agent for a substantial increase in pay. Hmmm, offering to put the pretty young bride up in your house while you send her husband out of the country? Nothing suspicious about that.

So before the wedding, Beaumont sneaks out of the house and climbs into a carriage that's waiting for him--a carriage driven by a zombie. He is taken to a mill that processes sugar cane, also completely staffed by zombies. One unfortunate individual falls into the threshing blades. He does not utter a sound, nor do the zombies turning the big drive wheel falter in their slow pace. Seriously creepy.

Murder Legendre appears, and we learn the reason for the visit. Beaumont wants Legendre to kidnap Madeleine for him; he feels that if he can get to know her for a while without her husband around, say a month, then she'll fall in love with him. Legendre tells him in no uncertain terms what a stupid plan that is and proposes a counter-plan. We don't hear the words he whispers in Beaumont's ear, but we know what he proposes. He gives Beaumont a vial of zombie-making powder. A tiny amount is all that's needed, sprinkled on a flower, perhaps, or in a glass of wine. Beaumont takes the powder with him, but swears he will never use it.

After a tiny bit of Depression-era fan service in which we learn that Britney Spears did not invent the bare-midriff look...

We find out that Beaumont's resolve lasted just long enough to get back home, because as he's walking Madeleine to the room where she will be married, he offers her a flower. She holds it to her nose and inhales deeply, then goes in to the ceremony.

Meanwhile, Murder Legendre is outside, carving a voodoo doll from a candle wrapped in her scarf.And I've gotta say, this is one of the better parts I've seen Lugosi play. Aside from the wacky facial hair--the pointed eyebrows and Ra's al Ghul whiskers--he's got a wicked sense of humor. He doesn't just do evil things, he really seems to enjoy them.

Madeleine dies in Neil's arms. Neil is heartbroken. After she is interred, he goes out drinking, where he hallucinates her face in his table, and in the shadows on the wall, another visually creative moment.

Meanwhile, Murder and Beaumont steal Madeleine's body from her crypt; zombies carry it back to Legendre's castle on a seaside cliff (depicted in a wonderfully moody matte painting).

Neil discovers Madeleine's body is missing and goes to Doctor Bruner, who speculates that she was never dead, but merely drugged to create the appearance of death. He suggests they start a search to learn the truth. The scene is odd, because on the one hand, it seems carefully planned, opening with a camera move from the shadow of Neil's back as he leans on Bruner's desk, and ending with the actors in the same positions as the camera performs the same move only in reverse. On the other hand, the actors obviously have trouble with their lines during the long takes, and even seem to be ad-libbing some of it.

Next we discover that Beaumont is miserable. Zombie love is not as romantic as he'd hoped. Madeleine just lays there, staring off into space. Okay, she's actually playing the piano, but you know the same thing happened in the bedroom, and it was only fun the first time. Anyway, Beaumont asks Legendre to change her back, but Legendre refuses. He wants Madeleine for himself and slips Beaumont a little zombie-powder mickey (he also mentions that he's taken a shine to Beaumont as well, although I don't think he meant it as gay as it sounds).

Bruner and Neil approach Legendre's castle, but Neil is suffering from exhaustion or something, a kind of lovelorn lassitude (blue balls maybe?) that leaves him unable to continue. Bruner tells him to rest while he goes off to scout the castle by himself. But moments later, Neil forges some kind of psychic bond with Madeleine (in a really impressive split-screen effect) and takes off for the castle himself.

Which leads to the climactic confrontation. Legendre is cruelly taunting Beaumont (who has not been completely zombified, but seems to be suffering from an advanced neurological disease) when Neil staggers into the room. It's hard to tell if Legendre psychically attacks Neil or Neil just conveniently passes out, but Legendre summons Madeleine to finish him off. Because having your enemy helpless at your feet is good, but having your enemy killed by his own mind-controlled wife who still loves him deeply is priceless.

But Bruner grabs her hand before she can strike, and she drops the knife. She suddenly seems to break through the control and flees outside, where she appears to consider throwing herself off the cliff onto the rocks below (where we discover that Neil dodged a bullet by missing his wedding night--she seems to be hiding some sort of tentacles under her dress).

But Neil stops her from jumping. Legendre sends his zombies to kill Neil, but Bruner bashes Legendre over the head, and uncontrolled, the zombies stumble off the cliff.

Legendre recovers and breaks a vial of zombie powder at the feet of the two intruders and seems about to dominate them and add them to his zombie pool, when Beaumont staggers up behind him and pushes him off the cliff before stumbling and falling to his own death as well. All ends well as Neil embraces Madeleine and Bruner asks, "Have you got a match?"

So, the good: tons of atmosphere, creative camera and optical work, a good script that not only includes some seriously creepy stuff, but also works in believable, complex and adult character motivations. There's also some neat structural stuff in there, like Bruner delivering the same line as both the first and last things he says. In a lot of ways, this movie was ahead of its time, not the least of which is that it was apparently the first feature-length zombie movie.

Then again, it's also a throwback to an earlier era in the sloppy execution of some of its great ideas and the poor performances and sound quality. It's not a great film, but it is a fascinating one.

The movie is in the public domain and can be watched for free at the Internet Archive, here. Oh, and there's a sequel, sort of. Next week...