Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hit the road, Jack

Here's my abortive first sculptural jack of the year, and maybe the last. The rind wasn't thick enough to bother finishing it. ):

Monday, October 28, 2013

Boris Karloff's Thriller: Pigeons From Hell

Dogged by critical derision and in danger of cancellation from abysmal ratings, the producers of Boris Karloff's Thriller began to ease their big-budget Hitchcock copycat finally into the realm of the gothic horror more befitting the Karloff name. Probably the best-remembered of these mini-horror-movies was the curiously-titled Pigeons from Hell, an adaptation of Robert E. Howard's supernatural whodunit of the same name. The episode has the look of Universal's stock-and-trade horror classics, even featuring the Universal Mansion (seen in many a horror film), dressed up to look like an overgrown plantation. It's uncommonly atmospheric and cinematic for the television medium and well deserves it's reputation as one of the most chilling hours in '60s TV.

Two college-student brothers, Johnny and Timothy, find themselves stranded by car-trouble in a dark swamp in front of (typically enough) an ominous, and apparently uninhabited, decaying manor. The gloomy estate seems to be infested with unusually aggressive pigeons and the almost hypnotic chorus of their trills. Inside the house, the boys find only cobwebs, shadows and the remnants of a hastily-vacated household, including the haunting portrait of a woman. The brothers decide they might as well put down their bedrolls and sleep there until morning when they can find help. But Johnny is awakened in the middle of the night by a strangely mesmerizing singing voice in the darkness. Under the spell of the unseen siren, he mounts the stairs into the shadows and after a moment his blood-curdling scream shatters the silence. Timothy wakes in a start to find his brother walking back down the steps, wielding a bloody hatchet. Tim realizes Johnny is one of the walking dead, his head split by the very hatchet clutched in his hand.  Further, his zombified brother seems intent on burying the hatchet in Timothy's skull, too.

Fleeing the mansion in terror, Timothy soon collapses from exhaustion and is wakened in a shack by the local sheriff, to whom he vainly struggles to describe the mysterious events at the old house. The sheriff suspects Timothy has murdered his own brother and convinces the young man to return there with him to investigate. After the two experience unusual phenomenon in the house, the lawman is forced to reconsider his theory, explaining to Tim that it used to be inhabited by the cruel Blassenville sisters, who abandoned the mansion without a word fifty years earlier. The intrigue deepens when they come upon an old diary written by one of the sisters, hinting that the apparently ill-fated women never made it off the premises. The diary mentions an old black hermit, named Jacob Blount, who was once a servant of the abusive sisters. It's decided that they should pay Blount a visit at his remote shack, and there get to the truth behind the terrible secret of the Blassenville house and the pigeons from hell. 9/10

Trivia: Actor Brandon De Wilde, who played Timothy in Pigeons from Hell, is most famous for his role as the little boy Joey in the classic Western Shane. He also appeared with Vincent Price in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery called "Class of '99".  It would be one of his last roles. In 1972 De Wilde died in a car accident in Denver, Colorado at the age of 30.

Trivia: Pigeons writer Robert E. Howard was the famous creator of the Conan the Barbarian series of stories, as well as Solomon Caine. He is credited with originating the Sword and Sorcery genre. Howard committed suicide in 1936 at the age of 30.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Emma Crawford Coffin Races (part 1)

(no, this is not a picture of me. there are no pictures of me)

Okay, that could have gone better for me. I forgot my shades in my car. I forgot to recharge my actual camera before I left, forcing me to take most of the pictures with my phone. It was the most crowded day in the Coffin Races' 19 years. I may have been the only person, out of 8,000+ attendees, who was there by himself. And my heart just wasn't in it. On the plus side, the weather was nice, the PA was loud and clear (the Halloween music really boosted the event) and nothing of an actual disastrous nature took place. But, jeez, it was crowded. Just like the last time I went, I fled town when the actual races had barely gotten underway.

Anyway, it's the parade that gives you the real photo-ops. The coffin race teams all file past the crowd with their "coffins", which are actually carts with one passenger, intended to represent Emma Crawford in her coffin (it's a long story). Unfortunately, it's hard to get good pictures even during the parade due to people walking in front of your camera, team members looking in the other direction (a lot of those, as I found when I actually got home and went through the pictures), less than optimal lighting and whatever you call that phenomenon whereby subjects that look like they'll make great photographs somehow don't.

This was a nice concept, The Yellow Submarine, Paul, Ringo and a grim reaper carrying the tombstones of John and George. Seems a hair less macabre than the average team but whatever. Let It Be. At one point, the PA was playing Maxwells Silver Hammer, with a lot of the hippie crowd singing along.

Normally the hearses are the main part of the parade but the hearse clubs were all on strike for some reason. The scab hearses get an A for effort but there weren't many of them.

If there were a dozen of me with cameras I couldn't have captured a tenth of the interesting things at the parade. It's worth doing an internet picture search for. I'll do one more post with my pics from this year but, until then, why not peruse my vastly superior 2009 Coffin Race (parade) pictures:

Hearse Looking At You, Kid

Off-ed to the Races

More Coffin Races Pictures

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Huzzah! First Jack-o-lantern!

Yeah. Actually, not. I happened to notice this $6 pumpkin was soft, even though it looked okay on the outside. It suddenly collapsed on itself when I picked it up to remove it from the house, spurting the fermenting brew within from it's new mouth. Fortunately, it spewed in the other direction, so I just got a little of it on my stocking foot. The smell: pure alcohol.

So party down, neighborhood squirrels!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Boris Karloff's Thriller: Parasite Mansion

A southern belle takes a wrong turn in the swamp and ends up in a house of horror in this densely atmospheric Thriller. On her way to a romantic interlude on a stormy night, young teacher Marcia comes to a dead end in her car in front of a remote dilapidated mansion. Suddenly, shots ring out and, in a panic, she drives into a ditch and is knocked unconscious. Marcia wakes up to find herself the unwilling guest of the weird reclusive Herrod family, in a house that seems to be haunted by a blood-sucking poltergeist. She vainly struggles to persuade the Herrods to release her but the man of the house, Victor, is a weak-willed drunkard and the it seems the real head of the family, the wretched miserly Granny Herrod (Jeanette Nolan), is determined that Marcia not bring stories of the Herrod family "secret" back to civilization.

An ideal episode of Thriller in outline, Parasite Mansion is only hampered a bit, ironically, by one of it's greatest features: Jeanette Nolan's outstanding performance as the oppressive harridan Granny Herrod. Her character's relentless antagonism sort of lets the cat out of the bag early on in the story and makes Victor out to be a profoundly stupid individual for putting up with her abuse for so many years.

Another treat in Parasite Mansion is the casting of the terrific child star Beverly Washburn as Lollie Herrod, the youngest and most innocent victim of the Herrod family curse. She does a very good job portraying the tormented Lollie, whose shy child-like character otherwise wouldn't have made much of an impression. A few years later, Washburn would portray another feral young girl in an old house with a weird family in Jack Hill's classic Spider Baby, this time in a role with a little more dimension. 8/10

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Consumption

(Let's call this a work-in-progress...)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Finding Vivian Maier

Not at all related to Halloween, and yet haunting just the same...

Found at Messy Nessy Chic

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Escapee

Boris Karloff's Thriller: Well of Doom

A welcome foray into gothic horror territory for Thriller, Well of Doom is fairly well crammed with atmosphere, from it's bleak foggy landscapes to it's torch-lit dungeon to it's otherworldly antagonists. Waylaid on route to his wedding ceremony, a wealthy bachelor finds himself and bride to be captive of a pair of highwaymen, the ghastly Squire Moloch (Henry Daniell) and his hulking stooge Master Styx (played by Richard"Jaws" Kiel in a very early role). After taking the hapless groom to a dungeon on his own late father's estate, Moloch claims to be the father's murder victim and demands, if he wishes to escape torture, he sign over the deed to all of his holdings in recompense. Threatened with the murder of his bride, the hero finally agrees to the extorter's demand and is subjected to Moloch's final treachery before discovering that all is not as it seems.

On the plus side of Well of Doom, at the top of the list might be the brilliantly ominous Jerry Goldmith score, which mimics the lumbering zombie-like gate of Kiel's Master Styx. Aside from the score and excellent set decoration, the episode also boasts the unnerving performance of callow-faced Thriller-regular Henry Danielle as the diabolical Squire Moloch, whose vampiric appearance resembles that of Lon Chaney's in Todd Browning's London After Midnight (beaver hat and all) which this episode of Thriller brings to mind in more ways than one. 7/10

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Jacked Up

Top Three Rejected Autumn-Flavored Products:

3. Pumpkin Spice Mayonaise
2. Candy Corn Toothpaste
1. Caramel Apple Ipecac

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Boris Karloff's Thriller: Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook

In spite of bearing the name of the legendary bogeyman, Boris Karloff's Thriller was intended by it's producers (Universal) as a competitor to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, a show that had risen to prominence for the edgy stories of crime and murder that Hitchcock had made famous. One regrettable result of this business decision was that the majority of the show's episodes were pale imitations of the Hitchcock formula: tales of dark motives and nefarious plots, each ending with an ironic twist, and all with nary a whiff of the supernatural. There is little doubt that this feeble replication of Hitchcock led to the show's demise after only two seasons, in spite of the great screenwriting talent at Universal's disposal. Though not exactly a classic episode of the show, Hay-fork and Bill-hook was one of a handful of stories better fitting the name of Boris Karloff, insofar as dealing in some manner with the paranormal.

An inspector from Scotland Yard is dispatched to investigate a murder in a remote Welsh village with a charming history of burning witches at an ancient megalithic circle where once Druids sacrificed Christians. With his young wife in tow (it's their honeymoon) the detective struggles to turn up leads to the grisly pitch-fork killing and has scarcely begun questioning the backwards, clannish villagers when the infamous stone circle becomes the site of another witch-burning (the first in 70 years). To make matters worse, his wife's sighting of a terrifying black dog (traditionally an omen of impending death) breeds speculation among the superstitious villagers that she is herself a witch. Will our hero put down his adult beverage long enough to collar the killer before his witchy wife is consigned to the flames?

I'll not spoil it, but just for giggles here's a shot of that terrifying black hellhound:

Sit! Good Boy. 5/10.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Blah! Blah!

Yeah, I don't know. I couldn't get my brain to engage on this one (or disengage, maybe) and ran out of time. I meant well.

Anyway, Happy October 1st and Countdown to Halloween!